Rock historian Pete Hamill told Lindsay Zoladz in January 2018, when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Wildflowers” was released by Hollywood Records, that the song was the biggest record of the year. Just as well.
Petty was, after all, one of the most compelling rock stars of his time, who often sang about some of the deepest, angriest personal experiences he could conjure, in fact. (“More Women,” for example.) But that song was about flowers, not the pain and sorrow that are Petty’s turf.
Petty and his bandmates had always been better at a sound then a message. “Wildflowers” became their calling card, their third consecutive album released with no press build-up and no expectation for mainstream success. This was not lost on Petty. He was worried about the reputation his side project, the Mudcrutch band with friends, might have, and decided that “Wildflowers” and Mudcrutch’s debut album would be issued as side-by-side CDs, which would be themselves mentioned and discussed in ads.
The three albums, also called Mudcrutch, were released in 1974 and made the Top 5. “Wildflowers” became the fifth single. They ended up on Billboard’s charts for a total of 54 weeks, with “Lonesome Dave” in late 1976 and “Wildflowers” a couple of months later. Those are only a couple of the countless incarnations of the track in the ménage-à-trois.