Singles: Tom Petty Comes Around With An Unlikely New Sound
By Len Righi
The Morning Call — April 6, 1985
Work, work, work to find an identifiable trademark sound and once you have it, milk it until the record-buying public gets tired of it.
That’s the tried-and-true formula uncounted bands have used to pursue The Unholy Grail of pop music, and judging by the latest crop of singles, formula hasn’t lost its potency.
But every once in a while, along comes someone willing to try something a little unexpected, and the most recent example is Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers. The band’s new single, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” (MCA), is unquestionably an odd song. It was co-written by Petty with an unlikely partner, the industrious Dave Stewart, the Eurythmic who isn’t Annie Lennox. (Stewart has been full of surprises lately; recently he worked on The Ramones’ “Howling at the Moon” single.)
The Petty-Stewart collaboration features sitar (played by Stewart), synths, and what sounds like “Eleanor Rigby”-style strings, a startling departure for the guitar-drums-bass-organ rock ‘n’ roll Petty usually does (and does so well).
Is Petty caught in a time warp, say during the mid- to late-’60s when the Beatles were fooling around with effects like this? Is he desperate, willing to try almost anything after his last LP, “Long After Dark,” didn’t sell as well as its platinum predecessors? Perhaps, but the wounded/righteous tone of Petty’s vocal and the last third of the song, when it rocks hard and Petty adds some guitar flash, carry the day. It may not be the best thing he’s ever done, but compared to stunted imaginations of some artists clogging the singles charts (see below), it’s positively revolutionary.
The flip, “Trailer,” is rootsy and countryish, with a harmonica and guitar mixed out front and Bentmont Tench’s organ fills adding just the right touches inback. Petty sings this tale of a very strange love affair in a Dylanesque voice, and does a very good job.
Another single worth checking out is Katrina And The Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” (Capitol), pop ‘n’ roll with a dose of ’60s soul (“Ain’t Nothing But A House Party” comes to mind). The record has a girl-group sound, and there’s a bit of organ lurking in the back, with horns added for punctuation. Not the most novel thing you’ve ever heard, but it’s a lively hand-clapping footstomper. The flip, “Going Down to Liverpool,” won’t make you forget The Bangles, but it’s pleasant enough.