If there’s one thing the patriarchy hates (and yes, I did just use that word unironically), it is ambitious young women. Despite all its talk of freedom and throwing off systemic oppression, the 1960s countercultural movement was suffused with a male-centric ideology, one that didn’t so much destroy female oppression as it did dress it up in new clothes. This was the stage onto which many of the greatest female singers of modern pop made their entrance in the 1960s, and for Stevie Nicks, it proved to be a toxic and claustrophobic environment.
Prior to joining Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks was part of a California psych band called Fritz, otherwise known as The Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band. This group was Nicks’ first rock band and served as a sort of music school, laying the foundations for her era-defining pop career. The group was formed in the early 1960s, when Bob Aguirre, the drummer of The Castiles – Bruce Springsteen’s early band – invited Javier Pacheco to perform at a high school talent show alongside Cal Roper (bass), Lindsey Buckingham (guitar), and Jody Moreing (vocals & guitar).
It was Pacheo’s idea to call the group The Fritz Rabyne Memorial Band, but it was quickly agreed that ‘Fritz’ was a little more memorable. The new band, famed for their close, three-part harmonies, quickly gained a loyal following, and in 1967, they went searching for a female vocalist to join their ranks. Bob Fogel, a friend of the band, mentioned a singer he knew called Stevie Nicks, who he thought would be a perfect fit. At that time, Nick had no experience playing with other musicians and had only ever performed a few country tracks on solo acoustic guitar. Even so, she was invited to join and quickly developed a mesmeric stage persona. Indeed, she was so dynamic that she soon found herself on the wrong side of her male bandmates.
As Nicks notes in Stephen Davis’ book Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks: “Nobody in that band wanted me as their girlfriend because I was too ambitious for them. “They all thought I was in it for the attention and didn’t take me seriously at all. I was just a girl singer, and they hated the fact that I got a lot of the credit.”
Nicks’ recollection of her time with Fritz serves as a reminder that the space women were allowed to occupy in the ’60s rock scene was, compared to that of their male contemporaries, minimal at best. Whereas male musicians were allowed to thrash about on stage, smash their instruments, strut, and generally wave their leather-clad balls about, women were frequently limited to a specific set of actions. Nicks was allowed to be “a girl singer,” but little else. As soon as she started making moves beyond that initial servile role, she became the object of scorn and resentment.
It wasn’t just Nicks who was dogged by these limitations; many of the female countercultural icons were forced to wage a constant war against an industry that required them to adhere to a slim set of feminine criteria. If they transgressed this model of feminity, as Joni Mitchell did with Blue in 1971, they risked alienating their fanbase. Thankfully, the likes of Mitchell, Nico, Stevie Nicks, and countless others refused to submit to the whims of this male-dominated industry, laying the foundations for today’s female pop elite.