When Tom Petty’s ‘Woman in Love’ Was Overshadowed by Stevie Nicks
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "A Woman in Love (It's Not Me)" was released as the second single from Hard Promises in June 1981. With its soft verses and thundering chorus, the song seemed destined for a high placement on the chart, but it stalled at No. 79.
That may have had something to do with another song the band released less than two weeks later: "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," a collaboration with Stevie Nicks from her debut solo album, Bella Donna. Petty was competing with himself.
According to the singer and songwriter, "A Woman in Love" would have been more successful if the two songs had been released further apart. "I'm sure of it," he said in the 2005 book Conversations With Tom Petty. "'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 and the Heartbreakers,' and a lot of the radio programmers didn't want to have two Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers songs around the same period. Especially while one was getting this extreme amount of airplay. So it was a little awkward for us."
There was some consolation: Hard Promises' first single, "The Waiting," did considerably better on the Billboard chart, reaching No. 19 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Rock Tracks chart, where it stayed for six straight weeks.
Watch Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Perform 'A Woman in Love (It's Not Me)'
Nicks was a consistent figure in Petty's life in the early '80s. After being firmly told she could not be a member of the Heartbreakers, she asked Petty to produce her first solo record. He declined.
“We weren’t really welcoming to her,” Petty said in Petty: The Biography. “It wasn’t like she received a lot of warmth. We weren’t impressed by superstars — it just wasn’t our nature.” Instead, Nicks went to producer Jimmy Iovine, who had worked on the Heartbreakers' breakthrough LP Damn the Torpedoes and at the time was working on Hard Promises.
Petty ended up giving Nicks a song, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," which Petty had already written. "By that time, we were comfortable working with Jimmy Iovine," guitarist Mike Campbell told Guitar Player in 2020. "We had 'Stop Draggin' My Heart Around,' and Jimmy, in his wisdom, said, 'This would be great as a duet,' so Stevie ended up singing over our track."
Watch Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers With Stevie Nicks Perform 'Insider'
Nicks got the Heartbreakers sound she was after and repaid the favor. Another song Petty had written specifically for Nicks called "Insider" was kept on Hard Promises at her insistence. "She said, 'I can't take this, because I can see how bad you want it," Petty said. "You just keep it, and write me another song and we're even."
Nicks ended up contributing backing vocals to the track.
Even though "A Woman in Love" didn't tear up the charts, Petty was pleased with how the track turned out. "That was one of Mike's, those were his chords," he said, recalling how the band brought in bassist Duck Dunn of Booker T. & the M.G.'s. "His bass line was so good that we just had [drummer] Stanley [Lynch] keeping time very quietly and nothing else. And that kind of made the song."