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Tom Petty’s 1993 ‘You Don’t Know How It Feels’ Demo is an Acoustic Heartbreaker

In a homemade Wildflowers demo, the late rocker fuses one of his greatest verses with one of his most beloved songs

The world might suck right now, but thankfully the Tom Petty estate recently released an unearthed 1993 demo of “You Don’t Know How it Feels,” the first taste of the long-awaited Wildflowers archival project.

Petty recorded the sparse, acoustic take at his home studio, providing a more intimate, slow-burner feel. Listen closely and you might be surprised to find a verse that would later show up on “Crawling Back to You,” the heartbreaking penultimate track on Wildflowers. That song, along with the rest of the record, reflects Petty’s crumbling marriage to Jane Benyo, his wife of 20-plus years. “I’m so tired of being tired,” he admits. “Sure as night will follow day/Most things I worry about/Never happen anyway.” Compared to its later use on “Crawling Back to You,” the verse here feels looser and more emotionally fleeting, woven through the harmonica. It’s as if Petty is tossing his hands up in the air, deciding to roll a joint and shelve the pain for now.

Those lines are among the greatest Petty ever wrote, and he knew it. “It was one of his favorite lyrics he’d written,” Petty’s daughter, Adria, recently told Rolling Stone. “When we did the Runnin’ Down a Dream book, he wanted to put in a few quotes and I brought that one up and he said, ‘That’s one of my favorites — yes, let’s do that.’ My dad was such a great storyteller and so good at being economical with words — he saw more potential in that line as the climax to the album.”

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