Tom Petty was undoubtedly a man of wisdom, a creative who had a simply immeasurable impact on the artists he would work with. To put it simply, he was able to inspire them with the level of supreme musicianship he possessed. However, his long-time friend, Stevie Nicks, would be influenced by Petty in an entirely different way back in 1994, a moment which would re-evaluate how the Fleetwood Mac singer viewed herself as a person as well as an artist.
The friendship between the two began in 1981, a time when Nicks decided she wanted to be in Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers which, I’m sure we can all agree, would have been an incredible meeting of minds. However, the potential collaboration broke Petty’s golden rule of “no girls allowed”. A laughable but all-too-real occurrence in the comparative boys club that rock was at the time. Luckily, Petty and the band saw the light and would eventually work with Nicks — but not before some convincing took place.
During Nicks’ show at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown on September 15th 2017, she discussed the making of her 1981 solo album, and unquestionably her breakthrough as a primo singe rin her own right, Bella Donna. Nicks detailed her visit to Atlantic Records’ then-president Doug Morris and made her pitch for the record: “So, listen, what I’d really like to do is be in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ band. He says, ‘No. That’s not going to happen.'” Nicks smiled, and relayed Morris’ next comment: “You obviously haven’t heard Tom Petty’s mantra: ‘No girls allowed.'”
When faced with not being able to become one of The Heartbreakers, Nicks then decided to settle for the next best thing which was to work with Petty’s producer Jimmy Iovine. The pair then started dating and living together, which gave Nicks a further chance to live out her dream and get a close-up look inside the world of Tom Petty who, by this point, had become one of the biggest rock stars on the planet.
The songwriter would often come around to listen to mixes of the record, Nicks, the Petty super-fan, described hiding in the basement trying to listen to Petty work undercover which she jokingly likened to being “a secret reporter at the White House!” Iovine didn’t think Bella Donna had a stand out single so recruited Petty to write and perform ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’ with Nicks, which would become one of her biggest solo hits and cement her long friendship with Tom.
Following Petty’s tragic death aged just 66 in 2017, Nicks sat down with Rolling Stone and revealed the life-changing yet stern advice that he handed her back in 1994. The Fleetwood Mac member was going through a turbulent period both personally and professionally following a stint in rehab. She had run into an old flame that had left her shaken to her core and asked Petty to help her create art out of this less than pleasant experience.
Nicks recalled: “I asked Tom if he would help me write a song. And he said, ‘No. You are one of the premier songwriters of all time. You don’t need me to write a song for you.’ He said, ‘Just go to your piano and write a good song. You can do that.'”
The advice that Nicks was given would result in her 2014 song ‘Hard Advice’ which is a thank-you note to Tom’s method of tough love which gave her the confidence boost she didn’t want to hear at the time but instead needed. She also revealed: “The chorus goes, ‘Sometimes he’s my best friend.’ It was really ‘Sometimes Tom’s my best friend‘.
“I changed it because I knew Tom would not want me to say his name,” Nicks said. “That’s how well I know him.” Sadly, with Petty’s death, Nicks would be left without her de facto mentor and was set to take his advice with her wherever she went.