Monday, October 16, 2017

Certain Songs #1016: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – “Don’t Come Around Here No More” | Medialoper

Album: Southern Accents
Year: 1985


Unlike the pedestrian “You Got Lucky,” which wed unconvincing synths on the verses to an admittedly anthemic (and yeah, OK, catchy) chorus, the genre-busting “Don’t Come Around Here No More” somehow wed synth-pop, psychedelia, soul and garage rock into something that none of us had ever heard before.

Well, maybe Prince, who was riding high on the cross-pollination of Purple Rain and was just about to release two consecutive albums adding psychedelia to his stew. In fact, Petty even defended “Don’t Come Around Here No More” to his record company by citing “When Doves Cry” as something weird but popular.

Of course, unlike Prince, who made his reputation genre-busting, Tom Petty was savvy enough to do it just this one time, kinda like somebody who dropped acid, had a great time and figured he’d quit while he was ahead.


Credit, of course, goes to David A Stewart of Eurythmics, who copped the title from something that Stevie Nicks said to Joe Walsh, and then provided the both the synth hook and the coral sitar hook that brought you into the song even before Petty opened his mouth. But it was Tom Petty’s sad, resigned vocals that emotionally centered the song.

Don’t come around here no more
Don’t come around here no more
Whatever you’re looking for
Don’t come around here no more

The cool thing about “Don’t Come Around Here No More” is that it twists and turns, seemingly starting and stopping (“Stop!”) at will, voices and synths and that coral sitar coming and going as they please. There’s also the contrast between the perfectly smoothing backing vocals and Petty’s utter rawness when he sings things like “Yuh tangle mhigh amoooohSHUNS!” and “Who you axpect a meeeee?”


One of the things I’ve realized in the past week or as I’ve been doing these posts just how much I loved Tom Petty as a singer, and “Don’t Come Around Here No More” is one of his greatest performances, giving what is obviously and proudly a totally artificial construct a human center.

Also helping: the rave-up at the end, one last surprising twist, but also the Heartbreakers reminding you that they are a rock and roll band, with Mike Campbell soaring towards the paisley stratosphere with his wah-wah pedal as the song speeds toward the fade-out.

Fueled by a somewhat disturbing and slightly problematic Alice in Wonderland themed video — the entire direction of which consisted of “hey, can you make a ‘surprised’ face?” — “Don’t Come Around Here No More” made #13 on the Billboard charts, not so much despite, but because it was weird and unexpected and stood out on the radio no matter what the format.


“Don’t Come Around Here No More”

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” performed live, 1985

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” performed acoustically, 1988

“Don’t Come Around Here No More” performed live, 2006

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