Campbell says the archives are full of material
On the heels of the American Treasure box set being released on September 28th, Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers is hoping to release more archival projects in the future. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Campbell talks about finally releasing the long-awaited Wildflowers box set Petty spoke frequently about in his final years as well as the group’s 1997 performance at the Fillmore in San Francisco.
Wildflowers was originally envisioned as a double album upon its release in 1994, but songs were cut for space when it was truncated. Four of the songs were later released on the She’s The One soundtrack, and several of them appear on the upcoming American Treasure box set. In 2015, Petty released “Somewhere Under Heaven” as the first single from Wildflowers – All The Rest, calling it a “lost gem from one of the most prolific periods of Petty’s career.”
“I think I put four of the [Wildflowers outtakes] on the She’s the One soundtrack just to fill out the album,” Petty told Rolling Stone in 2017. “But they were very hastily mixed. Take ‘Climb That Hill.’ There’s a version of that on She’s the One, but the Wildflowers one I think is extremely better. I’m gonna put that out. ‘Hung Up And Overdue’ is another one we remixed and it turned into an epic. I had Carl Wilson [of the Beach Boys] and [Heartbreakers bassist] Howie Epstein singing quite a bit of harmony that didn’t come through on the original. Then again, there’s probably six songs that nobody has heard. There’s 11 or 12 [new] songs on the album. I think people are going to like it a lot. I like it a lot.”
Campbell is also expressing interest in releasing the group’s 1997 performance at the Fillmore in San Francisco in which he calls “the pinnacle of the band.”
The group played 20 sold out shows at the historic theater in January and February of that year, radically changing the setlist each night. Seven songs from the Fillmore run appeared in the 2009 Live Anthology compilation, but Campbell says that’s just a sample of what’s available.
“For me, that was almost the pinnacle of the band just being totally spontaneous night to night to night,” says Campbell. “We might throw in a Grateful Dead song that we just learned that afternoon. We recorded every show and we had guest artists from Bo Diddley to Roger McGuinn to John Lee Hooker. And I know, in my memory of those 20 nights, there’s an amazing album in there.”
The group used to record live shows on analog “here and there,” but began recording every show digitally in the last 15 years so the vault is overflowing with live recordings. However, Campbell isn’t sure what would be released as not every recording is up to Petty’s standards and include many of the same songs.
“[M]ost of the digital recordings we have are just the same songs over and over. I don’t know how much interest there will be in them, but they’re all earmarked and just sitting there,” Campbell insists. “I’d be hesitant to release anything that wasn’t great, though. Some nights, guitars were out of tune or someone sang out of pitch. You have to be careful compromising Tom’s excellence because he liked stuff to be good.”
While nothing is confirmed for either project as of press time, Campbell says they’re also discussing deluxe editions of key albums from Petty’s catalog, stating, “If there’s a market for something like that, we’ll do it.”