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Let's Try to Make Southern Accents Great Again

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Well that's an awful thread title but I couldn't think of anything better that would fit the theme of the thread lol. Any who, as some of you might know, I think Southern Accents is one of the great lost opportunities in the TPATH discography. What was suppose to be a double album with a roots rock concept and sound ended up mired in a cocaine induced 80s nightmare of excess that was a far cry of it's original goal. It's a shame really. Now I don't often like to go back and try to think of what could have been because often times when you do try do that, you don't make things that much better. Alas, this has always been a case where I make an exception seeing as the band hasn't ever came close to the concept again. So what I would like to do is try to piece together a more roots rock/southern rock version of this album with what we know was recorded during the time period and some left overs from prior albums that also could have made the cut.

So before I try to make a possible new track list, I'd like to see what you guys think could have been added to the album, dropped to the album, what we know was recorded at the time and what people think of the album as a whole

 

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Well it took some pondering and hard thinking but a track list I have in mind for this re-imagining of this album would look like this:

Side A

1. Rebels
2. Casa Dega
3. Ways To Be Wicked
4. Keeping Me Alive
5. Trailer
6. Cracking Up
7.Depot Street
8.Southern Accents

Side B

9. Stories We Could Tell
10. It Ain't Nothin' To Me
11. The Image of Me
12. Don't Come Around Here No More
13. Big Boss Man
14. Spike
15. Dogs On The Run
16. The Best of Everything

With this, you get as close to a potential southern/roots rock album in theme and potential sound. I think if some of the tracks that we know got recorded from yeas prior that were either B-Sides like "Casa Dega", they could fit well on this album, especially that track. It's too good to be a B-Side but just doesn't fit anywhere on the perfection that is Damn the Torpedoes. I think if they went back to their Mudcrutch roots as well and recorded something like "Depot Street" but with a new take on it, it could be a really good , fresh track that would hearken back to their roots. Now I think with this some of the stuff we got on on Southern Accents would have to be recorded differently to fit this and some songs like "Mary's New Car" need to be scrapped entirely. I think "Spike" should be made into what they would do when they took it live (Like we got on the Live Anthology) and make it a nice 7 minute long story song with a nice jam. "It Ain't Nothin' Me" would also need to be greatly re-worked and I think if they changed it up and played  it like a Lynard Skynard tribute, it could be awesome. I think you could leave "Rebels" as kind of the unique, over-produced stand out that it was originally because then it could be like with what the Kinks did on their Muswell Hillbillies album where all the songs were recorded to sound like they were recorded in the 40s except the opening track "20th Century Man" which used modern techniques to serve as a dichotomy. I think that would work well for "Rebels" as well.

Be interested in what everyone thinks of that tracklist

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^ Very interesting! Personally I probably would need to hear quite a few, so far unheard (by me) outtakes from the era, to be able to stich together a double disc here. Unfortunately. Seems to me TP was not quite up to standard with his own ambitions around this place in time. It all took off with a grand and ambitious aim but never quite got there, I think most people agree, despite hints and shadows of both the original idea and the potential greatness here and there throughout the album. If it's ability or judgement that went awol for the time being... I don't quite know. Probably both. 

However, I am very fascinated by the era and the album - as I've often times testified - but there were (obviously) too many pitfalls in SA, as it is, to make it through out of harms way, if you see what I mean. (You obviously do.) Of course there are re-recordings of certain songs to be imagined, there are, like you say yet other, older songs never quite made justice that could potentially have found themselves a place on SA. Hypothetically. I think you are especially right about songs like Casa Dega (although, I see why they didn't wanna revisit an old b-side), Cracking Up and Stories We Could Tell. Dynamite stuff that is easy to imagine in the context of this album, IMO. On the other hand I'm not so sure about some of your other suggestions. Not sure how it would help focus or deepen the album sufficiantly. Charming filler is not what's needed, even if it would arguably been better than some of the stuff that did end up on the disc, agreed. 

So, on the one hand, it's surprisingly easy to imagine a single disc southern themed album that would become so much more iconic than SA managed to be - that is even if, by my judgement neither It Ain't Nothing To Me nor, even, Don't Come Around Here No More do nothing for the album-aspect of this album, nor did perhaps Mary's New Car (not sure here) and they would all have to go. But again.. for a double masterpiece to have happened, even mentally, I would need to hear at least three or for so far unheard gems of gravity to believe or imagine such..

It is a great discussion, no matter. The what-if qualities of SA has to be one of the big iconic "issues" in the TP history. And both people's views on certain tracks, the production, tracklist and pro's and con's of SA as an album has been discussed in various threads over the years, from various aspects. One that immediately strikes my mind is this.. 

For now, a decent set up to start with would be...

A:

1. Rebels   2. Keeping Me Alive   3. Cracking Up   4. Trailer   5. Southern Accents

B:

1. Stories We Could Tell   2. Spike   3. Dogs On The Run   4. The Best of Everything

 

An album, as such, that would be just one or two unheard strong songs away from being one of the best albums ever recorded, IMO.

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There is nothing wrong with covers. The band does them very well and has generally a great and inspired spin on them. Some great artists like the Byrds and Stones first albums were littered with covers and they were fine. Plus, as Shelter said, we don't have a lot to go off of at all in the case of what was recorded for the album. Because of that, some covers that they did during that time like "Stories We Could Tell" would fit on there perfectly and so would "The Image of Me" which is fantastic and far from being filler.

And Shelter, I understand the not wanting to re-tread argument of an old B-side but many artists have gone back to songs prior that didn't get a good first look and were added down to the line to great success. So while "Casa Dega" may not seem like it should go on there, I think it's just one of those great songs by the band that just got screwed over in the making of DTT. I think it's a better song then "What Are You Doin' In My Life?" but I would never swap them. And I think some of the filler would work fine. What double/triple album has ever been made and didn't have some sort of filler? Very rare do you find a 13+ track album that has no filler. But even still, I think "Ways to Be Wicked" in some shape or form could have made a good, turn up your radio rocker for the album. And I don't think any of the covers out side of "Big Boss Man" would qualify as filler seeing as they'e all bloody fantastic. "Cracking Up" is a absolutely great jangle rocker, "The Image of Me" shows their potential of playing solid country rock, and we all know how good "Stories We Could Tell" is. Hell, if this album was recorded a year later, I would love to see them throw the Georgia Satellites "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" on there as they did do a great cover of it live in 89. That song encapsulates what the album I think was suppose to be.

And your right, it's damn hard to think and even try to tinker with this album in a real meaningful way seeing as we don't know much about the recording sessions except for that cocaine is a hell of a drug. It's not like trying to rebuild SMiLE seeing as just about all of that was completed, so I get how it would be hard to think of this album as a double album like I laid out.

Another thing too is, it's also hard to imagine them doing what he had in mind originally to becoming a huge pop success seeing as for all intents and purposes, roots rock in the mid-80s was dead. Besides the aforementioned Georgia Satellites, there wasn't any real southern/roots rock going on at the time and the alt-country genre was just starting to grow in the underground with the likes of the Jayhawks. So if the album came out in the way I see it or even you listed it out, I think it would probably end up not doing that well. It may go gold because hell, it's a TPATH record but I don't think anyone would dig it until years down the road when people realize they may of missed something great.

 

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There is the actual song Southern Accents that has made a real difference in my family. Orange growers that got screwed by the big companies. The ones that got the legislation fixed so the local growers could not afford to ship their fruit, and still had to bust ass when a freeze was coming, and then five years of hard work to get the orange trees productive again. Mr Tom Petty wrote and recorded about this...when those orange groves don't freeze. This is my family, and the family of many other Floridians as you know.. After 100 years my family lost the farm, the orange grove. Keep telling our story Tom...please...only you can.

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13 minutes ago, Doowah Diatribe said:

There is the actual song Southern Accents that has made a real difference in my family. Orange growers that got screwed by the big companies. The ones that got the legislation fixed so the local growers could not afford to ship their fruit, and still had to bust ass when a freeze was coming, and then five years of hard work to get the orange trees productive again. Mr Tom Petty wrote and recorded about this...when those orange groves don't freeze. This is my family, and the family of many other Floridians as you know.. After 100 years my family lost the farm, the orange grove. Keep telling our story Tom...please...only you can.

I did write this

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I have a bad habit of re-imagining albums too.  Sometimes I wish we could remain blissfully unaware of what the album might have been and save all the wondering.  I made myself an alternate Southern Accents on CD-R that goes like this:

1. Rebels
2. Trailer
3. Apartment Song
4. Don't Come Around Here No More
5. Southern Accents
6. Image of Me
7. Spike
8. Dogs on the Run
9. Mary's New Car
10. Best of Everything

Not sure why they partially abandoned the "southern" concept because it seems there was enough good material for a single LP.  That was kinda my thinking in putting this together, just the songs that stay focused on the original concept, plus Don't Come Around Here No More because I couldn't see not having that one on there.

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Great thread! We had this kind of re-imagining album running orders and tracklisting in the past, but it's something special with Southern Accents, since there is a coherent theme that originally was supposed to run through it that somehow got screwed up...

Anyway, here's my two cents.

  1. Rebels

  2. Keeping Me Alive

  3. Southern Accents

  4. Trailer

  5. Spike

  6. Cracking Up

  7. Ways To Be Wicked

  8. Dogs On The Run

  9. Turning Point

  10. The Best of Everything

I definitely would omit DCAHNM which in my opinion is a great, great song but does not fit within the great scheme of SA things, if you get my meaning. I know that Keeping Me Alive and Turning Point are leftovers from Long After Dark, but since others brought up Keeping Me Alive earlier I thought what the heck. Stylistically and thematically they fit in perfectly. Same thing with Cracking Up and Ways To Be Wicked. It Ain't Nothing To Me, Mary's New Car and Forget About Me should have been relegated to B-sides at best.

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OK I'll jump in. Even though this is completely imaginary. My track list would span Heartbreaker decades, don't be mad :) I personally can't get into a lot of the HB songs around this era. Maybe it's the horns, the overproduction, I don't know... Like so many of you, I too wanted SA to be something more. I think we all LOVE the idea of Petty's take on a southern concept album. Either way, I don't think the vision was fully realized or materialized. I think a more successful and compelling attempt at capturing this idea would be Drive By Truckers "Southern Rock Opera"...shoot, or even "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (both double albums, interestingly)

 

SIDE A

1. Rebels

2. Trailer

3. Apartment Song

4. Spike

5. Sheets

SIDE B:

1. Casa Dega

2. 13 Days

3. Don't Come Around Here No More

4. Willin'

5. Southern Accents

BONUS TRACKS:

1. Stories We Could Tell

2. Down South

 

It's hard to imagine Don't Come Around Here No More not being on SA, even though it doesn't feel like it fits within a southern theme. I can't think of Tom Petty circa 1985 without hearing that song. Both live versions of Willin (Fonda Theatre, 2013) and 13 Days are absolutely masterful and two of my favorite TP covers. I wonder what studio versions of them would sound like? I can swear that I read somewhere that there was a song idea called "Sheets" that was about the KKK or something like that?? Don't know, but that's definitely "south".... In Warren Zanes book, Petty said something to the effect that the seeds of the album started when he was driving around the south, looking outside, and writing down single words. Rebels, Trailer, Apartment, etc.

And I know Jay mentioned no covers, but the band has covered a ton of southern type songs through the years, so it fits for my vision :) Shoot, they even covered Skynyrd...the quintessential southern rock band. Get down and boogie, Benmont.

 

 

So there you have it. The duality of the Southern thing. My dream Southern Accents Album.

 

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Some interesting stuff shared on this thread. The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to go with leaving the 1985 Southern Accents as it is/was for better or worse as a testament to what was realised at the time, flawed and incomplete or compromised as it may have been....

So here is how I see it - I think you can make a case that Tom getting Mudcrutch back together was a kind of subconscious 'Southern Accents Revisited' in terms of themes and sound, as it is their roots after all, southern accents being a Mudcrutch vehicle naturally anyway. 

Combine the best of what is on Mudcrutch album and Mudcrutch 2 album and you have the 'Southern Accents Revisited' album...with the 'concept album' better realised than the 1985 Heartbreakers model. Sticking primarily to TP/Mudcrutch songs from the two albums except for 'Lover Of The Bayou' cover that is too good to leave out, and also fulfils the necessary need to show that covers are a staple of 'southern accent' bands in general.

Album Title: Southern Accents Revisited - The Live Anthology

(pick the best live performances from the Mudcrutch tour for a live compilation album)

Artist: Mudcrutch

Track listing:

1. Lover Of The Bayou

2. Southern Accents (just drop in the track from 1985 Southern Accents as is....link with the past revisited literally on a revisited concept would be cool i think.....or pick a live Heartbreaker version ;))

3. Scare Easy

4. Orphan Of The Storm

5. The Wrong Thing To Do

6. Bootleg Flyer

SIDE B

1. The Other Side Of The Mountain

2. House Of Stone

3. Welcome To Hell

4. Save Your Water

5. Victim Of Circumstance

6. Crystal River (LIVE long version from 2016 Mudcrutch tour)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The 'controversial talking point' is I'm leaving Trailer off the album!!! :o but fear not.......prior to the release of the 'Southern Accents Revisited' album there would be a 

*Special collectors edition single release

1. Trailer (2016 Mudcrutch version)

2. Trailer (1984 Heartbreakers version)

So maybe after 'Wildflowers All The Rest' is finally released Tom and the record company can start working on my idea! :D

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I decided to make this a bit challenging and stay with songs only recorded for this album. Like Jay, I also don't want to see any covers on the album. it's bad enough, in my opinion, that TPATH play too many in concert, but to have some on the studio albums? Forget it.

Since the stated object is to "Make Southern Accents Great Again", I think a good place to begin is the style. In other words, the recording technique, horn section and overall 80s sound has to go. The record needs to be recorded as live as possible, preferably like the first Mudcrutch album. There needs to be an emphasis on the acoustic. I'd keep the piano, and organ is acceptable if used sparingly. Everything needs to sound real, needs to sound like a band playing on the porch of a home in a small southern town or perhaps, even better, in the town square, set up in a gazebo overlooking a grass field where children play in the background, while men and women sip beer, sit on blankets and let the music wash over them.

At the same time, they need to avoid stereotypical country-twang sounds. It's a rock-n-roll album about the south, a gritty album, but not a country one.

With a good feel for how it's supposed to sound, next up is the question, what's this album about? About forty-seven minutes long.

It's about the south? But what does that mean? The history? The effects of that history on the people living there? The stereotypes, those who live like one and those seeking to escape? The apst? Tom's past? Tom's take as both an outsider and someone who once lived there? Is there story here touching on all of this? Ordinarily the album would be about putting the songs in an order that makes for a good flowing album, one you listen to from beginning to end without skipping. Now you not only need to do that but tell a tale as well.

i don't know what Tom was going for with this record but since I can lay out my own version, that's what I'm going to do.

I'm using Tom as the main character, not because I think it's a literal representation, but because it's easier to use his name than to type "the main character."

Including the three songs I've heard belong to this era but didn't make the album:

Side A

01)Southern Accents---An unconventional opening. Whereas before the song served as the record's centerpiece, now it's Tom's personal vision of the south, what it means to him versus what others think of it. It's Tom baring his heart. Usually something like this would be much later in the record, but it's more of a mission statement, a personal and slow moving beginning, here's what's inside me, beyond everything he presents to the world and those in his life. 
 
02) Spike----This is Tom as he appears to the outside world, the tough guy, having many a beer with his friends and mocking the northern punk who wandered into the wrong bar one evening. He makes his friends laugh, makes the punk flee in terror without raising a fist. Tom as a tough southern guy.
 
03)Mary's New Car---And here's the love of Tom's life. His high school sweetheart, long past after everyone else was dropped off, Tom stayed in the car. It's a more innocent song because despite Tom's southern machismo, he's tender with Mary. He loves her and has big dreams with her.
 
04)It Ain't Nothin' To Me----The contrast song, basically merging the two Toms we've listened to so far. The sneering, defiant, tough guy Tom and the one who is tender with his love, when she dances...he can go right with her. 
 
 05)Trailer----Now here's where Tom and Mary ended up; here's Tom expressing regrets but is too paralyzed to do anything about it. Here's the bleak portrait to end the first side.
 
Side B
 
06)Rebels----As I mentioned earlier, for this song to work, it has to be gritty, no horns, no 80s style production, just fuzzy guitars, no acoustics, and dry sounding drums, this is pent up anger and self-loathing exploding outwards instead of in, this is anger followed by regret leading to...
 
*
07)Make it Better----The break-up. Tom leaves her, tells her to move on without him, into a better life without his pointless anger, and worthless petty (pun intended) rebellion.
 
08) Dogs on the Run---Tom, on his own, is lost, wandering about the south. He's punishing himself for how he treated Mary, how he failed at life and perhaps he's punished himself enough, the blonde in the song leading him back to his tiny apartment, giving him wisdom to better understand himself. Whereas before he wandered about, lost, drunk, broken and now he learns that he's meant to be on the road, perhaps for the rest of his life, perhaps not...but not as punishment, but as true to himself, a wanderer, perhaps searching for wisdom, someone too antsy to stay in anyone place for long. Understanding this...Tom is able to...well, see the next track.
 
09) The best of everything----Tom now looks back, past anger. Something has changed in him, he understands how he is; this is Tom, perhaps beginning to forgive himself. One last look back with nothing but a mature and wiser love and apology towards the love of his life before leaving the south for good.
 
10)The Apartment Song----Some time has passed. Tom's made the move and is somewhere on the road, reflecting back at where he once had lived, in his bitter filled days following leaving Mary. But he's only looking back on these days, he's not there...he's on the road, tossed about across the county.
 
11)Don't Come Around Here No More----Now the lyrics work as Tom singing to his dark bitter side, renouncing it. It's not a song to an ex-lover, has nothing to do with a music video, but is his triumph over his more selfish and wait for it...petty nature. No weird (and neat) drum sounds, perhaps the song starts with Tom strumming the guitar, the band slowly coming in, Stan lightly keeping a beat with cymbals, before laying down a powerful bass drum beat, a four count going on then dropping away, perhaps Benmont drops in a bit of piano...then we hear Tom's lone guitar strumming, then building up, Stan striking the bass drum faster, throwing in a snare fill leading to a catharic ROCKIN' FINISH! All the Heartbreakers united now, Mike wailing above a tight rhythm, going on for a good two minutes before slowly fading out, Tom racing into the horizon and brighter better days...

 

*EDITED to remove The Image of Me since it's a cover.

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On September 25, 2016 at 0:01 AM, Doowah Diatribe said:

There is the actual song Southern Accents that has made a real difference in my family. Orange growers that got screwed by the big companies. The ones that got the legislation fixed so the local growers could not afford to ship their fruit, and still had to bust ass when a freeze was coming, and then five years of hard work to get the orange trees productive again. Mr Tom Petty wrote and recorded about this...when those orange groves don't freeze. This is my family, and the family of many other Floridians as you know.. After 100 years my family lost the farm, the orange grove. Keep telling our story Tom...please...only you can.

Thank you for sharing this; I'm sorry your family suffered because of the big companies.

I'm glad this song offered you so much over the years.

Take care.

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3 hours ago, MaryJanes2ndLastDance said:

Since the stated object is to "Make Southern Accents Great Again", I think a good place to begin is the style. In other words, the recording technique, horn section and overall 80s sound has to go. The record needs to be recorded as live as possible, preferably like the first Mudcrutch album. There needs to be an emphasis on the acoustic. I'd keep the piano, and organ is acceptable if used sparingly. Everything needs to sound real, needs to sound like a band playing on the porch of a home in a small southern town or perhaps, even better, in the town square, set up in a gazebo overlooking a grass field where children play in the background, while men and women sip beer, sit on blankets and let the music wash over them.

I don't know... The Band used horns on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and that's as much about the South as it gets, isn't it? And R.E.M.'s "Fables of The Reconstruction" also is a whole album with themes rooted in the South that has a good deal of 80s production (even though not as bad as SA, admittedly). I don't think a stripped down, live band sound necessarily does your - if I may say so - brilliant, rather broad and compelling concept justice.

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I'll throw my hat in the ring:

1. Rebels
2. Trailer
3. Keeping Me Alive
4. Don't Come Around Here No More
5. Southern Accents
6. Casa Dega
7. Spike
8. Apartment Song
9. Dogs on the Run
10. Turning Point
11. The Best of Everything


Rationale: The Heartbreakers have never put a cover song on a studio album, so I don't think it makes sense to throw any on here. "Cracking Up" and "The Image of Me" are great tracks and would probably fit the vibe, but original songs take precedence. (If this was a boxed set, then maybe it'd be a different story, but I am considering it as a standard LP.) "It Ain't Nothing To Me" is a decent track, but not one that goes with the vibe of the album. "Make it Better" is rubbish. "Mary's New Car" is the definition of filler. So those three tracks are gone. I can understand why some people would cut DCAHNM as well, but it's just too good of a song to lose. Holding to a concept is one thing; deleting an inventive and massively successful single is another. It would have been a bad band decision to do that. I would like to have included "Sheets," the Southern-inspired song Tom mentions in the Zanes bio, but without hearing it or knowing anything more about it, I think it would be unfair to add.

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5 hours ago, TwoGunslingers said:

I don't know... The Band used horns on "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and that's as much about the South as it gets, isn't it? And R.E.M.'s "Fables of The Reconstruction" also is a whole album with themes rooted in the South that has a good deal of 80s production (even though not as bad as SA, admittedly). I don't think a stripped down, live band sound necessarily does your - if I may say so - brilliant, rather broad and compelling concept justice.

Thanks TwoGunslingers!

I understand your points about the horns; for my take on this record I wanted to move as far as possible from the original; just didn't really care for the use of horns in the first place. I should've added that while favoring the acoustic on this record, the electric has its very important spot as well and that a focus of the sound would be the exciting contrast between the two in the songs.

cheers

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17 hours ago, MaryJanes2ndLastDance said:

Ha ha, yes. Probably the only place in the entire world where such a topic is discussed, save for the official forum.

I was thinking the same thing yesterday! That's why the Farm is such a great place (among other things). We can discuss stuff like that in a totally serious manner without being considered barking mad. :D

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