Southern Accents by
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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Southern Accents by Tom PettyTom Petty & the Heartbreakers found a nice blend of mid-eighties pop and their traditional rock sound on 1985’s Southern Accents. This sixth album by the group (and first new release in nearly three years) was put together by a vast number personnel. Along with Heartbreakers’ members Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, three other producers were involved in the production and beyond the five band members, over thirty session players and singers were used in recording this album.

Petty and the Heartbreakers entered the 1980s on a high streak, following the success of their 1979 album, Damn the Torpedoes. However, the follow-up album, Hard Promises in 1981, saw some friction between the band and the record company over pricing policy. Their 1982 album, Long After Dark saw the arrival of bass player Howie Epstein, who had been a member of Del Shannon’s backing band.

Southern Accents was originally conceived as a concept album about the “modern South”. This mission was ultimately abandoned when Eurhythmics founder Dave Stewart contributed some compositions and production techniques which contrasted with the overall concept. Tensions arose among the band members, who each had distinct visions of the album’s musical direction. These frustrations culminated with Petty breaking his left hand after punching a wall during a mixing session.


Southern Accents by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Released: March 26, 1985 (MCA)
Produced by: Tom Petty, Jimmy Iovine, Mike Campbell, David A. Stewart, & Robbie Robertson
Recorded: Sound City, Village Recorder, & Sunset Sound, Los Angeles and Church Studio, London, 1983–85
Side One Side Two
Rebels
It Ain’t Nothin’ to Me
Don’t Come Around Here No More
Southern Accents
Make It Better (Forget About Me)
Spike
Dogs On the Run
Mary’s New Car
The Best of Everything
Group Musicians
Tom Petty – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Keyboards
Mike Campbell – Guitars, Keyboards, Dobro
Benmont Tench – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Howie Epstein – Bass, Vocals
Stan Lynch – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

The album begins with “Rebels”, which features a traditional Tom Petty-style, musical approach with the additional elements of brass and rich backing vocals. Thematically, this track perfectly fits the “Southern Accents” theme and the song also found mainstream appeal by reaching #5 on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. “It Ain’t Nothin’ To Me” is the first Petty/Stewart collaboration and migrates more towards, mid-eighties slick production, But with a funk bass by Epstein and call and response vocals between Petty and a backing chorus, the song is still interesting, especially with
Benmont Tench‘s cool new-wave/jazz piano during the long outro.

The album’s biggest hit, “Don’t Come Around Here No More” employs Indian-style sitar by Stewart and repetitive but effective track percussion. The song proper is pleasant and melodic throughout and it breaks out into a full rock jam at the end with a wailing guitar lead by Campbell, thumping bass by Epstein and some “real” drums by Stan Lynch. The song was allegedly inspired by Stevie Nicks break up with Joe Walsh, but is best known for its Alice in Wonderland themed music video.

“Southern Accents” is a Jackson Browne-like piano tune, which is unique for the group, albeit a little bit dragged out and mundane, Still, the track works as a graceful title track which hits on the original theme of the album. “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” is the third and final collaboration between Petty and Stewart and employs a full-fledged, upbeat Motown vibe which is executed finely. Oft forgotten in the Petty catalog, this song reached the Top 20 of the Modern Rock charts.

The rest of the second side features an eclectic mix of lesser-known songs. “Spike” is down-home country with cool, chanting lyrics, brush drums and Tench’s electric piano to carry the day. “Dogs On the Run” was co-written by Campbell and returns to old Heartbreakers-style rock for the final time on the album. “Mary’s New Car” has a late-seventies funk/pop vibe (almost disco), along with interesting sounding lead vocals and a subtle, reverb-drenched sax lead. Like the first side, the second side ends with a piano ballad. “The Best of Everything” contains better melodies and good brass to close out the album with style.

Southern Accents reached the Top 10 in the US and the Top 40 in several other countries. The subsequent concert tour spawned the live album Pack Up the Plantation in late 1985 before the band toured with Bob Dylan through the next couple years.

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1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

 

Nervous Night by The Hooters

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Nervous Night by The HootersThe Hooters big label debut was, by far, their most successful album in America. Nervous Night sold over two million copies, achieving multi-platinum status, and spawned multiple Top 40 hits. The album features an eclectic mix of music that uses both traditional acoustic instrumentation and synth/keyboard heavy motifs with slick production. Together, this combination made for a sound that appealed to the pop audiences of the mid 1980’s while still maintaining quality musicianship and interesting arrangements.

Philadelphia musicians Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman had a decade-long musical association before they formed The Hooters in 1980. The group’s name comes from the nickname for the melodica, one of several ethnic instruments that the band plays in addition to traditional rock instrumentation. After gaining a local following in nightclubs and on Philadelphia radio, the group opened for The Who’s farewell tour concert shows at JFK Stadium in 1982. The following year the group independently produced their debut album, Amore, which sold over 100,000 copies through independent channels. Bazilian and Hyman then wrote, arranged and perform on Cyndi Lauper’s debut, She’s So Unusual, which was co-produced by long-time friend, Rick Chertoff, the producer of Nervous Night.

Guitarist John Lilley, drummer David Uosikkinen and newcomer bassist Andy King joined Bazilian and Hyman in the studio to record the album. While employing richer production techniques, the songs on Nervous Night remain true to the roots established on Amore, blending reggae and ska with traditional folk.


Nervous Night by The Hooters
Released: April 26, 1985 (Columbia)
Produced by: Rick Chertoff
Recorded: Studio 4, Philadelphia & Record Plant, New York, 1984-1985
Side One Side Two
And We Danced
Day by Day
All You Zombies
Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight
Nervous Night
Hanging on a Heartbeat
Where Do the Children Go
South Ferry Road
She Comes in Colors
Blood from a Stone
Group Musicians
Eric Bazilian – Guitars, Mandolin, Saxophone, Vocals
Rob Hyman – Keyboards, Melodica, Vocals
John Lilley – Guitars
Andy King – Bass, Vocals
David Uosikkinen – Drums

The album launches with “And We Danced”, which starts with an opening mandolin and melodica section before launching into a rocker with an irresistible beat and lyrics reminiscing about simpler times and memories of having fun with friends. The first major hit by the band, “And We Danced” reached #3 on the Mainstream Rock charts. Bazilian’s mandolin is also prevalent on “Day by Day”, a song co-written with Chertoff two years earlier. This track features some strong synth/keyboards by Hyman and a vibe that hits the ground running and doesn’t stop.

One of the most indelible songs by The Hooters, “All You Zombies” is a remake of a song originally released on Amore. This newer version contains dark and mystical atmospherics blended with a heavy reggae beat, which all seems appropriate for the “zombie” theme. Not literally about zombies, the lyrics contrast the differences between blind belief and having faith. The melodica returns on “Don’t Take My Car Out Tonight” along with sharp tones and sudden staccato beats. This track may have been inspired by the car wreck by former bassist Rob Miller, an incident which cause him to be replaced by King. Side one ends with the title track, “Nervous Night”, a quirky song that could either be about a strange dream or a glimpse into the mind of a mad person. This track also contains a great saxophone by Bazilian.

“Hanging on a Heartbeat” is another track originally released on Amore, featuring an excellent rock riff that repeats throughout the song and easy, repetitive lyrics that work with the tempo. “Where Do the Children Go” is a beautiful but sad ballad about teen suicide, featuring Patty Smyth on backing vocals. This mandolin, driven track was the third and final Top 40 hit from the album.

The album wraps up with three lesser know tracks. “South Ferry Road” is co-written by Hyman, Bazilian, and Chertoff about memories from their younger days, while “She Comes in Colors” is an interesting rendition of a song originally recorded by the band Love’s, but with a completely different feel and tempo than the original. The closer, “Blood From a Stone” ,is the final retread from Amore with a similar arrangement but a bit of jazzed-up production.

Nervous Night reached number 12 on the album charts in the US and was assisted by The Hooters’ being the opening band at the Philadelphia Live Aid benefit concert, which was broadcast to an international television audience just a few months after the album’s release.

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1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.

 

Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits

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Brothers In Arms by Dire StraitsDire Straits reached their commercial peak and achieved worldwide fame with their fifth studio album, Brothers In Arms. All the songs on this album were composed by lead vocalist and guitarist Mark Knopfler and he and the group honed their signature sound of r&b and jazz with an increased sense of pop song craft that ultimately paid off as the album dominated charts worldwide and won two Grammy awards. It is also notable for being one of the first directed towards CD sales by offering extended versions of some songs and, as a result, Brothers In Arms became the first CD ever to sell over one million copies in that medium.

Early in the 1980s, Dire Straits had a couple of successful albums with 1980’s Making Movies and 1982’s Love Over Gold. The latter of these two featured long and experimental songs with extensive piano and keyboard Alan Clark’s piano and keyboard work and was the first Dire Straits album produced by Knopfler. The group embarked on an extensive world tour before taking a break in late 1983 and early 1984.

Recording for Brothers In Arms took place on the Caribbean island of Montserrat during the Winter of 1984-85. The album was co-produced by Neil Dorfsman, who made good use of the limited space of the small studio. During the sessions, group drummer Terry Williams was replaced by Omar Hakim, who reportedly recorded all of the album’s drum parts in just two days. A second keyboardist, Guy Fletcher, also joined the group for the first time during recording.


Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits
Released: May 13, 1985 (Vertigo)
Produced by: Neil Dorfsman & Mark Knopfler
Recorded: AIR Studios, Montserrat, November 1984–March 1985
Side One Side Two
So Far Away
Money for Nothing
Walk of Life
Your Latest Trick
Why Worry
Ride Across the River
The Man’s Too Strong
One World
Brothers in Arms
Group Musicians
Mark Knopfler – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Alan Clark – Piano, Keyboards
Guy Fletcher – Keyboards, Vocals
John Illsley – Bass, Vocals
Omar Hakim – Drums

The opening track, “So Far Away”, was also the album’s lead single, reaching the Top 20 in the UK. The song features a very simple but effective structure, with two complementing guitar patterns and subtle vocals by Knopfler. Lyrically, the track speaks of distance in a relationship, whether it be real or symbolic. The only song to feature a co-writer and co-lead-singer, “Money for Nothing” was co-written by Sting (credited as Gordon Sumner). The song was a pure pop attempt that paid off big time, as this catchy dance track with a crunchy riff became the group’s most successful single. The lyrics were inspired by a conversation Knopfler heard while in an electronics store in New York City, with the words delivered entirely as a third person narrative.

 
“Walk of Life” is the best pure pop song on the album and the high point of danceable pop before the album comes down to a more mellow level. Musically, it is built a classic Hammond organ line by Clark along with a contrasting Western-style guitar by Knopfler. The melodic lead vocals are nicely complemented by interesting backing vocal patterns, which made for another smash hit worldwide and the group’s biggest commercial hit in their native UK. Starting with a signature saxophone by Michael Brecker, “Your Latest Trick” is Adult contemporary at its best, utilizing fine electric piano chords and a steady bass by John Illsley along with jazzy, clicking percussion by Hakim. “Why Worry” may be the finest overall song on this album, as a quiet and reserved ballad with finely picked guitars throughout. It starts with a long, subtle guitar intro and remains mellow throughout, building only slightly during the chorus with a nice, descending keyboard line in between verse sections. Poetic lyrics persist throughout;

Why worry, there should be laughter after the pain, there should be sunshine after rain, these things have always been the same, so why worry now…”

The album’s second side has less pop pursuit with several tracks lyrically focused on militarism. “Ride Across the River” contains a very slight reggae beat and distant horns throughout the long, story-telling song. “The Man’s Too Strong” is an acoustic, outlaw country-style track with interesting hard electric guitar riffs after each chorus, while “One World” is much weaker musically with a totally 80s style of fretless bass, standard funk guitar, simple beats and cheesy keys. The album concludes with the title track, “Brothers in Arms”, which starts with a dramatic key swell before settling in with a slight guitar lead in the vein of Pink Floyd. Later, the track contains calm but effective melodies before the keys and lead guitars carry the mood through most of the second half of the song.

Earlier this year (2015), Brothers In Arms re-entered the UK Album Charts, making it a total of 356 weeks it has spent on those charts. It is one of Earth’s best-selling albums, having sold over 30 million copies worldwide. Another successful world tour followed, including 21 straight nights playing in Sydney, Australia in 1986. However, another long break after the tour led to a temporary breakup of the band, and they would not release another studio album until 1991, six years after Brothers In Arms.

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1985 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of 1985 albums.