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Tom Petty's Southern Accents

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Tom Petty's Southern Accents (33 1/3 Series) by Michael Washburn offers both a rough track by track accounting as well as contextualizing the album both within Petty's career and society as a whole. 

I love this series specifically because it is more than simply a track by track analysis. Some books include one but the series concentrates on bigger issues, whether a personal attachment, societal importance, or the place of the album in the artist's career. Washburn handles all of these elements quite well.

The main thesis is that this album (and technically coupled with Let Me Up) serves as a major pivot point in Petty's career. I think I always believed that but I hadn't thought closely about why, I leaned toward some basic explanation that he had simply matured. While that no doubt plays a part, the experience of making it as well as its reception made him mature a whole lot faster.

The majority of the book weaves the two elements of making the album and what the "concept" represented (knowingly or not).  I can remember seeing him on this tour and thinking I might never buy another album of his. And I really like them. Many of my contemporaries in the US bought Damn the Torpedoes as their first Petty album and then bought backwards. I was introduced to the first album while in England so I actually bought the albums as they came out. That is to say I was not someone who just heard the hits and claimed to really like them. But the Southern Accents tour was offensive. I did not buy Let Me Up until much later (still not sure why), though after Full Moon Fever I came back to them.

The discussion Washburn offers about the rationale for the war as well as the shiny veneer concocted to dress the pig up is as good a basic explanation as I have seen is a popular nonfiction book, especially one not a history book about the war. Just know that those claiming to know better and tell you to "read your history" are the ones who don't know, or won't acknowledge, the actual history.

While this book does spend a lot of ink (or pixels) on the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement, and current white supremacist terrorism, it is all tied directly to what the songs, the album, and the tour promoted and the segment of the population it encouraged. 

In addition, the musical analysis is very interesting and points out some subtle differences that might often be missed. 

I recommend this to music fans, Petty fans, and readers interested in the dynamics between popular culture and societal issues. I believe that Petty would have appreciated the even-handed approach that both discussed the problems with the album as well as Petty's attempts (successful, I believe) to make amends for his gross misstep.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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There's been a lot said about Tom Petty's career but this still had info to share. Featuring new interviews with band members and contrasting the "concept" of the album with the history of the south; this is a great read for music fans.
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The 33 1/3rd series usually covers classic albums, or at the very the least, the best albums by more obscure artists. This edition is peculiar in the fact that it documents the creation, release and cultural impact of what's looked at as one of the weakest entries in a popular bands catalogue. 

Petty passed away before the author was able to interview him, which is a shame in general, but in regards to this project it really limits the impact of what Mr. Washburn intended to do with this volume. The author takes Petty to task for the use of the Confederate Flag in the promotion of the album, and the subsequent tour supporting it. This something Petty apologized for in 2015, but we only get Petty's thoughts about it from previous interviews, A new sit down would have, hopefully, put the issue to rest.

Petty's bandmates are interviewed and that material is very good, as well as the in the studio stories about a very (allegedly) coked up production process. The story of how Petty broke his hand during this process is surprising and amusing. 

All in all, Southern Accents is a solid entry in a great series, hamstrung by tragedy.
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This was an interesting and relatively short read. The author interviews several members of the bad. The author talks about how he was scheduled to interview Tom after the tour ended but Tom died before he could be interviewed. The author goes into some detail about how Tom embraced the southern symbolism while touring and the backlash he recieved.  I had not realized that Tom went from a rebel in Southern Accents to a Californian on Ventura boulevard in Full Moon Fever. I found it interesting.
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Ahh, I love this series of books, and I love Tom Petty! A nice little treat for any music obsessive and for nerding out - probably not for the casual reader, but definitely worth a read. The 33 1/3 series is amazing - have a look at the list of titles and I’m sure there’s an album you’ve heard and would like to know more about.
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A thoughtful study of a pivotal time in the career of legendary musician Tom Petty and the ambitious, fractured album that was produced as a result.  Insightful and thought provoking.

Author Michael Washburn has produced a really good book that examines not just the album Southern Accents (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) but the inspiration behind it, the often painful making of it, the immediate response to it, and its legacy - both musically and culturally.  

I found the analysis of how the fallout from Southern Accents indirectly led to Tom Petty becoming more of a "California" musician particularly interesting. In many ways this book reads like the most interesting thesis you will ever read. 

There is a great deal of discussion on The Lost Cause myth of the American South and a lot of evaluation done from a "woke" perspective that, to me, seemed to get slightly heavy handed at times. 

Guitarist Mike Campbell and keyboardist Benmont Tench, both founding members of The Heartbreakers, were interviewed for this book. Tom Petty had agreed to participate but passed away prior to meeting with the author. A poignant moment occurs when Mike Campbell tries to give some insight to a particular moment by saying, "Well, you'd have to ask Tom that, but you can't now."

A great read. I enjoyed it.

There is some strong language and references to drug use.

***Thanks to NetGalley, Bloomsbury Academic and author Michael Washburn for providing me with a free digital copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
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If you think it is an impossible task to write anything new or relevant about Petty's much-celebrated career, Washburn will surprise you. A great book that does justice to a great collection.
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I love Tom Petty and this was a great read about a great album.  It will help to keep his music kegzcy alive. I've read a few of these type of books now and I always find them fascinating. More please.
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I read the 33 1/3 on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Southern Accents.” It’s a deep dive into one of Petty’s albums. It’s too bad he wasn’t alive when the author started writing this. It would have been interesting to get his take. Instead we have interviews with Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell. If you’re a casual fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, this goes too deep for you. If you want to read about the background to some of the songs on “Southern Accents”, you might enjoy this. I’m somewhere in the middle. This wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought it would be more like his biography, but then again, that’s not really the point of this series. It was too “academic” for me.
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This is one of the best  33 1/3 books I have read, the author gives a great description of where Tom Petty was when he made the album , “Southern Accents”, the idea behind the album, and a very thorough analysis of what went wrong when making the album. He talks to former Heartbreakers members Bermont Tech and Mike Campbell. They give a lot of insight into where the Heartbreakers were at the time of the album and how the album affected the band. In addition to this the author gives his opinion on how the album romanticizes confederate imagery and gives a great account on where he thinks Petty may have been coming from when he made these decisions and how apologetic c he was just a few years later. 

There is insight into the creation of the Don Henley hit “Boys of Summer” and the effect it had on the band. Background is provided on everything from where Petty likely was influenced for the sound on the album (a remix of one of his own tracks) and how Dave Stewart was brought in to produce some songs on the album. 

A description of how the Heartbreakers reset after this album and what led to Full Moon Fever is also described. Also included in the book is a very thoughtful analysis of how the Civil War has been remembered. 

The best 33 1/3 books I have read so far either come from a place of love for the album or take an aspect of the album and expand on that subject. This book is written in a way that you could appreciate equally whether this is your favorite or least favorite Petty album, the author remains neutral and provides enough background on the album that anyone could enjoy it. Highly recommended. 
Here is a link to a playlist I made on Spotify to accompany the book
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I'm not really much of a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers fan. He has some great songs; I love listening to "American Girl" and "Into the Great Wide Open" while driving with all of the windows down in the summer, but to say that I am a fan, will be too much of a stretch. I do not own any of his albums, and I really was not familiar with the "Southern Accents" album, so I was interested in someone doing a deep study of one of his minor releases instead of his commercial successes. I listened to the album before I started reading it, and I knew "Don't Come Around Here No More," but that was it. And then Michael Washburn takes me on this journey.

Washburn looks at "Southern Accents" as a deeply flawed, deeply troubling album. Originally Petty was going to work on a double concept album about the South, narrated by a fictional white Southern man, but at the end of the day, Petty released a nine song album, three of the songs cowritten by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics. The bigger problem though is Petty ignoring people of color and the history and influence they have in the South. "Southern Accents" does not become a concept album about the south, but about the white south. As Washburn points out: There is nary a mention of a black person on the entire album. But there is the great amount of time Petty spends on tour for this album, including a tour album called, "Pack Up the Plantation: Live!" surrounded by Confederate Battle flags. Washburn takes on these problems with a full head of steam, and he does not make any excuses for Tom Petty and his team's flaws. I like that Washburn is a fan of Petty but not so much of a fan that he does not call him out on his behavior during this time. Washburn uses interviews with the surviving Heartbreakers and with some in the Petty camp for this book, and he uses care with the story, trying to explain it without making a single excuse. At the end of the day, Washburn does a really good job, and the end product is a compelling account of an album that really isn't that great.  

I received this as an ARC from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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Southern Accents is few people's favourite Tom Petty record. The myth goes that it was intended as a double album about the American south, but its troubled creation - including Petty pulverising his hand after punching a wall - and the intervention of a Eurythmic led to it being condensed into a nine-song mish mash, interspersing its original concept with what are now some exceptionally dated tracks.

Michael Washburn's book on the album digs deep into that myth and, while not quite debunking it, certainly sheds some interesting light on the record. It's an extremely well-written entry in the series, picking apart the songs which need dissecting, and all but ignoring the ones which aren't so worthy. It's something of a piece with the recent entry about Drive-By Truckers' excellent "Southern Rock Opera". The DBT album (and the book about it) fixates on "the duality of the Southern thing" - the racial and psychological divide of how Southerners today have to grapple with their heritage.

Unsurprisingly, Washburn makes no mention of DBT in his book on Petty. There's no telling he's ever heard the album. However, the duality of the Southern (Accents) thing is implicit in every page. The writer concentrates as much on the Southern Accents that could have been (which he refers to as "the Shadow Southern Accents") as the Southern Accents that was, and that concept drives his book's main thesis: yes, the album would have been better in its original guise, but even that would still only tell half the story Petty intended. "To put it bluntly," he writes, "Petty's South is the white South", in terms of not only its musical and lyrical content, but the imagery of the record sleeve and its ensuing tour.

Petty, himself a Southerner, was raised in Florida - home of Lynyrd Skynyrd and, by definition, Southern Rock, but is best known as an LA musician. Washburn more than capably explores all of this detail and more, mixing straightforward band biography with historical information and personal memoir, paralleling Petty's evolving relationship with Confederate iconography with his own reckoning with his own. Ultimately, it's a 130-page checking of white Southern privilege, whether it be Petty's, Washburn's own, or that of the 21st century South.

The book also contains new interviews with two of the key Heartbreakers - Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench - which are thoughtful and funny, particularly the full transcript of the latter's thoughts on cocaine's impact on both the album and one's hair. One major tragedy regarding the book is that Petty was also willing to talk, but sadly passed away not long after Washburn signed the contract to write the book. His retrospective insight into this troubled era of his own career would have been truly fascinating, but Petty's absence, and the notion of the book that could have been seems strangely fitting.
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