Tom Petty Wildflowers.jpg

2020 Album Draft- Round 7- Pick 1- Introgroove selects- Tom Petty- Wildflowers.

Well here it is, my one and only “contemporary” selection in the draft. I just finished peeling off that last annoying bit of tape from the top edge of the CD case (had to wait until my fingernails grew out a little). I wonder how much staying power this album will have… Kidding aside, Wildflowers sounds to me as though it could’ve been released in the last decade as opposed to 26 years ago. Much of that is most likely due to producer Rick Rubin, whose work tends to sound fresh yet timeless. But for the most part, that’s just the nature of Petty’s music. This particular album is a solo release, though all members of the Heartbreakers except for Stan Lynch played on it.

BangShift.com BangShift Tune-Up: "You Don't Know How It Feels" by Tom Petty  and the Heartbreakers (1994) - BangShift.com

I confess that I didn’t fully appreciate this album as a singular work until years after its release. Petty’s songs were all over contemporary rock radio in the 90’s, and for a while I kind of lost track of which albums the various singles were on from Into the Great Wide Open onward. I eventually bought it, and when I dropped it into the player I was stunned at the quality from start to finish. Late to the party once again. Of course I knew the tracks that received radio play, my favorites being You Don’t Know How it Feels, It’s Good to be King, and You Wreck Me. However, there’s not a weak song among the 15 on this rather sprawling release, with some just as strong as the singles including Time to Move On, Honey Bee, Don’t Fade on Me, House in the Woods, Crawling Back to You, Wake Up Time, and the title track.

Wildflowers is a great collection of songs – hard rockers and wistful acoustic numbers – which compliment each other perfectly. In that light, of the 30 or so songs he had written for it before recording sessions even began, some equally strong material that didn’t blend with the rest to Petty’s ears was left off the record after he was talked out of releasing it as a double album. Many of those left behind songs will see the light of day on the upcoming Wildflowers & All the Rest. Listening objectively as a detached music fan, it’s a beautiful masterpiece of a rock album.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Full Concert - 10/02/94 - Shoreline  Amphitheatre (OFFICIAL) - YouTube

But there’s also pain attached to Wildflowers. First, it marked the end of Petty’s working relationship with drummer Stan Lynch after years of increasing personal and professional differences (enter Steve Ferrone as the new drummer). Second, he had spent close to two years in the studio working on it, a time which Warren Zanes, author of the authorized biography Petty: The Biography, describes as a period when Tom was also avoiding the inevitable at home. Wildflowers was Tom’s self-described divorce album.

As Petty’s daughter Adria describes it in the book, the family gathered at their Florida home to listen to the finished album as was tradition, and she knew when she heard it that her parents’ long strained marriage was finished, starting with the lyrics in the title track: Sail away, kill off the hours, You belong somewhere you feel free… Down the line, Tom’s therapist suggested he’d written that song to himself, and Petty agreed. As Zanes puts it, there’s an “almost unnerving openness” to the songs on Wildflowers. There was so much discord in Petty’s personal and professional life, but as is often the case in the art world, some wonderful creations came from it.

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers Announce Tour « American Songwriter

Tom Petty went on to release eight more albums including those with the Heartbreakers and the reunited Mudcrutch before his passing. We’re coming up on three years, and it’s still hard to believe he’s gone. You can add that as a third reason why there’s a touch of melancholy attached to Wildflowers. Sometimes it’s just not possible to listen as an indifferent fan to the great music pouring from my speakers. It’s time to move on, it’s time to get goin’…


  1. Wildflowers
  2. You Don’t Know How it Feels
  3. Time to Move On
  4. You Wreck Me
  5. It’s Good to be King
  6. Only a Broken Heart
  7. Honey Bee
  8. Don’t Fade on Me
  9. Hard on Me
  10. Cabin Down Below
  11. To Find a Friend
  12. A Higher Place
  13. House in the Woods
  14. Crawling Back to You
  15. Wake Up Time


  1. Not familiar with about 2/3 of the songs but you usually can’t go wrong with Tom and the singles were pretty decent! Nice little writeup about a lesser-known album from a great.

  2. Doesn’t it seem like a musical artist’s albums are like chapters in a musical autobiography? You highlight it here with this album. So sad about the daughter realizing her folks were splitting through the lyrics. I’m glad he had a positive sendoff to his wife with the song you chose. Insightful that it was really about him. Good pick and write-up on a new album for me, Stephen. Nice addition to the draft!

  3. I bought this album around 2005 or so although I had heard some songs off of it. Honey Bee is the song that stood out to me when I got it. Stephen, when you said it was 26 years old…I couldn’t wrap my brain around that.

    That is the second Petty album we have which is great. You can never go wrong with Petty…even his worse album is better than most.

    • I was in Petty mode all weekend. At the end of it I pulled up the clip of him performing “Wildflowers” at his final show at the Hollywood Bowl a week before he died. He was hardly moving on the stage at that point. The responsibility he felt toward the band and everyone else to keep going when he coulda/shoulda taken a year or two off and gotten his health on track must’ve been an extremely heavy burden. It just seems so simple from my vantage point not knowing what it’s really like. Just. Take. A. Break!

    • I admire that he was looking after his road crew and everyone else associated with him to get paid but…….yea he probably would still be here if he would have taken the time off and healed.

  4. While I really think Full Moon Fever and Damn The Torpedoes- I will go with Wildflowers as my favorite TP- the only album he ever did that I’d give a thumbs down to- Let Me Up-I’ve Had Enough.

  5. I held off commenting because I wanted to play the full album first. But the day is getting away from me. Anyway, great choice! As much as I enjoy TP’s music, I never think about this album, even though I really like the music on it. ‘You Wreck Me’ is one of my fave TP songs. Your writeup was informative, and put the album in context. I’ve known next to nothing about Tom’s personal life.

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