THE US INTERVIEW: STEVIE NICKS(by Steve Pond)
"Once upon a time, there was a 16-year-old girl who was a senior at Menlo-Atherton High School. And she met a guy and sang a song with him, and didn't see him again for two years. Then he called her, two years later, and asked her if she wanted to be in a band. She'd never been in a band, but she said sure. And the drummer picked her up the next day, and she went to rehearsal, and the next thing she knew, she was playing every weekend. And 15 years later she was in one of the biggest bands that ever was."
That's the opening paragraph to a fairy tale that Stevie Nicks says she could write in one sitting. She could write it, of course, because she lived it. She grew up in Arizona, took after her footloose, country-singing grandfather, and began writing songs and playing music in her teens. She met Lindsey Buckingham at a party, and he became her bandmate and lover for seven years. And just before she gave up on a career in music and went back to school, the veteran blues band Fleetwood Mac asked Buckingham to join -- and wanted him badly enough that they grudgingly allowed him to bring his girlfriend into the group as well.
That was New Year's Eve, 1974. Fifteen years later Stevie Nicks is still in Fleetwood Mac, though she and Buckingham broke up in 1977 and he left the band three years ago. Fifteen years later, in fact, Stevie Nicks is the best-known member of Fleetwood Mac, with four successful solo albums on the side, and concerts full of fans who show up in Stevie regalia: scarves and shawls, chiffon and lace, boots and top hats. She's had love affairs with the likes of singer Don Henley and record producer Jimmy Iovine; she also had a short, ill-fated marriage to the husband of a close friend just after that friend died of leukemia. She writes meandering songs set in a fairy-tale world of crystal dreams, good witches and wondrous magic; her spaciness suggests that she sometimes lives in that world herself. She draws intense fans and astounded critics; doubters look at the layers of chiffon and the overwrought romanticism of Stevie's world, and ask, "Is she for real?"
She knows they ask, and she figures she's answered them by now. "After 15 years they all know it's not a joke," she says, and then she laughs. It's three days before her 42nd birthday, and she's sitting in the office of her Beverly Hills home, giving long, rambling, surprisingly self-aware and only occasionally mystical answers to almost anything that's asked. Around her is technology: a fax, a copying machine, an IBM Selectric, a Macintosh computer, a stereo system with masking tape labels that tell her which buttons to push. On the walls are her dreams come true: framed album covers, gold and platinum records and posters of Stevie in various gossamer poses. And in the rest of the house is a big mess: She's leaving the next day for the concert tour to promote Fleetwood Mac's new album, Behind the Mask, and dozens of equipment cases and suitcases are being filled with almost everything she owns. One large valise, for instance, consists entirely of tube socks and tights. "Basically," she admits with a shrug, "I take my world with me."
It sure looks like you're going away for a long, long time.
Well, it's two-and-a-half months, without a break. It's like, I just got home and I got enough time to look at my house, and unpack, and pack, and leave again. It's hard, because you hurt a lot of your friends' feelings. I mean, I have 52 dinner invitations tonight. I can't go on one of them, because I have absolutely got to make sure that everything is in perfect order to leave for the tour. And that angers people. And if you're a woman, forget it. I mean, everybody that I've ever gone with in my life -- rich rock & roll stars, poor guys that didn't have a penny, guys in completely other businesses -- they finally just look at me and say, "I really love you, and if you were ever around, that would continue. But I don't ever get to see you, and I can't dig the way that you live. I can't deal with the jealousy, I can't deal with the fact that the whole world seems to be more important to you than I am." I've had many really wonderful relationships, but they always seem to end up in that bag. That's the saddest part for me, I think.
So do you regret the life?
It's a choice, and I chose it. But at the end of this year I'm taking a break. And that's when I make my amends. I mean, I have to think about when I'm too old to be turning cartwheels and doing the splits onstage. I'm gonna want all my friends then, and I'm gonna need them. So I'm not gonna alienate the whole world just to be very famous. You know, a real good example is like, I suppose 15 years ago, if I'd have wanted to really go for it, in the same way that, say, Madonna did, I could have done that. And I could have been much more famous than I am now and much richer. but it never mattered to me that much about winning thousands of awards or having a hundred Number One singles. It has never mattered to me to be a sex symbol. [She points to the cover of the 1973 Buckingham Nicks album, a photo of a topless Nicks posed behind a bare-chested Buckingham.] I mean, that cover is about as close to selling the music on sex as you'll ever get, and I was crying when we took that picture. And Lindsey was mad at me. He said, "You know, you're just being a child. This is art." And I'm going, "This is not art. This is taking a nude photograph with you, and I don't dig it."
Could you have refused?
I tried. I tried to say no. We were really poor when we took that picture, and I went out and spent my last $111 on a really beautiful, very sexy blouse. And they agreed to do half of the session in the blouse, and I thought, "Oh, I'll win. They'll love this blouse, and they're gonna love the way I look." Well, halfway through the session, one of the photographers came over and said, "Okay, it's time to take off the blouse," and I died. It was awful, you know. And afterwards my father said to me, "Did you want to do this?" And I said no. And he said, "Then why did you do it?" And I said, "Because I was literally forced to do it, Dad." And he said, "Well, I'll tell you what you could have done. You coulda just said no." And he's right. I coulda said no. I have never forgotten that. And maybe that has a lot to do with why I went from that [points to the cover of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours LP, where she's in a long dress and veils]. Because I said, "All right, that's it. We're gonna work this out so that I still have an image and a vibe, but instead of going in the direction that a lot of the women singers are going in now, I'll be very, very sexy under 18 pounds of chiffon and lace and velvet. And nobody will know what I really am. I will have a mystique. None of these other people will have a mystique, but I will." And I have that mystique. That's one thing that I'm real proud of.
You once said that in Fleetwood Mac you always felt like the baby sister, that you didn't get much respect from the rest of the band. Is that still true?
Oh yeah. I don't have a lot of power in this band. I never have. I can jump and scream and threaten to quit and run out of the room and disappear and not accept any calls for four days, and it doesn't matter. And I really don't care. I pretty much let Fleetwood Mac be Fleetwood Mac, and I don't say too much about what they do. Or what we do. I mean, I think this tour is too heavy. I think there's too many gigs. But I get a fax that says, "This is where you're playing," and I don't send a fax back to Mick Fleetwood saying, "This is totally ridiculous, what are you doing, trying to kill us?" I don't do that. I just try to do my job and be as good as I can onstage, and be as loving as I can to everybody, and not get angry at the things they do that make me angry. Which are a lot of things. And I do a lot of things that make them angry -- for instance, my solo career -- and they are pretty cool about it. And we exist. We exist in fairly good . . . fairly good harmony. And the day that harmony is gone, that's when it will end.
I guess the popular image is that the rest of the band is more down-to-earth and you're floating above them in the ozone somewhere. . .
It's kinda true. I mean, yeah, I dress up for sound checks, you know? I do my hair and my makeup and I wear high heels, and everybody else is just grubbed out in jeans and stuff. So maybe the reason I'm in Fleetwood Mac is that I'm supposed to be the person that spreads a little fairy dust here and there. You know, they think I'm crazy. They know my life is completely strange: the strange clothes I wear, my hairdo and my makeup and the way I go about my life . . . but they need that, because otherwise they would be really way too serious for words. So if nothing else, we will probably go down in history as the most eclectic of bands. Which I like. I'd like to be remembered as a notoriously eclectic person: a collector and a dancer and a singer and a songwriter and a fairy-dust spreader.
But given the success of your solo career and the fact that you don't have much power in Fleetwood Mac, haven't you considered leaving?
Oh, I've been close to leaving Fleetwood Mac since I joined Fleetwood Mac. But so has everybody else. To be in Fleetwood Mac is to live in a soap opera. And it has been pretty scandalous and pretty incestuous, and pretty wonderful in a lot of ways. I threaten to quit all the time. I threaten to quit once a month. But I'm never gonna be the one to break up Fleetwood Mac. Somebody else will break it up, not me. And it's hard for me to imagine Fleetwood Mac ever breaking up. It's kind of like, you know, it's just an entity that just seems to go on and on and on. I figure Fleetwood Mac will go on until it doesn't want to go on anymore. Or until I decide I really do want to sit down and write that book [about the band]. Because I've certainly got the book to write. It would make Carpetbaggers look like Alice in Wonderland, if I were to ever write this book. [Laughs] Mick [Fleetwood] is writing a book, and my book is gonna be much better than his book, because I've been writing this for 15 years. I'll bury his book with my book, and he knows it. And he won't let me read his book. So I told him, "Mick, if you slander me, babe, I'll bury you. I will write down everything that you have ever done and put it out." We've been laughing about this for a week, because his book's coming out in about three months, and he still hasn't let one person in the band see it. It's turned into kind of a joke at this point. But it will not be a joke if this book comes out and I don't like what's in it. So I simply told him, "Well, I'll sue you. I'll just sue you for everything that you have, and then you'll just be poor and penniless again, and you'll be sorry." I'm laughing the whole time that I'm saying this and he's laughing, but we're really very serious.
Are you worried about his book getting into the drug and alcohol abuse, that side of the band? Or is that something you'll cover in your book, too?
Well, I'd write mine more like a novel. Because my life, the reading of it -- maybe not the living of it, but the reading of it -- would be every little girl's dream. I mean, I've gone out with all the big rock & roll stars, I've flown on Learjets, I've had a fleet of eight limousines, I've rented 727 airplanes that cost $25,000 a day . . . and that is glamorous. There's no getting around it. Just that part of it alone would blow people's minds. Example: Somebody sent a tiny little four-seater Learjet once to pick me up--I was on the road and he was on the road. It picked me up after my show, flew me into Atlanta. I stayed there for that day and his show, and then right after the show, that little cranberry red learjet sat on the ground and waited for me . . . .
No, I can't. Not that there was anything wrong with it, 'cause there wasn't. It was wonderful. It was one of the most romantic things that ever happened to me in my whole life. I mean, that's something that when I'm on my death-bed, the few things that pass before you, that will pass before me. Those are the things I'd like to tell people about. I'd write about the really neat stuff and lace it with the parts that were difficult.
It seems that, as big as the extravagances like Learjets were, the personal excesses were also that big.
Well, everybody was personally excessive. When you get famous that fast -- and I mean, we're talking overnight -- it's an incredible adjustment to make. I didn't join Fleetwood Mac until I was 27, and I never indulged in drugs of any kind, nothing. I didn't even drink. And then all of a sudden, bang! Overnight I was in this gargantuan rock & roll band, of which half the members were English and used to spending at least three hours a day at the pub. And you know, I was totally, completely enraptured with this whole thing. And in that era, everybody thought, "Everybody does it. It's fun, you can afford it, who cares? It's not addicting, it doesn't hurt you." That's what we were told. Nobody told us that it could completely ruin your life. But we lived through it. And to me, that's the most important thing. You know, at my age, what I've been through, I should look 65 years old. I feel like I look pretty good. And, uh, the excessive part of it no longer exists in my life, and hasn't for four years. What makes me angry with myself is that a whole lot of money went out for that, which we all could have in our bank accounts right now. Like, I lost a very good friend to leukemia about six years ago. And at this point in my life, I wish I had all that money to give to leukemia research. I watched a beautiful woman, my best friend since I was 14 years old, die over a year. I would have gone to the bank and taken out every penny I ever made in my whole life and I would have given it to research if it could have saved her life. I would have stopped singing. I would have stopped writing. I would have done anything.
Do you regret marrying her husband after she died?
I don't consider it a marriage. I married Robin's husband [Kim Anderson] because . . . Robin was one of the few women who ever got leukemia and then got pregnant. And they had to take the baby [named Matthew] at six and a half months, and then she died two days later. And when she died, I went crazy. I just went insane. And so did her husband. And we were the only two that could really understand the depth of the grief that we were going through. And I was determined to take care of that baby, so I said to Kim, "I don't know, I guess we should just get married." And so we got married three months after she died, and it was a terrible, terrible mistake. We didn't get married because we were in love, we got married because we were grieving and it was the only way that we could feel like we were doing anything. And we got divorced three months later. And I haven't seen Kim, nor have I seen Matthew, since that day. I suppose that Matthew will find me when he's ready. I mean, I am, really, next to Robin, his mommy. But Kim and I can't deal with each other at all. So when the baby's old enough, I have all of his mother's things, and I have her life on film for 14, 15 years. I have us on tape singing, I have a beautiful book that I wrote the year that she died. . . . I have a roomful of stuff for him. I have his mother to give back to him when he's ready.
After going through all of that, was the Rock a Little album a conscious attempt to lighten things up?
I think everything I did was a conscious attempt to lighten up. Because I was so devastated that I thought I was gonna die with her. I really did. It was hard for me to come back from the fact that I knew I wouldn't see Matthew again for many years. And so I moved to the beach. I moved to the beach for spiritual solace, for sanctuary. And it helped. For me to go out and just sit on a blanket and take my tape recorder and a pad of paper and a pencil and just look at the ocean and write. And give her up, you know? And, you know, if anything like that ever happens to me again, I'll probably move right back to the beach. Either that, or I'll go home to the desert. Because those two places are my strongholds. But I mean, I feel comfortable in this house, and I have a great little studio here where Harry Warren wrote "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" and a lot of very famous music. And George Gershwin's piano is out there, too. I don't know how it got there, but I know that it belonged to George Gershwin. So to sit down at that bench and pluck out anything, you feel like you're in a magic place.
Talking about magic places, there's a perception that you're someone who tries to live her life in a world of magic and dreams and fairy tales. Is that accurate?
Well, I do really kind of live in a world of dreams and fairy tales. I mean, my life is a fairy tale, that's for sure. And I actually read fairy tales -- Grimm's Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Anderson -- and a lot of my songs come out of that kind of fairy-tale genre, because of the reading that I do, and because when I was a little girl I loved to dress up and put feathers in my hair and sparkle dust on my face. You know, that's something that I just was kind of born with.
Can you foresee where this fairy tale is going from here?
Who knows? I could still very well get married, settle down, still do my music. I mean, I could marry any of several people if I wanted to get married; I just don't really want to get married. I could have a baby if I wanted to, if I wanted to get into it right now. And I may do that this year. Maybe my prince is going to walk into my life, some kind of saintly man who could possibly handle living with me, handle my life and everything else. You know, that would be wonderful. But even if it doesn't happen, I really would like to adopt a baby, because that's the one thing that I am very sorry about. That's the one thing I wish I had. I'd like to be sharing all these experiences, and that makes me really sad. But I figure God has a plan, and if I'm meant to have that baby, I'll have her. Or him. And if I'm meant to adopt one, I'll adopt it. Because my whole life has been that way. I mean, if you believe in destiny -- which I do -- it seems like my life was pretty mapped out. It seems almost like there was somebody up there moving the chess players. And I was the white queen, and I just went where I was moved. . . .
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