Demos, alternative versions of tracks, and discarded tunes make up the four-CD box set An American Treasure.
It’s been a tough year since we lost Tom Petty, but luckily he left a vault filled with hundreds of hours of unheard music. His wife, daughter, producer, and bandmates have sifted through all the material, finding gems to share with his fans.
Mike Campbell, his bandmate and current Fleetwood Mac member told Rolling Stone:
“We went back and listened to everything,” says Campbell. “We were like, ‘Is there anything in the vault that no one has heard before?’ Then we’d listen to a song and I’d go, ‘Hmmm, now I know why!’ [Laughs] But then we’d hear others and be like, ‘Oh, this is interesting. Let’s remix this and see if we can make it sound right.’ We were looking for gems that were overlooked. I just pretended he was sitting next to me,” he says. “I’d say, ‘Should we use this or not? Tom, what do you think?’ Yes? No?’ That became my barometer.”
The box set is in chronological order starting with “Surrender” from the 1976 Tom Petty sessions. Other tracks include “Louisiana Rain” from Damn the Torpedoes and “Rebels” a Southern Accents tune that the group cut so many different ways that Petty eventually punched a wall in frustration and severely broke his left hand. Other songs from the vault include “Gainesville”, “Bus to Tampa Bay”, and “Southern Accents”.
Spending months listening to Petty’s voice coming out of the speakers was an emotional experience for everyone involved, but they’re glad they did it. The American Treasure curators were careful not to repeat anything from the 1995 box set Playback, which Petty curated himself.
“It’s important that that thing sits out there on its own as its own statement,” says bandmate Ryan Ulyate. “It’s a statement where the guy is midway through his career, it’s the 1990s, and he’s able to look back a little bit. Obviously this a different perspective. This is the whole thing. I miss him terribly,” says Ulyate. “He was the guy I worked with, but he was also my friend. In a really weird way, it felt like he was around when we were working on this thing. And the music holds up so well. I have even more respect for him now after doing this. It’s crazy.”