Ah, record companies. Used to be if you were a musician, you couldn’t live with ‘em and you couldn’t live without ‘em. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers put out their first, self-titled release on the Shelter Records label, but once the song “Breakdown” started getting them noticed, Petty made it clear he didn’t think the label was giving their music the support it deserved. Two songs from that first album had become hits in England. So when it was time renegotiate his recording contract after “Breakdown” made its breakthrough, Petty knew what he had to offer. He emerged from the closed door meeting looking like a winner. Perhaps he knew how to call their bluff. In a Rolling Stone interview with Cameron Crowe, Petty said, “I told all the lawyers that I had made a living a long time before I made records and if I couldn’t get a fair deal, I just wouldn’t record anymore. I meant it.”
Besides, they had an audience to reach. Instead of getting right to work on album number two, Petty and company went out on the road for most of 1977 to promote their first which was just starting to find its audience. The word was getting out, but reception was spotty. They played a sell out in a 3000 seat theatre in Seattle. Down in Portland they only filled half the venue. While up in Vancouver, they could only muster a few curious fans in a nightclub.
All that time on the road made for a year of rocky love relationships. When Petty and the Heartbreakers convened to make their next record, the working title was Terminal Romance. It was only at the eleventh hour that they came up with name that eventually stuck, You’re Gonna Get It. In typical bad boy fashion, they communicated this to their record company by anonymously sending pieces of paper with those words scrawled on them to the label’s executives. Which prompted one nervous staff member to notify the FBI.
Keep in mind that these were the same executives who were anxious about the drug reference that appeared in one of Petty’s newest songs. Before the album was released, they begged him to change the line to “You think you’re gonna take her away/With your money and your champagne.”
No wonder he was pissed.