Tom Petty Was Haunted By Wildflowers, Which Is Kind Of Haunting, Actually
Apparently the long-promised expanded edition of the late Tom Petty‘s 1994 Wildflowers album will be a thing at some point, although nobody seems to know when that point is. However, we’re now getting some insight into Petty’s headspace during the sessions, from knob-twirler Rick Rubin. He says Petty was “haunted” by the album’s legacy:
“He knew that the second second half of Wildflowers was an important statement. His issue was [that] he didn’t want to put it out as a new Tom Petty album, ’cause it’s not a new Tom Petty album, it was recorded 25 years ago, and he didn’t want to release it as an old catalog album because he thought it deserved more than being a catalog album. He felt like it was too good to just put out and was sort of looking for the right story where it would have the exposure that it deserved. And he never came up with it.”
14 tracks comprise the original Wildflowers album, but Rubin says that Petty hoped to release some other songs he’d done; he’d laid down “between 26 and 28 song” during the initial recording sessions. However, the suits at Warner Bros., who possibly smoked big cigars and drove Cadillac cars, didn’t want to release all of them — they figured a single LP would have a lot more commercial clout. Rubin claims that Petty waded into battle with his former label, but eventually capitulated and began curating the tracks to determine which would end up on the disc, and in what sequence.
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Some nights, you know the photos are going to be good before the band even hits the stage. That was the case for the two shows Tom and the band played at the Royal Albert Hall in London in June 2012. Everyone was excited to be overseas, but there was a special buzz around the @royalalberthall, the legendary London hall that has hosted so many historic concerts and events. So I knew when Tom’s limo arrived in the backstage tunnel a few hours before doors opened for the first show that it was gonna be a memorable night. TP stepped out of one side of the limo, and his wife, Dana, emerged from the other side, handing a black suit bag to Dean. I was hanging about to see if they’d be up for a photo in front of a graffiti mural underneath the venue with the faces of various iconic musicians who’d tread the boards. Tom was up for it, and we snapped a few frames before he started for the elevator. “Hey,” he said, turning to Dana. “Where’s the bag?” “Dean’s got it,” she replied, turning to their long-time security chief, who was holding the suit bag. That was the moment I knew that photos were going to be good. Something special was in that bag. I don’t know who designed the beautiful black pinstripe suit Tom wore onstage that night at the Royal Albert Hall; I assume it was Glen Palmer, his long-time stylist. But when the band hit the opening chords to “Listen to Her Heart” and the lights came up, Tom was standing center stage sporting that suit with a beautiful vintage yellow Fender Telecaster around his neck. It was the photographic equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel; you could almost do no wrong. Just as Mike Campbell took his first guitar solo after the song’s bridge, Tom drifted to stage left, and, looking out over the sold-out Royal Albert Hall, broke into a huge grin. That’s when I snapped this photo. -Andy Tennille, Photographer. #pettyforever Now available as either a lithographic or fine art print! For details and to order click the Bio Link!
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Rubin says that during some listening sessions about two and a half years ago, Petty played the unreleased tracks, and made a few changes. He says the quality of the tunes “floored him”.
“He told me Wildflowers scares him, because he’s not really sure why it’s as good as it is. So it has this, like, haunted feeling for him…He loved it, but it’s not like he could turn that on again. He couldn’t make Wildflowers 2 today. That was the point. The point was, ‘I can’t do this now. This was then, and it was where I was then and it was a prolific period. This is an extension of that moment.’”