Revisiting Tom Petty’s First Live Album, ‘Pack Up the Plantation’
The good news: Tom Petty's Pack Up the Plantation: Live was a multi-format release. The bad news: one of the versions – the old VHS tape – was vastly superior.
Issued in November 1985, the video and companion-piece double-album were ostensibly created to showcase a single performance at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles from the tour in support of Southern Accents. But that's not the way it worked out, as the album version of Pack Up the Plantation: Live! kept expanding.
Perhaps overly aware that this was the band's first proper live release, Petty began pulling out older live cuts from as far back as 1978, when the Heartbreakers covered "Don't Bring Me Down" by the Animals, and then interspersing them with their newer recordings from L.A.
Old friends suddenly reappeared. Stevie Nicks was featured on two cuts, including "Insider" and a cover of "Needles and Pins." Both were from the Heartbreakers' 1981 dates, in the same period that Petty and Nicks sang "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" from the Fleetwood Mac singer's solo debut.) These archival items featured original bassist Ron Blair, while replacement Howie Epstein appeared on the rest.
The results, though perhaps more historically complete, lacked the continuity – and tasty leftovers – of the Pack Up the Plantation: Live! video. Tracks like "Make It Better (Forget About Me)," "You Got Lucky," "I Need to Know" and "Don't Come Around Here No More" are featured on the VHS edition, but not on the two-disc vinyl version. The Heartbreakers also exclusively covered "Little Bit O' Soul" and "Route 66" on the video.
It would be 2009, and The Live Anthology project, before fans were given a truly comprehensive look at Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert. In the meantime, they began a years-long association with Bob Dylan, beginning with a one-off date at Farm Aid. They ended up extensively touring together, and appeared together both on Dylan's 1986 album Knocked Out Loaded LP and the Heartbreakers' 1987 studio project Let Me Up (I've Had Enough).