Long before she became a star as a solo performer; before she and her musical partner (then lover) Lindsey Buckingham helped to transform the British blues rock band Fleetwood Mac into one of the top-selling groups of all time; even before her professional recording debut in 1973 on the album Buckingham Nicks, Stephanie Lynn Nicks was living a real-life version of the Glass Menagerie.
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Stevie Nicks: “I remember exactly what it was like to be 20. I mean, I was a cleaning lady, I was a waitress. I had problems… I mean, Lindsey and me together trying to figure out how we’re going to make it in the music business. And this is the only thing that either of us wanted to do. And what if we didn’t we make it ? I had to go to school. And he didn’t so… that, ya know, he had all this time. I didn’t have much time. I mean I was I was an emotional wreck at 20. Oh, yeah. I was an emotional wreck at 18 because that’s when I started singing in a band with Lindsey and we played three and ½ solid years up and down the San Francisco peninsula and opened for all the big huge bands in that special moment in time that was Haight-Ashbury and San Francisco. Where everybody came. And so I got to stand and watch from the side of the stage. Everybody. You name ‘em, we opened the show for ‘em. So I got like first hand experience, it’s the only reason I was able to walk into Fleetwood Mac without having a nervous breakdown. And walk out center front stage to the center mic and not just, ya know, collapse and faint, because I had already played in front of 75,000 people. Standing in the middle of the stage as lead singer.
It was a big adjustment and a lot to take. I was very young. Well, I wasn’t very young, I was 27, but I felt very young and it was like it was overnight, overnight, hugely successful. And it was hard for my little brain to accept that kind of fame that fast. And to go from being that poor and having all these little jobs that I had because Lindsey didn’t know how to do anything else except play music, and I could do anything. And did, to keep us going so that we could do it. Because at that time I had realized that we were going to make it if it killed me. And ya know working solidly to getting the Buckingham-Nicks deal and doing that record and having that record dropped and being just crushed. Because it’s one thing to be working towards it, and another to go into a big studio with a big producer and do a big record with all the 24 track board and everything and having the taste of the big time. And then be just be dropped like a hot potato, and go back to wondering if I should go back to school or if I should just work and let Lindsey pursue the music career. And I should just step out.Because by that time I was to the point where… ya know I’m very loyal and I certainly was Lindsey’s biggest fan and I thought he was the greatest guitar player in the world and had the most beautiful voice. He was one of those people that… I walked into a room once and he sat there and played a song and it was “Rooms on Fire.” He’s one of those. He was one of those men. And… whatever I had to do to keep him going was ok because it was more important for Lindsey than it was that I make it. Because I knew I could do a hundred other things and nobody could ever take my music away from me. I could still write songs and play. And, I could take my music in anything I did. I could go back to school. I only had a year to go to finish to get a masters. I could go back to school for three years and get a PhD. I would be fine. I knew that. I worried about him. I didn’t know what he would do. And because I was so in love with him there wasn’t any question in my mind that I would I stick in there until if we didn’t both make it, at least I got him up there. And when you love somebody and you see the pain in their face, when they even consider the fact that you might not make it… it’s like, “Don’t even think that we’re not going to make it. We are.” And in my heart I’m saying to myself, “If I have to comb this town, I will find somebody to listen to us that will understand how good we are, or that God willing, at least know how good he is.”
RB: What about expectations of you without the safety net of a band?
“I learned a long time ago never to expect. Because I think that was something that was instilled in me when I was really small. Don’t expect anything. Not that you can’t be confident about it. But just don’t expect the greatest things and then you won’t be disappointed. And then if great things do happen, you’ll be much more excited and happy about it. Then if you just said,” I know it’s hit record”, and then what if it isn’t? Then you’re devastated. And I don’t particular love being devastated, so I just thought a long time ago that I would take in my stride whatever happened, especially with my solo records. Being that they were solo records that means that yes, of course they’re more personal. Of course I’m giving away a whole lot more of myself, as my mother says to me, “too honest for the world sometimes”. So I never know exactly how people are going to take them. But every time I do a solo record I get more… convinced that the more honest I am with everybody, with what happens in my life and what has happened and what has gone on, and how I’ve managed to get to this point and still have my sanity, … the better. And the more people understand it, that this is real and these aren’t made up songs… and that I’m really trying to do a whole lot more than sing songs to people. That I’m trying to give out a little experience to people, I think. Maybe run by them, in a fantasy sort of way, experiences that I’ve been through that may save them a little bit of time. A little bit of hard time. Just help a little bit. I have to really feel that the song itself is important because I feel long after the singer is gone, and the songwriter is gone, that the song will remain.”
Editor’s Note: This appears to be an archived interview, rebroadcast for this radio special.
In the Studio with Redbeard / August 2016