Editor’s Note: It’s not every writer who can manage to misspell three out of five of the Heartbreakers’ names. 🙂
Tom Petty hot, heavy “Long After Dark”
By Scott Johnson
East Los Angeles College Campus News — May 15, 1985
Tom Petty’s latest and sixth album “Southern Accents” clearly shows Petty and the Heartbreakers to be still in top form with an album that contains the same excellent lyrics but also shows Petty creativity with three songs co-produced by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, which added a new dimension to Petty’s sound.
In a recent interview with L.A. Times music critic Robert Hilburn (March 31, 1985), Petty said that after completing the “Long after Dark” tour in 1983 felt burned out and needed some time off before recording the next album.
While the rest of the Heartbreakers worked on other projects, Petty returned to his boyhood home of Gainesville, Florida. When it came time to search for writing ideas for “Southern Accents,” he was drawn back to his boyhood ideas and traditions of the southern part of the United States which he was exposed to when growing up.
The opening song of Southern Accents titled “Rebels” is about a good old boy who finds it hard to accept the traditions passed on to him. In the song opening verse, we find him drunk, then at the end he find him still hating the Yankees.
Petty describes the conflict between tradition and new ideas not only in a person’s job but life in general, which some try to fit in but just can’t.
Petty in the two years between albums was concerned with the sameness of his songs from album to album.
In answer to his dilammas, Petty enlisted the help of Dave Stewart who was responsible for the singles “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” “It Ain’t Nothing To Me,” and “Make It Better” which integrates the use of horn and string instruments which greatly improve Petty’s sound on “Southern Accents.”
By far the best song of thje album is the title track ballads which display Petty’s lyrics at his best.
With keyboardist Belmont Tench on piano, guitarist Mike Campball on the Dobron, drummer Stan Lunch on percussion, and bass player Howie Epstein supplying background vocals, Petty sings about regional pride with excellent vocal delivery.
“Spike” with Petty playing acoustic guitar is a song about rednecks’ rowdiness while “Dog on the Run” explores the renegade spirit of those breaking away from traditions.
“Mary’s New Car” has a smooth rhythm which is supplied by the playing of Marty Jourard while the last song “Best of Everything” is in general a song about people who want more out of life.
In all “Southern Accents” has to be placed near the top in terms of excellence, to Petty and the Heartbreakers’ other give albums.
Once people get used to the new “textures” on “Southern Accents” they will find it to be an excellent all around album to add to their collection.