Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers‘ fourth studio album, Hard Promises, was released on May 5, 1981, 40 years ago today.
The album peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and featured the jangly, Byrds-inspired “The Waiting,” which reached #19 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the memorable “A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me),” a #5 hit on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock chart.
Hard Promises‘ release was delayed because Petty’s record label wanted to sell it for $9.98, one dollar more than the usual price for an album at the time. Tom was so against the idea that he threatened to call the album Eight Ninety-Eight, but the label eventually decided not to increase the price.
The album features Stevie Nicks duetting with Petty on the song “Insider” and also lending backing vocals to another track, “You Can Still Change Your Mind.” The tunes were recorded around the same time Petty and Nicks recorded their hit duet “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” for her album Bella Donna.
Early pressings of Hard Promises featured the message “WE LOVE YOU J.L.” etched in the run-out groove. It was a tribute to John Lennon, who’d been scheduled to visit the same studio at which Petty & the Heartbreakers were recording their album at meet the group, but who was murdered before the meeting could take place.
Hard Promises was the last full Petty & the Heartbreakers album that founding bassist Ron Blair played on for over 20 years. He was replaced by Howie Epstein in 1982, but rejoined the group in 2002.
Interestingly, Booker T. & the MG’s bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn plays bass on “A Woman In Love.”
Hard Promises has been certified platinum for sales of over 1 million copies in the U.S.
Here’s the album’s full track list:
“A Woman In Love (It’s Not Me)”
“Letting You Go”
“A Thing About You”
“The Criminal Kind”
“You Can Still Change Your Mind”
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