Hard Promises

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For the film, see Hard Promises (1992 film).
Hard Promises
Studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Released May 5, 1981 (1981-05-05)
Recorded 1980–81
Studio Sound City, Van Nuys, Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, CA and Goodnight, LA
Genre Rock
Length 39:33
Label Backstreet
Producer Jimmy Iovine, Tom Petty
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers chronology
Damn the Torpedoes
Hard Promises
Long After Dark
Singles from Hard Promises
  1. "The Waiting"
    Released: April 20, 1981
  2. "A Woman in Love (It's Not Me)"
    Released: June 29, 1981
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Blender 4/5 stars[2]
Chicago Tribune 2.5/4 stars[3]
Robert Christgau B[4]
The Essential Rock Discography 6/10[5]
MusicHound 5/5 stars[6]
Rolling Stone (favorable)[7]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[8]
Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[9]

Hard Promises is the fourth album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released in May, 1981.


Its original working title was Benmont's Revenge, referring to the band's keyboard player, Benmont Tench.[10] The album features guest vocals from Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac on the duet "Insider." The Heartbreakers also recorded the hit "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" for Nicks' album Bella Donna around the time Hard Promises was recorded.

This was the second Tom Petty album on the Backstreet Records label. The album's release was delayed while Petty and his distributor MCA Records argued about the list price. The album was slated to be the next MCA release with the new list price of $9.98, following Steely Dan's Gaucho and the Olivia Newton-John/Electric Light Orchestra Xanadu soundtrack. This so-called "superstar pricing" was $1.00 more than the usual list price of $8.98.[11] Petty voiced his objections to the price hike in the press and the issue became a popular cause among music fans. Non-delivery of the album or naming it Eight Ninety-Eight were considered, but eventually MCA decided against the price increase.[12]

During the recording of the album John Lennon was scheduled to be in the same studio at the same time. Tom Petty was looking forward to meeting him when he came in. The meeting never occurred; John Lennon was murdered before he could ever make it into the studio. In order to pay tribute to one of their influences the band decided to etch "WE LOVE YOU JL" on the master copy of the album. To this day "WE LOVE YOU JL" is seen on every Hard Promises first issue US non-masterphile vinyl copy pressed.[13] The album's title comes from a line in the chorus of "Insider."

This would be the last album to feature bassist Ron Blair until The Last DJ. He would be replaced by Howie Epstein, who continued to play with the band until 2002.

Track listing[edit]

All songs were written by Tom Petty, except where noted.

Side one
  1. "The Waiting" – 3:58
  2. "A Woman in Love (It's Not Me)" (Petty, Mike Campbell) – 4:22
  3. "Nightwatchman" (Petty, Campbell) – 3:59
  4. "Something Big" – 4:44
  5. "Kings Road" – 3:27
Side two
  1. "Letting You Go" – 3:24
  2. "A Thing About You" – 3:33
  3. "Insider" – 4:23
  4. "The Criminal Kind" – 4:00
  5. "You Can Still Change Your Mind" (Petty, Campbell) – 4:15


The Heartbreakers

  • Tom Petty – lead vocals, 12 & 6 string guitar electric & acoustic guitars, bass guitar & electric piano on "Something Big"
  • Mike Campbell – 12 & 6 string guitar electric guitars, auto-harp, accordion, harmonium, bass guitar
  • Benmont Tench – organ, piano, background vocals
  • Ron Blair – bass guitar
  • Stan Lynch – drums, background vocals

Additional musicians

  • Phil Jones – percussion on all tracks
  • Donald "Duck" Dunn – bass guitar on "A Woman in Love"
  • Alan "Bugs" Weidel – piano on "Nightwatchman"
  • Stevie Nicks – harmony vocal on "Insider", background vocal on "You Can Still Change Your Mind"
  • Lori Nicks - background vocal on "Insider"
  • Sharon Celani – background vocal on "You Can Still Change Your Mind"


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[14] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[15] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone



  1. ^ AllMusic review
  2. ^ Blender review Archived June 15, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Kot, Greg (1991-09-01). "Through The Years With Tom Petty". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-04-04. 
  4. ^ Robert Christgau review
  5. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2006). The Essential Rock Discography. Edinburgh, UK: Canongate. p. 816. ISBN 978-1-84195-827-9. 
  6. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 870. ISBN 1-57859-061-2. 
  7. ^ Rolling Stone review
  8. ^ Rolling Stone Album Guide
  9. ^ "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Hard Promises". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved December 26, 2014. 
  10. ^ Goldstein, Patrick. "Pop Eye" Los Angeles Times Sept. 21, 1980: T80.
  11. ^ Goldstein, Patrick. "Petty Battling MCA Over Record Price Hike" Los Angeles Times February 1, 1981: N72.
  12. ^ Marsh, Dave. "Tom Petty" Musician July 1981: 43.
  13. ^ Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo
  14. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Tom Petty – Hard Promises". Music Canada. 
  15. ^ "American album certifications – Tom Petty – Hard Promises". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  16. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  17. ^ "Top Albums/CDs - Volume 35, No. 4" (PHP). RPM. 1981-07-04. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  18. ^ "charts.org.nz — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Hard Promises". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  19. ^ "swedishcharts.com Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - Hard Promises" (in Swedish). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
  20. ^ "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Artist: Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 2014-04-08. 
  21. ^ "Allmusic: Hard Promises : Charts & Awards : Billboard Albums". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2014-03-01. 
  22. ^ "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1981". RPM. 1981-12-26. Retrieved 2014-05-01. 
Preceded by
Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division
New Zealand Chart number-one album
June 28, 1981 – July 5, 1981
Succeeded by
Mistaken Identity by Kim Carnes