Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Gold Dust Woman

There are a fair number of books about Fleetwood Mac.  The most recent, as far as I can tell, is Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams & Rumors by Zoi Howe.  I read it, mostly to find out about her early years, up through the first couple of albums with the band that made her famous.

It's an odd story, in its way.  Born in 1948, she had a natural talent, not to mention looks.  She met her future partner Lindsey Buckingham when still in high school.  A few years later, she and he were part of a band called Fritz, achieving a certain amount of success in the late 60s/early 70s.  Eventually they realized (because others told them) they had the talent to make it on their own.

They got a record deal and put out on album in 1973.  It wasn't a hit, but insiders knew they had something.  These were the years of struggle.  Stevie was the breadwinner, doing jobs such as being a restaurant hostess, while Lindsey stayed home, perfecting his musical style.  He eventually went on tour playing guitar and doing vocals with Don Everly of the Everly Brothers.  Meanwhile, Stevie worked on her songs.

But for all their talent, they probably weren't going to be famous.  Until they were noticed by Mick Fleetwood.  The British band Fleetwood Mac had been around for years, and had seen a fair amount of success--perhaps not the absolute top, but degrees above Buckingham and Nicks.  There was much internal dissension, however, most recently with band member Bob Welch quitting and suing the others.  But the band, at the time just Mick with other original member John McVie and his wife Christine, were determined to go on.  Mick wanted Buckingham, but it was understood if he were hired, Stevie had to come along as well.

Ironically, though Mick and John were where the band's name came from, it was their three singers and songwriters, Stevie, Lindsey and Christine, who'd take them to new heights.  And, when you get down to it, Stevie--the one who didn't play an instrument--was probably the most important, both for image and music.

The first album this new grouping made, Fleetwood Mac, was the band's tenth.  (The band's first album was also called Fleetwood Mac, and this was like a rebirth.) None of their albums had been top ten, and most didn't even go gold, but this went to #1 and went multi-platinum.  Their next album two years later, Rumours, was even bigger, going diamond which is platinum times ten.

Of course, along with the success came a lot of drugs--cocaine especially--and strained relationships.  Some of their songs were about how painful things were--and the other had to sing backup.  (In fact, Rumours got its title from all the questions about who was sleeping with whom.) There were plenty more hit albums and singles to come, by both the band and Stevie solo--including her #1, multi-platinum Bella Donna--but it was all done when they were superstars. It was the out-of-nowhere rise of the band that was so surprising.

Let's look at those first two albums. Fleetwood Mac has one fine song after another.  Christine McVie creates standards such as "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me."  Lindsey Buckingham introduces "Monday Morning." But Stevie take the honors with "Landslide" and especially "Rhiannon," the highlight of many a concert and practically her theme song.

Next came Rumours, and from Christine we hear "Don't Stop" and "You Make Loving Fun."  From Lindsey "Second Hand News" and "Go Your Own Way." Stevie supplies not only "I Don't Want To Know" and "Gold Dust Woman," but once again provides the extra special number that puts it over the top, "Dreams"--the band's only #1 single in America.

Future hits from Stevie include "Sara," "Gypsy," and solo numbers like "Edge Of Seventeen."  Today, in her late 60s, she's still out there, performing.  And if Mick hadn't asked her and her boyfriend to join the group, maybe none of it would have happened.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great deal of American Horror Story season 3 is dedicated to the proposition that Stevie Nicks is witch casting spells while singing her lyrics.

I could see that

4:16 PM, July 29, 2015  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She can mess with my coven any time she likes.

9:07 PM, July 29, 2015  

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