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Stevie Nicks Wanted to Be the ‘Girl Tom Petty’ Even Though She Was Famous First

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By the time Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their debut album in 1976, Stevie Nicks had established herself as rock ‘n’ roll royalty. Though she was not yet at Rumours-era levels of fame, her first album with Fleetwood Mac was successful. Despite making her way in her own right, Nicks listened to Petty’s work and fell in love. If she couldn’t join the Heartbreakers, she wanted to be just like Petty.

Stevie Nicks wears a purple dress and holds a microphone. Tom Petty plays guitar and sings into a microphone.
Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty | Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Fleetwood Mac was one of the biggest bands in the world in the mid-1970s

After years of struggling as a musician with then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham, the couple joined the British band, Fleetwood Mac. The group had reached middling levels of success but struggled to keep a consistent lineup. With the addition of the two American artists, they finally hit their stride. 

In 1975, the band released their self-titled album. It was well-received, but the band had to work hard to promote it by touring. 

“There were no limousines, and Christine [McVie] slept on top of the amps in the back of the truck,” Nicks told Uncut. “We just played everywhere and we sold that record. We kicked that album in the a**.”

Over a year after its release, the album reached the top of the U.S. charts and had three hit singles. 

Stevie Nicks wanted to be just like Tom Petty

As Nicks and Fleetwood Mac enjoyed their success and worked on their magnum opus, Rumours, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their debut album. Nicks quickly became one of their biggest fans. 

“After I joined Fleetwood Mac, I started hearing Tom Petty on the radio,” Nicks said in the book Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes. “And I just fell in love with his music and his band. I would laughingly say to anyone that if I ever got to know Tom Petty and could worm my way into his good graces, if he were ever to ask me to leave Fleetwood Mac and join Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, I’d probably do it. And that was before I even met him.”

Unfortunately for Nicks, the Heartbreakers weren’t looking for any new members. When she began working on her debut solo album, Nicks told her manager, “If I can’t be in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, I want to make a record that sounds as much like T.P.’s as possible.” 

To accomplish this, Petty helped with the album. While he realized he didn’t want to serve as a producer, he recommended his own, Jimmy Iovine, to Nicks. 

“We talked a lot about Tom Petty,” Nicks said of her first meeting with Iovine. “I said, ‘Really, you know, I want to be the girl Tom Petty.’” 

Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty collaborated on music together

Nicks never did become a member of the Heartbreakers, but she got the next best thing: a collaboration with Petty on her debut solo album. Initially, the song “Insider” was supposed to appear on Bella Donna, but Petty didn’t want to give it up. In exchange, he gave her “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” 

The pair sang together on the song, and the Heartbreakers provided the backing track. Nicks and Petty would also sing together on “Insider,” which appeared on his album Hard Promises.

Tom Petty Was ‘Pissed’ About the Success of a Stevie Nicks Single

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