Would You Believe Tom Petty “Stole” A Stevie Nicks Song?
via Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers / Youtube
The process of creating the Tom Petty album Southern Accents seems like it should have been an extremely difficult journey. As Petty aimed to create his most ambitious album to date, his drug dependency caused him to reject excellent songs like “Boys of Summer,” resulting in a moment of frustration where he crushed his hand to a pulp.
Despite this challenging period, Petty eventually emerged from the influence of drugs and unexpectedly obtained one of his greatest hits indirectly.
The Road to a Single Album
In the course of recording, the original intention was for Petty to take on the role of album producer alongside his long-standing guitarist, Mike Campbell. The initial plan involved creating a double record with a concept focused on the American South.
However, Petty’s strong desire to have Jimmy Iovine involved prompted them to reduce the project to a single disc.
Although Iovine was not prepared to take action due to his ongoing involvement in various sessions with Stevie Nicks, he developed a close connection with her after collaborating on her successful solo track “Stop Draggin My Heart Around.” When he joined the Petty project, Iovine sought Nicks’ creative advice.
The Making of ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’
In the book Runnin’ Down a Dream, Petty reminisces about a conversation with Iovine where he was seeking out songwriters. Petty recalls saying:
“He said, ‘Is there anybody new in the scene right now?’ and I said, ‘Well, I think this guy, Dave Stewart, is a really good songwriter. At the time, he was breaking onto the scene with the Eurythmics.”
Even though Stewart was open to creating a track for Nicks, she had already conceived a new song titled “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” As Nicks didn’t meet Iovine’s expectations with the lyrics, he recalls the situation being swiftly handed over to Petty, with Stevie stating:
“I want Tom to write the lyrics.”
Petty then proceeds to write the lyrics and ultimately takes ownership of the song.
No matter who ultimately penned the lyrics, the rendition has a remarkable impact on Petty’s vocals by combining his rugged heartland rock style with elements from the 1980s, such as drum machines and synthetic sitar sounds.
It’s evident that this approach could have been just as effective for Nicks, as Petty’s later production of an Alice in Wonderland-themed music video aligned perfectly with her mystical image.
The Journey of a Unique Song
Stewart acknowledged that it took some time for the other band members to embrace the notion of including this particular song as part of the album’s overall concept. He humorously commented:
“I’m certain they must have been perplexed, thinking, ‘I’m sure they were wondering ‘what the hell I was doing? I mean, the album’s called Southern Accents and all of a sudden it sounds like we’re in India.'”
Even with extensive use of overdubs, the song served as the cornerstone of the album by becoming a popular single, paving the way for bolder and more experimental studio ventures in Petty’s later career, such as “Wildflowers” and “Into the Great Wide Open.”
Despite facing considerable turmoil during the recording process, Petty maintained his support for the album in later years, stating:
“Southern Accents wasn’t the record that I set out to make, but I was more proud of the album it became.”