Stevie Nicks: Back to Mac
by Michael Goldburg
OAKLAND---The older man in the grey suit who stepped up to the microphone looked like somebody's dad. He was. "Ladies and gentlemen," he announced. "Please welcome my daughter, Stevie Nicks." It was an emotional moment for both the father and the daughter. For golden-voiced Stevie Nicks, performing before a near sellout crowd of over 10,000 people at the Oakland Coliseum as a solo artist was the fulfillment of a dream she has harbored for over a decade. "This is the big one for me," Nicks told the audience at the beginning of the concert.
An hour-and-a-half later, after singing most of "Bella Donna" and many of her contributions to the Fleetwood Mac songbook, Nicks was in tears. "You guys....," she told her adoring fans, many of whom were holding up lit matches and flaming lighters. "From the very start all I ever wanted to do was play San Francisco and be accepted."
Nicks may not have been playing San Francisco proper, but she was close enough. In the late '60s, she was a student at San Jose State College, while attempting to get a toe-hold in the Bay Area circuit singing in a "psychedelic rock band" called Fritz. "I was really a hippie and I'm still very similar," Nicks says. "I just have nicer hippie things now. My influences were straight out of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. For me, in terms of what I was going to do on stage and sing and write, that was my rock 'n' roll bible. They were my teachers. San Francisco was the whole reason I did this. My town!"
Stevie Nicks has come a long way since she last lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1972. Now, of course, the 33-year-old singer/songwriter who was responsible for Fleetwood Mac's breakthrough hit, "Rhiannon," is a genuine rock 'n' roll superstar. And with the platinum-plus success of her first solo album, "Bella Donna," two Top 40 hits -- "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" (a duet with Tom Petty) and "Leather and Lace" (a duet with former Eagle Don Henley) -- and a successfully completed mini-tour, Stevie Nicks can now leave Fleetwood Mac behind and devote herself solely to her solo career -- if she wants to.
For now, the singer with the romantically raspy voice and the innocent eyes denies that she has any intention of her and the Big Mac parting ways. "No," she asserts, "I never see myself leaving Fleetwood Mac. That's never a thing that I walk around seeing. If it happens, it just must be God's will. I really believe that the spirit world guides that whole thing and if it's not meant for me to be in Fleetwood Mac anymore, then something will happen and I won't. It would never be anything I would ever plan. It's gone on for so long that it's like, it's kind of like, would you ever not go home to visit your family on Christmas? It's that big a part of your life."
Still, Nicks admits that Fleetwood Mac's last studio album, "Tusk" was not exactly up her alley. "Well, "Tusk" wasn't MY album. "Tusk" was mainly Lindsey's conception, dream, everything he ever wanted to do. Everybody just figured that for whatever his reasons were, it was important that he do that and we just sort of sat back and let him do it. I don't mean to sound blase or anything. I was there. I just didn't have very much to do with it. Because if I had had much to do with it, it wouldn't have been a double album and it wouldn't....it wouldn't have been crazy."
"Bella Donna" was released only a few months before Lindsey Buckingham's first solo album "Law and Order," was released. Buckingham recently stated in the L.A. Times that he felt competitive with his former lover. Asked if she feels likewise, Nicks says firmly, "Not at all." When Buckingham's comment is related to her, she explains: "That all goes back to Lindsey and I going together. As wild as the story is and as many times as it's been told, when you go with somebody for six or seven years and you're a woman and the guy you're with is a man who is a guitarist/songwriter, da da da da, and so are you, there's always going to be an ego problem just because of the relationship.
"That problem doesn't seem to come up, working with other men. It just crops up if you have been going with somebody or going out with somebody. I love Lindsey. I love him very, very much and I wanted Lindsey to make it and I wanted this album to be as successful as...If this album is more successful than my album, I would be so glad. You know, when "Trouble" (the single from Buckingham's LP) came out, I was saying, let it go straight to the top. Because it only makes my life easier when Lindsey is happy. 'Cause when Lindsey is happy, he's really in a good humor and he's wonderful and he and I really get along and we're close. For me, when you love somebody, you want them to be the best."
Despite Nicks' denial that she plans to leave Fleetwood Mac, Paul Fishkin of Modern Records admits that Nicks' dual careers may cause some problems -- and if that's the case, he could imagine her going completely solo. "I would like to have her record a second solo album in the summer for fall release." said Fishkin, backstage at the Oakland Coliseum. "If it came down to her making a decision in terms of her career or their career, I know which direction I would push her in."
Meanwhile, Nicks is engaged in a rather tricky balancing act. Following the completion of "Bella Donna" in early 1981, she joined the rest of FM at LeChateau, a recording studio outside Paris where Elton John recorded "Honky Chateau." The band put down a batch of tracks. Production is being handled by Fleetwood Mac, together with Richard Dashut and Ken Caillat, the team responsible for "Rumours," an album that sold over 14 million copies worldwide. The new album, nearly finished, is being completed in L.A. "We're closing in on it," reports Nicks. "It's very Rumouresque. I hate to use that word, but it is."
Nicks' contributions include "Straight Back (The Dream Has Just Begun)," "It's Alright" and one that is particularly close to her heart called "Back to the Gypsy," which Nicks says is about her pre-stardom, hippie days in San Francisco, when she used to wait in line for hours outside the Fillmore Auditorium and fantasize about what it would be like to be a star and "arrive at the Fillmore in a big black limousine."
"In basic ways, I haven't changed," she says. "In material ways, of course, I've changed a lot. Because I'm not starving now and I don't have to worry where my rent's coming from and that makes it a lot easier on my blood pressure. I still love all the same things. Every place I live still looks pretty much like my apartment in San Francisco.
"The clothes I wear...that doesn't change. I love long dresses. I love velvet. I love high boots. I never change. I love the same eye make-up. I'm not a fad person. I still have everything I had then. That's one part of me...That's where my songs come from. There's a song on the new Fleetwood Mac album that says, 'Going back to the velvet underground/Back to the floor that I love,' because I always put my bed on the floor." She quotes from the song again. "'To a room with some lace and paper flowers/Back to the gypsy that I was.' And that's San Francisco. That's the velvet underground. Those are the things that I can't give up."
As for her love life, Nicks says she doesn't have time for one right now. When asked if she is still involved with her producer, Jimmy Iovine, she asks, "How do you mean involved?"
It's been reported that you're having a relationship with him.
"Well, we worked together," she replies coyly.
It's been stated that you're romantically involved with him.
"Well, you can't believe everything you read," she says at first, but then adds, "Sometimes." She pauses, then continues. "You know, I'm very busy. I don't have much time. I don't have much time to do anything like that. It's very difficult for a woman in rock 'n' roll to have a boyfriend. Because you have to water a relationship. And if you don't have time and you're so tired when you come home that you can't spend those few precious moments with somebody, it just doesn't work. People get hurt. So it's really better off to just do what you do and then, when you have the time, take some time off. Then don't be a rock 'n' roll star -- be a woman."
"It bothers me a lot," she continues. "But it's my choice. It's either that or get out of the music business for a while, and I'm not ready to give that up yet so when I am, I'll give it up in a second. When I decide I want to get married or I meet somebody and I would like to have a little girl or something, then I'll just do it and it'll be like everything else. The decision will be made inside me immediately."