Today (July 27th) marks the 39th anniversary of the release of Bella Donna — Stevie Nicks' first solo album away from Fleetwood Mac. Although the album only topped the charts for a single week, Bella Donna spent nearly three years on the Billboard 200 albums chart — from July 1981 to June 1984 — and has sold over four million copies to date. Bella Donna featured four Top 40 hits; her first single with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Stop Draggin' My Heart Around” (#3), her duet with former flame Don Henley on “Leather And Lace” (#6), “Edge Of Seventeen” (#11), and “After the Glitter Fades” (#32).
Back in 1978, Nicks had dipped her foot in the solo waters by duetting with Kenny Loggins on his Top Five hit, “Whenever I Call You A Friend.” The song, which Loggins wrote with Melissa Manchester, was featured on Loggins' album, Nightwatch — which credited Nicks — unlike the single, which was credited to Loggins only.
Among the high profile side musicians appearing on the Jimmy Iovine-produced Bella Donna were the E Street Band's Roy Bittan, Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone, Booker T. & The MG's bassist and Stax legend Donald “Duck” Dunn, along with such top drawer L.A. studio musicians as guitarist Waddy Wachtel, bassist Bob Glaub, and drummer Russ Kunkel.
Stevie Nicks admitted to us that when she kicked off her solo career in 1981, becoming a bandleader was the last thing she was ever looking to be: “In the beginning, I didn't really wanna be a solo artist. I really had no interest in being a solo artist, because I loved being in a band. Then, after you've been in your solo work, and now, I don't know what I've done, 11 solo albums, where I am absolutely the boss, you get used to being the boss.”
After nearly 40 years of juggling both solo work and Fleetwood Mac band duties, Stevie Nicks told us that she's finally come to terms with the difference between the two jobs: “Being in a band — you're not the boss. And I always wanted to be in a band, from the very beginning when I was 17; I wanted to be in a band. And when you're in a band, you're a team. When you're in your solo work — I'm the boss. And I've decided that I actually do like being the boss; but, I've been in Fleetwood Mac for so long that I understand how to not be the boss, and to be part of the team, and to be a team player.”
In celebration of Bella Donna's release, Mike Campbell dug out his vintage Fender Broadcaster — a precursor to the Telecaster — which he used to record “Stop Draggin' My Heart Around” to discuss the song's genesis.
Campbell, who is now a member of Fleetwood Mac with Stevie Nicks, posted a clip on Instagram in which he talks about the song, explaining, “This song has a little bit of a story to it. It started with the music and the music was inspired by the drum intro to 'Honky Tonk Women,' if you can believe that. I just put different chords to that feel. And, of course, gave it to Tom and he wrote these great words.”
“We were working with (producer) Jimmy Iovine at the time. He thought the song would work better as a duet and he was actually right, so Stevie Nicks wound up singing along on the song . . . Today, I just thought I’d show you how the germ of the song started. It’s a swampy blues song, really.”