In a career as illustrious and illuminating as Tom Petty‘s, there are bound to be a few dark moments. Across a career that included penning some of America’s most beloved songs of all time, Petty delivered a remarkably high standard of work. However, like everyone else, there are some moments from his discography he ended up regretting were there, including one track from the 1980s he described as trash.
The late, great Tom Petty is one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century and beyond. His lyrical skills and his expert ear for a tune have made him one of the most revered acts in rock. But if you are new to both his solo work and his albums with the Heartbreakers, we can’t say that every song of his is a hit. ‘Make It Better (Forget About Me)’ is one song that not only pales in comparison to the riches of his discography but also saw Petty feel remorseful about even writing it.
The song in question was featured in Southern Accents, an album that rarely reaches Petty’s high standard. Even the tour artwork was a regrettable memory for Petty, who stood in front of a confederate flag as he sang his songs during that particular tour. The battle flag, originally used in the 19th century for the Southern Confederate party during the American Civil War, has since become a symbol associated with white supremacists and Southern patriot activism.
After Dylann Roof murdered nine African-American churchgoers in 2015, Petty told Rolling Stone that he wished he’d never used the hate symbol. “I wish I had given it more thought,” he said. “It was a downright stupid thing to do.”
“The Confederate flag was the wallpaper of the South when I was a kid growing up,” Petty added, offering an explanation for his use of the flag. “I always knew it had to do with the Civil War, but the South had adopted it as its logo. I was pretty ignorant of what it actually meant. It was on a flagpole in front of the courthouse, and I often saw it in Western movies. I just honestly didn’t give it much thought, though I should have.”
A concept album about the South of America is, by all accounts, a fantastic idea. While the album does struggle to contain the three songs Petty wrote with the Eurythmics within the concept, the rest of the record has a welcomed gentle hum that is both warm and glowing. Particularly brilliant visions of the South come from ‘Rebels’ and ‘Spike’ while Petty uses his often overlooked lyrical jousting to cleverly deliver a message we don’t get to hear so often: the South is a nice place to be. But ‘Make It Better (Forget About Me)’ ranks as one of the worst moments on the record.
Thankfully, the late Petty agreed, “I hate that song; it’s just trash,” Petty once said, according to 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.”
Listen to the experimental song below, the one track Tom Petty regretted writing.