Stevie Nicks Fired Her Producer After Tom Petty Outperformed Her: ‘I’m Going to Top That?’

Both Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty often worked with producer Jimmy Iovine. Nicks and Iovine even began dating soon after Petty introduced them. Their romantic relationship didn’t last, but their working one was fruitful. In the mid-1980s, though, Nicks swiftly fired Iovine. After hearing a song Petty recorded, she did not want to continue working with the producer.

Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty sing into microphones. Petty plays the guitar.
Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks | Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Tom Petty introduced Stevie Nicks to producer Jimmy Iovine

When Nicks was working on her debut solo album, Bella Donna, she asked Petty to produce the record. While he produced one song as a trial run, he did not enjoy the experience of working with Nicks.

“I realized I couldn’t do this,” he said, per the book Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis. “There were too many hangers-on, just too many to have to get through. We never had guests in the studio. I wasn’t used to it.”

Petty had worked with Iovine, so he introduced him to Nicks. The pair hit it off so well that they began dating. She practically moved into his house within a few days of knowing him.

Stevie Nicks fired Jimmy Iovine after hearing a Tom Petty song

Several years later, Nicks and Iovine had broken up, and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart began writing the song “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” inspired by a night he spent with Nicks. He intended for Nicks to sing the song, but she wasn’t sure of where to take it lyrically. They invited Petty into the studio, and an exhausted Nicks left shortly after he arrived.

Stewart, Iovine, and Petty continued working on the song. When they felt it was done, Petty sang lead vocals as a guide for what Nicks could record the following day.

“I left, and when I got back the next day, at something like three p.m., the whole song was written,” Nicks said in the book Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes. “And not only was it written; it was spectacular. Dave was standing there saying to me, ‘Well, there it is! It’s really, really good.’ And they go to me, ‘Well, it’s terrific, and now you can go out and … and you can sing it.’ Tom had done a great vocal, a great vocal. I just looked at them and said, ‘I’m going to top that? Really?’ I got up, thanked Dave, thanked Tom, fired Jimmy, and left. That went down in about five minutes.”

Despite her irritation, she correctly predicted that the song would be a hit for Petty.

The music video for ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ was controversial 

The song was a hit for Petty, and the band released an Alice in Wonderland-themed music video. Toward the end of it, Petty, playing the Mad Hatter, slices up Alice and serves her as cake to his tea party guests. According to video director Jeff Stein, this was partially why Tipper Gore launched the Parents Music Resource Center. 

“Apparently, Tipper’s daughter saw that scene and freaked out — and then Mom started taking notice of what was going on, on MTV,” Stein told Yahoo. “And I’m not kidding: I was cited for promoting cannibalism by a parents/teachers group. I thought, ‘Well, this has to be a career high, if you can bring back cannibalism as a fad!'”

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