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If there's one thing I've learned in life, it's that "time makes you bolder." And Stevie Nicks is getting older, too. Yes, this year the Gold Dust Woman turned 70 on May 26th, and as a musician "taken by the wind" she seems to show no signs of slowing down.
The band that made her a household name, Fleetwood Mac, is about to embark on another tour (albeit sans guitarist Lindsey Buckingham), and earlier this year she and her band mates received the MusiCares "Person of the Year" award. Nicks even became "meme-worthy" when her song "Dreams" was included on a meme that went viral.
Looking back on her forty-five years in the music industry, Nicks has proven herself a fashion icon, a musical influence for aspiring female musicians, and one of rock's most celebrated songwriters. She's responsible for such enduring hits like "Rhiannon," "Landslide," "Dreams," "Gold Dust Woman," "Edge of Seventeen," and "Stand Back," but she has also written many other songs that are as valuable as any of those other classic rock mainstays.
In honor of her 70th birthday, here's a list of Stevie Nicks deep cuts (listed in chronological order):
The only Nicks-penned tune with ex-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham on lead vocals, "Crystal" has popped up multiple times throughout Stevie's career, first introduced on the Buckingham Nicks LP, then as a track on the duo's debut with Fleetwood Mac in 1975.
Almost a bookend to Nicks' classic "Landslide," the lyrics showcase a theme of reflection and emotional growth: "How the faces of love have changed turning the pages / And I have changed, oh but you, you remain ageless..."
Nicks would ultimately dust off this song some twenty years later, as a contribution to the Practical Magic soundtrack, this time with her own weathered voice as lead.
Fleetwood Mac's Tusk is one of the most widely discussed and revered albums in the band's discography. A passion project for guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, he took over the production reins and directed the follow-up to the mega-hit Rumours in a completely different direction. The double-album is dominated by Buckingham songs reflecting early New Wave, but some remnants remain of the familiar Mac sound--particularly Nicks' contributions.
While the pleasant "Sara" became a top ten hit from an otherwise less radio-friendly album, "Storms" leaves the listener emotionally exhausted. "Every hour of fear I spend / My body tries to cry / Living through each empty night / A deadly call inside..." The sparse guitar strings and ghostly background vocals set a dark and depressing tone, but Nicks' raw lyrics and fragile vocals help make this deep cut one of her most heartbreaking compositions.
Stevie's debut solo album included some of her biggest hits, including the Tom Petty duet "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" and the Grammy-nominated "Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White-Winged Dove)." While those tracks typically show up in her usual solo set lists, this deep cut used to be an opener, even though it was never a big hit.
With a breezy drum beat reminiscent of "Dreams," Nicks delivers a moody tune about the struggle of finding love and getting it to stick. "Love is a word that some entertain," Nicks sings. "If you find it, you have won the game..."
Sometimes a prolific songwriter such as Nicks has an abundance of tracks that are produced for an album, yet ultimately get cut for run time. Sometimes those lost tracks get sanctioned for use on a film soundtrack, as has been the case for many songs in Nicks' catalog, including this underrated gem that was used for this eighties classic movie.
On an album busting with some of the era's most notable artists, including The Go-Go's and Oingo Boingo, Nicks' song is a quieter ballad. Stevie begins to sing "Take me if you need me, but never hold me down / You're asking me to trust you, well there's little of that around..." just as Jennifer Jason Leigh's character is left abandoned by the father of her unborn child, and the words serve as a poignant moment in this quintessential teen comedy.
After a debut solo album that reached number one on the Billboard charts and a string of top twenty hit singles, there was really no need for Nicks to return to Fleetwood Mac. But as she has always defended, her solo career was never meant as a severing of ties with the band. She cut short a successful tour to get back to work with the other members to release Mirage, the band's first album released in a post-MTV culture.
While Nicks' "Gypsy" would become an endearing hit for the band (as well as be the first MTV music video to cost $1 million), it's this country-tinged song that's an underrated standout. Finding herself at the proverbial train station, Nicks writes about moving on and leaving her lover, and hoping he's able to "find a love, [his] own designs of love, that's alright..."
Dubbed "The Queen of Rock and Roll" by Rolling Stone magazine in the early eighties, Nicks has never really ventured into rockabilly territory, until this song was recorded for her sophomore album The Wild Heart. Backed by what sounds like an unused piano riff by Jerry Lee Lewis, Stevie channels an aching Wanda Jackson on verses such as "Love don't mean what it says at all / And my destiny says I was destined to fall..."
Released during the "post-cocaine habit/pre-Klonopin addiction" phase of Stevie's career, TOSOTM tends to be a forgotten album in Stevie's repertoire (Even her set lists tend to neglect adding any songs from this album). Aside from one single released, "Rooms on Fire," the tracks on this underrated album boast some of Stevie's best work, including "Ooh My Love."
Using medieval imagery of castle walls and corridors, Stevie crafts a fairy tale of a woman separated from her long lost love, and the pain and torment it causes her: "It was a strain on her / Watching her castles fall down / Ooh, but there was a time when he called her angel...".
Nicks has always had a fondness for fantasy and romance within her lyrics, and considering how this album was produced at a castle in Buckinghamshire, England, she had more than enough inspiration for solid songwriting.
While most songs in Stevie's repertoire are about hopeless romantics and mystical women, she rarely writes about her troubled history with drug addiction, including her highly publicized stint at the Betty Ford Clinic in the mid-eighties. Yet we get a slight idea about what she went through in this track off her first solo album post-rehab experience.
"In my distress, well I wanted someone to blame me/In my devastation, I wanted so to change / In my way, disaster was the only thing I could depend on..." Balancing a rock and roll lifestyle between one of the most successful bands in rock history, as well as your own burgeoning solo career, can take its toll. With this song, Nicks understands that her choices with reaching the top ultimately found her hitting rock bottom.
The Mac's first album of new material in the new millennium reflected a change in lineup (Christine McVie took early retirement after the massive success of their comeback album The Dance in the late nineties) and a change in the social landscape.
The September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center were still fresh and relevant, and Nicks happened to be in New York supporting her last solo effort at the time, Trouble in Shangri-La, at the same time. As the prolific songwriter that she is, Nicks was inspired by those events to write a song about loss and despair, dropping slight references to New York City, whose coastline glitters "like a diamond snake in a black sky." "I cannot pretend / That the heartache falls away / It's just like a river, it's never-ending..." With all the pain and loss after the events of 9/11, Nicks perfectly captured those emotions with this song.
As Nicks was battling cocaine addiction in the eighties, she found a kindred spirit in actress Mabel Normand. Upon watching a documentary about the ill-fated silent film star, Nicks related to the Normand's lifestyle and dealings with the excesses of fame and downfall, and was inspired to write a song that would ultimately see the light of day on her most recent album.
"She did her work / But her heart was quietly crying / I guess she even felt guilty / About even dying..." Nicks has always had a penchant for writing deeply personal songs, yet with this track she manages to write about the tragic lifestyle of someone who had taken a similar path to stardom.
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