Gone Gator RecordsToday marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers‘ self-titled debut. The album wasn’t initially a success, peaking only at #55 on the Billboard 200, although it yielded two of Petty and his group’s most memorable early tunes, “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” which both continue to be staples on classic-rock radio.

“Breakdown” became the band’s first top-40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978 after it was re-released the previous year, while the album has gone on to be certified gold for sales of more than 500,000 in the U.S.

The Heartbreakers were formed while Petty was pursuing a career as a solo artist with the Shelter Records label in Los Angeles after his previous group, Mudcrutch, broke up. The original Heartbreakers lineup included two members of Mudcrutch, guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, along with bassist Ron Blair and drummer Stan Lynch.

Petty and the Heartbreakers recorded their debut album at Shelter Studio in Hollywood, California, with veteran British producer Denny Cordell, who co-founded the Shelter label with Leon Russell. The band actually first gained notice in the U.K. while touring in support of Nils Lofgren, and scored top-40 hits in that country in 1977 with two songs from their first album, “Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “American Girl,” before eventually gaining notice in the States.

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