. . .
While it was as personal as it was artistic to exclude Stan Lynch from the Wildflowers sessions, you could certainly see how some of the songs — “Time To Move On,” “Crawling Back to You,” “House in the Woods” — might have been difficult for Lynch to play the way Petty wanted him to play.
Not so with “You Wreck Me,” which wore its three chords on its sleeve, and was the kind of bootstompin’ rocker that Lynch cut his teeth on. And, in fact, it was one of the few songs on Wildflowers that basically featured the future iteration of the Heartbreakers, with Howie Epstein playing bass and Steve Ferrone playing drums, all of which is established before Petty starts singing over what is basically that rhythm section which is piledriving right over the aformentioned three chords, which came courtesy of co-writer Mike Campbell.
Tonight we ride, right or wrong
Tonight we sail, on a radio song
Rescue me, should I go down
If I stay too long in trouble town
And then, after Petty holds out a long “ooooohhhhhhhhhh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, Epstein joins him for the chorus, which was originally going to be the godawful “you rock me,” which might have made sense in 1978, but sure as shit wouldn’t have flown in 1994. Luckily, Petty figured that out and literally only had to change a single word for it be exponentially better.
You wreck me, baby
Yeah, you break me in two
But you move me, honey
Yes, you do
And while Stan Lynch and Benmont Tench would both occasionally sing backing vocals on Heartbreakers songs, nobody else ever sounded as good harmonizing with Tom Petty as Howie Epstein, and in fact, those harmonies on the chorus pretty make “You Wreck Me,” kinda obscuring that it’s neither the most lyrical or musically complex song on Wildflowers, not even bothering with a bridge, but rather having the verse after Campbell’s short but sweet guitar solo be quieter than the rest of the song.
That said, “You Wreck Me” was the perfect ending to the insanely stellar first side of Wildflowers, as well as a natural follow-up single to “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” Except that it wasn’t, at least on the pop charts. Without a controversial video or censored lyrics, “You Wreck Me” didn’t have anything to get noticed by the mass audience, and while, even though it made it #2 on Petty’s old standby, the U.S. Rock charts. So maybe it shoulda been the godawful “You Rock Me.”
But it turned out that “You Don’t Know How It Feels” was Petty’s last gasp as a pop star, as he only ever made the pop charts three times for the rest of his life, never charting higher than #68 — with the next single, “It’s Good to Be King” — for the rest of his life. And of course, honestly, his over 15-year run tossing singles in to the top 20 was still pretty great, no matter how you slice it.
“You Wreck Me” Official Music Video
“You Wreck Me” Live in Chicago, 2003
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