In pop music, the line between romance and perversion is paper-thin. Consider The Police’s 1983 hit ‘Every Breath You Take’, in which Sting sings the line: “Every breath you take/Every move you make/Every bond you break/Every step you take/I’ll be watching you”. When sung, lyrics like that can evoke the all-consuming power of love. When read on paper, however, they frequently sound like the scrawlings of some pervert with a powerful telescope. Dave Mathews Band’s effort, ‘Crash Into Me’, is another particularly creepy example. The 1996 tune comes off as a pretty romantic tune on first listen, but, on closer inspection, it becomes clear that this is a song written from the point of view of a voyeuristic young man in the midst of a particularly unhealthy obsession.
As Dave Mathews explained in an interview following the release of Crash, the song is about the “worship of women, but this is a little bit of a crazy man. He’s the kind of man you’d call the police on, some guy kind of peering in on his neighbours, a young girl who moved in or something, staring… [heavy breathing]. She’s calling the police: ‘You’ve got to get down here, he’s looking at me!’ So I wrote the song about it rather than actually peering in the window for fear of being arrested”.
For Stevie Nicks, the “twisted” nature of Mathews’ track made it an irresistible temptation. When the song was released in ’96, Nicks was immediately drawn to his songwriting: “Oh, as soon as that song came out I said, ‘I want it. I want to do that song,” she said. Unfortunately, Nicks’ suggestion was met with lazy assertions that ‘Crash Into Me’ was “really a man’s song”. Of course, the reality is that gender-swapping has produced some of the greatest covers of all time. Take Kirstie MacColl’s cover of Billy Bragg’s ‘New England’ or The Pretender’s cover of The Kinks’ ‘Stop Your Sobbing’, for example, as both songs reveal previously unheard dimensions to the composer’s lyric. Alas, Nicks couldn’t convince her label to let her do take on ‘Crash Into Me’.
“But in my head,” Nicks continued. “I said: ‘I will do this song. It’s a twisted song, so I’ll just twist it even more, and make it fit me.’” And that’s exactly what she did. For her live shows, Nicks bought in female backing singers to emphasise her warping of Mathews’ hyper-sexualising lyrics: “Where he would sing ‘In a boy’s dream’”, Nicks explained. “I have the girls go, ‘And the boys sing…’ Then I can do those lines: [singing] ‘Hike up your skirt a little more, and show your world to me.’ Dave’s actually very sexual, his writing. But I don’t know if he likes it or not. I invited him to come to the taping for PBS, and he never got back to us. I thought he would! But you know, his wife was having a baby, I think”.
You can watch Nicks performance of ‘Crash Into Me’ below