Forget the tales of cocaine binges and Klonopin addiction. Forget the stale tales of rock ‘n’ roll excess and debauchery. Hard as it might be, also forget the played-out stories of high profile love affairs and even higher profile break-ups. Beyond the myths and legends, Stevie Nicks’ songs are a modern-day portal into the aching and longing heart. Stevie wrings melodies out of emotions and memories that might otherwise be hard to explain. After her 2001 album Trouble In Shangri-la, Stevie Nicks stated that she would not do another solo album. For fans like me the impact of this statement went far beyond a mere lack of new music. When Stevie Nicks released a new album it always miraculously defined my life at the time. A world without new Stevie Nicks’ music was my future without a constant and accurate voice. In the last ten years, I’ve continued to grow and relate to fewer and fewer of Stevie’s songs, as much as I loved them at the time they debuted. When Stevie Nicks announced last year she was indeed working on a new solo album with Dave Stewart, I was immediately elated. There would be new music for new times in my life by one of the few people who always seemed to hit the nail on the head, even though she’s never met me. With the album, In Your Dreams, now released and in exclusive rotation on my stereo, I’ve decided to take a stroll through the discography of Stevie Nicks. As beloved as they are to me, I left out the Fleetwood Mac albums. That’s another story that has to include my equally beloved Christine McVie. I have also opted to skip past compilations, anthologies, and live albums. Stevie Nicks has made seven solo albums and they have all been my life support, my guidance, my hope, my comfort, and my inspiration. On Stevie message boards there has been debates as to whether or not this new album is her “best.” For me, Stevie Nicks could never have a best album. She could only further build on her preexisting perfect collection of music. In Your Dreams adds another important and beautiful brick to the wall. Now to track some ghosts through the fog:
Bella Donna (1981)
Stevie’s first album was omnipresent in my life upon its release. My babysitter had it. My friends’ parents had it. My cousin had it. My six year old imagination was enamored by the magical lady with blue-lit hair gazing through a tambourine on the back cover. The electricity of Bella Donna is as noticeable now as it was thirty years ago. The musicians and Stevie herself were in their defining moment. This was Stevie Nicks’ “it” moment and the exuberance was magical. The music caught the tail end of the pop/rock/country hybrid that rose to prominence in the mid-70s and faded shortly after Bella Donna. This was Stevie Nicks’ greatest selling solo album and both the commercial and artistic signpost by which all her other albums would be compared. The rambling and epic title track opened the album. It’s hard to imagine poetry like “Bella Donna” getting radio play like it once did. “Bella Donna” was so poetic and massive it didn’t need to bother with a hook or proper chorus. And despite its pomp everyone I knew could sing every word to the song, back when the singles weren’t the only track that everyone knew and loved.
My Greatest Bella Donna Memory:
In 1993 I graduated from high school and it was the first year I had my driver’s license. I was taking a drive on the outskirts of town and probably running late for nothing important. I was driving down Berry Road and I heard bells and watched the arms in front of a railroad crossing descend. My CD must have been between songs because right as the locomotive approached Waddy Wachtel’s opening guitar riff in “Edge Of Seventeen” began. I remember the ferocity of my bloodstream as the energy of youth mixed with the energy of the train and the energy of the song. This was the only time in my life I was ever witness to such power. I will never forget it.
“And the days go by like a strand in the wind…”
The Wild Heart (1982)
The first time I heard “Stand Back” I was driving to the beach with my babysitter Amy Edgerton. I was seven years old and I knew the moment the lyrics started that this was Stevie Nicks and that this wasn’t a song that was on any of the records I owned. This new Stevie Nicks’ song harbored a then-very modern synthesized pulse unlike anything Stevie had done before. Upon first hearing “Stand Back” I knew it was important and I knew it was going to be huge. I remember the day I bought The Wild Heart album. The cover was enchanting. Cast in warm purple light, three mysterious Stevie Nicks were superimposed atop each other. Simple but iconic. The “Wild Heart” logo itself drew me in, looking as chilly and powerful now as it did then. Like Bella Donna this new album opened with a wordy and massive title track. The vocals on “Wild Heart” are as unbridled and emotional as the title would suggest. I once read Wilson Phillips landed their record deal by singing “Wild Heart” a capella. I would have loved to have heard that. “Nightbird” is chilly and distant while “If Anyone Falls” is propelled by a steely synth line that could have only happened in 1982. While touring in 2006,my guitar player and I had “If Anyone Falls” on repeat, nearly peeing our pants making fun of how primitive but perfect that damn synth line was. I was punished later that night when during my set I lost my voice due to singing along to “I see your shadow against the wall” a little too accurately too many times.
My Greatest Wild Heart Memory:
In 2005 Stevie Nicks came to Tampa during one of the craziest weeks of my life. My overly romantic mind had tracked down someone I was in love with when I lived in Buffalo ten years earlier. I moved the boy to Tampa without having seen him in a decade. Upon his arrival he was still beautiful, however, he’d acquired an addition to meth. After living with me for four days I watched the boy I loved for so many years leave with an eighty-year-old man that would pay his rent and buy him drugs. This was the first time I’d seen Stevie solo and I kept my composure for the entire concert, at least until the last song. I left my phone in the car so I wouldn’t be constantly disappointed that he hadn’t called. Stevie closed the concert with “Beauty And The Beast,” one of her most grandiose and emotional ballads. Halfway through the song I felt the urge to run. I had to get to my phone. I had to make sure he didn’t call me and realize he made a mistake when he left. So I ran. I ran through the muddy parking lot towards my car hoping my phone would be blinking when I got there. Further and further in the distance was the live voice of Stevie Nicks singing about impossible love. I wasn’t in control of my own legs. I was running controlled by hope and unbearable heartache. Running toward a phone locked in a glove box. A phone that didn’t have a message from that boy. I got to my car and there was just one text message from my friend Kelsey. I will never forget that empty night or the power of “Beauty and The Beast”.
“My love is man who’s not been tamed…”
Rock A Little (1985)
By the time Stevie’s third album was released I was in fifth grade and my peers were now also interested in pop music instead of just toys and cartoons. At this time Stevie was still hip and I remember hearing the first single “Talk To Me” and loving it. It was Christmas 1985 and we exchanged presents at my Grandma Supkoski’s house. I could take by the shape of the package that one of my presents was a record, but I had no idea what it was. I hungrily ripped off the wrapping paper and found myself with a copy of Stevie Nicks’ new album Rock A Little. I was an ecstatic ten-year-old. Rock A Little completely forwent the earthy sound of any previous Stevie Nicks album. The album’s opener “I Can’t Wait” was a slamming hi-tech dance track. Even the album’s more organic moments (“I Sing For The Things”) were overshadowed by the oh-so-80s sythns of “Sister Honey” and “If I were You.” Rock A Little is still essential in that it may be the most fun and campy Stevie Nicks album, even if the lyrics are amongst her darkest and most angry. It would also be the last time it was “cool” to like Stevie Nicks for many many years.
My Greatest Rock a Little Memory:
There were different eras of my life when I dealt with depression, but the very first long span was when I lived in Buffalo in 1996. After a super-fun winter came an earth-crashing spring. My memories of that spring were eating free Arch Deluxe sandwiches at McDonald’s (a short-lived promotion) and endlessly watching the VHS tape of Stevie Nicks’ “Rock A Little Tour.” The Stevie Nicks Live At Red Rocks video captured Stevie right before she was checked into rehab for cocaine addiction. In the video you will see and hear a completely unbridled, strung out, and passionate to the max Stevie Nicks. (Interspersed with cheesy 1980s close-up shots filmed months later and sloppily dubbed in. This doesn’t detract from the camp. It adds to it.) At this point in my life I forged a strong connected to this version of Stevie Nicks. The explosive passion and realness spoke to me. I could recite the concert from beginning to end including the in-between-song dialogue. I still can. If ever anyone wanted to question the intensity of Stevie Nicks, please YouTube “Stevie Nicks Edge Of Seventeen Red Rocks.” Fast forward to 4:55 and let it play for about a minute.
“Go ahead Lily … hit it.”
The Other Side Of The Mirror (1989)
By the year 1989 Stevie Nicks wasn’t cool anymore. Although I was a huge fan since I was very young, when her new single “Rooms On Fire” dropped I took little interest. With Madonna, Paula Abdul, and Janet Jackson rocking my ears, a heavier Stevie Nicks with bad hair wasn’t in the least bit interesting to me. The Other Side Of The Mirror passed by as the Stevie Nicks album I never bought. I was transferring my music collection from vinyl to CD at this point. Stevie Nicks was lost in the shuffle, both in her personal life and in my music collection. Years later it would emerge that Nicks was severely addicted to the painkiller Klonopin which caused Stevie to gain weight, space out, and forget the years 1987-1993. Although the painkiller addiction undoubtedly hindered Nicks’ career, I always felt this album wouldn’t have done well despite this. Pop culture had changed. Most of the 1970s heroes were looked at as passe. Stevie’s lovely Alice In Wonderland red dress would never have captured the imagination of the public consciousness at this time no matter what. As the 1980s came to a close Stevie Nicks’ hair and outfits reached a peak level of awfulness. The world hadn’t seen a public figure this bedazzled and washed up since Vegas Elvis. The crystal visions had been replaced with rhinestones. In 1993 I was finally getting around to owning all of my former vinyl on CD. It was then I found The Other Side Of The Mirror in a used CD bin for $4.99. Only months earlier I re-discovered the magic of Stevie’s first three albums so I figured I’d take a chance on the fourth. When I finally got around to playing the album I realized that this was another essential classic collection of Stevie Nicks music. I’d been missing out all these years. Maybe it was her bad outfits, but it was more likely bad timing. “Rooms On Fire” is a romantic classic. “Long Way To Go” is Stevie at her angry best. “Ooh My Love” is majestic and “Doing The Best I Can” may be the most gothic, dark, and serious song in the entire Stevie Nicks repertoire. The Other Side Of The Mirror is Stevie’s self-proclaimed magic album and she’s telling the truth. Hazy, gauzy, and foggier than any other Nicks album. It’s an underrated classic. I remember my best girl friend was dating a fly white boy. It was the summer of 1993 and he wanted to show off the banging stereo in his Jeep Tracker. Not only did my friend and I double team him, but I also made him play “Alice” by Stevie Nicks just so I could hear how great that moog bass sounded in his ride. The bass sure was big, but he was bigger!
My Greatest Other Side of the Mirror Memory:
I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1996 and it was the most ill-advised decisions of my life. I moved with little mental preparation and with a combustible group of people. I’d lay in bed wishing someone would shoot me while walking to work the next day. But when I was awake the music of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks provided release. I was going about my normal depressing Atlanta life when the track “Juliet” came on. I usually skipped this song but for some reason this time my ears perked up. The lyrics slapped me in the face. The lyrics took my shoulders and shook me until my skull hurt. After listening to “Juliet” one time I decided I was going to leave Atlanta in seven days. The lyrics were my exact story at that exact moment. An answer in waiting. I had a friend visiting from New York. In those days before she got there I had gotten rid of most of my stuff. I begged her to take me back with her. She did. Within two weeks I was alive and back in the Northeast. Of all the times a song has affected my life, this was the most important. Had I not heard “Juliet” at that very time and place, maybe I’d be in Atlanta, or maybe I’d be dead.
“Get some ribbons and some bows…get back out on the road…”
Street Angel (1994)
By the time Street Angel came out in 1994 the world had written off Stevie Nicks. Stevie was regulated to the reject pile of washed up former beauties and rock stars. Street Angel was released with little fanfare. I only heard the lead single “Maybe Love Will Change Your Mind” once or twice on the radio. In a way this made Street Angel the most special Stevie Nicks album to me. Since Stevie no longer belonged to the world, it was like this album was for me and me only. Throughout the album some of the worst cliches of Stevie’s music were put front row and center. Instead of providing glorious harmonies like on past records, her back-up singers Sharon and Lori inserted ill-placed and awkward “Whoo hoos” on multiple songs. Even lyrically at times it seemed as if Nicks was making a parody out of her own legacy. “There’s no beauty and the beast here, no no no!” Street Angel even sounded different than any other Stevie Nicks album. Gone was the synthesized glossiness of her late 80s work and even further gone was the tight highly professional country-rock hybrid of her first two albums. In many ways Street Angel sounded like the house bar band went and recorded an album in someone’s garage. But all those things one could hate about Street Angel are also what makes it so endearingly lovable. If ever there was a time when I felt it was just Stevie and me, it was then. She was living on the outskirts of her former rock and roll glory and I was a punk kid living homeless picking out of garbage cans in a small town: A street angel, indeed. Years later I still love this album. The only song I hate is the last song “Jane.” “Unconditional Love” is a sweeping pop song, “Blue Denim” is breezy rock-and-roll, and the mandolin on “Maybe Love Will Change Your Mind” is gorgeous. I rank “Kick It,” a song in which Stevie likens love to an addiction, among her best. Stevie would later explain that she too hated this album. That’s a shame. Street Angel is lovable in her own way. Street Angel may not be Stevie’s most lauded albums…but it will probably be the one that will always be closest to my heart. Because that time and that time only…it felt like all I had was Stevie and that all Stevie had was me.
Favorite Street Angel Memory:
There was a restaurant near my apartment in Tampa called “The Gardens” that was open for years. Before band practice we’d go eat there every Monday. It was one of those places that made you feel like it was 1983 all over again when you walked in. Wood paneling. Old red booths with ripped leather seats. Dimly lit. For a period of time we always got his heavy blonde waitress with caked-on makeup and huge blonde hair. (Much like Stevie in the early 90s.) She was always painstakingly slow and forgetful. One day while she was approaching our table I realized that if this waitress were ever to have TV theme music, it would be the drum intro to Stevie Nicks’ song “Street Angel.” From that day on every time she approached our table to take our orders, the music from “Street Angel” played in my head. And of course we never knew her name, but my friends and I will always remember her as Street Angel.
Trouble In Shangri-La (2001)
There had been talk of a new Stevie Nicks solo album for years. Then an extremely successful Fleetwood Mac reunion happened that restored Stevie’s integrity and legendary status. Then a Stevie Nicks box set and tour happened. There were talks about a Courtney Love song: Sheryl Crow productions, Dallas Austin involvement, a Macy Gray composition. After years of tentative talks, finally in 2001, Trouble In Shangri-La reared its beautiful head. I remember the first time I heard “Planets Of The Universe.” After demo versions of this track had floated around for years, here was a fully produced, modern, relevant, and breathtaking version. It sounded so NOW (for 2001) and so STEVIE. I was blown away. Track-by-track I was floored by Trouble In Shangri-La. Despite a slew of producers and a series of marketable high-profile cameos the album retained a singular identity. Stevie hadn’t sounded this invested in years. When Stevie went into her long-unused falsetto on couple tracks I momentarily lost my breath. What was also commendable was how the batch of older songs that were finally recorded (“Candlebright”, “Sorcerer”, “Planets Of The Universe”) seemed to go hand in hand with the strongest of the newly written tracks (“Fall From Grace”, “Bombay Sapphires”, “Love Is”, etc). The album had a couple lulls (namely “That Made Me Stronger”) but Trouble In Shangri-La at its worst far exceeded late 80s Stevie at her best. Even more exciting for the first time since The Wild Heart a Stevie Nicks album opened with an epic and rambling title track. It felt good to be back home. These were songs about looking past the catastrophes that sit before you and seeing the beautiful ocean beyond. In one of the songs Stevie asks herself “why am I always so intense?” as I asked myself the same thing. Seems me and Stevie were on the same page for the eight thousandth time. I loved every song on this album and I still do. I bought the album the day it came out at midnight. My hands shook as I opened the shrink wrap. Back then people still had release-day fever…and with Shangri-La we got to do it with Stevie one last time. Track-by-track, as the album played, I knew Stevie Nicks had created a modern day classic…and the album that would explain my own life and thoughts in the early 2000s. Show me the way back, honey.
Favorite Trouble in Shangri-La Moment:
I went on a short tour of New York in 2006 to promote my Now’s The Right Time To Feel Good album. The trip was difficult partly due to the apprehension I had about revisiting the people and places of my pre-Tampa life. It was also difficult because my romantic relationship at the time split up. Oh I was goddamned mess. Somewhere on the stretch of highway 83 between Olean and Binghamton the chaos and stress of my life descended. I needed to cry. I needed to fucking cry. I never cry and this emotional constipation had to end. If there was ever to be an emotional laxative for me it’s Nicks. And so I played “Love Is” for an hour straight driving down the New York highway and cried…and cried and cried. Hearing that song today still brings me back to that highway. I remember the temperature. The placement of the sun. The smell of my tears. And the way the tires sounded on the pavement as the song faded.
“It’s about love…”
In Your Dreams (2011)
I was walking under the biggest roller coaster at my job when I noticed I had a text message. It was from my friend Caitlin. “New Stevie Nicks album possibly this year!!” I jumped up and down on the spot. I didn’t care who saw. I didn’t care if the people who saw made fun of me to my face. This was the best way to start a day I could ever imagine. When I first heard Stevie was collaborating with David Stewart I was apprehensive. I loved Eurythmics but Dave’s production work was hit (Marianne Faithfull) and miss (Nina Hagen, Sinead O’Connor) for me. All doubts were eventually buried as the year unfolded. Throughout 2010 details emerged about the forthcoming Nicks album and all signs pointed to “hell yes”. Warner Brothers Records skillfully kept everyone hungry for details. Out of nowhere the first single (“Secret Love”) and first promo shots were released along with an announcement of a tour with Rod Stewart. That same day the title of the album was revealed: In Your Dreams. If ever there was a perfect title for a Stevie Nicks album it was this. My anticipation for the album was ravenous. With many of my favorite recording artists in retirement or completely washed up it had been years since I’d check a fan site multiple times a day. Many people begin their day with The New York Times. Mine always began with Nicks Live. When the sizzle reel previewing the album was released I was hooked. I easily watched that two minute video thirty times. At sixty two Stevie Nicks seemed to be approaching one of the most inspired phases of her career. In late April with the album only a week away from release fans were beginning to get worried. There was little buzz and the album hadn’t leaked. After the massive amount of hype and anticipation was the album going to silently be released and slip away unnoticed? The next day the entire album was streaming on Rolling Stone’s website. My wireless connection was being a bitch and I spent hours trying to find a lost Internet cable under my rug. For three nights I laid on my bedroom floor – my ears glued to my laptop. All fears were put to rest. Stevie Nicks had returned. From the first listen I knew these songs were going to be with me for the rest of my life. Right on cue In Your Dreams neatly and accurately summarized my life and heart at this exact moment. In Your Dreams finds Stevie Nicks ultra inspired. The title track surges with an innocent enthusiasm that’s been missing since The Wild Heart. “Wild Sargasso Sea” finds Stevie channeling a wildness unheard since 1989‘s “Whole Lotta Trouble”. “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)” is a tragic modern day love song. There isn’t a weak song on In Your Dreams. While Stevie’s old music assisted in dealing with the wildness of my heart…her new album comes from a place of inner peace and resolution. Despite the vampires, wild Englishmen, dead ghosts, and ravaged cites – to be sane in this life there’s little we can do but come in out of the darkness. After all, it is a beautiful day.
Favorite In Your Dreams Memory:
I haven’t lived it yet. Get back to me in a few years.