Tom Petty saw himself more as a bandmate than the vocalist giving orders from his early work with Mudcrutch through his final performance with The Heartbreakers. He had no desire to sing lead for the group. Even so, as fans entered, his reputation was still being disparaged, and Stan Lynch never forgave Tom Petty for that.
Yet, Lynch and Tom Petty’s conflict dates back to the time of their legendary singles. Jimmy Iovine, the producer of the seminal record Damn the Torpedoes, put Lynch to the test. Although Iovine brought in replacement drummers for a few sessions, Petty said.
“I will say that when other drummers were brought in, they weren’t Stan Lynch. The Heartbreakers were all fingers on the same hand.”
The Heartbreakers kept chugging along until the late ’80s until they hit upon their groove on songs like “Refugee” and “Here Comes My Lady.” With guitarist Mike Campbell and colleague Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne, Petty created a solo record because he needed a change of pace. Lynch was content to let off the throttle during that time even though keyboardist Benmont Tench expressed displeasure that Petty was working alone and explained, “there were just a handful of songs on that record that I just didn’t like.”
The next phase of Petty’s career was what The Heartbreakers considered as merely a one-off effort. He requested Lynne to take up the mixing duties for The Heartbreakers’ new album Into the Big Wide Open after touring in support of his solo record. Every song on the album, which was intended to be the Heartbreakers’ homage to Tom Petty’s solo work, became a pain for Lynch to get through, and he said in the documentary that “it wasn’t great that I wasn’t allowed to hang.” “Get in here, do your sh*t, get out of here,” was the message. Hence, personally, it’s not the ideal setting for me.
Petty felt it wouldn’t be a good idea for Lynch to perform on his next solo album, Wildflowers, so he hired session musician Steve Ferrone for the majority of the tunes instead. The original Heartbreakers came back together for the song “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” which became one of their biggest successes, even though Tom Petty was happy to perform most of the album without Lynch because of his label’s insistence on having a greatest-hits record.
Petty could see Lynch moving away from the group during the session’s pauses, complaining that he didn’t like the songs on Wildflowers and believing they were cover songs. Petty also stated learning from a friend that Lynch no longer regarded the Heartbreakers as his primary band.
Lynch left the meeting before everyone had a chance to say goodbye after he decided to distance himself from the undertaking and go to Florida. When Petty contacted Lynch just before The Heartbreakers were scheduled to perform at The Viper Club in Los Angeles, Lynch informed him that she would not be able to make the event because she was on the east coast. Lynch decided to show up within 24 hours after Ringo Starr was first substituted because he didn’t want to be outdone.
After they left the stage, it became clear that Lynch had to be fired. Lynch was informed of their choice by Petty’s manager Tony Dimitriades since Petty couldn’t bring himself to contact him. By the time the receiver answered, Lynch’s reaction, “I heard Stan pick up and say “Am I fired?”,” according to Dimitriades, told it all. “Yes, you are Stan,” I said. Ferrone would continue to play drums with the Heartbreakers, but their boyhood friendship had finally come to an end.