“People needed a little bit of magic. I think it’s a little bit of magic.” – Stevie Nicks
Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ holds a very special place in our hearts for many of us. Not just because of its incredibly poignant and forever pertinent lyrics – “Thunder only happens when it’s raining/ Players only love you when they’re playing” but also for Stevie Nicks’ stunning vocals that seem, rather fittingly, to have a rather intoxicating effect on its listeners.
‘Dreams’ was one of the singles off the eleventh studio album by the British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac. Released in 1977, Rumours was the band’s second album after Nicks and her partner Lindsey Buckingham joined the group. ‘Dreams’, one of the most popular Fleetwood Mac songs, was also a creation credited to Nicks.
Ironically enough, ‘Dreams’ was a song born out of a time when the band went through what seemed like one of their worst nightmares. It was a tumultuous time for the band, individually as well as a collective. With more or less all the members going through rough patches in their romantic relationships, it became a struggle for the band to come together as a whole, too. Yet as Buckingham, Nicks’ partner for almost eight years, later said in an interview, “We had to go through an elaborate exercise of denial keeping our personal feelings in one corner of the room while trying to be professional in the other.”
But when the literal and metaphorical room started to get too suffocating, they needed to get out and take a breather. For Nicks, this was the moment that separated her abilities as a songwriter and as a musician from all others. She walked out of the room — the studio where the band was at work, took her Fender Rhodes piano with her and didn’t return until she had the basic draft for ‘Dreams’ in her hand, ready to play to the rest of the band. In an opportune moment as that, ‘Dreams’ came to Nicks rather smoothly. She took the heartbreak that plagued her, her separation from Buckingham after their eight-year-long relationship that had begun in high school and put it to constructive use. ‘Dreams’ was the outcome.
At the time, the band was at the Record Plant studio in San Francisco working on their demos for the upcoming album Rumours. As Nicks said in an interview, “Everybody was working on something else in the main studio, and I had this idea. I was kind of wandering around the studio, looking for somewhere I could curl up with my Fender Rhodes and my lyrics and a little cassette tape recorder.” It was then thatNicks came across a friendly guy who seemed to understand her plight and asked if she was looking “for a place to go and play”. He said he knew a place, but he was kind of secretive about it. As Nicks recalled him saying, “You can never tell anybody,” to which Nicks’ response was quite amusing: “Oh my God, a magic room! Oh my God, I’ll never tell anybody.”
The room in question was the quadrant of the esteemed Sly Stone which happened to be a mini-studio. Never once in all the time that she had worked in the building with the band did she know that this room ever even existed. According to her, “It’s a big studio with a sunken circular shape, actually like a lighthouse, like a circle, and there’s keyboards all around, a bunch of keyboards that went down this tunnel kind of thing.”
Up next was the part of the room that would become the hub of Nicks’ solo part-brainstorming-part-meditative session – the exquisite bed that occupied a part of the room. It was, as Nicks recalled, “this big half-moon circular bed with all black and red velvet. It sounds a little garish, but it was actually beautiful”. Nicks took her place on the bed and “just started playing ‘Dreams’. And within about 20 minutes, it was written and recorded – I mean, super-simply, but I thought, ‘Thank you, Sly Stone and the spirits of Sly Stone and all of your band.” And just like that, in a matter of less than half an hour, one of the biggest hits of the band was conceived and composed. Stevie Nicks made it look like it was a breeze, but that was probably only possible because she was Stevie Nicks.
It’s true when they say that inspiration hits you at the most unusual times, in the most unusual places. Who knew that that place for Nicks would be Sly Stone’s very comfortable and very aesthetic bed in his equally beautiful studio? Either way, let’s take this moment to thank the lucky stars for how marvellous the coincidence was and continues to be even now.
Here’s ‘Dreams’ for you to listen to.