It took a lot for Stevie Nicks to branch out on her own. The singer had long been a shining star as part of Fleetwood Mac, but it was one record that really shot her into the stratosphere. In 1981, Stevie Nicks released ‘Leather and Lace’, the second single from her solo debut album Bella Donna to confirm herself as a solo juggernaut. It was an album that marked out Nicks as a star in her own right and out of Fleetwood Mac’s shadow.
The song, which Nicks had originally written for Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter’s duet album Leather and Lace before they decided against using it, prompted Nicks to recruit Eagles singer, and then-boyfriend, Don Henley for an extraordinary duet of the track. The track’s creation was equally gilded in rock ‘n’ roll royal gold, as the rare footage below shows.
The rendition of the song, built out of emotion as much of Nicks’ work, came when Nicks’ romantic relationship with Henley was heavily documented and the central theme of rock tabloids. The duo attempted to propel their solo careers to new heights away from their respected bands, and the extra publicity was welcomed.
After an intense songwriting session that had tensions running high, Nicks was growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress despite Henley’s best efforts who was attempting to match Nicks’ driving ambition. After batting around different ideas, the pair subsequently settled on a duet version of the song, which would be a heavily romantic single on Nicks’ record-breaking album Bella Donna.
Heading into the studio, Henley laid down his version of the song first and disappeared to work on his own solo material. Following that, Nicks entered the booth to lay down her vocals, delicately working her own sound alongside the track.
Below, enjoy the footage of Nicks in action as she swirls like the spectral musical phenomenon she was. Capturing not only the intensity of the song but also the spirit of Nicks herself. It’s a rare piece of footage that should be watched again and again.
Bella Donna, which spent nearly three years on the Billboard 200 between 1981 and 1984, is Nicks’ best-selling album to date and has been included in the “Greatest of All Time Billboard 200 Albums” chart, still highly revered to this day. After collaborating with Henley, Nicks would also include ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’, a song she worked on with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
During Nicks’ show at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown on September 15 2017, she discussed the making of her 1981 solo album, Bella Donna. Nicks detailed her visit to Atlantic Records’ then-president Doug Morris and made her pitch for the record: “So, listen, what I’d really like to do is be in Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ band. He says, ‘No. That’s not going to happen.’” Nicks smiled, and relayed Morris’ next comment to her: “You obviously haven’t heard Tom Petty’s mantra: ‘No girls allowed.’”
Of course, the pair would work together and share many a great time in their career. Following Petty’s tragic death aged just 66 in 2017, Nicks sat down with Rolling Stone and revealed the life-changing stern advice he handed her back in 1994. The Fleetwood Mac member was going through a turbulent period both personally and professionally following a stint in rehab; she had run into an old flame that had left her shaken to her core and asked Petty to help her create art of this less than pleasant experience.
Nicks recalled: “I asked Tom if he would help me write a song. And he said, “No. You are one of the premier songwriters of all time. You don’t need me to write a song for you.” He said, “Just go to your piano and write a good song. You can do that.”
Following a short national tour in support of the album, Nicks would later release a live performance of ‘Leather And Lace’ which she used as a video promo for the single release. Interestingly though, Nicks decided to use the solo version and did not feature Don Henley.