Rock star Tom Petty, who died Monday at 66, left behind a legacy of songs that reached inside and stirred the soul with a combination of frustration, wistfulness, rebellion, cynicism, elation, and restlessness. But Petty also might be remembered for some of the most iconic music videos of the 1980s — the heyday of MTV and VH1 as TV jukeboxes.
Petty’s landmark work included 1985’s psychedelic “Don’t Come Around Here No More, and The Atlantic digs in pretty deep into the backstory to how the song and video came about, which was inspired by an encounter between the Eurythmic’s Dave Stewart and Stevie Nicks.
Jeff Stein, who was also behind the equally trippy Cars video “You Might Think’ and Heart’s “These Dreams,” directed “Don’t Come Around Here No More.” The video was nominated for several awards at the 2nd annual MTV Video Music Awards in 1985, and won for best special effects in a video. (In 1994, Petty was awarded the MTV Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award for his body of work.)
Stein used an “Alice in Wonderland” theme featuring Petty as the Mad Hatter presiding over the psychedelic chaos. Lewis Carroll’s 19th century literary classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its sequel “Through the Looking-Glass” ended up being the perfect fit for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and their somewhat haunting look at the twisted psyche. Watch the video below:
Here’s a breakdown of the “Alice in Wonderland” references:
Alice: The appearance of the blonde heroine portrayed by Louise “Wish” Foley was based on drawings by illustrator John Tenniel, which also inspired the appearance of the character in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” movie.
The Caterpillar: The caterpillar in the book smokes a hookah and is somewhat unhelpful to Alice, who has shrunk down into a miniature version of herself thats only 3 inches high. Eventually, he reveals that eating one side of the mushroom will make her grow, and then other will make her shrink. Growing and shrinking is played with throughout the video. Dave Stewart appears as the Caterpillar who has a hookah and plays the sitar.
The Hatter: The Hatter, better known as the Mad Hatter for holding a Mad Tea Party, is portrayed here by Petty himself, complete with a huge cup of tea. The checkered background motif is actually a reference to the second book “Through the Looking-Glass.” While the first book dealt with a deck of cards as a theme, the second was based on a game of chess in which Alice as a pawn, would progress across the board/world until she was crowned as a queen.
Flamingos: One of the many mad activities that Alice participated in was a game of croquet in which flamingos were used as mallets, and hedgehogs as balls. here, they’re used as bows for cellos.
Musical chairs: During the Mad Tea Party, dirty dishes aren’t washed. Instead, everyone just moves down one spot, which is what happens in the video.
The pig baby: While Alice is at the Duchess’ house, she is given a baby to hold, who turns into a pig. Hence, the “baby” in the carriage appearing with a pig snout and then eventually turning into a pig.
Eating Alice: There was not actual cannibalism in the original books, but consumption was a common theme. Through eating and drinking, Alice was able to control her size, and it was a cake the was her first foray into edible-induced shrinking. The big finish for the video depicts the Hatter and his minions eating Alice, whose body has been turned into a cake.
Watch MTV briefly honor Petty during Tuesday’s edition of “TRL”: