Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around was the first single from Stevie Nicks’ debut solo album Bella Donna. The album’s only song that was neither written nor co-written by Nicks, it was written by Tom Petty and Mike Campbell as a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song, but Jimmy Iovine, who was also working for Stevie Nicks at the time, arranged for her to sing on it. Petty sang with Nicks in the chorus and bridge, whilst his entire band (save Ron Blair, whose bass track was played by Donald “Duck” Dunn instead) played on the song.
A performance of the song in the studio was used as the promotional video.
The song reached # 3 on the American Billboard Hot 100. This song was not successful in Europe, where it reached only # 50 in Britain.
The two singers also duetted on the songs Insider (from Petty’s 1981 album Hard Promises) and I Will Run to You (from Nicks’ 1983 album The Wild Heart), and frequently performed impromptu live versions of these and 1960s classic Needles and Pins in many shows throughout the 1980’s.
The lyrics are said to be about a woman who feels weighed down by relationships and wants to part despite a strong sentimental attachment to her lover. The melody is described by All Music as “dark and sinister“, probably because of the dense drumming of Stan Lynch which is the most prominent feature of the song’s rhythm. Apart from the intro before the first verse and a solo following the second verse (where there is some fairly heavy riffing), however, the guitar sound is laid-back in typical Heartbreakers style. The song was originally recorded for Petty’s album Hard Promises, but the producers felt the song came from a female point-of-view and it was left unreleased until it was agreed to be put on the Bella Donna album instead. A demo version of the song, recorded without Nicks, was eventually released on Petty’s boxed set Playback in 1995.
Tom Petty met Stevie Nicks while he was recording his group’s album Damn The Torpedoes. She asked him half-jokingly if he could write her a song that she could record for her first solo album. Petty didn’t take her request seriously at first. Nicks reiterated her request a year later as Petty was putting together his Hard Promises album. Petty wrote a ballad called Insider at his home, played it to the Heartbreakers (to their approval), recorded a demo with his band, and sent the demo to Nicks. After listening to the demo of Insider, Nicks visited Petty at his studio, taped the song with Petty and the Heartbreakers, then gave the tape to Petty, saying, “You love this so much… YOU take the song.” He did, and included it on Hard Promises.
Shortly after Insider was finished, Petty and company recorded a song that he and guitarist Mike Campbell composed about a year earlier – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around – and sent that demo to Nicks. She loved it, saying, “That’s what I wanted all along.” Eventually Nicks and Petty decided to do it as a duet and recorded their voices over the demo’s instrumental track.
“I had written the music and Tom had written the words. The Heartbreakers had recorded a version of it with Jimmy Iovine, and Jimmy being the entrepreneur that he was, he was working with Stevie, and I guess he asked Tom if she could try it, and it just developed from there. We cut the track as a Heartbreakers record and when she decided to do it we used that track and she came in and sang over it.”
“Jimmy (Iovine) played this song to me while he was still finishing Tom’s album; it was one of those songs that Tom was not going to do, and he told Jim that I could do it. I wasn’t used to doing other people’s songs, so I didn’t really like the idea at first, but I loved Tom Petty, so I agreed to try. So we went into the studio and sang it live, together. I was completely entranced, and I instantly fell into love with the song. Duets were the things I loved the most… maybe this was a second beginning. And we would sing like no one else, and nobody else would ever sing like us.”