40 Years Ago: ELO Prompts Tom Petty’s ‘Change of Heart’
In 1983, Tom Petty had yet to work with Jeff Lynne, but the Electric Light Orchestra frontman already loomed large in his mind.
Petty was first familiar with Lynne as a member of the Move, a British rock trio that scored consistent hits in the U.K. in the late '60s and early '70s, but failed to translate the success over to the U.S. Lynne joined the group in 1970. The following year, the Move released their final album, Message From the Country, followed a maxi single containing three songs: "California Man," "Ella James" and, penned by Lynne, "Do Ya."
ELO's eponymous debut (titled No Answer in the U.S.) arrived in December 1971, but Petty was hooked on the Move before that. "We'd get the records imported from England," he said in the 2005 book Conversations With Tom Petty, adding that Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench was the one often responsible for acquiring such records.
Petty loved the music so much he eagerly eyed Lynne as a potential producer for the Heartbreakers' second album, 1978's You're Gonna Get It! "I don't know why it never happened," Petty said. "I think it was that he was too busy, and he didn't do outside productions at the time. But I wanted to bring him in then and do a record with him. I always had this hope that we could get to work with him."
Two albums, four years, and zero collaborations with Lynne later, Petty went with the next best idea: writing an Electric Light Orchestra-style song himself. Lynne's "Do Ya," which he'd re-recorded with ELO in 1976 for A New World Record, came to mind with its commanding opening chords. "I wanted to do something that had that kind of guitar, and that was the kick-off point," Petty recalled. The words and title, "Change of Heart," came later.
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"Change of Heart" appeared on 1982's Long After Dark, an album that displayed a marked shift in sound for the Heartbreakers. "I'm glad we did [1981's] Hard Promises, with its more conceptual orientation, but I didn't want to repeat it," Petty told Musician magazine a month after "Change of Heart" was released as a single in February 1983. "The sound on Long After Dark is more the touring side of the band."
Petty indeed had his eyes set on the road. "I want to go on a tour, and so I want to have a lot of rock 'n' roll songs to play," he told Record magazine back then. "Change of Heart" reached No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, and regularly made their set lists through the mid-'80s. "Not one of my great songs," Petty would later modestly argue, "but it's a good rock song."
"Change of Heart" then disappeared for close to 20 years, until Petty revived it in October 2002 for a string of shows supporting The Last DJ album.
"For the encore, we did a few oldies for the people for sitting through the new album," he said in Conversations With Tom Petty. "So that just came out of the blue one night and we played it. I think it just kind of took us back — as [guitarist] Mike [Campbell] said, 'It feels like I'm in Germany.' We played it through Europe [in the '80s]. We were playing it every night, and we got really sick of it, and ended up not playing it anymore."
Petty, of course, would eventually secure his collaboration with Lynne. He served as a producer on Petty's first solo project, 1989's Full Moon Fever, and the Heartbreakers' 1991 album Into the Great Wide Open after becoming Petty's bandmate in the Traveling Wilburys.
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