Digging for American Treasure

10 true treasures from the new Tom Petty box set

An American Treasure artwork by Shepard Fairey from an image by photographer Mark Seliger

It’s been almost a year since the sudden, tragic death of Tom Petty left a gaping hole that the music community has yet to recover from, and, most likely, never will.

The loss of an artist, icon, creator and inspiration like Tom Petty still seems unbelievable in the hearts of his fans, friends, and family, many of whom spent four decades captivated by his songwriting and storytelling, musicianship, and innovation, on and off the stage. This was especially true — and even more deeply felt — by Petty’s wife, Dana, daughter, Adria, and longtime friends, bandmates and collaborators Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench and producer Ryan Ulyate.

So Dana and Adria Petty set out to honor his life in the best way they knew how: through his music. Together with Tench, Campbell and Ulyate, they worked through the monstrous amount of tracks in his vault, selecting 60 unreleased and alternate recordings, historic live performances, deep tracks and rarities that even the most devout Petty fan may not have heard before. Chronicled in An American Treasure is the evolution of Tom Petty, beginning with the previously unreleased 1976 track “Surrender,” from the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sessions, all the way through Damn the Torpedoes, Wildflowers, before wrapping up with a groovy live take of “Hungry No More” from the House of Blues in Boston, MA.

“Everyone involved in this project chose each track with tremendous care and deep respect for the body of work Tom Petty created over the course of 40 years,” Dana and Adria Petty said in a statement. “He also accumulated a wealth of unreleased music in his vaults, and we have collectively uncovered one gem after another that will keep us all listening and discovering new facets of Tom’s talent for many years to come.” They go on to say, “We can’t wait to share with Tom’s fans this musical portrait of an artist who deeply affected our culture and indelibly touched the lives of fans the world over.”

From top to bottom, the sixty tracks offer fans another chance to fall in love with Tom Petty’s music, almost like the first time they ever heard a Tom Petty song. Each CD is dedicated to a decade of Petty’s career, and the deluxe edition of An American Treasure includes a 52-page booklet with rare or unseen photographs of Petty, his bandmate, family, and friends and track-by-track notes compiled by journalist and Petty authority Bud Scoppa, who drew from previous interviews with Tom, as well as in-depth conversations with Campbell, Tench, Ulyate, Dana and Adria. Meanwhile, the super deluxe limited edition version expands to include an 84-page hardbound book with additional photographs and an essay by author Nicholas Dawidoff, detailing Tom Petty’s presence in the lives of his fans and the influence he had on the culture as a whole in his 40-year career.

While all sixty songs were handpicked, remixed, and remastered by those closest to Tom, there are a few standout tracks on the record. Read on for the ten real treasures of An American Treasure.

 

 

“Listen To Her Heart” Live at Capitol Studios, Hollywood, CA — November 11, 1977

Petty’s live shows were captured in all of their raw, electric, gritty, and imperfect glory at Capitol Studios on November 11, 1977. “Listen To Her Heart” is undeniably one of Petty’s most iconic songs, but it’s launched to another level here, thanks to the loose, live performance.

 

 

“You’re Gonna Get It” Alternative Version ft. Strings from You’re Gonna Get It! Sessions 1978

Dark, angry, and dangerous, the alternative version of “You’re Gonna Get It” features the addition of a string section, standing in sharp contrast with the heavy-handed drumming, funky bass, and driving guitar licks.  

 

 

“Here Comes My Girl” Alternative Version from Damn the Torpedoes Sessions — 1979

Another one of Petty’s most well known songs — off of a record destined to be called “one of the great records of the album rock era” and take its place in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time — the alternative version of “Here Comes My Girl” offers up a few tricks that even lifelong Petty fans will find surprising.

 

 

“Keep A Little Soul” Previously Unreleased Track from Long After Dark Sessions — 1982

“Keep A Little Soul,” the first track to be released from An American Treasure, was initially crafted in 1982 during sessions for the band’s new wave classic Long After Dark. Funky, soulful, and full of bouncy organ licks, if “Keep A Little Soul” is any indication of the previously unheard tracks scattered throughout this 60 song box set, fans of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are in for a treat.

 

 

“Even the Losers” Live at Rochester Community War Memorial, Rochester, NY — 1989

“Even the losers get lucky sometimes,” Petty sang along with a devoted crowd as he reminisced on youth and glory days, live at the Rochester Community War Memorial in 1989. Inspired by a childhood crush, “Even the Losers” is the culmination of Tom Petty’s career, a bittersweet eulogy to a time long gone.

 

 

“Gainesville” Previously Unreleased Track from Echo Sessions — February 12, 1998

“Echo is supposedly his dark album,” said longtime collaborator and producer of An American Treasure Ryan Ulyate, “but Gainesville is this guy looking back on this early life. It is very self-referential from a guy who has some nostalgia for a simple time.” Written and recording following the collapse of Petty’s marriage and during Heartbreakers’ bassist Howie Epstein’s losing battle with addiction, Petty himself had mixed feelings about Echo and the levity of the songs on it, but Gainesville stands out from the bunch. “I love the song,” Ulyate added. “But I can see how it didn’t necessarily fit the vibe of Echo.”

 

 

“Crawling Back to You” Album Track from Wildflowers — November 1, 1994

“Crawling Back to You” is one of those slow burners that jump out and grab listeners when the record has been flipped and the needle spins closer and closer to the center. It will never be one of the handful of Petty songs played on repeat, but the world-weariness in the fourth verse — “I’m so tired of being tired / Sure as night will follow day / Most things I worry about / Never happen anyway” — carry a weighty wisdom.

 

 

“You and Me” Clubhouse Version — November 9, 2007

The rocking drive of The Last DJ’s “You and Me” is nowhere to be found on this Clubhouse Version. Light, sweet, and nostalgic (you can watch the fan-sourced music video here), it’s the perfect mix of a eulogy and a reminder that Petty lives on in his fans, his band, and his four decades of music. “All that’s left / Is you and me / And the road ahead.”

 

 

“Southern Accents” Live at Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Gainesville, FL — September 21, 2006

The title track from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ sixth studio album — as well as the song that Johnny Cash covered on his Grammy-award winning album American II: Unchained — is delivered with new energy and passion at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Petty’s hometown.

 

 

“Insider” Live with Stevie Nicks at Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Gainesville, FL — September 21, 2006

Choosing just one Tom Petty/Stevie Nicks collaboration from An American Treasure was the hardest part in the making of this list. The intoxicating combination of their voices, along with the melancholic, introspective lyrics,  drive the song, explaining why producer Jimmy Iovine jumped up and down, exclaiming, “We’re through! That’s the best fucking song you ever wrote!”

 

 

Bonus: 11. “Like A Diamond” Alternative Version from The Last DJ Sessions — 2002

The 59th song on An American Treasure, “Like A Diamond” is moody, slow, groove, featured on The Last DJ, the eleventh studio album by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Recorded in 2002, the alternative version, vaulted with the wrap of The Last DJ sessions, is a track that’s “gonna shine forever, like a diamond in the sunlight.”

Luci Turner

Born on the Okefenokee Swamp and raised on rock 'n roll, Luci Turner is a full-time musician and writer whose passion for music led her to Atlanta. She's most often found packing a suitcase, digging through a pile of records, or looking for a time machine to the 70s.

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