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“I believe I was definitely sent down here to take people away for a little while, to make them happy”
Success did not fall at the feet of Stevie Nicks, her rise to fame is not a silver-spoon story, it was a struggle of rejection, and hard work. Often forgotten is before she reached stratospheric heights, joining Fleetwood Mac in 1975, she was seasoned at 27 years of age. Nicks had spent years in the wilderness of Los Angeles, perfecting her art with longtime musical foil, and romantic partner Lindsey Buckingham.
The pair met in 1967 at Menlo-Atherton High School, California, playing in bands alongwith working on their own material. Between 1968 and 1971 Buckingham and Nicks played in, and wrote music for the psychedelic rock band Fritz. It was after that band fell apart in 1972 that the pair started work on their own album. Their joint venture, Buckingham-Nicks, released in September 1973 after a deal with Polydor, bombed terribly on release, with no hit singles to drive interest. However, it remains a perfect slice of West Coast Pop, albeit short at 35 minutes. But as a commercial disaster the couple were forced to pay bills taking jobs outside the industry, Nicks working as a cleaner and waitress while Buckingham worked on his craft.
The album Buckingham-Nicks does feel slightly filled in places, on any other album by a more established band the potential for hits is evident, “Crying In The Night,” “Don’t Let Me Down Again,” “Long Distance Winner,” and “Crystal” are all hits in the making, building to a monumental closer in “Frozen Love”.
The cover parades the beautiful people who created the beautiful album, but still this did not translate to sales. A tour of America’s Deep South followed an even though early versions of songs such as “Rhiannon”, and ‘Sorcerer’ were performed, it did little in the way of promoting the release, and it was not long before the couple lost their deal with Polydor.
Soaring harmonies against a country rock backdrop make this a more pleasurable experience than given credit, with many fine points that point in the direction that would guide Fleetwood Mac a little over two years later to the biggest hits of their career. There is a point to be made in stating Fleetwood Mac joined them instead and fattened their sound with the rhythmic talent of Fleetwood and Mcvie along with the undeniable talent of Christine. Fleetwood Mac entered this couple’s world and inherited all that was good about their style. The loose American rock sound drenched with harmony can be found heavy on Buckingham-Nicks.
On New Year’s Eve 1974, Mick Fleetwood was played a demo by then shared producer of the couple and the band Keith Olsen. Blown away Fleetwood sought out the couple to join the chart failing Fleetwood Mac. By July 1975, less than seven months after Buckingham and Nicks joined, the self titled White Album by Fleetwood Mac was released, hitting the number one spot in the U.S top 200 early in 1976 and spending approximately fifteen-months within the top 40.
The monster album Rumours came next, at its core it is the sound of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham sticking the emotional knife in one another and twisting it. By all accounts, this fighting would only subside when it came to recording the album itself. The dissolving of their relationship along with that of Christine and John McVie’s formed the inspirational backdrop for one of the greatest albums produced in the 20th Century.
Given its title, due to the media attention garnished to the inner turmoil within the band, untrue scenarios or less than just facts. Ultimately it was more than just rumours that fuelled the interest. The screaming matches between Nicks and Buckingham became legendary. In the studio to counteract this was the more upbeat songwriting of Christine McVie, giving a more optimistic view on life, or a light in relationship darkness. This factor is displayed to brilliant effect on her self-styled songs “Don’t Stop”, and “Songbird” along with the dripping positivity of “You Make Loving Fun”.
The interspersed songs of McVie, Buckingham and Nicks gave a greater scope and balance to the album, making sure its theme was not stuck in the mud of relationship disaster. Although they were working independently of one another, parts of three lives joined together that could work through the bad times. While Nicks and Buckingham used the music as a distracting tool from reality and from their deteriorating relationship.
The album as a whole is extremely relatable due to the overwhelming power of human need used to create it. A rage and anger fuelled album which plays out in a surprisingly upbeat manner. The caustic tension between the band members in turn spilled out to amazing effect on songs such as “Dreams”, Nicks ode to Buckingham, and of course his reply “You Can Go Your Own Way”.
The only track on the album Rumours credited to the whole band is the first song on side-two “The Chain”. This masterpiece is a few unfinished works spliced together, the lyrics done independently by Nicks, aimed at the main vocalist on the track, Buckingham. Although the reasoning of the chorus is the resilience of the band to withstand even the most powerful and personal emotional storms.
At any point on the album this is the moment when you feel the raw emotion in the voices singing, in beautiful pain to one another, the emotional rollercoaster would crash spectacularly.
“And if you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
We would never break the chain”.
Released in February 1977, preceded by Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way”, the album was immediately met with praise, proving the counterculture, hippy dream was still alive in the spiked hair assault of punk rebellion.
The success through the turbulence of Fleetwood Mac had thrown Stevie Nicks onto the pedestal of rock goddess. As the eighties approached an opportunity arose to establish her own sound free of the band constraints. Whilst Fleetwood Mac had created Stevie Nicks the legend, her solo work secured her legacy and still at times does.
In September 1981 Nicks released her debut solo album Bella Donna. Recorded over a two-year period during the making of the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk and the world tour that followed. Nicks achieved phenomenal fame with Fleetwood Mac, her songs became instant classic staples in the repertoire. The Rumours track “Dreams” gave Fleetwood Mac their only number one single in the States in March 1977. Her previous song “Rhiannon” became an instant classic still performed today over forty-years later.
It was no surprise that when her debut solo album hit the streets, it went to number one and achieving quadruple-platinum status within four months. It spent the next three-years on the billboard top 200. Bella Dona became an instant hit, containing some of Nick’s finest work including the instantly recognizable “Edge Of Seventeen”. The often sampled 16 bar guitar riff, simple but effectively used in a song of grief towards the loss of a relative, and the death of John Lennon. The effervescent vocal, focused, almost hypnotic in dragging you head first into her emotive world.
One might think this was the first song taken from the album to launch Stevie Nicks the solo artist, it was in fact the third, the first single taken from the album was in fact a collaboration with Tom Petty and his band The Heartbreakers with whom she had performed on stage during 1980.
“Stop Dragging My Heart Around”, the only song on the album not written or co-written by Nicks, originally a Heartbreakers track but at the insistence of producer Jim Lovine, Stevie got to record, and duet the track.
The second single from the album “Leather and Lace”’ a track originally wrote for Waylon Jennings on an album of the same name but never got used, instead Nicks done her own recording, another duet with Don Henley of the Eagles. Perhaps a slight insecurity that the first two singles from a debut solo album were duets, but _Bella Donna_does list a little over twenty-musicians used in its conception, although the one Tom Petty track is the only one she didn’t have a hand in writing.
The fourth and final single was a country and western based effort “After the Glitter Fades” is a song which the late Glen Campbell would record three-years later for his own album Letter To Home. By all accounts a masterpiece of a record and worthy successor to any Fleetwood Mac album, proving where Lindsey Buckingham brought a Stevie Nicks brought her soul into the bands music.
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