Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Lynda Notes Stevie Nicks for Women's History Month

Lynda: I want to NOTE Stevie Nicks for Women's History Month. Kat was talking about how Tori Amos is being treated a week or so ago. I loved the review (and just bought The Beekeeper). But what I loved the most was it made me remember how it was.
Janis was dead. Carole King was behind her piano. Carly Simon's talent was ignored while everyone slobbered over her body. Laura Nyro had moved to the country and retired and Joni Mitchell had gone to jazz and Diana Ross to Vegas and Aretha Franklin wasn't sure what kind of music she wanted to make.
God bless Grace Slick but she's never one to lead a movement.
So you either listened to bubblegum (which was drifting over to FM from AM at this time) and heard the Johns (Olivia-Newton & Elton) over and over, or you listened to FM album rock.
I listened to album rock. The year is probably 1975. And women are gone. Elton can play his cocktail jazz ballads and get on FM rock with that nonsense. But try to put in a call for any women and you're told, "Oh, no, we can't play that."
And along comes Stevie Nicks with Fleetwood Mac and the Wilson sisters with Heart. It was a really big deal. Fleetwood Mac was putting out their self-titled record and everyone was talking about it. Or talking about "Rhiannon," "Say You Love Me," "Landslide," etc.
Fleetwood Mac was drummer Mick Fleetwood, bass player John McVie, guitar player (and singer) Lindsey Buckingham, piano player (and singer) Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks who just sang and shook a mean tamborine.
Christine's piano ballads had a harder edge than Elton John's work. But the real treat was Stevie Nicks because she was singing (and writing) these hard rockers like "Rhiannon."
Linsdey Buckingham was writing his usual crap that nobody remembers.
But Stevie Nicks was the group. And back then because everyone was so frightened, each album meant you had to release a song by Lindsey because God forbid the Mac get known as a female band. So Lindsey would release assorted turkeys.
Christine always struck me more as a craftsman. But Stevie was going her own way (as Lindsey accused in one of the two hits he wrote for the group). She was speaking in her voice.
You should have seen the way women rushed the stage at a Mac concert. We all just felt like hear was someone singing our words, our concerns.
This was a big thing. And it was a big thing to hear her on the radio. You turn on today and it's no big deal to hear two women in a row or even three. But I can remember as late as the late eighties when no one would do that, not FM rock radio (which was on it's last legs) and not pop radio. Had to mix in a guy. You could play guys in a string, in a row, in a block. But doing that with women would be "soft" or some such nonsense.
She sangs of "Sisters of the Moon," and the beauty of "Storms." These incredible songs that she wrote. And it was just this feeling of pride when me or my friends would hear her on the radio back then. We'd reach for the dial all the same time to turn up the volume.
She's responsible for the classics like "Sara," "Rhiannon," "Landslide," "Gypsy," "Gold Dust Woman," "Beautiful Child," "Paper Doll," "Dreams" (the Mac's only number one hit) and "Seven Wonders." And she wrote all but the last one which was written by a friend of her's [Sandy Stewart]. [Nicks wrote "additional lyrics."]
Now near the end of it, Pat Benetar comes along and she has a great voice and in the early days, she was worth listening to. But even when Pat was raking up her hits, Stevie was doing solo work like "Whenever I Call You Friend" (with Kenny Loggins), "Edge of Seventeen," "Stop Dragging My Heart Around" (with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers), "Leather & Lace" (with Don Henley), "Stand Back," "If Anyone Falls in Love," "Nightbird," "Talk to Me," "Needles & Pins" (with Tommy Petty & the Heartbreakers), "I Can't Wait," "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You," "Whole Lotta' Trouble," "Rooms on Fire" and "Sometimes It's a Bitch."
Maybe you had to have set through "rockers" like James Taylor in a block with Elton John, the Eagles, the [Rolling] Stones and whatever light rocker Paul McCartney had churned on while you were calling and requesting a song by a woman only to be told, "Hey, we play Janis twice a day. But there aren't any other women who really rock."
With Stevie's songs, they couldn't make that claim. She really opened the door. And my age group wasn't wanting to be groupies like our older sisters had been. We wanted to be part of the onstage action. Stevie was a legitimate fantasy of what we could be for many young girls back then.
And she rocked on her own terms. She didn't try to come off like anyone else.
And when the critics would attack her we'd take it very personal because there was no one like her and yet she seemed to be writing and singing exactly what we felt.
We dressed like her, wore our hair like her, put on the headphones and listened to her songs for hours, quoting lyrics to friends in letters we wrote.
Here's one to me from my best friend Jan that I keep in my 1979 yearbook:

Lyn, Bobby is not neato, he's a nerd, he's a turkey, he's a NERKEY! He can't even grow a decent set of burns. I don't care if he thinks Mitchie is hot and pretty. She's got a face like Linda Lavin and she's trying to do the feather Farrah thing with her hair. It AIN'T WORKING! You are so much prettier than Mitchie on the inside and the outside.
Tomorrow after school we were going to get together and make you look so cool and then we'll strut into the Dairy Palace and Bobby will be eating his heart out. And you are going to be okay! Like Stevie says, "Every night that goes between, I feel a little less, As you slowly go away from me, This is only another a test, Every day you do not call, Your softness fades away, Did I ever really mean that much, Is there anything left to say." We've got two more weeks to get through, Lyn, and then SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER! Next year, we are seniors and Bobby's off at some tech school. He is so OVER. This hurts but it will get better!!!

I can read that note now and remember it was first period, we were in Mrs. Head's English class, and Jan passed it to me underneath Mrs. Head's handouts. I can remember reading that and hoping it was true and then getting to the part of "Storms" and my back straightening up and thinking, "That's right. This is just another test."
As young girls, she meant so much to us. Not because she was letting her ass hang out of her pants the way Britney Spears or some of the gals today do. But because she was writing these songs that really spoke to what we were feeling.
I still listen to Stevie Nicks and get her albums. I've gone from vinyl, to cassette, to CD with her.
I'm sure I'll be going with her to the next format. Her songs mean a lot to me. And just having her there on the dial between Aerosmith and ZZ Top and Cheap Trick meant something because we went from junior high when FM radio wouldn't play any of our requests to having a voice right there on the dial. And we would request her but we didn't have to. It's not like they weren't playing her if we weren't calling in and asking for her.
Ann and Nancy Wilson were important too but Fleetwood Mac was such a mess personally that we could identify with Stevie who was always singing about her friends. Ann and Nancy always had each other. (And me and my friends really couldn't picture being in a band with our sisters.)
So we had Stevie who got through and did her thing her way and that was just a really liberating message for us. When I think of my friends from high school, I always think of how we were always listening to Stevie and trying to dress like her or wear our hair like her.
And I'm sure young girls today are getting some kind of message from the female singers they're into but I don't think they could get as much from the half-dressed singers who sing other people's songs. Stevie just seemed to get us. And we got her. She was the poet of our heart (like "Sara" was the poet of her heart).