Hard Promises

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Hard Promises
Studio album by
ReleasedMay 5, 1981 (1981-05-05)
StudioSound City, Van Nuys, Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, CA and Goodnight, LA
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers chronology
Damn the Torpedoes
Hard Promises
Long After Dark
Singles from Hard Promises
  1. "The Waiting / Nightwatchman"
    Released: April 20, 1981
  2. "A Woman in Love (It's Not Me)"
    Released: June 29, 1981
  3. "Something Big / Letting You Go"
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[1]
Blender4/5 stars[2]
Chicago Tribune2.5/4 stars[3]
Christgau's Record GuideB[4]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[5]
The Essential Rock Discography6/10[6]
Music Story4.5/5 stars[8]
Rolling Stone(favorable)[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[10]

Hard Promises is the fourth studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released on May 5, 1981 on Backstreet Records.


Its original working title was Benmont's Revenge, referring to the band's keyboard player, Benmont Tench.[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

The album's title comes from a line in the chorus of "Insider".

Hard Promises was the last full album to feature bassist Ron Blair until Mojo, although he would make guest appearances on Long After Dark and Southern Accents and after rejoining the band in 2002, played on select tracks on The Last DJ. He was replaced by Howie Epstein, who continued to play with the band until his termination in 2002.

John Lennon tribute[edit]

Album etch tribute to John Lennon

During the recording of the album, John Lennon was scheduled to be in the same studio at the same time. Petty was looking forward to meeting him when he came in. The meeting never occurred, as Lennon was murdered before the date of his planned visit to the studio. Petty and the band paid tribute to the slain former Beatle by etching "WE LOVE YOU J.L." in the runout deadwax on early U.S. and Canadian pressings of Hard Promises.[14][15]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are 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 Campbell4:22
3."Nightwatchman"Petty, Campbell3:59
4."Something Big" 4:44
5."Kings Road" 3:27
Side two
6."Letting You Go" 3:24
7."A Thing About You" 3:33
8."Insider" 4:23
9."The Criminal Kind" 4:00
10."You Can Still Change Your Mind"Petty, Campbell4:15
Total length:39:33


Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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

Additional musicians

  • Stevie Nicks – backing vocals on "Insider" and "You Can Still Change Your Mind"
  • Lori Nicks - backing vocals on "Insider"
  • Sharon Celani – backing vocals on "You Can Still Change Your Mind"
  • Donald "Duck" Dunn – bass guitar on "A Woman in Love"
  • Phil Jones – percussion
  • Alan "Bugs" Weidel – piano on "Nightwatchman"


  • Brad Gilderman – assistant engineer
  • Jimmy Iovine – producer
  • Tom Petty – producer
  • Tori Swenson – assistant engineer
  • Shelly Yakus – engineer



Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[23] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[24] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ AllMusic review
  2. ^ "Tom Petty: Hard Promises". Blender. Archived from the original on June 15, 2008. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
  3. ^ Kot, Greg (1991-09-01). "Through The Years With Tom Petty". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-04-04.
  4. ^ "Robert Christgau: CG: tom petty and the heartbreakers". www.robertchristgau.com.
  5. ^ Larkin, Colin (ed.) (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th edn). London: Omnibus Press. p. 2005. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2006). The Essential Rock Discography. Edinburgh, UK: Canongate. p. 816. ISBN 978-1-84195-827-9.
  7. ^ 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.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Hard Promises". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  9. ^ "Hard Promises". rollingstone.com.
  10. ^ "Tom Petty: Album Guide - Rolling Stone Music". 14 July 2011. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011.
  11. ^ Goldstein, Patrick. "Pop Eye" Los Angeles Times Sept. 21, 1980: T80.
  12. ^ Goldstein, Patrick. "Petty Battling MCA Over Record Price Hike" Los Angeles Times February 1, 1981: N72.
  13. ^ Marsh, Dave. "Tom Petty" Musician July 1981: 43.
  14. ^ Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo
  15. ^ "Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers - Hard Promises". Discogs.
  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.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.
  23. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Tom Petty – Hard Promises". Music Canada.
  24. ^ "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.