Wildflowers by Tom Petty is my go-to album when I don’t know what I want to listen to. It’s like comfort food for the ears and heart.
You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free
The album has sentimental meaning for me, who never stopped wanting to buy an album in vinyl. The late 1980s and early ’90s were horrifying for me as a music lover, because more and more music was only available on cassette or CD. One day in early 1995, I walked into a music store and was shocked and delighted to discover a small area devoted to new vinyl. Among the records for which I spent $100 that day was Wildflowers.
I had several moments of delight while listening to that album for the first time. One is simply the title song of Wildflowers, which opens the album. It’s just a sweet and perfectly delivered little folk song that I have listened to, over and over, for more than 20 years now. Then there was the moment I was listening to “To Find A Friend” when I had the thought, “If the Beatles were still together, I bet they would be doing songs like this one,” only to glance at the credits and discover that Ringo Starr was playing drums on the track. Then there was the brilliant moment of wisdom tucked into “Crawling Back to You,” when he sings, “Most things I worry about never happen anyway.”
Two years later I had a specific desire to find a Tom Petty album, perhaps a wish that I could re-experience the fun of listening to Wildflowers. I went into my now-familiar record store but, alas, Petty had no new material. I did see that Johnny Cash had issued a followup to his now-legendary American Recordings album, called Unchained, and I thought what the heck, let’s check it out. I was really liking what I heard and checked the credits, where to my surprise and delight I found out I had purchased a Tom Petty album after all, as he and the Heartbreakers were essentially Johnny Cash’s backing band on the project.
To me these 15 songs represent Tom Petty’s finest hour. I still love listening to this album.