stevie nicks scholar
I had a dream I went to a One Direction concert and they served nachos and I cried.
And now I’m listening to Buckingham Nicks for the first time in forever.
BRB CHANGING THE TITLE OF EVERY BLOG I OWN TO “SUNFLOWERS AND YOUR GODDAMN FACE FASCINATE ME”
cureforbedbugs said: What are some of your fondest memories of being a teenage Fleetwood Mac fan?
I think I miss the culture of it, mostly. Which was the culture of a certain time, too — we hung out on Usenet! The wars between the message boards! There was this guy who was like the Frank Kogan of Mac fandom, and he had all these stories about bootlegging concerts from the parking lot behind the stage when he was a kid in Southern California in the ’70s — and I think at one point before the wars he invited me to join the bad board, which was kind of a badge of honor, particularly as a Stevie Nicks fan, particularly as a female Stevie Nicks fan, since we were basically what the bad board was designed to destroy. There was a sexist aspect that I didn’t pick up on as a kid, or I picked up on it but I accepted it, where a bunch of adult males created a hierarchy of what was cool, what was smart, what was better, and at the top was them and the things they liked, and at the bottom was young women, and the things young women wanted to talk about. Stevie was the least cool thing you could like. (So of course I loved her like my life depended on it. I loved her like her life depended on it.)
But there was a culture beyond that, the things handed down from fan to fan. All the little legends — the things someone once said Lindsey once said to Stevie, the story about him slapping her, whether it was true. Whether we could trust Mick Fleetwood. The fight over “Silver Springs.” The fight over “Go Your Own Way.” The fight over “Tusk.” The fight over Tusk. Every concert ending with “Songbird.” Mick’s balls, and John’s tattoo, and who “Sara” and “Caroline” were about. And all the things we traded — the Rosebud documentary, the Tusk documentary, the Almanac demos, and there was a recording of Stevie saying this, and there was a video of Lindsey doing that, and after a while you knew it so well you felt like you were born with it, born knowing the stories and the symbols and the traditions and what was classic and what was rare and what was valuable.
There’s this part in every Stevie show — at the end of “Edge of Seventeen,” I think? God, it’s basically sacrilege for me not to remember — where she goes to the edge of the stage and shakes hands and hugs and takes the gifts from all the fans standing there. And people know that this happens, and after the first show of every tour they memorize the set list so they know what song comes before “Edge of Seventeen,” and at every show there’s this moment where, as if they’ve all received some secret sign, people start going to the stage.
The first time I saw Stevie live, my first concert ever, the night before my first high school exam ever, which was scheduled for 8:10 the next morning and which I aced thankyouverymuch, I was too scared to go to the front — what if the guards caught me and I got in trouble, what if my parents thought I was weird? A few years later, I saw her again with my two best friends, but we had bad seats, and security wouldn’t let people from our section go down to the front, which was a total fucking outrage, as far as everyone in our section was concerned, because going down to the front was tradition, going down to the front was sacred, going down to the front was something Stevie herself wanted us to do. (There’s this recording that’s another legend among Stevie fans — you hear about it apocryphally, at first, and finally someone passes it along to you to hear for yourself — from an ‘89 concert where security wouldn’t let her fans up to the front, and she goes on this druggy rant dedicating some song to the audience and in the middle of it she switches gears and growls at security, “You fuck with my people and I’m gonna get real fuckin’ angry.”) The third time I saw her, I was about to graduate from high school, and as an early gift my parents let me use their credit card to buy tickets off one of those scalper sites. I got third row, like real third row, like down in the folding chairs they set up in the orchestra pit, in front of the permanent seats, and that time, when it was time to go to the front, I went. I got a little bit crushed, because I wasn’t even five feet tall yet, but a few fans made a bubble around me, and security let me step up on some bit of the rigging under the stage so I was head and shoulders above most of the crowd and I could breathe, up in the glowing gold of the stage, out of the darkness — for some reason I remember the set being very bright and very gold during that tour, maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, and I remember I turned around at one point too, looked out over the thousands of people there, the faces, the lighters, the hands up and waving, and told myself to memorize it, to never forget that this was a thing I had seen in real life. People shouted for Stevie to come over, and teddy bears and flowers and envelopes with her name on them were flying over our heads, people from the rows behind us were throwing them toward the stage, and Stevie almost got hit in the face by a teddy bear, and she thought it was just the funniest thing, and we thought it was just the funniest thing, and we all laughed together, but security was less impressed, so people started passing their gifts up to the stage instead, hand to hand, and every time I got one I slid it across the stage at the guys in charge of collecting them. A woman a row or two back tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could grab her daughter and let her stand up on the rigging next to me, and of course I could, and I pulled her up and helped her get her footing, and then we all started shouting for Stevie to come over for this girl too. And she didn’t come all the way over to our side of the stage, so we didn’t get any hugs, but we got a smile and a wave, and that was good enough.
I don’t know if that happens anymore. I don’t know if any of it happens anymore. I got into Eurythmics sort of the same way I got into Fleetwood Mac, except I did it ten years later, and it was such a solitary experience, because there was Wikipedia, and there was YouTube, and there was the whole Internet, much bigger than before. I imagine it would have been the same if it were Fleetwood Mac I was discovering. Nothing needs to be passed down. You don’t need to ask anyone for anything anymore. I was watching the Tusk documentary on YouTube a while ago, and there was this comment like, “Remember how hard it used to be to find a copy of this?” I do. I remember it wasn’t something you would see, wasn’t something you would even think existed, until you knew Fleetwood Mac so well it was like an instinct. Just this morning, just clicking around YouTube, I saw more stuff than I did in the six years I spent basically breathing that band. But maybe the culture is still there. Maybe it’s me that changed.
A year or so ago, I heard Stevie was doing a signing at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. It was on my way home from work, so I went, but I knew there would be a line around the block by the time I got there, people camped out, people who cared more than I did now, people who deserved to meet her more than I did now. Which was exactly what happened. I didn’t even bother trying to get a ticket up to the floor where the signing was happening, because even if I could, what would I say? You know? In the ten seconds it took her to sign an album, what could I possibly say? I couldn’t make myself walk away, though, so I went to the next floor down, where I could hear the cheering, where I could hear people laugh when she said something funny, and I got an iced coffee, and I sat on the floor in the magazine section while I drank it, and then I left.
jonathan-bogart said: I've tried listening to Tusk and can't find a way in! Please help!
It’s funny, I was wondering how I found a way into any Fleetwood Mac at all. Because this is the first time I’ve listened to them, seriously listened to them, in a long time, and — the thing is, I don’t love songs I don’t think say something I’ve felt but never found the words for. I don’t love songs I don’t think are about me. And, you know, I remember loving these songs, but I don’t remember feeling these things at sixteen. I remember lying on the floor of the den, listening to “Beautiful Child” and crying, but I don’t remember why. (Although, in all fairness, I also remember lying across my bed and listening to The Wild Heart all the way through just so I could cry to “Beauty and the Beast.” And lying across my bed and crying to some Sarah McLachlan song. Being sixteen was weird.)
So originally I was going to say you should listen to Tusk as part of a story. Because even if I can’t remember why I loved the songs, I can remember why I loved the band, and the story that gets told over the three albums after Stevie and Lindsey joined is it. Fleetwood Mac, 1975, they’re in love, with each other and with everything else. And oh, they believe. Stevie and Lindsey bring three songs with them from Buckingham Nicks — he sings her words on one of them, about love closing in like a tide — and a fourth she wrote when she was about to give up on him, on music, but that’s the past now, that’s a fable, that’s a lullaby. Lindsey’s songs stomp and roll against Mick and John. “Monday Morning,” his heart is broken, but he doesn’t mind, he comes back for more, like clockwork, solid structure, pounding rhythm. After a few years, “I’m So Afraid” will sound like torture when he plays it live, but not yet — there’s brightness in the beat and the guitar. And Christine is, you know, Christine. Easy rhymes and creepy ’70s sexual euphemisms. (Confession: I don’t like Christine McVie very much.) Rumours, 1977, love and belief are gone. Stevie’s writing creepy fairytales, Edgar Allan Poe heartbeats driving a man mad, a queen digging her own grave. Lindsey gets thrown out, refuses to come back like clockwork anymore, makes his ex-girlfriend sing on a song about what a bitch she is, guitar all out of sync with everything else. Christine is Christine some more, but then there’s “Songbird,” too. It reads like a love song, like a happy ending, but on an album full of other people — voices and voices, arguing back and forth, and bass and drums behind them — she’s all alone. It starts with crying, it repeats “I love you” like it’s trying to convince itself. And then she wishes you all the love in the world. She wishes it from herself. Love, giving you love, it isn’t something she has the power to do, no matter how much she wants it — it’s something she has to wish. Tusk, 1979, they’re spinning off to their own orbits. Stevie fucked Mick while he was still with his wife, and then Stevie’s best friend fucked Mick while he was still with Stevie, and Stevie’s songs are mostly about that and a couple other affairs, but not in the ways you would expect. Her friend is forgiven, Mick is just one dark cloud in the storm that’s bearing down on her, and she keeps losing things, she’s disappearing into the wind, she’s the whole storm, turning everything cold, her own heart broken and numb. Lindsey recorded his songs in his bathroom, banging on shoeboxes, alternately shouting and moaning manic complaints, and layering himself into makeshift spirituals. Christine is Christine again.
(Oh, and what I said about them spinning off to their own orbits? Tusk is secretly three solo albums, and they never really come back together after this. It might help to listen to those three albums separately.)
But on Friday morning I took the bus from Jersey to the city, because I was supposed be off this week but I got called into work to write a memo basically justifying my job, and since I recently re-discovered the healing powers of The Dance, I decided to listen to it over and over all the way there. And like, I have listened to “Silver Springs” so many times I can’t even guess at a number — how many nights are there in six years? How many times would I have rewound and played it again? But on Friday morning, that was the first time I understood. How sad it is, you know? How much she must have hurt. And it was sadder in 1997, when the person it was about was almost happily married and having a kid, when the time she talks about had actually passed, and the way her voice scrapes the bottom and pulls back when she tells him she doesn’t want to know how much happier he is now, really she doesn’t want to know, even if she can’t stop herself from asking, and how weary she sounds, it was sadder when she sang it in 1997 than when she sang it in 1976 — and, oh, the age I am now is the age she was when she wrote it. Maybe that has something to do with something.
I guess that’s still listening to it as a story. It isn’t me — it’s this pantomime character called Stevie, and this pantomime character called Lindsey, and the conclusion to the story they started in 1975, about love and breaking apart. I just understand them better than I did before.
But then, it is about me, at least a little. I don’t know if, at fourteen or fifteen or sixteen, you can really feel a line like “I have always been a storm.” Always? Always? I hadn’t always been anything at that age, that was the whole point of fourteen and fifteen and sixteen — every year, you were something different than you were the year before.
By your twenties, you find you’ve been doing things over and over again, things that at fourteen or fifteen or sixteen you were doing for the first time, things that back then you thought just happened. Things that back then you thought were a flaw in the world, not a flaw in yourself. And when you finally got free of them, at seventeen or eighteen, you thought you had outgrown them, you thought you were so wise now — you had learned your lesson, you weren’t a stupid kid anymore.
But they creep back to you — twenty-one, maybe, or twenty-two, and then again, twenty-six or twenty-seven. The same old insecurities. The same old anger, the same old need. And you start to realize you aren’t free of them, you start to wonder if you ever will be. You start to realize that even when you thought you were free of them — thinking you were wise and triumphant at eighteen, God, talk about being a stupid kid — you weren’t. Always, always, that was the way you were.
And now I’m listening to Tusk, and I keep hearing these things I didn’t hear before. Like, in “Tusk,” I never thought the “Why don’t you ask him?” and “Why don’t you tell me?” lines were genuine questions — because he was the pantomime bad boy, from the first listen I assumed he was taunting her, assumed he already knew that the answers weren’t anything she wanted to hear, that the truth wasn’t anything she wanted to have to say out loud. But maybe there’s a part of him that’s really asking. Maybe he’s just noticed how she shuts up when she sees him, how her conversations stop when he walks into the room, and what is she trying to hide? I’m figuring out all these things I should have figured out a long time ago. So many of Stevie’s songs are about time — what was, what will be, and the ways things change, whether you want them to or not. (Which means, at this moment, all the Stevie songs are about how I feel about Stevie songs. After answering Dave’s question, if I weren’t at my parents’ house, where there is the ever-present possibility of my mom bursting into my bedroom, Kramer-style, to tell me about something she just saw on the TV? I would probably be curled up crying to “Beautiful Child” right this minute.)
I don’t know. Find a way into it like you’d find a way into anything else. Listen for the things you understand, and let them tell you how to understand everything else.
“(Confession: I don’t like Christine McVie very much.)” Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo
I finally found something unbornwhiskey doesn’t like!