In June 1985, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released something new, a soul-infused rock song called, “Make It Better (Forget About Me)” along with a music video that showcased the unusual band’s character, and of course, Tom Petty didn’t like it.
Tom Petty co-wrote the song with Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, it’s not bad as it sounds – and rather it had helped the Heartbreakers’ to release their sixth studio album, Southern Accents, surprisingly. The group’s sixth album was a follow-up to 1982’s Long After Dark and was supposed to be a concept album that talks about the American South, finding wisdom in the place and its people. However, “Make It Better” was an unusual piece, it was very inconsistent with the album’s concept making its presence differ on the LP’s theme.
“I hate that song, it’s just trash,” Petty talked about the song with Paul Zollo 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. It’s one of the few that I just don’t like. I like a lot of our work. I’m pretty proud of most of it. That one was the result of some misguided people. We didn’t really know what we were doing.”
He then admitted that the song was a mistake to be included on the Southern Accents: “There were better songs that should have been on the album.”
The music video was shockingly weird, Petty can be seen climbing into someone else’s head:
“We’ve always been kind of a closed unit,” he said when the album was nearly finished and refers to the 10 years he had with the Heartbreakers Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, and Stan Lynch. “When we formed this group in the mid-70s, we didn’t want a band that had session players – when you hear us, you know it’s Stan playing the drums.”
But the Heartbreakers were busy on their other side projects, so Petty finds himself with new collaborators.
“It was just having some more people around for more input,” he explained. “It was a lot of fun, and you pay more attention when there’s someone around you haven’t been with every hour for a few years. … It was a long project and I wouldn’t do it again, but I’m glad I did it.”