It may well be 45 years since Fleetwood Mac truly announced themselves as global stars with their self-titled album in 1975. But one song still feels as classic today as it did when Stevie Nicks first wrote it, the stunning ‘Landslide’.
Below we’re listening back to an early demo version which was released a couple of years as part of the album’s expansive reissue which speaks to the true raw vulnerability that Nicks’ traverses in the track’s lush imagery.
When the bewitching Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham arrived to aid Mick Fleetwood and the McVie’s band Fleetwood Mac, the group were well aware of their performing prowess. As a double-act, they had garnered a fairly sizeable following. But even they couldn’t have imagined the songwriting talent they would bring alongside their on-stage chops.
Buckingham has the distinguished notch of ‘Go Your Own Way’ on his songwriting bedpost but very early on in their inclusion within Fleetwood Mac, Nicks would deliver one of the band’s most cherished singles, ‘Landslide’ for their self-titled LP. Alongside songs such as ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Say You Love Me’ it propelled the band into the pop charts.
The album version of ‘Landslide’ isn’t one hundred miles away from the version below. But the subtle changes turn the song into a completely different entity. In the LP version of the song sees Buckingham have a brief guitar solo and multi-track acoustic guitars but on this early demo it’s just Stevie Nicks, a guitar and her words.
The change in musical direction certainly contributed to the song’s success but may also have clouded the tracks original intent. While many first thought the track a love letter to her then-partner Buckingham, in fact, it was an ode to her career.
In a 2013 interview with Performing Songwriter, Nicks shared “It was written in 1973 at a point where Lindsey [Buckingham] and I had driven to Aspen for him to rehearse for two weeks with Don Everly. Lindsey was going to take Phil’s place. So they rehearsed and left, and I made a choice to stay in Aspen. I figured I’d stay there and one of my girlfriends was there.”
She continues, “We stayed there for almost three months while Lindsey was on the road, and this is right after the Buckingham Nicks record had been dropped. And it was horrifying to Lindsey and I because we had a taste of the big time, we recorded in a big studio, we met famous people, we made what we consider to be a brilliant record and nobody liked it (laughs).”
“I had been a waitress and a cleaning lady, and I didn’t mind any of this. I was perfectly delighted to work and support us so that Lindsey could produce and work and fix our songs and make our music. But I had gotten to a point where it was like, “I’m not happy. I am tired. But I don’t know if we can do any better than this. If nobody likes this, then what are we going to do?” It was a desperate moment for Nicks.
“So during that two months I made a decision to continue. ‘Landslide’ was the decision. [Sings] “When you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills”—it’s the only time in my life that I’ve lived in the snow. But looking up at those Rocky Mountains and going, “Okay, we can do it. I’m sure we can do it.” In one of my journal entries, it says, “I took Lindsey and said, We’re going to the top!” And that’s what we did.”
You can hear every fragment of these moments in Nicks’ life through her impeccable vocal and delicate arrangement. The notes of lyrics allow Nicks to not only express herself accurately but allow others to find solace too. In this early demo of ‘Landslide’ you have all you need to know that Stevie Nicks is more than deserving of her two spots in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.