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The Story Behind The Song: How Stevie Nicks created ‘After The Glitter Fades’

Arguably the most important female voice in rock history, Stevie Nicks has carved out a legacy to be marvelled at. However, the road she travelled wasn’t always a smooth one. 

Nicks first met her musical and romantic partner Lindsey Buckingham during her senior year at Menlo-Atherton High School in Atherton, 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 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’. 

It was also at this juncture in the aspiring singer’s life that she wrote the wonderful ‘After The Glitter Fades’. The song, however, wasn’t to be released until nearly a decade later on Nicks’ debut solo album, Bella Donna, the first of her impressive achievements without the backing of Fleetwood Mac. 

With its release in 1981, people could be excused for assuming that the song was written from a retrospective point of view; perhaps one might derive that Nicks was communicating newfound wisdom regarding the pitfalls of fame. But the song was written in 1972, a time when Nicks was still housekeeping to get by, and her years of glittering fame were still very much a pipe-dream. It wasn’t until the fateful call from Mick Fleetwood some two years later on New Year’s Eve, 1974, that the first ruffle of fame’s feathers could be heard. 

The lyrics open with the lines: “Well I never thought I’d make it /Here in Hollywood /I never thought I’d ever /Want to stay /What I seem to touch these days /Has turned to gold /What I seem to want /Well you know I’ll find a way”.

Therefore, the lyrics give an imaginative portrayal of what fame in show business could entail. The words likely saw their inception during Nicks’ quiet hours living with Barry McGuire, dreaming about what her future might have in store for her. Later in the song, Nicks writes of loneliness, heartbreak and lies as some of the realities of stardom. The lyrics, therefore, came as an eerily accurate prophecy for Nicks and her experiences over the remainder of the 1970s. As it transpires, the song was actually written with the intention of being sung by the legendary country singer Dolly Parton.

Nicks once recalled, “‘After the Glitter Fades’ was written in 1972; it was copyrighted in 1975. Which is a strange sort of premonition to have in 1972 because that was two years before Fleetwood Mac. And I mean that was when the Buckingham Nicks album had been dropped, so we were going nowhere fast. And I seemed to have some idea what was going to happen, that I was really gonna face some really serious glitter and see some serious glitter fade.”

Nicks added, discussing her intention to offer the song to Parton: “I wanted [Dolly Parton] to do ‘After the Glitter Fades’ ’cause I really thought it would be perfect for her. And it got sent to her, and I don’t think Dolly ever really got it. I think if she’d ever got the song, she would have wanted to do it.”

Listen to Stevie Nicks’ prophetic ballad, ‘After the Glitter Fades’, below.