Stevie Nicks has perhaps one of the most distinct voices in rock ’n’ roll. With an impressive career that spans over several decades, almost every song manages to showcase her powerhouse vocals with a feathery, feminine edge, which is especially present with her performance in Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Gold Dust Woman.’ And it’s even more prevalent when you hear the isolated vocals from the track.
‘Gold Dust Woman’ was written and recorded in 1977, during the turbulent, and now infamous recording of the band’s eleventh studio release, Rumours. Although the song’s meaning was never explicitly revealed at the time, lyrics like “take your silver spoon, dig your grave,” were analysed as possible references to her rampant cocaine use during the time of recording, something she’s spoken openly about over the years.
After years of speculation, Nicks finally admitted in a 1997 interview that the song’s meaning was about her drug use. “Everybody was doing a little bit—you know, we never bought it or anything, it was just around— and I think I had a real serious flask of what this stuff could be, of what it could do to you. And I really imagined that it could overtake everything, never thinking a million years that it would overtake me,” said Nicks. “I must have met a couple of people that I thought did too much coke and I must have been impressed by that. Because I made it into a whole story.”
When performing the song over the years, Nicks seemed to go into a trance-like state, which might be a nod to the content, but could also reflect the song’s recording process in 1976.
Chris Morris, an assistant present during the song’s recording later said about the experience: “Recording ‘Gold Dust Woman’ was one of the great moments because Stevie was very passionate about getting that vocal right. It seemed like it was directed straight at Lindsey [Buckingham] and she was letting it all out. She worked right through the night on it and finally did it after loads of takes. The wailing, the animal sounds, and the breaking glass were all added later.”
In Mick Fleetwood’s book My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac, he also added that Nicks, being the perfectionist that she was, took eight takes to record her vocals. He described her as “hunched over in a chair, alternately choosing from her supply of tissues, a Vicks inhaler, a box of lozenges for her sore throat, and a bottle of mineral water.”
What came from the madness was a timeless tune that has been covered multiple times by artists such as Sheryl Crow and alternative rock band Hole. But despite the various versions, the brilliance of the song all comes down to Nicks’ vocals, and the version below might just be the best one yet.
Listen to Stevie Nicks’ isolated vocals to ‘Gold Dust Woman’ below.