By Nui te Koha
The Sunday Mail (AU)
Sunday, February 8, 2004
THERE was a time when their unspoken backstage demand was a showbag of illicit drugs. Those were, Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks says, the brandy and cocaine days.
“I am happy to say we are over the ridiculous,” Nicks chuckles. “However, it is still pretty fabulous. “There is beautiful red wine, if you drink red wine. I don’t. If you want Cristal champagne, it’s there. There are roses and flowers in all of our dressing rooms.
“We bring our own furniture with us. We try to make everything warm and cosy.”
Welcome to Rock Royalty Lifestyles 101, a course written by the band that adhered to and then rewrote the manual for fast living.
All that has changed, of course. Fleetwood Mac are older, wiser and sober.
Still, Nicks purrs happily through a list of must-haves she and the Mac are enjoying on their US tour.
A customised 737 jet is treat No. 1. Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham (vocals, guitar), John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums) are collected on the airport tarmac in separate limousines.
“Whenever I’m on that massive airplane, I have to tap myself on the shoulder and go, ‘Where is Led Zeppelin? They must be here somewhere’,” Nicks says.
“That is my fun memory of the old days. I think of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and the fact that we still get to do what they did, today. That is definitely a rock-star perk.”
Nicks, 55, is the original rock chick, poetic soul and do-or-die survivor in an extraordinary career of surreal highs and soulless lows.
She battled cocaine addiction after Mac’s defining album, Rumours, and its follow-up, Tusk. But a retreat into Klonopin, an anti-depressant drug, led to a social and creative vacuum from 1986 to 1993.
“In comparison to the eight years I spent on Klonopin, the cocaine and brandy wins hands down.”
It is now her mission to get Klonopin banned. “If you are ever in a drugstore and they put you on Klonopin, run out of there screaming.”
Today, 11 years after she snapped out of her medicated haze, Nicks is in a good place. Her latest album, Trouble In Shangri-La, marked a stellar return to form.
And the good chemistry in the historically turbulent Mac has warranted several happy reunions. But the Mac dynamic is different for this tour.
Christine McVie, a singer-songwriter equal on Rumours, is not in the line-up. She is chasing a solo career. Her absence, however, has seen the band revert to a guitar sound that Nicks and Buckingham refined before joining Fleetwood Mac in 1975.
Famously, Nicks’ and Buckingham’s real-life love affair ended spectacularly a year later. Every conflicting emotion ended up on Rumours, then years of silent animosity.
“We are in a very good place now,” Nicks says. “We are having a lot of fun on stage and for those 2½ hours we get up there and belong to each other. And we get to enjoy all the things we have worked for all these years.”
Nicks is still incredibly prolific. When she felt her songs for the latest Mac album, Say You Will, were not up to scratch, she asked for 30 days to write a new batch.
She returned with a cassette demo. By the fourth song, Buckingham was in tears. For Nicks, it was the ultimate compliment.
“I just write about what I see, and, coming back to the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, I see a lot. I go home, and when nobody sees me I get my journal and I write for hours. A year later, or two years later, I’ll go back to that prose and pull the poetry out of it.”
Nicks has been storing notes for an autobiography.
“I have journals all the way back to the beginning of Fleetwood Mac. The Klonopin journals,” she laughs, “are not so good.”
What would the first lines of Nicks’ autobiography say?
“It would go all the way back to when I was in fourth grade and my grandfather brought home a trunkload of 45s,” she says.
“He and I sat on the floor in my bedroom and listened to song after song after song. That, really, is when I started singing.”
But, even after all these years, she still suffers from stage fright.
“If you have stage fright, it never goes away. But then I wonder: is the key to that magical performance because of the fear?”
Luckily, Nicks still knows what she is capable of. “I walk on stage, I’m very strong, I’m still pretty cute – and I rock.”
Fleetwood Mac, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, February 19 (sold out) and 20. Tickets: 13 19 31.