The Tom Petty Song That Tom Petty Hated

When Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were working on their sixth album, Southern Accents, EurythmicsDave Stewart co-wrote three tracks on the album with Petty, including the band’s hit “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” which peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the Album Rock Tracks chart, and “It Ain’t Nothing to Me.”

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The third track co-written with Stewart was one Petty considered “trash.” He wasn’t crazy about the more uptempo R&B-bent “Make It Better (Forget About Me),” which was released as the third single.

“I hate that song, it’s just trash,” said Petty in the 2020 book Conversations With Tom Petty. “It was Dave just trying to get me to knock a song out—just write a song for the sake of writing one—and I think that’s what it sounds like to me.”

[RELATED: 7 Songs You Didn’t Know Tom Petty Wrote for Other Artists]

“Make It Better (Forget About Me)” was a departure for Petty and the Heartbreakers and one of the band’s few songs featuring a horn section. The track also features backing vocalists by gospel singers Julia and Maxine Waters and Clydene Jackson, along with Stephanie Spruill, who also sang on “Don’t Come Around Here No More.”

The Meaning

The lyrics cover a fairly simple premise: a guy trying to make things better in a relationship.

I want to make it better baby
Listen, I want to make it good again
Yes I want to make it better girl

Yeah better for you, and me
Baby wait and see
I know its been a long, long time
But its gonna be alright
No you mustn’t let it drag you down
Honey, there’s a lot a fools around
But anything I can do, honey
I’m gonna do it for you

“I was sitting on the side of the bed in Tom’s bedroom with Tom,” remembered Stewart on writing the Southern Accents track with Petty. “We had two guitars. Tom was going through a really tough time in his relationship and it was affecting him and the band. It was a buildup to him having a crisis when he punched a hole through the wall and damaged his hand.”

Stewart continued, “So it’s kind of a frustration song. It’s like, I just want to make it better but I don’t know how, you know? And the resolution was, maybe forget about me. It was talking about a futile, useless situation that’s been tried to be fixed for quite a long time, and it wasn’t going to get fixed. So, we were sitting together on the bed, two guitars, throwing lines at each other and just playing it almost like an acoustic jam. It’s kind of a folky song in a way, and the two guitars sounded really good.”

[RELATED: 10 Songs You Didn’t Know Dave Stewart Wrote for Other Artists]

A “Better” Song

In the music video for “Make It Better (Forget About Me),” Petty continued the Alice in Wonderland theme starting with “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” and is seen climbing into a woman’s head through her ear.

Though “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” peaked at No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went to No. 12 on the Album Rock Tracks chart, Petty, said the song should not have been included on Southern Accents.

Petty said, “There were better songs that should have been on the album.”

Photo: Sam Jones / Courtesy of Sacks & Co.

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