Three Stevie Nicks songs

I came late to Fleetwood Mac. Of course I knew a lot of their songs, but I didn’t actively sit down and listen to their work until around five years ago. Now I’m a fan of pretty much everything the 1975-87 lineup produced. The Stevie Nicks songs are my favourites though.

1. Dreams

Fleetwood Mac’s only U.S. Number 1 song, the second single released off Rumours, described as ‘boring’ by Chrissie McVie when she first heard Nicks play it on the piano.

The song’s basically the same three chords over and again, which creates a driving meditative rhythm to the whole thing which builds then subsides then builds again.

Among other things, the lyrics are instructive for examining the use of commas, voice and pronouns. From the chorus:

Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Say, women, they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean… you’ll know, you’ll know

The third line is the most interesting for me. It’s not until last year that I really lay back and listened properly to what Nicks was singing. I had always assumed that the they in this line referred back to the last noun, women. And so, singing along, I’d always read the song from my perspective and assumed it was women who come and went.

But (of course) I was wrong. When I actually read the lyrics as part of the story of the song (which you may be surprised to learn I do quite infrequently) I finally understood that this line is speaking directly to an audience which is most definitely not me.

The Say, women at the beginning clearly frames who Nicks is talking to – women – and in that line she’s saying that it’s the players (men, probably) who will come and go.

As happens with the best of songs, understand the lyrics only makes the experience better.

2. Landslide

Another wonderful lyrical offering from Nicks. Also a great showcase of her ability to punch out raw emotion with her vocals. For me, this puts her up with Glen Hansard and Paul Dempsey in my canon of favourite vocalists.

The lyrics are wonderfully poetic, perfectly applicable to moments in life. Nicks wrote the song when her and Lindsey Buckingham were going through tough times in their relationship, and before they’d joined Fleetwood Mac. In the live version above she dedicates it to her dad.

That’s the thing about the best words, really, they can be repurposed emotionally for a variety of occasions:

I took my love, took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time made you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time made you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too
Oh, I’m getting older too

I take my love, take it down
I climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Will the landslide bring you down?
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Will the landslide bring you down, oh, oh?
The landslide bring you down

3. Leather and Lace

This duet with Don Henley from the Eagles is from Nicks’ debut solo album. Lyrically it’s a simple love song, with some sweet  symbolism: leather and lace, mountains and moonlight. And despite the song being a duet, the lead voice remains firmly Nicks:

Lovers forever, face to face
My city or mountains, stay with me stay
I need you to love me, I need you today
Give to me your leather, take from me my lace

I particularly love this demo version of the song. Stevie is playing the guitar, making mistakes every now and then, and you really get the sense of being in the room with just the two of them singing to each other.

There’s something lovely and raw and unproduced about it that fits the song perfectly. I also love Stevie’s self-deprecating ‘sterling guitar work’ at the end.

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