- TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS Don’t Come Around Here No More (MCA)
- Week Ending May 4th 1985
- 1 Week At #1
In 2018, pretty much everybody at least recognises the name of Tom Petty. Sadly, his sudden passing at the age of 66 means that his career, and the status of modern rock icon bequeathed upon him, is now viewed through a posthumous lens.
In early 1985, Tom Petty didn’t mean an awful lot to the majority of British pop music fans. Despite the early Heartbreakers albums being warmly received over here during the latter half of the 1970s, and a pair of minor Top 40 entries in 1977 to the band’s name, that had been the extent of their impact upon the British mainstream. Classics such as Refugee, Here Comes My Girl and You Got Lucky didn’t even crack the Top 75.
There was, however, a duet with Stevie Nicks on Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around in 1981 which doubtless helped their profile, and was probably the only thing I knew about Tom Petty when the video for Don’t Come Around Here No More was aired on TV in March 1985. The success of this single on my charts would have been down to a couple of major factors; not just the Alice In Wonderland-goes-psychedelia promo film with Petty as the Mad Hatter in oversized suit and giant hat, but the influence of David A. Stewart upon proceedings.
The Eurythmics man was about to unleash his own group’s Be Yourself Tonight album via the overtly rock-oriented Would I Lie To You?, but had also been collaborating with Petty & The Heartbreakers on several songs for their Southern Accents set. The drum machine pattern at the root of Don’t Come Around Here No More, drenched in echo, underpins the whole track and added a contemporary twist to the familiar Petty sound.
Weekly exposure on the US Chart Show broadcast on Saturdays by Radio 1 also played its part in helping the single reach #1 on my personal Top 40; with my fascination in all things American just beginning to take hold, it was music that felt a little bit exotic and mysterious. That can only explain my decision to blow all my pocket-money on the Southern Accents cassette, even though I had no idea what the rest of the album sounded like; I recall being disappointed and perplexed at first by the array of distinctly Yankee rock tunes and bluegrass-tinged ballads, and only a couple of tracks with a semblance of synths and drum machines as per the single.
That initial disappointment stemmed from not being ready to fully take the leap from my Smash Hits/No.1 world of self-contained pop. It wouldn’t be until 1986 that the qualities of Southern Accents, and records by the likes of Bruce Hornsby & The Range, John Cougar Mellencamp and Bob Seger, began to make some sense. Perhaps as a consequence of working with David A. Stewart, Petty himself would soon spend several years in the company of his fellow Traveling Wilbury brothers, honing and streamlining his style in the process and producing his career high Full Moon Fever in 1989.
Don’t Come Around No More, however, was a pop gem and if anything, it’s a surprise that it didn’t do better than #50 in the UK and even more of a surprise that it ultimately missed the US Top 10 after a promising start.