At 28, Stevie Nicks’ career took off — And her love life imploded
In Bustle’s Q&A series 28, successful women describe exactly what their lives looked like when they were 28 — what they wore, where they worked, what stressed them out most, and what, if anything, they would do differently. This time, Stevie Nicks discusses joining Fleetwood Mac — and writing Rumours.
Stevie Nicks isn’t one for false modesty. “I probably have the best 28 story of anybody that you will interview,” she assures me from the landline in her Los Angeles home. Naturally, the high priestess of rock and roll is right. When Nicks was 27-and-a-half, she got the call that would change her life. She and her boyfriend at the time, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, had been invited to meet Mick Fleetwood to discuss joining his band. “We met [the band] on January 1st, 1975 at a really great Mexican restaurant in Hollywood. We were standing out in front waiting when they drove up in these really old white Cadillacs that had those big fins in the back, so they were kind of spectacular,” she says. “They all got out and they’re very English and Lindsey and I are California hippies. So we went and had dinner and we knew it from that one night of sitting around and eating fantastic Mexican food together that everything was going to be alright.”
Nicks turned 28 five months later but in the intervening time, her world would shift cataclysmically. Fleetwood Mac recorded their eponymous album — with Nicks’ “Rhiannon” serving as one of the lead singles — in a breakneck three months. Then they shot the album’s cover, started doing press, and began rehearsing for their summer tour all in rapid succession. “It was like when you have a feeling in your bones that something is truly magical and great, and it was,” Nicks says of those first few months.
This sense of kismet colors nearly all of Nicks’ early Fleetwood Mac memories. (Her fellow bandmate Christine McVie’s mother was a psychic who told her daughter that she’d find her future on Orange Grove, which was the exact Los Angeles street Nicks lived on with Buckingham.) But for all Nicks’ belief in the band’s preordainment, she was still humbled by their immense success. “[There] are million-dollar stories about when you first join a band that becomes like a speeding bullet. You feel like you’re in a car with your head hanging out of it and your hair is just being blown back so hard that your head’s almost being blown off your body,” she says. “That’s how it was [at the beginning of my] 28th year.”
Ahead of the release of 24 Karat Gold: The Concert and Nicks’ latest single “Show Them the Way,” the 72-year-old spoke with Bustle about making more money than she could hide, splurging on a red Jaguar, and swearing on the Bible to never be more than two hours late.
Take me back to when you were 28. How were you feeling about your life and your career?
When Lindsey and I first joined Fleetwood Mac we had no money. I cleaned our producer’s house twice a week and he paid me $250 a month, which paid our rent on a really cool little Spanish apartment [in Los Angeles]. Then later that year we got back from [our first] tour and we signed serious contracts, making Lindsey and I each one-fifth of the band. Together we were almost a millionaire. So we went from never having to file taxes — because we didn’t make enough money to file taxes — to having to hire a business firm because we had way too much money. Thank you to my mother who said to me, “Honey, you guys need to find out who’s the best business management firm in Los Angeles and hire them.” Because we were just taking the money and putting it under a mattress. We had so much money we didn’t know where to hide it.
“There was nothing not fun about being a rock star.”
What was your biggest splurge that year?
Me, my designer Margi Kent, and two of my best friends were walking down Sunset Boulevard, and we walked past the Jaguar [dealership]. There was this red Jaguar in the window and I looked at everybody and I said, “I think that we should get that Jaguar.” They were like, “You hardly ever drive!” I said, “I don’t care! Let’s get it!”
In our world, we were dressed really beautifully. But in the people that owned the Jaguar store’s world, we looked like either hookers or some sort of cultish hippies. We walked in and I said, “I would like to buy that red Jaguar.” And they said, “Oh madam, I don’t really think you can afford that. They’re expensive.” Margi, who is one of those people that would just jump down your throat said, “You don’t know who she is right now, but you’re going to know who she is really soon, and she could buy every car in this entire building. She wants that Jaguar and she wants it now.” And I got it.
What did a typical Friday night look like for you?
There was nothing not fun about being a rock star. It was pretty darn cool the entire time. We would have crazy photo sessions where we would wear all these amazing costumes. Long Victorian black outfits with hats or just beautiful 1920s beaded gowns. We had our friend [photographer] Herbie Worthington — who did the Rumours cover and the Fleetwood Mac [album] cover — set up a black-and-white checked floor and we would [put on] all these costumes. We weren’t really doing photo sessions to necessarily have pictures to give to magazines, we just did it because it was like playing dress-up.
We would also travel. We would get on an airplane and go to a fantastic hotel somewhere and stay for three or four nights. I liked going on the road and having a really nice suite to stay in — with a nice living room and hopefully a fireplace — if I had three days off to just hang in there and write and watch television.
“Everybody put their hand on the Bible and swore that we wouldn’t ever bring our rotten personal lives into the studio.”
You were still 28 when you started working on the album Rumours, too.
We went up to The Record Plant in Sausalito, which is across the bay from San Francisco. We wanted to go somewhere that was really vibe-y. We rented two small little apartments right next to each other that were about 10 minutes away [from the studio] and that’s where we lived for the whole three months that we were recording. We did 12 demos and they were really good.
I [remember] walking into the studio up in Sausalito with “Dreams.” I said, “I have something I think you guys are going to want to hear.” Everybody was like, “What is it now? Have you written another song out of your millions of songs?” And I was like, “Yes I have, but listen to this.” So they put it on and it was just me playing a little Fender Rhodes electric piano and singing on a cassette player, but they put it on the big speakers and the song started playing. We ended up recording it that night.
Then we went back home and we probably recorded in every studio in LA. It took us 10 months [to record the album] and we were continually moving around because that’s just the nomad in all of us. When we finally finished Rumours we knew. Warner Bros., all our managers, agents and friends that hung around during the making of it knew that Rumours was magical. It was unfortunate that it was magically written about some very sad things that were happening [like fighting with Lindsey], but at the same time I think if you asked everybody now, “Well, we know that the fame and fortune got in the way of all of your relationships, but would you change a thing now?” And you actually have to say, “No, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
It seems like you all really found a way to put the music first.
We did. We took an oath. Everybody put their hand on the Bible and swore that we wouldn’t ever bring our rotten personal lives into the studio. It was like, “I, Stevie Nicks, swear to be focused, to be on board always, and to try to not be more than two hours late. To pay attention, to write the best songs I can, and to always have my heart in the right place when it comes to this band.” That’s really how we did it. Because we could have let all of our mundane, stupid problems completely wreck everything, but nobody was going to quit.
“We figured as the women — and as we know, women are always the ones that are going to keep things together anyway — we [wouldn’t] let this break up this band.”
There were so many highs that year, what was your lowest moment?
It was in the era that Lindsey and I were breaking up. We weren’t really breaking up, but I mean, we knew it. So that was really hard for both of us. We had been together a long time by then. It wasn’t like we had only been going out for three years; we had been going out since 1970 and that was 1976. We had lived together. I felt more-or-less married.
When we joined Fleetwood Mac, we had a really good foundation. We weren’t children, we were singers and songwriters who were determined to make it, and to do whatever we had to do within reason to make it. So even when we broke up at the end of 1976, it didn’t change what we had. It made it harder for us. We weren’t as friendly and as loving to each other, but we were cool.
But it wasn’t fun. It was not a good time. Christine and John [McVie] also broke up. That was not good, either. Christine and I spent a lot of time together when that happened. We would go and hide out in one of our rooms and play cards and watch movies and hang out. Just sitting on the floor in our bell bottom jeans, our high-heeled Corkys, our really pretty, sweet little blouses that we wore, and our crazy hair. We would talk about how we weren’t going to let this whole thing implode and break up the band. So we figured as the women — and as we know, women are always the ones that are going to keep things together anyway — we [wouldn’t] let this break up this band.
What would you tell your 28-year-old self?
I would just say, “Follow your heart.” Because that’s exactly what I did. I followed my heart and I had amazing love affairs — maybe that I shouldn’t have had — but my heart said, “Do it,” and I did. I’m not sorry for anything. Everything that was done was meant to be done in order for us to be sitting here today with the life that we have. So that I can be sitting here talking to you at 72 years old, praying that the pandemic will go away so that we can all go back out and I can have the last 10 to 15 years of my rock-and-roll life. That’s really it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Samantha Leach / Bustle / Wednesday, November 11, 2020