Few artists, if any, have had the same level of influence as Prince. The Purple One not only changed the world of music but culture as a whole. His impact was genre-spanning and even the late Tom Petty cited Prince as a source of inspiration on one of his most loved tracks.
The track in question is ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ — which was a happy accident that wasn’t initially designed to be a Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers number in the first place. Upon the time of its creation, Petty decided to channel his inner-Prince on the material because he didn’t think his image would allow him to deviate from his unique brand of Americana.
The track’s origin began in 1984 when Stevie Nicks and her producer Jimmy Iovine asked the Heartbreakers man to suggest a few songwriters that would be a suitable fit for the Nicks to work with. Petty then put Eurythmics member Dave Stewart’s name in the hat, one which he then forgot about until Stewart invited him to drop in on the studio session with Nicks and Iovine.
“I had no idea he was in town, that they were working, none of that,” Petty told Warren Zanes in his 2016 book Petty: The Biography: “But I was at the point where a field trip was always welcome. Just to get out of the house.”
The iconic title of the track derived from a moment in which Stewart overheard Nicks discussing her decision to kick her former flame Joe Walsh out of her house: “Don’t come around here no more”. This provided the team with the perfect spark they needed to build the song around and the anthem was now firmly in the oven ready to be baked.
Nicks, stressed with the workload, couldn’t handle being in the studio any longer after he fiery argument with Walsh and retreated while the others pulled an all-nighter to complete the work. In Zanes book, he noted: “Petty had watched with admiration as Prince, in the midst of his Purple Rain years, moved around the musical landscape – no concern for the laws of migration that either the business or the Billboard charts imposed, and he wanted to keep moving himself.”
The biographer then directly quoted Petty as saying: “I saw Prince doing what looked like an attempt at psychedelia … and I loved it. It inspired me.”
Petty would, of course, end up keeping the song all to himself with it resulting in the lead single from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Southern Accents album in 1985. The late Petty told Paul Zollo this in the 2020 book Conversations With Tom Petty: “I wanted it to be a single,” before adding: “And we worked probably two or three weeks on it. Trial and error, this and that.”
The Heartbreakers leader continued: “I think when we brought it to the record company, they were very mystified by it – because it wasn’t like anything I had ever done. I think they were a little concerned that it was a little too far off the map. But I thought, at the time, Prince had come out with ‘When Doves Cry’ [and] I saw it as kind of going for the same kind of thing in a different way.”
He then made this instruction to his label: “Listen to this Prince record. That’s really far out too, but it’s really popular. I think they got behind it. Especially when we made the video, they thought it was really going to go, and it did.”
All great artists take creative risks at pivotal points in their career, ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ is a perfect example of Petty stepping out of his comfort zone and him forcing his label to make it the lead single from Southern Accents is proof of how proud The Heartbreakers man is of the record.