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Pondering with Patterson: 27 years of 'Wildflowers,' a love letter to Tom Petty

Second albums are a delicacy. First albums may be perceived as a bit of a shot in the dark, while second albums are a chance to really seal the deal and guarantee a place in the long haul. To name a few killer second albums: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (their second within the Nicks and Buckingham era), Carole King’s Tapestry, Nirvana’s Nevermind. Tom Petty’s Wildflowers is yet another killer second album, released 27 years ago on November 1, 1994.

Petty had made music with the Heartbreakers far before Wildflowers. He began his music career with his band Mudcrutch, breaking up shortly after and forming the Heartbreakers. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would take the world by storm beginning in 1976, with a titular debut album including “Breakdown” and “American Girl,” which would be later featured in American classics Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Silence of the Lambs.

You’re Gonna Get it followed its debut album, released in 1978, including hits “I Need to Know” and “Listen to Her Heart.” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers continued to churn tunes out through Petty’s solo career. Up until Petty’s first solo release in 1989, Full Moon Fever, the Heartbreakers had released seven albums. 

Wildflowers came after the Heartbreakers’ 1991 release, Into The Great Wide Open. It would initially debut at #8 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums, and found itself back in the charts at number one with a reissue released in 2020, Wildflowers & All The Rest. Wildflowers’ success as a second album is clear, and with a packed 15-track album there is definitely a lot to dissect. 

Wildflowers” opens the album and with lyrics so simple, it's almost sickening how good of a song it is. The lyrics are sweet yet powerful, a classic Tom Petty move: “You belong among the wildflowers / You belong in a boat out at sea / You belong with your love on your arm /You belong somewhere you feel free.” 

You Don't Know How It Feels” is a great example of the simpleness that Petty reflected: “… But let me get to the point, let's roll another joint / And turn the radio loud, I'm too alone to be proud / And you don't know how it feels / You don't know how it feels to be me.” 

Crawling Back To You” highlights Petty’s sweetness. There are many lyric takeaways, perhaps the best coming with the last verse:  “I'm so tired of being tired / Sure as night will follow day / Most things I worry about / Never happen anyway.” 

Petty was a simple man able to capture the hearts of many through straightforward, sweet lyrics. His lyrics tell of tales and stories, and feelings that only he is able to encapsulate so very well. Wildflowers would grow to be a powerful second album, carrying Petty’s legacy well alongside his other works both with and without the Heartbreakers. 

The legacy and life of Tom Petty continues to be cherished and celebrated. A documentary depicting the album, Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: The Making of Wildflowers premiered in select theaters on Oct. 20, what would have been Petty’s 71 birthday. 

Lauren Patterson is a junior studying journalism. Please note that the views and ideas of columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Lauren? Tweet her @lpaatt.

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