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Music

The Joni Mitchell song that Stevie Nicks listens to before performing live

Stevie Nicks found fame, fortune and emotional turmoil as the mystical co-songwriter and vocalist for Fleetwood Mac in the mid-to-late 1970s, but her musical ambitions began long before. 

In the early ‘70s, Nicks ran into her future colleague and lover Lindsey Buckingham while in senior year at Menlo Atherton High School in California. She was out one night at the Young Life Club, where she bore witness to Buckingham covering Barry McGuire’s ‘California Dreamin’’ and she decided to join him in harmony. This romantic image would mark the beginning of one of the most successful yet notoriously tempestuous musical relationships in living memory. 

Nicks and Buckingham left home to study at San José State University, but both dropped out after a short term to focus on their shared passion for music with their humble beginnings in the psychedelic rock band Fritz. 

When Fritz disbanded in early 1972, the pair decided to continue as a duo. They sporadically worked on new material together that would eventually contribute to their wholly underrated 1973 album, Buckingham Nicks. 

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Throughout much of 1972, Nicks and Buckingham had lived at producer Keith Olsen’s house, where Nicks would regularly find herself cleaning the house to pay her way. Towards the end of the year, Buckingham clinched a job playing guitar on tour with the Everly Brothers. While Buckingham was away, Nicks took to her notepad and wrote what would become two of her most enduring and beloved songs, ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Landslide’. 

During these early days of Nicks’ development as a songwriter, Joni Mitchell was one of her most vital influences, and she listened to the folk singer’s music on a near-constant basis. During an interview with The Guardian in 2011, Nicks discussed some of the music that helped shape her personally and as a creative artist. 

When asked what her favourite song to play just before a show is, Nicks picked out Mitchell’s ‘Blonde in the Bleachers’. “This is about a girl who [sings] tapes her regrets to the microphone stand,” Nicks explained. “She says ‘you can’t hold the hand of a rock’n’roll man for very long.’ I never saw myself as the girl in the song – I identified with the rock’n’roll star. So I was never gonna be the groupie. I was the star, I was sure of that. I listen to that song to this day. It’s on the playlist I have for when I’m preparing to go on stage.”

She added: “I felt sorry for the girl in the song, and for all the girls who got their hearts broken going out with rock’n’roll stars. I don’t think much has changed. Guys become famous, go on the road, all the beautiful girls come to their show, and it’s a free for all. My advice to the young women I know is don’t go out with a rock star. It’s never gonna work.”

“I went out with Lindsey, but he was a colleague, and he was very in love with me. I was not worried one bit about Lindsey Buckingham straying from me. We came to LA together, hand-in-hand, to conquer the world.”

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