VOX Magazine (02/1992), Come Into My Parlour
Come Into My Parlour
VOX Magazine (London) February 1992***
Deserted by Mick Fleetwood, bullied by her record company, and haunted by the memory of four abortions, Stevie Nicks is rich but not happy. Spencer Bright breaks out the Kleenex for the woman who couldn't go her own way. Homely snaps by George Bodnar.
I pull a Kleenex from its box and hand it to Stevie Nicks. She wipes a tear as it slides down her cheek. She cries when she speaks of Mick Fleetwood, she cries when she speaks of the babies she might have had, and she cries when she speaks of the bullies in the record industry shoving her around. She's like a damsel in distress in her castle, and we're in her fairy land lounge. There is a warm glow from the chunky candles and the blue flame on the log fire. While outside in LA, the temperature sizzles up to 80.
Stevie points out her favourite chaise lounge. Her favourite doll, which resembles her, sits regally upon it. Shawls are draped about. One, a 12-year-old garment, is loosely draped around the chanteuse. Stevie needs the comfort of these long familiar possessions; they stress a continuity and equilibrium that have been sadly lacking in her emotional life.
To say that Stevie Nicks is considered flaky is a mild understatement. But, as with so many things Nicksian, it's a mythical fog that masks the true woman. She isn't just a mystical old crone running a witches coven in the Hollywood Hills. The fantasy world she appears to inhabit actually stems from her love of England, mainly its history, kings and queens.
Her home in Encino - up the road from Dave Stewart's house and over the brow of the hill from that of her former lover Tom Petty - is the sort of chocolate box creation you'd expect to find in a theme park. From the outside it's a Tudor mansion with Elephantitis; as you enter there's a drained waterfall replaced by plants and flowers running alongside the winding brick staircase.
Climbing the stairs it changes from medieval to Hansel and Gretel, as the carved wooden banisters meander perpendicularly up three more stories. At the top of the house is an octagonal bell tower, but there's no bell, just a viewing platform and windows where Stevie, her friends, and employees go to watch the sun set over San Fernando Valley.
I'm given a guided tour that the barman at my hotel would have died and gone to Heaven for. There's Stevie's grand four-poster bed with lace cushions and lacy covers. In the adjoining dressing room a sweet musty smell of perfume hangs in the air. All around are satin and silk nightgowns bunched on hangers. Stevie says she bought this house because she could imagine Ann Boleyn living here.
When Stevie Nicks first made money with Fleetwood Mac, she was able to fulfil her Dickensian fantasies of looking like a "ragged doll"- she came off resembling Artful Dodger, Bill Sykes' girlfriend from Oliver Twist and Miss Haversham from Great Expectations.
Stevie is not quite sure where this obsession with English things came from. "It was born into me. Maybe my last life was in England." Thus, when, in January 1975, a 6'5'' English eccentric named Mick Fleetwood came and asked her and her boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham to join his band, she had to say yes. "Just the idea that his band was English was reason enough to join. It was a dream come true." It was also a perfect opportunity to learn about kings, queens, princes and princesses.
Fleetwood perfectly matched her dreams. "The first time Mick walked into the room I thought I was witnessing the entrance of an English king, because that's how he looked to me. He was wearing a burgundy coloured water silk vest (waistcoat) with a watch chain and a very long jacket that was very nipped at the waist, and beautifully made pants. I was awe struck. I still am to this day of Mick's presence. The whole air around him is power." The people who saw Fleetwood's performance with Samantha Fox may find this a little hard to accept.
Previously Lindsey Buckingham had dominated Stevie. He was the artist; he didn't know how to do anything except music. "What was he going to do, sell shoes? I had a $50,000 education, I could do anything." Her waitress job paid for the rent, the food, the car. "I knew it was going to take my strength to push Lindsey and I over the edge if we were going to make it in the music business."
After Buckingham came a rogues' gallery of rock'n'roll suitors not known for their wimpishness- Joe Walsh, Don Henley, Tom Petty and producers Jimmy Iovine and Rupert Hine. And the man who called his on-the-road dalliances an attack of "veal viper", Mick Fleetwood. All get their individual tributes on Stevie's Best Of compilation album, Timespace.
In parallel with the last 10 years of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie enjoyed the most successful career of the whole group. Her first solo album, Bella Donna, sold 10 million copies and subsequent collections have enjoyed less spectacular, but still reputable sales. Now, though, with the apparently final demise of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie is suffering a personal and professional crisis.
The recent Mac troubles can be traced to an old song called Silver Springs. So taken was Stevie's mother by this number that she was moved to open an antique clothing shop in Phoenix in the same name. Stevie made a gift of the song to her.
Silver Springs nearly became a classic, but was dropped at the last minute from the 20-million selling Rumours album. Stevie thought it would be nice to resurrect the song and place it on Timespace. But Mick Fleetwood refused to give up the group's performance rights; he wants the option of having the number on a boxed set due for this year's commemoration of Fleetwood Mac's 25th anniversary.
"I have told the world what a vile thing it was that Mick Fleetwood had done to me, who has fought like a dog for 15 years to keep this band from breaking up. I don't really know what's going through Mick's mind. He never returned a phone call, and he never felt it was his duty to sit down and write a letter to tell me why.
"He has always been very English, and very proper and sometimes very arrogant, but to me a very close and loving friend. And somebody that I always felt I could trust and love" says Stevie, wiping away tears.
"He has always been the boss of the group. He has always made all the decisions. And he has always made all the decisions. And he has always made them without asking anyone else. So he had no reason to do this to us. To break up the whole band."
In the tradition on rock'n'roll's greatest soap opera, Stevie has Fleetwood's soon-to-be ex-wife Sarah on her side. "She's singing with me now, she's a very good friend. She's divorcing Mick after being with him for 13 years; they are completely separated. She doesn't understand."
Stevie has included 'Beauty and the Beast' on Timespace, a song written about her affair with Mick in the late 70's. She explains that it is not a dig at him being a beast, but about the beauty and the beast within us all. The album's sleeve notes are full of similar references to her ex-lovers.
Was there a common thread among her men? "They're all very smart and very loving, and they all had a difficult time with my life and the way that I live it and how busy I am." For four lovers, a crucial test came when she became pregnant and opted for terminations. "It's always been a tragedy. But they understood." But they didn't really. "Eventually their hearts couldn't take it, they couldn't understand quite enough, how deeply embedded in this I was. And so it eventually hurt them too much and they had to leave, or face devastation on their own."
She put her relationship with her fans before a relationship with one man. Ever since she saw Janis Joplin perform, Stevie has wanted to emulate her, to achieve that state of communion with the crowd. "I just wanted to be in love with my audience and I wanted them to be in love with me back."
But now there is remorse at the havoc her abortions have wreaked on her psyche. "To give up four babies is to give up a lot that would be here now. So that bothers me, a lot, and really breaks my heart. But they're gone, so..." She composes herself. "But I couldn't have because I was too busy. And I had all these commitments." She wants to adopt, but age and single-parenthood are against her.
"I've also though about having one myself but I'm booked up for the next four years. I don't know if, at my age, I can get pregnant right away, do an album at the same time, have a baby, promote an album, go out on tour with the baby. So I'm going back and forth in my mind. At 43 years old, my time clock is ticking, so I can't afford to wait around for very long." Surely these are the same excuses she made on the last four occasions -- with two important differences. There is no obvious candidate for the father, and even if there were, the decision totally remains in her hands.
In an epic inversion of the star's role, she is subservient to the 40 people who depend on her for their livelihoods. "I don't know quite how to walk away without hurting a lot of people -- even though every one of those people would say 'you've done a lot for us and we know that you love us, but go do something for yourself for a change' But I just can't."
The determination, toughness, and pragmatism that helped her achieve success now seem elusive, but what hurts most is being pushed around by business moguls. She is smarting from the inclusion - against her wishes - of Jon Bon Jovi's song "Sometimes It's a Bitch" on Timespace.
"I was told that if I didn't do a song by Jon Bon Jovi then my career was over. I don't have any reason to hate Jon Bon Jovi. He wrote me a song that was a wonderful thing to do. I knew that just me singing it wasn't going to go over well with my fans, which it hasn't. But I was told by the industry, by management, and by everybody else that if I did NOT do this, and reach this new audience, that my career was simply, finally, completely over.
They exerted all the pressure you could possibly exert, they scared me to death. So I did the song, and is it a big hit song? No, it's not."
She found it particularly distasteful to sing the word 'bitch', which she considers a swear word. Stevie concedes that she has difficulty challenging authority figures.
It all makes her appear so fragile. While we speak she only opens her doe eyes to wipe away the tears, preferring instead to look down when the talk gets serious. There are no crutches anymore. she gave up the cocaine and alcohol in 1986 when she admitted herself to the Betty Ford Center.
Bad as she was, she still had the inner strength to take control of her destiny, probably because she sensed she was in mortal danger. One night she was inspired to write a personal creed: "I am not special, I am not infallible, I am dying."
"I started crying really hard, and I wrote under it something to the effect never forget these three lines. And so I feel that yes, I can write stories for people, but that I'm not indestructible that I'm not special. And that I was dying. So, that was a very bug turning point at Betty Ford for me."
If Fleetwood Mac had been told to do 'Sometimes It's A Bitch', she thinks she knows what would have happened. "Mick would have ridden in on his white horse and swept me up and told them all to go to hell and say I won't let her do it." The tragedy is that after all these struggles, Stevie Nicks is a victim once again.
VOX was privileged to receive a guided tour of Stevie Nicks's home. However, since several previous attempts at photographing the interior of her mansion had not matched up to her idea of how it should look, Nicks chose to recreate the interior in sympathetic lighting conditions.
Two days later Ms. Nicks summoned our photographer to a professional sound-stage at a studio near LA International airport. There, with the aid of two articulated lorries of furniture, clothes, dolls, and assorted knickknacks, she recreated her bedroom. A staff of more than a dozen people-- including caterers (note bulging fridge), lighting men, set builders, makeup artists, hairdressers, and a mysterious "personal assistant"-- spent a whole day recreating the authentic ambiance of Stevie's home.
All of this was done at her own cost. But Ms. Nicks is no stranger to excess. During the last Fleetwood Mac world tour, she had every hotel room she stayed in redecorated to her personal taste-- and at her own considerable cost.
Contributed by BlackWidow
1992-02-01 Number of views: