(Credit: David Wainwright)

Stevie Nicks' best lyrics with and without Fleetwood Mac

There aren’t many artists as magical and truly inspiring as Stevie Nicks. Though the singer has often been cited as an ethereal vocalist, many have even suggested she possesses magical powers, at least enough sorcery to have obtained one of the purest vocal ranges in musical history. It’s the kind of nonsense that only follows around the true greats of their era, and there’s absolutely no doubting that Stevie Nicks is a true great. But where Nicks is often overlooked is her truly wondrous lyrics.

In 2018, Stevie Nicks was rightly awarded a coveted spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame; in doing so, the singer became the first female to be inducted into the esteemed club twice, having already been welcomed with her band Fleetwood Mac 20 years prior. It’s the kind of accolade which one can look back on and confirm what we already knew about Nicks — she’s one of a kind. Whether it is in the band or out on her own, Nicks has never shied away from her greatest love of all, songwriting.

That’s because, whether it’s from her earliest days on record, sharing the limelight with her High School boyfriend and later bandmate Lindsey Buckingham, or out on her own during her sparkling solo career, Nicks has always put her heart and soul into her music. More so than many other artists, looking back at her lyrics through the years is like reading a very personal autobiography.

Below, we’re running through some of Nicks’ finest lyrics through each one of her studio albums, both with and without Fleetwood Mac. For the eagle-eyed among you, there is one album missing from the list, 1995’s Time. We’ve nixed it from the running because of Nicks’ lack of contribution to the record. However, that doesn’t take away from the pure vibrancy of Nicks’ songwriting.

More so than most of her contemporaries, especially female singers, Nicks has always put her life in full view of the public. Having wanted to be a rock star from a young age, she wouldn’t let herself down by being bashful when she was given a chance to do so. The way Nicks was writing songs, she was sure to connect with her audience and exorcise some of her demons simultaneously.

We begin with Lindsey Buckingham and the duo’s failed attempts to hit the soft rock stardom they had aimed for. While the records included below are a little off the pace of what’s to come, there’s still plenty to enjoy. Nicks and Buckingham would share a fractured relationship in the years that followed, but there’s no doubt that, without him, she would have struggled to make the impact she did. The story goes that when Mick Fleetwood approached the session guitarist Buckingham to be a part of his famed R&B band, Fleetwood Mac, the guitarist refused to join unless Nicks was signed up too. Fleetwood relented, the duo joined, and the group went from strength to strength.

They rebranded the band and, as such, shared the eponymous record in 1975. It was a triumph and saw the band once again become a main stage act. Of course, following that, the band became a group built on tension and trust issues. However, they still managed to rescue themselves from disaster and produce one of the greatest albums in recorded history with 1977’s Rumours. After the following album, Tusk, Nicks knew that she needed to break out on her own, she enlisted the help of Tom Petty and Jimmy Iovine and began a successful solo career.

Managing to maintain her newfound spotlight as well as Fleetwood Mac, in 1981 Nicks released Bella Donna, another fine album that showcased Nicks’ sincere songwriting talent. Moving between one project and another, Nicks always gave herself fully to each album, song and note. It’s why, in 1990, she decided to leave Fleetwood Mac, suggesting she couldn’t give the band the attention it required. She returned in 1997, and the group have been slowly gathering more and more fans during the following years.

Stardom and fame are one thing, but the reality is, Nicks always cherished the purity of music above money and recognition. She found the beauty of music was underpinned by the words she shared and Stevie Nicks shared more than most. Below, we’re picking out our favourite lyrics from every Stevie Nicks album.

Stevie Nicks best lyrics:

‘Crying in the Night’ – Buckingham Nicks (1973)

“Say you needed someone to depend on
You’re all alone, she’s the only one
Who can come take you far away
Take your breath away”

The first song from Buckingham Nicks’ self-titled debut album was destined to be a chart-topper but never reached its potential. It did, however, catch the attention of Mick Fleetwood, who would soon seek out the duo for his own band.

It instantly marked Stevie Nicks out as an aggressively honest writer as she warns of the dangers of obsessive love all wrapped up in some power-pop glory. It’s a classic Stevie track.

‘Landslide’ – Fleetwood Mac (1975)

“I took my love, I took it down
I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
‘Til the landslide brought me down”

The track features on the band’s self-titled 1975 album, which along with Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s introduction, looked to kick start the success of Fleetwood Mac truly. This beautifully rich and luxurious song is one of the mainstays of that success. It stands among the most performed Fleetwood Mac songs and is a pivotal moment of their live show.

The song’s emotive language and Stevie Nicks’ undeniably pure and vulnerable vocal allows the mind to wander towards this track is a love song, but, in truth, the track is located in more vocational areas of the soul. It centres on when Nicks, having lost her contract with Buckingham and Nicks, was distraught that she may never achieve her dream. It is this longing that lands the song as one of Nicks’ finest.

The track is so ubiquitous with Nicks’ gorgeous and yet touchingly subtle vocal that it feels inextricable from her romantic past that it can feel too easily placed within the “love song” arena. The truth is that it most likely is a love song, but not as we would hope to define it. This is an ode to Nicks’ only one true love; music.

‘Dreams’ – Rumours (1977)

“Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams
And have you any dreams you’d like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness”

During the recording of Fleetwood Mac’s seminal record Rumours, songbird Stevie Nicks would often escape the intensity of the studio to take a break in the King of Funk, Sly Stone’s room, as it was just down the hall in the same rehearsal space. It was there that Nicks would write one of the most beloved songs.

“It wasn’t my room, so it could be fabulous,” she recalled in the 1997 Classic Albums documentary on Rumours. “I knew when I wrote it that it was really special. I was really not self-conscious or insecure about showing it to the rest of the band.” The recording process was a scene that was worthy of escaping.

‘Dreams’ is a product of that highly-charged situation and sees Nicks firmly take aim at her now-ex-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham with unnerving ferocity and marksmanship.

‘Sara’ – Tusk (1979)

“Drowning
In the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
But now it’s gone
It doesn’t matter what for
When you build your house
Then call me home”

Fleetwood Mac song ‘Sara’ is incontestably the most personal track that Stevie Nicks has ever written. The Tusk number captures the moment she was left heartbroken and completely bereft by her bandmate Mick Fleetwood’s infidelity.

Nicks’ relationship with Fleetwood was never a conventional one. While the relationship itself was an affair, the drummer broke that special bond the two enjoyed, an incident that left her feeling utterly betrayed. The relationship between the pair came when the Fleetwood Mac singer found herself painfully lonely despite dating Don Henley. While on the surface, they may have appeared as the perfect rock couple, their busy schedules meant that, actually, they weren’t much of a couple at all. The situation led to Nicks starting a cocaine-fuelled affair with her bandmate. She later opened up to Oprah about the ‘doomed’ affair, saying they were the “last two people at a party” and that, “It was a doomed thing [that] caused pain for everybody.”

Writing a song about your lover deserting you for somebody else is always going to be a difficult task, one filled with raw emotion. What made Nicks’ task infinitely more difficult was that the person who had wronged her was somebody she was forced to spend time with every day and, to make things even worse, he needed to assist her creativity. Rather than being overawed by the challenge at hand, Stevie Nicks had no qualms about letting Mick Fleetwood know exactly how his behaviour left her feeling, and ‘Sara’ remains one of the greatest tracks she has ever penned.

‘Edge of Seventeen’ – Bella Donna (1981)

“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 (everything stopped)
Nothin’ else mattered”

The solo career of Stevie Nicks would be a pathway for so many other artists to follow. She went out on her own, away from some famous bands and arguably did it better than ever before. ‘Edge of Seventeen’ was Nicks’ all-powerful introduction to her solo career.

Nicks the Queen of Rock was born when Jimmy Iovine moved away from working with Tom Petty to take on her 1981 album Bella Donna. “It was Jimmy that said, ‘I will produce your record and we’ll make you a Tom Petty record, expect it’ll be a girl Tom Petty record,’” Nicks recalled. “I found that very exciting and I was jumping off the walls. That’s how it all started.”

The song, which wasn’t the first release from Nicks under her new guise away from Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham, did offer something different to ‘Edge of Seventeen’ from the first two singles ‘Stop Draggin My Heart Around’ and ‘Leather and Lace’. Those two releases both featured Nicks singing as part of a duet. While the ‘Rhiannon’ singer was naturally excited to have the great Tom Petty and Don Henley provide ample vocal support on the two previous releases, ‘Edge of Seventeen’ suddenly meant more knowing that Nicks was finally out on her own. It saw her shine as a solo star and promised that Nicks was a talent beyond any band.

‘Gypsy’ – Mirage (1982)

“So I’m back to the velvet underground
Back to the floor that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was
To the gypsy that I was”

“In the old days, before Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey [Buckingham] and I had no money, so we had a king-size mattress, but we just had it on the floor,” remembered Nicks. “I had old vintage coverlets on it, and even though we had no money, it was still really pretty… Just that and a lamp on the floor, and that was it—there was a certain calmness about it. To this day, when I’m feeling cluttered, I will take my mattress off of my beautiful bed, wherever that may be, and put it outside my bedroom, with a table and a little lamp.”

A song about returning to a place of calm and comfort before the world went crazy: “So that’s what ‘Gypsy’ means: it’s just a search for before this all happened. And later, I tacked on a line for my friend Robin, my best friend, who died of leukaemia: ‘I still see your bright eyes.’ But then, Robin wasn’t sick yet. She got cancer, and died within a year.”

It’s one song that will always land heavily with the singer.

‘Stand Back’ – The Wild Heart (1983)

“Do not turn away my friend
Like a willow, I can bend
No man calls my name
No man came
So, I walked on down, away from you
Maybe your attention was more than you could do
One man did not call
He asked me for my love, and that was all”

Taken from 1983 effort The Wild Heart, the single ‘Stand Back’ has a more curious composition story than you might imagine. Having married her friend’s widower following her death, Nicks and Kim Anderson drove to their honeymoon when Nicks heard Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’ on the radio. She was taken aback.

Nicks began humming a tune inspired by the song and made Anderson stop the car so they could grab a tape recorder and, by the process of humming the tune, laid down the bare bones of the song.

To this day, it remains a part of Nicks’ performances and was yet another reminder that even without a backing band, she was a force to be reckoned with creatively.

‘Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You’ – Rock a Little (1985)

“And the rain comes down
There’s no pain and there’s no doubt
It was easy to say
I believed in you everyday
If not for me, then
Do it for the world”

Nicks’ real love, the one many call her “great, great love”, was Joe Walsh of the Eagles. During one of their drives through the Rocky Mountains, Walsh opened up to Nicks about the loss of his young daughter, who had sadly died in a car accident a decade earlier.

Walsh showed Nicks a drinking fountain that he had installed in tribute to his daughter with a plaque that reads: “For All Those Who Aren’t Big Enough to Get a Drink.” It rocked Nicks and convince her to begin writing this delicate and touching piano ballad.

Nicks knocked most of the song off in five minutes, such was the intense feeling, and she accurately denotes such vivid emotions within the song. While it was written for Walsh, its sentiment is universal as Nicks sings: “If not me/ Then do it for the world”.

‘When I See You Again’ – Tango in the Night (1987)

“So she walks slowly down the hall
There are many doors in the hallway
And she stares at the stairs
Ooh there are many things to stare at these days
If she sees him again
Will your very best friend
Will your very best friend
Oh, have been replaced by some other”

Stevie Nicks was never afraid of her emotions, whether they be happy or sad, Nicks provided a sincere reflection of herself whenever she was writing. There’s a good chance that when she composed ‘When I See You Again’ she was going through a tough break-up. It makes the fact she shares the lead vocal with Lindsey Buckingham even more pertinent.

Originally set to close Tango in the Night, Christine McVie said the song was “a little too down and depressing,” to close the record. We love it.

‘Rooms on Fire’ – The Other Side of the Mirror (1989)

“She had trusted many
But been unfamiliar with
Almost everyone but you”

Taken from Nicks’ fourth solo studio album, 1989’s The Other Side of the Mirror, the track once again proved Nicks was a fantastic songwriter above all else.

Apparently inspired by her relationship with Rupert Hine, Nicks said of the song: “Rooms on Fire is about a girl who goes through a life like I have gone through, where she finally accepts the idea that there never will be those other things in her life. She will never be married, she will never have children, she will never do those [that] part of life.”

The track was a mainstay of Nicks’ live shows up until 1999 and hasn’t been played since. We hope that the song will get another outing soon enough.

‘Affairs of the Heart’ – Behind the Mask (1990)

“When the tour bus drop off
And all light lock off and i’m a mere mortal again
Promoter belly full and all the fans gone home
I’m glad that you’re more than a friend”

It’s one of the more touching songs from the 1990s Behind the Mask and sees Nicks provide not only a reflection of her crazy life as one of rock’s leading ladies but also her desire to find true friendship whenever possible. There’s a sense of alienation in her lyrics that feels more poignant than ever, especially considering that, soon after, Nicks would leave the band for her longest hiatus.

Nicks provides a perfect adage by singing, it’s better to have loved and lost, only to be replied to by the backing vocals of Billy Burnette. It’s another reminder of just how incendiary Nicks could be.

‘Blue Denim’ – Street Angel (1994)

“I knew him another way
I knew him another day
In some ways he’d forgotten me
In many ways he got to me”

Street Angel may well be one of Nicks’ least-loved albums, having been written in the middle of leaving Fleetwood Mac and her prescription drug addiction, but it did hold one beautiful moment, the gorgeous ‘Blue Denim’.

“It’s a song about this guy who came into my life, but left just as quick,” she told WDVE, referring to her on and off-stage partner Buckingham. “And his eyes were that intense.” The track is equally beguiling and has a habit of capturing your mind’s eye and taking it on a ride.

‘Sorcerer’ – Trouble in Shangri-La (2001)

“I’m tired
I’m thirsty
I’m wild-eyed
In my misery”

The song was originally written in 1972, capturing the mind-bending times that surrounded Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham before they made their name with Fleetwood Mac. The track was eventually given to Marilyn Martin in 1984 and featured on the soundtrack album Streets of Fire.

The song wouldn’t find fruition until 2001’s Trouble in Shangri-La where it was allowed to unfurl and provide a contemplative reflection of the wild seventies. It encapsulates the loss of innocence that Nicks felt about the music industry. Nicks repeat for the listener her inner conflict, now allowed to give it more objective reasoning.

‘Say You Will’ – Say You Will (2003)

“Say you will, say you will give me one more chance
At least give me time to change your mind
That always seems to heal the wounds
If I can get you to dance”

There’s no surprise that ‘Say You Will’ would end up titling the entire 2003 album. The song is simply bristling with everything that made Fleetwood Mac such a heavyweight proposition. Not only did it rely on the wonderful mind of Stevie Nicks, but it also welcomed her vocal exchange with Lindsey Buckingham to provide the perfect balance.

Lush and brimming with golden-hued vocal performance, it’s hard not to relay the song’s content to the relationship between Nicks and Buckingham, but, in reality, the inspiration likely comes from elsewhere.

‘For What It’s Worth’ – In Your Dreams (2011)

“I got to sing, I got to dance
I got to be a part of a great romance
Still forbidden, still outrageous
Only a few around us knew
But no one said a word it was contagious”

The second single from Stevie Nicks’ 2011 album was composed alongside an old friend in Mike Campbell. Campbell had been a part of the Heartbreakers, Tom Petty’s band, when the singer had invited Nicks to write some songs with him. Campbell continued that tradition by contributing to this cracker.

It’s a gentle piece that seems to elevate the classic country sound into something Nicks can truly command. Flecks of Americana can be heard in Nicks’ vocal delivery as she reflects on the life she’s already lived.

‘The Dealer’ – 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault (2014)

“It was my fault, my move, and my wine
I see the sun now
And it still shines
But it was dark out
And I held the cards”

An album composed because Nicks realised that old bootlegs of her previously written songs were floating around the internet, ‘The Dealer’ is one of the most potent moments of the album. The first single from her 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault, the track is imbued with more imagery than Nicks usually employs.

Of course, there are plenty of people who would suggest the song was a reference to drug-taking; the reality is there in the cards. Nicks uses her talent to create a sonic representation of a dusty game of chance. It’s a pure piece that captivates as equally as her first forays into music.

Comments