Stevie Nicks carries her bedroom with her wherever she goes.
Her past and present boyfriends, her girlfriend-confidantes,
her diary jottings, her dreams, her embroidered bedspreads,
her I-just-got-up croak, her nightie -- these are the
ingredients of her fairy-tale world. It is a big pink satin
pillow, and she is its princess. On the pink pillow, time
stands still. It is forever 1342, when Snow White did tricks
with mirrors, or maybe 1977, when Fleetwood Mac's Rumours
sold eight kazillion copies and emboldened Stephanie L. Nicks
to make art of her dreams and diary jottings. Certainly
nothing has penetrated that world since the discovery of Tom
Petty. No, scented with pampered womanliness and echoing with
the sighs of ancient Romantic myths, the pillow makes its own
the world of Princess Stevie tend to drift on clouds of
vaporous references to storybook figures -- gypsies,
white-winged doves, enchanted forests, every so often a
distinctly lowercase "velvet underground" -- but
cleverly omit any story. Except for the oldest story in the
book, Love. "Gate and Garden" begins with some
gibberish about a gate that can be guarded, but "it is
not heaven/And it has a garden/So to the red rose/Grows the
passion." But you'll never remember the song except as
the one where she sings 400 times "Do I love you?"
Or how about this grocery list of lyric? "Learn to be a
stranger/Blond on blond/In silence she says...'excalibur'/I
beg of your now/What was it that fell." In other words,
she went to the movies with Ryan O'Neal, made out, and now she
wants to know (see chorus) "Was it love?" You can go
crazy and blind trying to make sense of these communiques. the
trick is to sit back, erase the meaning of the words with
mental floss, zero in on Princess Stevie's throbbing voice,
and imagine what drama of the soul she is trying to enact.
"Beauty and the Beast," which closes her latest
album, The Wild Heart, is a good example. You would
probably gag if you really thought she was re-interpreting
Cocteau's movie or being serious when she whispers "le
bÍte...le bÍte..." It's really an interior argument
in which she's chastising herself for being so beastly to
lovers who aren't as beautiful as herself. The orchestral
arrangement by Paul Buckmaster and Kenneth Whitfield
represents her tears of repentance and redemption. Listen
closely and I'm sure you'll agree.
Princess Stevie parks her pink pillow in public, and it is
something to see. At the Byrne Arena in New Jersey, June 24,
the father of the princess introduced her, and she fluttered
on in a flashdance of fabric like a moth sacrificing herself
to the flame. The royal voice had been ravaged by solo
singing; that quivering bee-sting so attractive when buzzing
around her Fleetwood Mac fellows or harmonizing with the likes
of Walter Egan and Tom Snow was now a cracked husk. It only
carried at all when boosted by Waddy Wachtel on "Stop
Dragging My Heart Around" and by her backup singers on
"If Anyone Falls." The audience did not mind. They
showered her with applause, flowers, and gifts, and she waited
at the front of the stage until she had collected every last
trinket before staggering back to the pink pillow with her
booty. Her rigorous collection of these tributes seemed almost
unattractively zealous, but perhaps when you're a princess you
deserve Christmas every day.
is one of two genuinely impressive things about Steve Nicks.
It is impossible to imagine Christine McVie, a superior
singer, or Lindsey Buckingham, a superior musician and
composer, filling the Byrne Area with enthusiastic fans. of
all the Fleetwood Mac team, the princess has the most marginal
talent yet the strongest persona. Like Dan Fogelberg, she
legitimizes sentimental teenage verse and embodies the
adolescent's desire to be the center of the universe: to each
his own pink pillow.
impressive -- and mysterious -- is how the fragmented bits of
schoolgirl poetry and undigested scraps of emotion that Stevie
Nicks produces somehow cohere as songs. Although my favorites
of her records are songs written by Petty ("Stop Draggin'"
and "I Will Run to You"), tunes like Tusk's
"Beautiful Child" and The Wild Heart's "Nightbird"
(a detailed description of her makeup) give me continued
pleasure. I suspect their musical appeal owes something to the
professional prowess of the various producers and musicians
involved, who have a hand in completing the songs. But the
same outrageous self-indulgence that makes Stevie Nicks the
pampered princess of rock and roll also gives her music an
identity that is fascinating in its firmness and, on the
mindless level it inhabits, even admirable. After all, you
can't argue with excess.