Stewart later said that the song “absolutely went by me; it took me two or three good listens. I had to be persuaded to do it, in other words. But now I’m glad I did.”
Petty composed “Leave Virginia Alone” during early ’90s sessions for Wildflowers, before Stewart reworked the song. “It was for Tom Petty’s album,” Stewart added, “and he took it off because it was too close lyrically to something that was a hit beforehand, and his managers couldn’t persuade him to put it on the album. So, his manager, who’s a friend of my manager said, ‘Would Rod listen to the song?'”
Problem: Stewart wasn’t exactly a Tom Petty fan. “Not really. I must admit, no, I’m not,” he told Billboard in 1995. “I don’t mean that to sound disparaging. He’s a very good performer, though.”
Watch Rod Stewart’s ‘Leave Virginia Alone’ Video
Part of Stewart’s reluctance could also be chalked up to timing: His new album, to be titled Spanner in the Works, had already been mastered and was ready to be pressed. Before it was over, however, “Leave Virginia Alone” was the lead single.
Petty’s original recording will finally see release on Oct. 16 as part of the posthumous Wildflowers & All the Rest, an expanded version that sought to reflect his initial plan to make the project a double album. A new video for “Leave Virginia Alone,” directed by Mark Seliger and Adria Petty, was released in advance of the set. You can watch it below.
Wildflowers & All the Rest includes 10 songs from the Wildflowers sessions that were left off the album, five of which were previously unreleased.
Watch the Video for Tom Petty’s ‘Leave Virginia Alone’
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