Song of the Day #1,384: ‘Southern Accents’ – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Best Albums of the 80s – #17
Southern Accents – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1985)

Tom Petty is an artist who could have albums on best-of-decade lists from the 70s, 80s and 90s. And he kicked off the 10’s in excellent fashion with Mojo, so the man is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

I don’t know that he receives enough credit for the amazing career he’s forged — he’s too often described as a follower of the great artists he counts among his peers rather than a fellow trailblazer. But you can stack his output against pretty much anybody’s.

1985’s Southern Accents is ample evidence of Petty’s immense talent, despite the rocky path to its completion. The record started out as a concept album about life in the south then shifted focus a bit with the inclusion of a few unrelated songs. Arguments were common among band members and at one point Petty broke his hand after punching a wall in frustration.

Despite the turmoil (or perhaps because of it), the band wound up with something special. Southern Accents is a passionate southern rock album (see ‘Rebels’ and ‘Dogs on the Run,’ two of my favorites) with a trace of weirdness (‘Don’t Come Around Here No More,’ ‘Spike’) and more than a little tenderness (‘The Best of Everything,’ today’s SOTD).

It’s funny, Petty says that this started out as a concept album about the south before becoming something different, but I think the concept is alive and well. The songs that “don’t fit” are about heartbreaks, reconciliations and dancing like you don’t give a damn… sounds pretty southern to me.

Today’s track was the inspiration for the album and is one of Petty’s favorites. Mine too.

There’s a southern accent, where I come from
The young’uns call it country
The yankees call it dumb
I got my own way of talkin’
But everything is done, with a southern accent
Where I come from

Now that drunk tank in Atlanta’s
Just a motel room to me
Think I might go work Orlando
If them orange groves don’t freeze
I got my own way of workin’
But everything is run, with a southern accent
Where I come from

For just a minute there I was dreaming
For just a minute it was all so real
For just a minute she was standing there, with me

There’s a dream I keep having
Where my mama comes to me
And kneels down over by the window
And says a prayer for me
I got my own way of prayin’
But everyone’s begun
With a southern accent
Where I come from

I got my own way of livin’
But everything gets done
With a southern accent
Where I come from

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,384: ‘Southern Accents’ – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

  1. Dana says:

    Love this album and love this song. This album and Wildflower are my two personal favorites, though Full Moon Fever is up there as well.

  2. Shawn says:

    And Cash’s version of it is pretty amazing as well.

  3. Amy says:

    Watching Tom Petty perform this song on stage in the O’Connell center in Gainesville, not 20 minutes from his hometown of Micanopy (made “famous” in “A Mind with a Heart of its Own”), is one of my the highlights of my concert going career 😉 I remember seeing him in the 80’s, though a search just now suggests that the concert may actually have been in January of 1990.

    Regardless, this song has never moved me more than it did that night. And it moves me to near tears each time I hear it. I don’t know whether Petty gets his due or not, but I have a feeling that he is content with his career. Not many of his peers could sit around making music with George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan. Clearly the people who likely matter most to Petty understand exactly how wonderful he is.

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