Record Machine: Top 5 Stevie Nicks Songs

About a month ago, in honor of her rejoining the band on tour, I talked about my favorite Christine McVie songs, but we can’t forget Fleetwood Mac’s other leading lady: Stevie Nicks. Though it’s difficult to pick just five songs, let me try.

Of course, it bears mentioning that these five songs could change in my mind at any time. Here are the tunes I’m into at the moment, in no particular order:

“I Don’t Want To Know”

Take a listen to your spirit
it’s crying out loud
Try to believe
Oh you say you love me
but you don’t know

I love, love, love the Everly Brothers-style harmonies that Stevie and Lindsey have going on here, and I’m a sucker for the hand-claps. Clapping makes songs better, right? “I Don’t Want To Know” is quite a bit different from the rest of Rumours in that it sounds more like their Buckingham Nicks duo days. It’s another example of the two singing through their contentious relationship — how much they love each other, but it’s not going to work out the way they thought it would. Despite all the bad behavior (or perhaps because of it), to me, they are one of the most interesting musical partnerships.

“Angel”

I still look up
when you walk in the room
I’m the same wide-eyes
I guess they tell stories
I try not to reach out
and when you turn around you say hello
and we both pretend
No great pretender

It was tough to decide between this and “Sisters of the Moon” from Tusk, but when I think about what songs on the album compel me to sing along most often, this is by far a winner. I chose this 1979 live performance – with a bonus bit where Stevie practices ballet — because of its energy. Go on with that platform boot dancing, lady.

“Angel” perhaps alludes to her affair with Mick Fleetwood, but it applies to any relationship that is secret and important, how hard it is to pretend that it never happened. It’s sexy and full of longing, and though the song describes a complicated situation, it’s unapologetic. In other words, it’s Classic Stevie Nicks.

“Gypsy”

To the gypsy
that remains
faces freedom with a little bit of fear
I have no fear
I have only love

Let’s have a more recent performance of this Mirage-era song, shall we? I think it’s interesting for a number of reasons. For one, Stevie has to change up the vocals to match her current range — those high notes are a bit difficult this many decades later — and secondly, check out how she has a specially made pocket on the back of her jacket for her in-ear monitor. Of course she would have clothing that matched her needs. Beautiful clothing and spaces are a priority for her, which brings me to the third interesting thing about this version: Her story about the Velvet Underground, the store. She is also all about paying tribute to the women who came before her, and her shout-outs to Janis Joplin and Grace Slick are perfect.

“Gypsy” is a song more about finding comfort on your own rather than her usual songwriting material describing her relationships with others. Stevie is happy to be herself, and she has learned how it is important to maintain that feeling.

“Rhiannon”

Dreams unwind
love’s a state of mind
I know you know that dreams unwind
and love is hard to find

I went back and forth between this song and “Landslide,” since I love them both. However, “Rhiannon” is one of the first songs that won me over when it came to my full-on Fleetwood Mac adoration. This song about “a white witch” is so powerful and compelling, it might impossible not to love. And the conclusion of this 1976 performance? Oh, how can you not be a little in love with her too? That dress, the yowling cry to the sky? Yes. Get it.

(Also, dig those 1970s video effects, maaaaan.)

“Edge of Seventeen”

Well then suddenly
There was no one left standing
In the hall

yeah, yeah
In a flood of tears
That no one really ever heard fall at all
When I went searching for an answer
Up the stairs and down the hall
Not to find an answer
But I could hear the call
Of a nightbird singing, Come away

We require some solo-Stevie in this list! I had a hard time picking a video to pair with this entry. Something more recent where her vocals are a little different from the original? The actual video? Live 1980s performance? In the end, I went with the latter. I like the old performances, and though solo and with the band they now have a bigger production going on — with number of musicians and also set pieces — she has always put on a great show. I also like her shaking people’s hands and her little motivational line at the end of this video.

Something about her backing singer with the darker hair, Sharon Celani, has always bugged me. You know how there are some people you can listen to but not watch singing? This woman is that. Yes, that’s insensitive of me to say, but I can’t watch her singing expressions. Still though, major respect for staying on with Stevie since 1981.

This song was inspired by a conversation with Tom Petty and his wife, Jane, and also the deaths of John Lennon and Stevie’s uncle. I seem to recall her also saying in her VH1 Storytellers session that the crunching guitar riff popped into her head while listening to Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” but YouTube is less than forthcoming. If I’ve got the song wrong, blame my fuzzy memory.

So, come on then, I want to hear your favorite Stevie songs. Are you partial to the classic “Landslide?” Dig some hidden gem on a solo album? Let me know in the comments.

Stevie Nicks bows in a top hat - 1970s
(via)

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

7 thoughts on “Record Machine: Top 5 Stevie Nicks Songs”

  1. I think my favorites are “Stand Back” and “The Chain,” though obviously the latter is all of Fleetwood Mac, not just Stevie Nicks. I cannot recommend those two highly enough if you need stuff to add to a running playlist. I missed the Christine McVie post–my spouse and I played “Everywhere” as the “recessional” song at our wedding this summer!

  2. Oy. Stevie solo? Stevie with Lindsey? Stevie with Fleetwood Mac? Just for today, my top five are…

    1. “Silver Springs”

    And not just because it was inspired when she passed a beltway sign for the town where my grandparents used to live. It’s not an emotionally mature sentiment, but “I know I could have loved you but you would not let me/I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you”? SO what it felt like to be young and not loved back.

    2. “Gold Dust Woman”

    Did she make you cry? Make you break down? Shatter your illusions of love? Sorry, not sorry. Maybe the only Stevie song of which I love a cover (Hole’s) almost as much as I love the original.

    3. “Insider” w/Tom Petty (I forgot that category!)

    A gem hidden unless you knew to go looking for it. Just another classic Tom & Stevie duet.

    4. “Planets of the Universe”

    We go through all the storm and drama of relationships and the planets of the Universe go their way. Not astounded…

    5. “Beautiful Child”

    I fell in love when I was only 17, I guess? But he didn’t love me in that ride off into the sunset kind of way, and I was eventually old enough to love him from afar.

    (We’re just granted “Dreams”, “Rhiannon”, and “Sara”, right?)

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