365 Days of Album Recommendations – Oct 3

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Southern Accents


I acknowledge this is a problematic album in many ways; it was difficult to record/complete, there was tension within the band, Petty broke his hand, there were the controversies around the song “Rebels,” and so on …

But all that said, I think this is just a magisterial accomplishment; a thing of total aesthetic beauty.

Plus, it contains one of my absolute favorite Petty tracks, “Spike”:

Oh, we got another one, just like the other ones
Another bad ass, another troublemaker
I’m scared, ain’t you boys scared?
I wonder if he’s gonna show us what bad is?
Boys, we got a man with a dog collar on
You think we oughta’ throw ol’ Spike a bone?

Hey Spike what do you like?
Hey Spike what do you like?

Here’s another misfit, another Jimmy Dean
Bet he’s got a motorbike,
What do ya’ll think?
Bet if we be good we’ll get a ride on it
If he ain’t too mad about the future
Maybe we oughta help him see
The future ain’t what it used to be

Hey Spike, you’re scarin’ my wife
Hey, Spike what do you like?
Please Spike, tell us ’bout life?

It’s tempting to make comparisons when talking about this album, and there’s an argument for doing so; situated as it is so perfectly along a timeline of timeless Americana, but it’s better experienced on its own terms, as something only Petty and The Heartbreakers could create. If it must be compared, literature may be the better analog, in that Petty’s south is sort of a rock n’ roll Yoknapatawpha County—something imagined so intensely that its fictions become stronger than truth, and in so doing, they throw new light on the actual truth.

Mainly, it’s every bit the fully realized masterpiece they seemingly set out to make, and while, per Petty’s own admissions, much of the original “concept” fell by the wayside over the course of bringing the album too light, I think what emerged was a gift to us all. As was Petty himself.

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