Southern Accents | Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | MCA Records
By Jamie Reno
The Daily Aztec — May 8, 1985
Ever since their eponymous debut album was released in 1976 (containing the classic “American Girl”), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been atop record charts and critics’ poles with their unique brand of rock ‘n’ roll. Their music draws from an enticing blend of influences including The Byrds, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Gram Parsons.
“Rebels,” the opening song, may in retrospect be looked back upon as the quintessential Tom Petty tune. It has all the elements that have made Petty and his band such a heralded group over the last decade. The song contains the lilting keyboards, Petty’s ever-present Rickenbacker electric 12-string, the cymbal-laden percussion track, the mutinous tone of the lyrics, and, of course, Petty’s wily, Dylanesque vocals. This song could very well become a group anthem.
Offering a little nostalgic appeal is “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” the album’s first single. The surrealistic video to this song is already in heavy rotation on MTV. This selection is an affectionate tribute to the psychedelic bands of the late ’60s, especially The Byrds. David Stewart’s lofty sitar work is effectively combined with Petty’s use of the all-but-extinct wah-wah pedal (remember that?) to produce a very “new” sound on this tune. It may be the ’80s answer to The Byrds’ psychedelic anthem, “Eight Miles High.”
The best tune on the album, though, is the title track. On it, Petty fondly sings of his Southern upbringing, with a piano-string arrangement reminiscent of some of the older, more poignant works of Randy Newman, particularly his “Sail Away” and “Good Old Boys” period.
On the LP’s final cut, “The Best of Everything,” Petty briefly sheds his cynical, indifferent stance to offer a moving lament to a former lover. Produced by Robbie Robertson, formerly of The Band, this song is similar to some of the more epic numbers of that legendary, now defunct group, and it’s a positive, moving finale to a triumphant album.
Overall, “Southern Accents” is one of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ most accomplished and likable albums.