Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 fantastic first solo albums recorded by artists who departed—or simply took a temporary hiatus from—their respective groups, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
TOM PETTY | Full Moon Fever
Selected by Sarah Paolantonio
Tom Petty’s most famous songs color our collective memories of summer nights, long drives, and dancing in the kitchen to the radio—“American Girl,” “Breakdown,” “The Waiting,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” And then of course there’s all of Damn the Torpedoes (1979), Petty’s groundbreaking record with The Heartbreakers that delivered so many favorite, excellent tracks that it plays like a greatest hits.
Full Moon Fever is Petty’s first solo LP but it’s not without help. Heartbreaker Jeff Lynne (also of ELO) co-produced and co-wrote the majority of the record with Petty. Mike Campbell, another of Petty’s Heartbreakers and songwriting partners, also co-produced. Fellow Traveling Wilbury George Harrison played guitar on “I Won’t Back Down” and Roy Orbison delivered vocals on “Zombie Zoo,” passing away before the record’s release.
It starts with “Free Fallin,’” arguably Petty’s most widely known song and continues to play through more hits: “I Won’t Back Down,” “Runnin’ Down A Dream,” “Yer So Bad,” and a straightforward cover of The Byrds’ “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” to open side two.
Petty’s sense of humor and devotion to his fans never stopped. It’s part of his legacy as the down-to-earth, Americana rocker, and defender of artistic control and freedom. Petty’s unique singing voice highlighted by a Floridian drawl is what made the man stand apart from so many of his contemporaries. He left us all too soon. Thank god for the records.