Globe and Mail
May 12, 2001
Queen of pop takes common approach
Veteran singer Stevie Nicks says life has
TORONTO -- There was a time in the late eighties when an interview with Stevie Nicks had all the trappings of an audience with the Queen. Writers were paraded one-by-one into a hotel room to meet the Fleetwood Mac vocalist, who was perched high on a chair beside a table festooned with flowers, an ice bucket with champagne at her right hand.
It was the height of pretentiousness, a tableau that was entirely meant to imply the concept of rock star as royalty (or even deity) and it was as uncomfortable as hell.
Stevie Nicks doesn't remember it. But that's quite understandable, because she remembers very little from the period. She describes the whole era from 1986 to 1994 as "my black hole." They were, for Nicks, the Prozac years, when a well-intentioned doctor directed her to tranquilizers, such as Prozac and Klonopin, as a way of breaking her from the self-destructive cycle of cocaine and brandy binges that had marked the previous decade.
"The eight years that I took Prozac are the only real regret I have in my life," recounted the 53-year-old singer in Toronto recently. "Those eight years were a big, black hole. I didn't do anything good. I didn't write any good songs. I didn't have any good relationships, and I nearly lost all my friends.
"I did really strange things: I fired people; I didn't want to leave my house. But, when I got out of rehab, I went right home and started to write a new song with a way clearer outlook. How bad those eight years had been, and how many mistakes I had made."
Interestingly, Nicks says she has no regrets about the decade before that, when Fleetwood Mac was on top of the world, and her life was filled with cocaine, tabloid romance (including well-publicized affairs with the likes of Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham) and all the other trappings of the rock-star lifestyle.
"I really don't regret the cocaine and the brandy and the crazy nights between 1975 and 1985," she insists, "because at least something came out of that. But the Klonopin? Nothing came out of that. I really believe that if I hadn't gotten off those drugs, I would have been dead in another year. I would have overdosed on something really stupid like NyQuil or something, because when you're on those kind of drugs, you just want to have anything that is going to make you feel a little better."
Nicks was born on May 26, 1948, but it would seem that Jan. 26, 1994, marked her rebirth. It was the day she left rehab and began her life anew. She seems like an entirely different person from the Queen of Pop previously encountered. She is relaxed and warm, forthright and open, and greets each of a string of interviewers like an old friend, warmly clasping an extended hand with both of hers on departure.
She is in town to chat up her latest album, Trouble In Shangri-La, her first solo release since 1993's underwhelming Street Angel.
Trouble In Shangri-La is an attempt to revive a successful solo career that was being nurtured in and around her time with Fleetwood Mac, and which has included such hits as 1981's Bella Donna, 1983's The Wild Heart and 1985's Rock a Little. And while its been seven years since her previous solo release, those years were not without their rewards.
"Just as I was starting the album, the Fleetwood Mac reunion came along, and when Fleetwood Mac comes into the mix, everything stops. It's like, nothing's more important, you know? Everything stopped for everyone. And there was really four months leading up to it, then several months while we went in rehearsal and recorded the film The Dance, then we did press for three or four months, then we did 40 cities, then back for the Brits and the Grammys, and some TV in Germany, and before you knew it, two years had passed.
"Then I did The Enchanted Works [career retrospective] box set and worked with that, and by the time that was done, another year had gone by. By the time I got back from that, I sat down to get things back on track, and it was 'Oh My God, seven years has gone by.' "
It was a period of incredible change. A new surge of youthful artists had come to dominate the charts, and there were no guarantees that Nicks's music would be embraced.
"I remember about two years or so ago having a telephone conversation with Sheryl Crow, who has become a close friend. She said to me: 'We have to figure out a way to get you on the radio,' and I said, 'Yeah,' and I hung up, and as I walked away I thought: 'God, that's a chilling statement.' That chilled me right through to the bone. But she was right. How to get a song on the radio? It's not about albums any more. It's not about doing a beautiful record with 12 songs that people actually love and don't push fast forward on. So I just thought, I'm going to make the best record I can, and if any of it's commercial, great.
"I refused to think in terms of competing with Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera or 'N Sync or The Backstreet Boys. I didn't look at it that way. I just thought that I'd do what I always do, and if people don't like it, I'll move on to something else."
As it turns out, Trouble in Shangri-La is a terrific return to form for Nicks, and has garnered a string of four- and five-star reviews. It is backed by members of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers (among others) and features backing vocal contributions from the likes of Crow, Macy Grey, Sarah McLachlan and The Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines. But the overall effect is still very much that this is Nicks's show. Crow et al in no way steal the spotlight from the well-respected veteran.
"I think that they love what I do, or at least did, and that they could get something out of the experience. And that makes me feel really good. It also makes me feel like maybe I really am the grandmama of the scene. But that's okay. If I can teach these girls something, then that's good. I love that. They somehow look up to me, and I appreciate that. It makes me feel like I did something, you know?"
Given the success of Fleetwood Mac's 1997 reunion, it would seem logical that it would be about time for the whole process to be repeated. Apparently, it won't happen.
"We could have taken that tour around the world," she says with a sigh. "We could have made a hundred gazillion dollars, taken it to Australia and Japan and the Pacific Rim and South America. But Christine [McVie] didn't want to. She signed on for 30 dates, and that was it. But I have no resentment toward her. She had been doing this touring thing since she was 17, and she had had enough. I hadn't."
When all is said and done, that was the attitude that seems to sum up Stevie Nicks: warm, accepting, comfortable with the way things are. She is drug free and the creativity is flowing. The music she is making is as good as she has ever made, and she seems happy, centred and in control. It has been a long time coming.