Tom Petty was in a very good place when he began cutting Into the Great Wide Open in late 1990. Full Moon Fever, his recent solo album, was an enormous hit and restored much of his commercial luster after the poorly received Let Me Up (I've Had Enough). Much to the relief of the Heartbreakers, he brought them back into the fold for the highly anticipated Full Moon Fever follow-up disc. The record wasn't quite the commercial monster of Full Moon Fever, but "Learning to Fly" and "Into the Great Wide Open" were huge hits and fans loved the disc.
"The night before we started the record, I turned 40,'' Petty told Rolling Stone in 1991. "And it's tough when you look in the mirror and go, 'Shit, I'm an old guy.' But the night I turned 40 there was a big party for me, so I was surrounded by friends, and I'm glad that I turned 40 at a good time in my life. I didn't go through it a few years ago, when I was feeling like a failure at everything. Like the song says, 'I was so much older then/ I'm younger than that now.' And I listen to the new album and I feel so good, because it's not a cheap shot. It's not a bunch of old assholes trying to take your money.'"