Stevie Nicks of Time|
by Rex Rutkoski
I want people to know if I can get through something, anybody can. I try never to leave them with a depressing feeling."
Stevie Nicks has been told that her lyrics often are sad, as well as uplifting.
That seems to be the perfect fit for this member of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, whose career has been filled with plenty of both emotions.
"I think if you are really into words and poetry and situations of life, there is always a little kiss of sadness on everything you do," she explains. "It's just the kind of person I am. I always look carefully beneath the outward appearance of things. I want to know what's really going on in somebody's heart."
She lays that heart on the line with ENCHANTED, the ambitious three-CD boxed set that touches down on many moments of her life, from 1965 when she was 17, when she penned her second song, "Rose Garden," to the present. It is a 46-track retrospective that includes eight previously unreleased cuts - 20 tracks total that have never appeared on a previous Nicks album. There are studio demos, live tracks and songs she has written for motion pictures, together with her 12 Top 40 hits.
"All these songs are about some heavy things. To hear all those songs in a group, I didn't even realize that my life was that intense," she says.
Nicks says she writes from her experiences and those her friends, relatives and others share with her. "I write about people and what's really going on. I don't make up stories," she says.
She hopes that people feel about her music the way she feels about a certain book she might carry with her on the road or back and forth to her Phoenix home.
"There are certain books that have become dear to me, and I'm always going to have with me," she says. "I'm going to read a page of this and it will tell me something about what is happening now."
In the same way, she explains, she would like some of her songs, like many of those on ENCHANTED, to hold specific meaning for people - "so when they hear it, it makes them feel a little better about life."
These days, Nicks seems to be feeling good about her life - professionally and personally. Sober since 1993, after battling addictions to cocaine and tranquilizers, she also overcame major eye surgery, the Epstein-Barr virus and lost 30 pounds. She feels today, she says, like the old Stevie again.
The much-heralded reunion tour of Fleetwood Mac last year was a commercial and critical triumph, as well as a lot of fun, Nicks says. The band seemed to become a family again.
Now Nicks once more is exploring her solo side with the boxed set, a tour and plans to work on another solo studio album this fall.
"I feel just like a teacher in an incredible school that has incredible tenure," she says. "I've been doing this so long and put so much of my time and life into it, when and if I decide to leave is when it will be over for me."
At 50 (May 26), she has earned her place as an enduring woman in rock and roll, and she intends to keep it as long as the music continues to inspire her.
The songstress says she is not a person who will ever drag something out. "I'll stop when it's time. Nobody will push me out. I'm very proud and very defensive when it comes to that," she says. "All these new kids coming in, that's terrific. I'm really knocked out. I wish somebody would come along that is another Hendrix or be as good as a Zeppelin."
There is no better time for her, she says, than when she is inspired by something and feels compelled to write. "A line will come in my head and I'll tell friends I'm with, 'I'm going to write tonight. Go have a good time. I need to write this down.'"
Her creative spirit was challenged during the second through fourth years in Fleetwood Mac, she says. "It was a huge money-making machine, with limos and jets and drugs and crazy people all around all the time," she explains. "That's why I really hated that time in my life, because the spiritual sort of went away. It has taken awhile to get it all back. I never got married or had children. I kind of gave it up for music. When I write a song and know I'm saying something important for me to say to everybody, that's my greatest love."
Increasingly, she finds comfort in her writing. "I love to go into a room with my typewriter and some alternative, instrumental jazz," she says. "I just have so much fun typing so fast, smiling and kind of talking to myself. I'm in my own world. I like to read it back to people to kind of see their reaction and see if it means something to them. If it means something to them, it means something to me. I know my experiences are not that different from everybody else."
She sees herself today as an improved writer, in both song and prose. "As we get older, we achieve a wisdom. I feel I've come a long way since '75 when I joined Fleetwood Mac," she says.
The Arizona native cannot see her life in any other way. "I can't really imagine what else I would do," says Nicks, who will perform at Blossom this Tuesday, June 2. "If I didn't write songs and write journalistically and perform and dance, I really don't know what I would do."
It does seem to have been her life. She met musician Lindsey Buckingham while in high school in San Francisco. They played in Fritz, a rock group that performed throughout California from 1968-71, even opening for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater and Chicago.
It was in the mid-1970s that they recorded the critically acclaimed BUCKINGHAM NICKS album that caught the ear of Mick Fleetwood and won them an invitation to join the then-struggling British blues-rock band, Fleetwood Mac. The rest is history, as the duo helped re-energize the band, which went on to supergroup status in the '70s and '80s.
Though she did not officially leave the band until Fleetwood Mac's command performance for President Clinton at his inauguration party, she began her solo work in 1980 with the BELLA DONNA project. "It was one of those times when I was very disenchanted with the whole rock and roll life," she recalls of that period. "I was too tired to feel very creative or to be very spiritual. I felt like I was a mom to a lot of children. 'Bella Donna' means 'beautiful lady' and also 'poisonous herb.' I felt somewhere between the two images. This whole life can just kill you. I was looking for some sort of balance when I wrote that song. I was constantly looking for something to lead me out of it. I was not in a happy place."
What she did need to have, she says, was a relationship with the people who listened to her music. "I didn't want to be just this chiffon girl. I need to really, really write for them and need them to know it. From that point, I set upon developing an intimate relationship with the kids who listen. With every song I write, I really try to express a situation. I want people to know if I can get through something, anybody can. I try never to leave them with a depressing feeling."
Nicks believes that female artists can bring a sensitivity to people. "They can make women and men understand how important it is to really be good to each other and be sensitive," she says.
It can be more difficult for a woman in music than a man, says Nicks, "but I also think I've been really lucky." She reminds that she and Buckingham joined a name, veteran band, though it was struggling at the time. "I went from being a waitress and a cleaning lady to being rich and famous overnight - in six months," she says. "I don't think I had near the difficulties most women have."
She is leaving the door open on the possibility that Fleetwood Mac will have more projects. "The good outnumbered the bad parts," she says of the time with the band. "I can't imagine my life without Fleetwood Mac. Everything I do now is all linked to that."
Ardent followers of little "Welsh Witch" Stevie Nicks are sure to enter seventh heaven and spasm in delight upon hearing and seeing the contents of ENCHANTED, her new three-disc boxed set. Even as boxed sets go, Nicks has put together a rather impressive package.
There are 46 tracks (about three and a half hours of music), including songs that legitimately qualify as "greatest hits" and favorites, hand-picked Nicks from her six solo releases. The essentials are all here - "If Anyone Falls," "Edge Of Seventeen," "Blue Denim," "Leather And Lace" and the benchmark hit "Stand Back," just to name a few.
You'll also find 20 songs that have never appeared on a Nicks disc, both little and well-known B-side selections like "One More Big Time Rock And Roll Star," "Garbo" and "Thousand Days." Nicks sounds great on a previously unreleased live rendering of "Edge Of Seventeen," recorded during the BELLA DONNA tour.
Collaborations like "Gold" (with John Stewart), "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (with Tom Petty) and "When Ever I Call You Friend" (with Kenny Loggins) are all welcome additions to the collection, but the granddaddy of them all has to be "Long Distance Winner," a track from 1973's BUCKINGHAM/NICKS release.
There are also a few special demo tracks that made the set. She offers a very bare-bones rendering (keyboards and mandolin) of "Twisted," recorded for the TWISTED soundtrack. Also cool is the demo of Dorsey Burnette's (father of onetime Fleetwood Mac guitarist Billy Burnette) country classic "It's Late," where Nicks pulls off a rather convincing bit of acoustic rockabilly. As an answer to prayers of the longtime Nicks/Mac faithful, Nicks caps the collection with a piano and voice version of "Rhiannon" (with extended solo). It's simplicity at its best.
There are more treats for the ears here, like a new track, "Reconsider Me," penned by Warren Zevon, but there are a lot of eye treats, too. The 64-page accompanying booklet is loaded with tons of rare photos of Nicks and friends, spanning her career. She includes a few pages of written memories and the occasional photo comments, making this a must-have for Nicks fans and collectors.