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Paul Zollo (2005), Conversations with Tom Petty < Stevie Nicks < Main Page

Paul Zollo (2005), Conversations with Tom Petty

Excerpts from Conversations with Tom Petty by Paul Zollo (2005)

On Stevie Nicks --

Q: A lot of people thought you crafted Stop Draggin' My Heart Around to be a hit single for the two of you.

A: The song wasn't crafted for Stevie. If you hear the original on the boxed set, all they did was take that track and overdub Stevie onto it.

Q: Which is surprising because it seems like she is singing the melody but she is really singing harmony and you are singing the melody, right?

A: Yes, on the choruses I am. They put her in singing the verses. But in the choruses I'm really singing the melody and she is singing harmony.

Stevie came to me around '78. And she was this absolutely stoned-gone huge fan. And it was her mission in life that I should write her a song. And we were a little wary of Stevie. We didn't quite know whether to like Stevie or not, because we kind of saw this big corporate rock band, Fleetwood Mac, which was wrong, they were actually artistic people. But in those days, nobody trusted that sort of thing and we just kept thinking, 'What does she want from us?' And then, of course, she turned into one of my great, great friends forever. But Stevie was really adamant about me writing her a song.

And so I think that around late '78, she approached me about producing her first solo record. Now Stevie, there's a Cecil B. DeMille movie. This is a person that's larger than life in a hundred ways. And I loved her voice. I thought she sang great. And I said okay and I went down to the session to produce a record for her. I went down and I did one track and it was a completely different world from anything I had seen. Dealing with girls was a whole different thing and Stevie was in a whole different place than we were.

Q: Emotionally?

A: [Laughs] Every kind of way. She was very sweet and we liked her. But she had just a whole different kind of work ethic than we had, and there were a lot of people, a lot of hangers-on. The whole Elvis kind of theme of a big entourage. We'd never been a very big fan of that. And so after a track I went, 'Look, I can't do this. I don't have the time. I'm too busy and I don't think that I'm going to be a big help to you. But I know a guy who might be good for you named Jimmy Iovine.' And so, as time went by, and we hung out a bit, we got to know her more and more, she would come over to my house and just hang out and play records or whatever. And we'd sing a bit. We used to sit around and play the guitar and sing.

Q: Harmony?

A: Yeah, just anything.

Q: She's a great harmony singer.

A: She's incredible. We could make a pretty good sound, singing with the acoustic guitar. And so finally I wrote her this song called "Insider" and I brought it down and Jimmy just flipped over the song. He thought it was incredible. Really great, and I really liked it. I was really proud of it.

Q: Had you ever written a song for someone else?

A: No.

Q: Did you write it with her voice in mind?

A: Yeah. And I loved it. I thought it was one of my best songs to that point and I cut it there, just me and my guitar. And then Stevie sang it with me. And then we put the band on after. And by the time the track was coming to fruition with the band and everything, I was getting a little depressed about giving away this song. [Laughs]

Q: I understand you felt your single "A Woman in Love" would have done better if not for the duet for Stevie.

A: I'm sure of it. 'Cause they came out roughly the same time, and Stevie's record was huge. And so it was an awkward position for us because it was billed as Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and a lot of the radio programmers didn't want to have two Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker's songs around the same period. Especially while one was getting this extreme amount of airplay. So it was a little awkward for us.

More about "Insider":

Q: "Insider" is a cool title. Was that one you had before writing the song?

A: No. It came as I was writing, if I remember correctly. It just came out of the verse. I wrote that on my own at home. I remember spending a good day on it. And I was just knocked out with it when I got done. And Iovine was really knocked out with it. Extremely excited about it.

Q: Did you tell him it was for Stevie Nicks?

A: Yeah. He asked for a song. He was going to produce [Stevie's album, Bella Donna]. He wanted one desperately. I remember bringing it to him, and he said, 'God, when I asked for a song, I didn't expect this!' And I was really attached to it. And it really hurt me when I did the track and the vocals. And I said, [softly] 'Stevie, I can't give you this.' And she said, 'Well, I can relate to that. I completely understand. I'll take something else.'

Q: Was there any thought of making "Insider" a single?

A: No, they always wanted something more upbeat for singles. Very rarely did they put out a ballad for a single. I don't think ever. "Free Fallin'" was the first time, I think, that I ever had a ballad out for a single. And even then it was the third single from the album.

"The Apartment Song" (from the Playback box set)

Q: The boxed set has a wonderful home demo of "The Apartment Song" with Stevie Nicks singing the harmonies.

A: [Stevie and I] used to do that from time to time, just sit around and sing. And sometimes run a tape recorder, and we'd play it back, have some drinks. She used to visit me quite often. Come over, and we'd always wind up singing. So I love to sing with Stevie.

Q: You recorded that song for Full Moon Fever. Was there the thought of bringing Stevie in to sing on it?

A: No. I think at that point, I wanted it to be solo. I had never really pictured it being a duet. But Stevie was there, and I showed her the song I'd written. And she liked it, and sang along on it. Probably only got recorded once.

"Don't Come Around Here No More"

Tom: I met [Dave Stewart] in the Eighties. When music really turned to shit. People were trying to do something, but it was all these fakey keyboard sounds. A lot of prancing and posing. So Jimmy Iovine was looking for songs for Stevie Nicks. And he came to me. I said, 'I don't really have anything left over. I don't have anything I can give away.'

And he said, 'Well, you know I'm frustrated, I'm trying to find writers. Who do you think would be a good writer?' And Dave had just come out with that "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," which I thought was a really good song. And then I heard one or two more that I thought were really good. I said, 'You should try this guy Dave Stewart. He's in England. I don't know him, but he seems consistent as a writer. He seems really good.' So the next thing I know, not many weeks later the phone rings, and it's Dave Stewart. And he says, 'Hey, I'm here, and Jimmy told me I got the gig from you. I've come over to write some stuff for Stevie and other people. And why don't you come down? Let's get together. I'd like to see you.'

[They wrote "Don't Come" in the studio, and they spent a month producing it.]

Q: I like the stops in it, where you sing the word, "Stop!"

A: That was [Dave's] idea. To go, 'Stop!' And we used girls, which was kind of an accident. Because when we started it, we were working at Sunset Sound, and Stevie had booked the time. And the girls that sing with her had turned up for the session, but Stevie had cancelled the session. So the girls were still there. Dave said, 'Let's get them out here and see what they can do.' And then they did that great bit. [Sings "Ah ah ah ooh ooh."] And then there's a girl named Stephanie who we brought in to sing that really high, wailing thing at the end.

On Lindsey Buckingham --

Q: You have one version of it called "Walls (Circus)" with amazing vocal harmonies by Lindsey Buckingham.

A: He's amazing. He was kind enough to come down and sing that.

Q: Was it your idea to call him?

A: Yeah, yeah. I'm a big fan of Lindsey's. And I called him and was really knocked out that he came down and helped me with that. [Having two versions of the song] was Ed Burns' idea. He wanted one version of "Walls" to start the movie, and another arrangement to end the movie. So I did two different arrangements of it. And Lindsey's just amazing on that track.

Q: Did he come up with those harmonies?

A: Yeah, it was all him. He came down and did it all in one session. I kind of just sat back and watched him go. Just going, 'Yep--that's what I would've done!' [Laughs]

Q: It's cool you've worked with both Stevie Nicks and Lindsey.

A: Yeah. I worked with [Lindsey] again on The Last DJ. He sang on "The Man Who Loves Women."

Reprinted with permission from Omnibus Press. Copyright Paul Zollo, 2005.
For more information about this book, visit

Thanks to blinker12 for transcribing and posting this to the Ledge.

Date: 2005-06-01         Number of views: 2315

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