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Edge of Seventeen

Edge of Seventeen (Remastered)

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“Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove)” is Track 6 on Bella Donna. It was the album’s third single. Coupled with a live version of the song, “Edge of Seventeen”reached No. 11 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart.

About the Song

Edge of Seventeen“Edge of Seventeen” was inspired by the sudden deaths of John Lennon and William “Bill” Jonathon Nicks (Stevie’s paternal uncle).

“The place where it came from when it was written was sad because it came out of my frustration in not knowing exactly how to accept the death of John Lennon or the death of an uncle that I had that died in the same time period of cancer. And that’s what the white winged dove is. The white winged dove is the spirit going, and the nightbird at the end is the one that is taking. It was a period of time that I just didn’t know what to do, so I just sat down and wrote about it. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would write this song, and I spent a little bit of time with my uncle as he was dying and I knew a lot of people that knew John Lennon, and I felt their pain for him and my own pain as losing him too and the “Edge of Seventeen” just was born out of that.”

Recording

“Recording it was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done because everybody felt that there was an electrical charge going through this white winged dove, all the way through that song, and for the three days we worked on recording the track of it. We had the lady singers and myself and all 10 of the guys out in one room recording. Most of this album was done completely recorded with everybody in the room, very few overdubs, very few toppings on the cake. It’s pretty much exactly how it was. The vocals too, the vocals bled right into the drums, you know, and the guitar amps, and everything. So it was like whatever we did out there had to be pretty on because it was gonna show up somewhere, and we weren’t going to be able to get rid of it without taking off an initial instrument. So everything that we did had to be, you know, it was like we were doing a concert. I mean, the girls got dressed up, we spent a lot of time getting ready every day, and we would go into the studio with them. They would note that we didn’t come down there looking like little grubettes off the street, you know. And so they were impressed and pleased that we cared so much. And so what that did was turned it right around and they cared that much. And a lot of the times they were doing other sessions in the daytime and they would come straight from there to me at 7 at night and we would get them for like three days from 7 until 2. And so we had precious little time to waste.

Timespace liner notes

“I had lived up in the hills with Jimmy [Iovine] for almost six months. He was coming to the end of Tom Petty’s album…it seemed I had waited a long time, and so since no one really knew where I was, I was starting to get very edgy to do something. I was also starting to feel very unimportant and very sorry for myself. I was ready to begin Bella Donna, and it seemed like it would just never happen. Jimmy had told me many times about his incredible friendship with John Lennon; how John had taken Jimmy in and taught him how to record. He was his teacher…and I was entranced because I could not imagine these two together. Anyway, it was a real life fairy tale, and I believed it. Then one grey day, the fairy tale ended…Jimmy’s friend was dead. But Jimmy’s love for John did not die. A terrible sadness set in over the house, there was simply nothing I could do to help and nothing I could say. So I went home…Jimmy would have to go this one alone.

“I went home to Phoenix and went to visit my uncle, who was very sick (with cancer), not knowing that no one but his son, John, was there…and I sat on his bedside, while John sat on the floor besides him, and we stayed there. My father did not come, nor my mother, nor my aunt…so I sat there and held his hand, and sometime right about sunset, he slightly turned his head to John, and then to me, and his hand slowly let go of mine. I did run out into the hallway, but no one was there…and the white winged dove took flight…

Well I hear you, in the morning…
And I hear you, at nightfall…
But sometimes, to be near you…
Is to be unable…to hear you…

“Goodbye to you both, I said…
There was nothing else left to say”

‘Age of Seventeen’

The title of “Edge of Seventeen” originates from a story that Tom Petty’s ex-wife Jane Benyo shared with Stevie. Jane described meeting Tom at the age of 17, but Stevie heard “edge” instead of “age” because of Benyo’s distinct Southern accent.

“Jane told me once that she met Tom when she was 17. But Jane has the most incredible Southern accent that you have ever heard, and she said (impersonating Jane’s accent), ‘I met Tom at the age of 17.’ She said “age” and I thought she said “edge” and I said, “Jane, I’m writing a song called ‘Edge of Seventeen.’ She didn’t believe me. She called a couple of days ago and said, ‘You did! Wow, I love it!'”

White-Winged Dove

The white-winged dove refers to the bird native to parts of the southern western United States (and Mexico), particularly Arizona, where Nicks was born and lived for many years. The dove is known for making a “hoo-hoo” sound and a drawn-out cooing call to warn others about the presence of a predator. After reading about the dove, Stevie decided to reference it in the song.

White-wing Dove calling

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Lyrics

Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh ooh ooh
Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh

And the days go by
Like a strand in the wind
In the web that is my own
I begin again
Said to my friend, baby
Nothin’ else mattered

He was no more than a baby then
Well he seemed broken hearted
Something within him
But the moment that I first laid
Eyes on him all alone
On the edge of seventeen

Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh
Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh

I went today maybe I will go again
Tomorrow
And the music there it was hauntingly
Familiar
When I see you doing
What I try to do for me
With the words from a poet
And the voice from a choir
And a melody nothing else mattered

Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh
Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh

The clouds never expect it
When it rains
But the sea changes colors
But the sea
Does not change
And so with the slow graceful flow
Of age
I went forth with an age old
Desire to please
On the edge of seventeen

Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh
Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh

Well then suddenly
There was no one left standing
In the hall yeah yeah
In a flood of tears
That no one really ever heard fall at all
I went searchin’ for an answer,
Up the stairs and down the hall
Not to find an answer
Just to hear the call
Of a nightbird singing
Come away come away

Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh
Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh

Well I hear you in the morning
And I hear you
At nightfall
Sometime to be near you
Is to be unable to hear you
My love
I’m a few years older than you

Just like the white winged dove
Sings a song
Sounds like she’s singing
Ooh baby ooh said ooh

(Stevie Nicks) © 1980 Welsh Witch Music (BMI) admin. by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Reference

Nicks, S. (1981). Stevie Nicks Interview.  Denis McNamara, interviewer, WLIR 92.7 FM

Nicks, S. (1991). Timespace: the best of Stevie Nicks [CD booklet].

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