“Me and George Harrison and Jeff Lynne one night were at [Warner Bros. Records executive] Mo Ostin’s house. We were just working on the idea of [supergroup] the Traveling Wilburys. I had written this song ‘Free Fallin’’ and done the record [Full Moon Fever, Petty’s first solo album], and taken it to my label, MCA,” said Petty. “And they rejected the [album]. That had never happened to me before. I was like, ‘Wow, what do I do?’ So we forgot about it, and we were at Mo’s house at dinner, and him and George said, ‘Let’s get the guitars out and sing a little bit.’ We sang, and George said, ‘Let’s do that “Free Fallin’,” Tom! Play that!’
“So we had a kind of Wilbury arrangement of it, with harmonies, and [Warner Bros. executive] Lenny Waronker is sitting there and he said, ‘That’s a hit!’ With two acoustic guitars, you know? I said, ‘Wow. My record company won’t put it out.’ And Mo says, ‘I’ll f***in’ put it out!’”
The room’s video screens then jumped to a reaction shot of Ostin sitting in the MusiCares audience...
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