FEATURE: Female Icons: Part Five: Stevie Nicks




Female Icons


 PHOTO CREDIT: Peggy Sirota

Part Five: Stevie Nicks


I think there are fewer finer female artists…


 IN THIS PHOTO: Stevie Nicks is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the second time/PHOTO CREDIT: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

than Stevie Nicks but, as she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in March, I am keen to spotlight her now. It seems that, decades after she came into music, Nicks’ career is going to new heights. She has the same confidence and passion she had back in the 1970s and there is no slowing this incredible artist. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was a monumental achievement because, as Ultimate Classic Rock reported, it was the first time a woman was inducted twice:

Stevie Nicks became the first woman to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice during an exciting and emotional ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn tonight.

The singer celebrated her remarkable achievement by performing several of her classic tracks to kick off the ceremony, including duets with surprise guest Don Henley ("Leather and Lace") and Harry Styles, the former One Direction member who inducted her ("Stop Draggin' My Heart Around)." "She is forever current, she is forever Stevie," Styles said. "On Halloween, one in seven people dress as Stevie Nicks."

Nicks was previously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998 as a member of Fleetwood Mac. She becomes the 23rd person to be enshrined for a second time, but is the first woman to do so. By earning her second induction, this time for her solo work, Nicks hopes to have blazed a trail for future female honorees.

PHOTO CREDIT: Classic Rock Magazine/2011 Future Publishing/Getty Images  

"I'm opening the door for other women" to get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a nervous-sounding Nicks said from the stage, after receiving a standing ovation. Her speech resembled her between-song banter at her solo gigs, bringing in charming anecdotes about her life.

She also talked about working with Fleetwood Mac -- "My amazing band is still together and very strong today" -- and reminisced on how Tom Petty gave her "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" for her debut solo LP Bella Donna after it was determined the record didn't have a single. "Problem solved!" she said of getting the future hit.

She wrapped up her speech by noting, “If you ever need a keynote speaker, somebody to talk to, somebody to talk to a group of people, I am your girl”.

There has been a lot of change and movement in the Fleetwood Mac camp the past few months. One of their leads, Lindsey Buckingham – and former lover of Nicks – was fired from the band. The official reason is not really clear or straight but it appears like Buckingham wanted to delay touring with Fleetwood Mac to work on his solo album. Maybe that clash of priorities led to Buckingham’s dismissal but it seems like there was this power struggle between Buckingham and Nicks – the two have been on different plains since Fleetwood Mac recorded Rumours in 1976.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Fleetwood Mac being interviewed in 1975/PHOTO CREDIT: Polaris

The ripples were in the water during that album but, to me, that record is the one where Stevie Nicks truly shone bright. She and Buckingham appeared in Fleetwood Mac on the band’s eponymous album of 1975 and, since then, the band was given a new lease. Not that this new incarnation improved the band but, before Nicks, there was a gap and need for this rare voice. Christine McVie was (and is to this day) a stunning singer with Fleetwood Mac but Nicks brought new dynamics and colours to the group. The fact there was another female artist in the band meant there was a chance to broaden the material and take the band in a new direction. I love what Nicks provided back in 1975 and how much of an impression she made on the music. Crystal and Landslide are brilliant songs for sure but, to me, the standout of Fleetwood Mac is the beautiful Rhiannon. It glides and grooves; it sways and breathes with beauty and grace. It is a stunning song and one that announced this truly wonderful and unique spirit. One pictures Nicks – especially in the 1970s – and gets this vision of a woman who was very free and alive; this very spiritual, sensual and physical woman who was like nobody else in the industry. It must have taken some adapting in Fleetwood Mac, I guess, but you only need listen to Rhiannon to know that Nicks was born to play with them.

I guess Buckingham inspired the band to create more depth and helped add Blues touches to their palette. If Buckingham helped give greater confidence to Nicks and McVie, it is obvious Nicks ran with that and showed how strong she was. She was given a boost by Buckingham but that talent was innate and ingrained: she was always sensational and, at last, here was her chance to run wild. Despite the fact her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham was on/off whilst recording Rumours, the two did find some peace and common ground when working on songs together. I get two different impressions when I think about Fleetwood Mac and the Rumours sessions. Many of the songs were written solo and the band members were spending a lot of time apart – one imagines after dark there was more ‘bonding’ and letting loose. Buckingham was taking care of a lot of the production and, because of that, one wonders how much he was listening to Nicks. Maybe there were moment of musical harmony but, personally, the two were in their own camps. To be fair, other relationships in the band were falling apart – Christine and John McVie were going through dislocation and Mick Fleetwood was going through some trouble too. Nicks, dedicated to writing and creating the best music possible, is responsible for some of Rumours’ best moments. I think Dreams is one of the finest pieces of music ever committed to tape.

One can analyse the song to death but, in terms of the themes addressed on Rumours, there is that split between optimism and personal breakups. Think about Buckingham’s Go Your Own Way (directed at Nicks) and Christine McVie’s Don’t Stop (a message of hope and resilience). Not only is Dreams one of Nicks’ best vocals and compositions but the lyrics demand attention and love. I sort of sense a slight defeat where she can feel the strains of the band and life getting on top of her but, against it all, one listens to the song and feels revived and strong. It is a wonderful song with hidden messages, moments that make you second-guess and a chorus that makes the senses hum. That is not the only slice of gold on Rumours from Nicks. She, along with the rest of the band, wrote The Chain but there are two songs on the second side that strike me: I Don’t Want to Know and Gold Dust Woman. The former is a bit of a strange story. Another song, Silver Springs, was going to be included on Rumours but it was replaced. There was rankle and Nicks was annoyed that she was going to have only a couple of songwriting credits on the album. In the end, she was okay because she liked her performance on I Don’t Want to Know – a song that predates the album and is one her and Buckingham and Nicks had in their bag when they were recording as a duo. Gold Dust Woman, as Nicks has claimed in interviews, was about cocaine – how everyone was doing it back in those days.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Herbert W. Worthington 

The take we hear on Rumours was, as reports go, recorded at 4 a.m. and followed many attempts to get the final take down – a long night in the studio where tensions were running a little high. There were some odd instruments used on the recording and it was said Nicks wore a black veil over her head when laying down her vocal. It was definitely a ‘memorable’ recording and one that sort of summed up the turbulence and magic of Rumours. I do wonder whether anyone will do a biopic about Fleetwood Mac during Rumours because it is one of the most fascinating from all of music. This band was pulling in different directions, personally, but there was this great unity when it came to the songs. Maybe Nicks was not too happy having so few of her songs on Rumours but I think her few contributions are among the strongest in the set. By 1979’s double-album, Tusk, the band had a huge weight of critical love behind them and, whilst their personal lives were still the subject of much scrutiny, they continued to make this amazing music. Nicks’ input on Tusk is incredible and, if she was still fighting (a bit) for more say, you have to admire the music that poured from her. I really love Sisters of the Moon and Storms but it is Sara – she loved the letter ‘s’ by the sounds of it! – that stands out from that album. Showcasing what a nimble and prolific talent Nicks was, this is another song that demands interpretation and close inspection.

There is some debate as to where the song comes from: Mick Fleetwood claims it might have been a reference to an affair he had with Nicks; some say it is a reference to Nicks having an abortion when she was with Don Henley (and the fact that she loved the name Sara for a girl). I will skip through a lot of the Fleetwood Mac back catalogue but, when it comes to the golden time, one must look at Rumours and Tusk. It is clear Stevie Nicks had to endure a lot of turmoil and strain during that time and things were not smooth for her. This enigmatic figure who was beautiful, graceful yet fierce, I do wonder what could have been if things were different in Fleetwood Mac – if she was given more say or there was less struggle between her and Buckingham. If Nicks helped create some of Fleetwood Mac’s best songs, her solo career allowed her greater autonomy and freedom. Take her debut of 1981, Bella Donna. Critically acclaimed and respected, songs like After the Glitter Fades and Edge of Seventeen are stone-cold classics – the latter had its riff sampled by Beyoncé to great effect! Nicks was recording these solo albums between Fleetwood Mac releases and tours. It is amazing she had the stamina and inspiration to keep recording but it seemed like her solo work provided this safer space and chance to try a slightly different sound.


 IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images

Some of Nicks’ solo work of the 1980s and 1990s did not fare too well with critics but I love 2011’s In Your Dreams. The reviews were largely positive and I am particularly struck by AllMusic’s interpretation:

Perhaps it’s all down to Stevie Nicks being at peace with her legacy, perhaps she was coaxed back toward the ‘70s by producer David A. Stewart, perhaps it’s the presence of Lindsey Buckingham on “Soldier’s Angel,” or perhaps it’s the fact that she excavated a 1976 song called “Secret Love” for this album, but In Your Dreams is Stevie’s first solo album to embrace the sound of Fleetwood Mac at their prime. Nicks never exactly ran away from the Mac, but her ‘80s solo hits were tempered by a steely demeanor and her subsequent solo albums strove too hard to recapture the magic that In Your Dreamsconjures so easily. Despite the quite deliberate connections to her past, In Your Dreams never feels labored; the hippie folk drifts into the mystic pop, punctuated by some witchy rock that may be polished a bit too sharply by Stewart, yet he manages to keep everything warm despite its cleanliness. Stewart’s real coup is focus: he keeps everything tight and purposeful, letting each element snugly fit together so In Your Dreams winds up capturing the essence of Stevie Nicks, which -- as her previous three decades of solo albums prove -- is no easy feat”.

Her last solo album, 2014’s 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, included new versions of demos that Nicks primarily recorded between 1969 and 1987 and was another successful recording.

I do wonder whether there is going to be more solo material from Nicks over the next year or two because she keeps evolving and proving why she is so loved. One of these songwriters who is never short of inspiration and energy, you can understand why she was inducted into the Rock &vRoll Hall of Fame twice! It seems like Stevie Nicks is the same woman she was when she first joined Fleetwood Mac. She looks no older but, maybe a bit wiser, let’s hope Nicks keeps touring and recording for many years to come. I want to end with an interview Nicks gave earlier in the year with Rolling Stone where she discussed her legacy, work and relentless energy. I want to bring in a few questions that captured me and the answers Nicks gave:

Congratulations on the Hall of Fame. How is it different going in the second time?

It’s 22 to zero. It’s 22 guys that have gone in twice to zero women — Eric Clapton is probably in there 22 times already! So maybe this will open the doors for women to fight to make their own music.

You’re one of the few rock stars with both a band and a solo career.

My solo career is much more girlie. It’s still a hard rock band — but it’s much more girlie-girl than Fleetwood Mac is. I never wanted a solo career — I always wanted to be just in a band. But I just had so many songs! Because when you’re in a band with three prolific writers, you get two or three songs per album — maybe four. But I was writing all the time, so they just went into my Gothic trunk of lost songs.

Christine would walk by me — my totally sarcastic best friend. She’d say [imitation of Christine McVie’s English accent] “Soooo. Writing another song, are we?” To this day, I write all the time. I have a poem that I’ve written about Game of Thrones, and I have a really beautiful poem that I’m writing about Anthony Bourdain.

But you still never slow down. You’re in the middle of a Fleetwood Mac world tour.

At the ripe and totally young age of 70, my voice hasn’t changed. As long as I take care of myself, I am still going to be doing this when I’m 80. There’s so many things I want to do. I want to do another record. I want to make a mini-series. If the coven reforms, I want to go back to American Horror Story. I tell myself, “Do it now, because you’re spry, you’re in good shape, you can still do the splits, you can still dance onstage and wear a short skirt and high six-inch heels.”

It’s a time right now when women are changing the world and changing music. What was it like when you first joined a band?

Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick — that was the beginning. I met Lindsey in 1966. Two years later, I joined his band. That was it — that was San Francisco music, Janis, Jimi Hendrix, Buffalo Springfield. Our band, the band I was in with Lindsey, we opened for that huge-ass group Chicago, with Bill Graham standing on the side of the stage. That night was the only time in my life I was heckled—some guy out in the audience went, “Hey baby. What are you doing later? You want to come home with me?” Bill Graham walked out on the stage and screamed at this guy and told him to get the f-u-c-k out and never come back. Basically, “If I ever see you again, I will kill you.” I didn’t know Bill Graham. A good five years later, I reminded him of that night and he remembered. He said, “Yeah, I don’t let that happen.”

IN THIS PHOTO: Stevie Nicks performing in 1981/PHOTO CREDIT: Clayton Call/Redferns  

What’s it like to hear the new female pop stars who idolize you?

That makes me happy because I didn’t ever have children, but I feel like I have a lot of daughters. I love Vanessa Carlton. She’s like my younger, younger, younger sister — like if my dad had divorced my mother and married a really younger woman, then had Vanessa. I’m so much older than her, but yet there’s such a little silken thread between the two of us when it comes to music. I have that with Natalie Maines, LeAnn Rimes, Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum”.

There are some true female icons in music but there are few as big and respected as Stevie Nicks. She is a wonderful human who is hitting the road with Fleetwood Mac and will be busy this year – keep abreast of the Fleetwood Mac social media pages and see where she and the band are heading. I love the way she goes about life and how she has managed to inspire generations of artists. She is this super-cool person who is far deeper and more interesting than her peers and, when it comes to music, nobody has the same magic and oddity as she! Stevie Nicks is a treasure and heroine who has done so much to move music forward; so many great songs that we all know and love. Whereas some of her contemporaries look like slowing down and calling time, the immortal Stevie Nicks…


PHOTO CREDIT: Randee St Nicholas

WILL go on forever.