Over 25 years have passed since Tom Petty released the album Wildflowers. Petty had first submitted 25 tracks to be part of the album, however executives at Warner Bros. suggested the album be trimmed to one disc. Now, three years after Petty’s death, the album will finally be made available in full on October 16, with Wildflowers & All the Rest containing all of the album’s unreleased recordings, home recordings, alternate versions and live renditions.
Some of the songs recorded for the album, such as “Somewhere Under Heaven,” appeared in Petty’s She’s the One soundtrack or in box sets. Last week saw the release of the song “Confusion Wheel” which had been recorded during the sessions for Wildflowers. The era in which Wildflowers had been written was considered one of Petty’s most tumultuous, the singer in the midst of divorce and dealing with issues between members of the Heartbreakers, and one of Petty’s most creative. Song after song flowed out of Petty, each track different from anything he had made before. Petty created the album with producer Rick Rubin, the two brainstorming much of the album’s 25 tracks.
Rubin recalled that Petty would stop playing a song if it sounded too similar to his usual style. When Rubin said that a song “sounds like you,” to Petty, the singer would stop the track and move on to something else. The result came to be considered one of Petty’s most beloved albums, to both fans and Petty himself. Petty had initially surprised Rubin when he agreed to cut the album down to 15 songs, the producer later hypothesizing that Petty made the decision because he didn’t want the album to be too expensive for fans. Petty regularly considered the cost of his albums and performances, wanting to make sure they were affordable for all who wanted to listen and attend.
Later on in Petty’s life, he had talked of releasing the remaining tracks from the album. Many of them had gone unheard for nearly 20 years, with Petty hardly recognizing the songs until he heard his voice upon listening to them again. He had hoped to tour with the songs, planning to have friends such as Stevie Nicks, Eddie Vedder and Steve Winwood. Petty planned to play Wildflowers through, following up the last track on the album with all the unreleased material. Throughout his final tour, Petty would work on new harmonies for the album’s songs during rehearsals, and debated releasing the songs as part of an album called Wildflowers 2.
Rubin eventually talked Petty out of releasing the remainder of the tracks as Wildflowers 2, stating that fans could consider the songs to be written in the style of Wildflowers, rather than realizing that they had been written during the same recording sessions.
Towards the end of his life, Petty felt that releasing the remainder of the songs from Wildflowers should be his top priority. However, the singer passed away suddenly due to an accidental drug overdose in 2017. Dana Petty initially planned to release the box set not long after Petty’s death, however the release was halted due to disagreements over Petty’s estate between Dana Petty and Tom Petty’s two daughters. The three were eventually able to come to an agreement, and have proceeded with the release of Wildflowers & All the Rest.
Photo credit: Boston Lynn Schulz