Tom Petty Was ‘Haunted’ By ‘Wildflowers,’ Says Producer Rick Rubin

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Fans are sitting by patiently, perhaps some not so patiently, for the long-promised expanded edition of late Tom Petty’s 1994 album Wildflowers. Now, Ultimate Classic Rock reports that fans may have some new insight of the sessions thanks to the album’s producer, Rick Rubin. The producer stated to reporters during an interview that Tom Petty was “haunted” by the album’s legacy. Haunted how? Rubin went on to further explain.

“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.”

The initial Wildflowers album has 14 tracks, but Rubin says that Tom Petty always wanted and hoped to put out the other tracks he’d created. During the initial recording sessions, Rubin stated that Petty had recorded “between 26 and 28 songs.” However, Warner Bros. did not want to release all of the recordings, as they felt a single LP would have far more commercial potential. According to Rubin, Petty fought hard with his former label, but eventually agreed with his bosses and set about picking through the songs and choosing which 14 would make it to the album and in what order.

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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 stated that during their listening session approximately two and a half years ago, Tom played the unreleased tracks at Rubin’s house, making a few changes. Rubin says the quality “floored him.” He claims to have had a vague memory of some of the songs Tom Petty was playing that day. He says he told Tom, “Wow, what a great song! How did we ever miss this?”

“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.'”