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Jimmy Iovine Recalls Hiding Stevie Nicks in His Basement While Producing Tom Petty

Before he became one of the record industry’s most powerful moguls, Jimmy Iovine was an in-demand producer — and as he told Howard Stern during a wide-ranging interview yesterday, that meant secretly juggling commitments to multiple major clients on at least one infamous occasion.

The late ’70s and early ’80s found Iovine’s talents increasingly in demand. After years spent working his way up the ladder on an assortment of major rock releases and earning the respect of artists such as John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen, he’d branched out from engineering into production, compiling an early list of credits that included albums helmed for Patti Smith, Graham Parker and Dire Straits. Also among Iovine’s clients: Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks, who both happened to be making new albums at the same time in 1981.

As Iovine recalled in the segment of the Stern interview you can hear above, he was dating Nicks while working on what became her Bella Donna LP — a secret he kept from Petty, who he was afraid would question Iovine’s commitment to his Hard Promises album. In fact, to minimize the risk of angering Petty, Iovine admitted he’d go so far as to hide Nicks in his basement whenever Petty came over.

“I said ‘Look, Stevie, you’ve gotta understand. Tom doesn’t know you,'” said Iovine. “‘The basement’s like a set-up basement — it’s nice. When he comes, just stay down there, you know?’ And she did!”

In retrospect, Iovine laments asking Nicks to hide from Petty — not just because it was somewhat insulting to Nicks, but because of the breach of trust the subterfuge represented for his friendship with Petty. It was a period in which Iovine saw his profile rise and his skills behind the boards improve, but as he put it, “I just kept making social mistakes in my career.”

Ultimately, that social mistake led to the hit single that launched Nicks’ solo career. Surveying the material she’d put together for Bella Donna, Iovine said he didn’t hear a hit single — but he had the idea to connect her with Petty for a duet on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” a song Petty had been written and discarded for Hard Promises.

“I said if a woman sings an aggressive guy’s lyric, it can’t miss,” said Iovine. “You’ve got Stevie Nicks singing ‘Than make a meal of some bright-eyed kid / You need someone looking after you’ — a woman saying that to a man can’t miss.”

He was right — “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” was a Top 5 hit — but Petty didn’t appreciate Iovine’s secrecy; as Iovine told Stern, “He just didn’t like how it went down and neither did I.” The incident opened a rift in their friendship that has since been healed, perhaps partly due to the fact that Petty was later able to joke that the single’s success ended up buying him a house.

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