Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sometimes it rages...rock a little

I've been a fan of Stevie Nicks since 1987. It was in the fall of that year that I saw Fleetwood Mac in concert in Ames (granted, without Lindsey Buckingham. It wouldn't be until 10 years later that I saw the classic Mac lineup in concert) and became enchanted by Stevie's warblings. My mom had bought the Rock A Little record from Columbia House or one of those record club things and I'd always liked the song "Talk To Me" but for the most part, I couldn't stomach any other song on there. It was too much the same, Stevie sounding like she was perpetually nasally congested.

But somewhere along the line, something changed, because in October of 1987, I bought both Bella Donna and The Wild Heart on cassette tape and loved them. This prompted me to give Rock A Little another spin. And when I listened to it again, I couldn't get enough of it.

Rock A Little is a rather strange Stevie Nicks album. It isn't that it's so stylistically different from Bella Donna - The Wild Heart had already started layering tons of synths over Stevie's voice, in stark contrast to Bella Donna's almost acoustic sound. And it was not reviewed incredibly favorably at the time it was released. It is definitely Stevie's most coked-out album. It seems as if Stevie prided herself in being deliberately obscure in a lot of her songs, but here, it's almost like, what the HELL are you talking about? Do you even know? And the fact that the vast majority of the songs weren't even written by Stevie - when nearly all of Bella Donna and The Wild Heart had been, makes this album seem a little bit less authentic than its predecessors.

All that having been said, I ADORE this album. They say that the music that you listen to when you're 15 is the music you listen to your whole life. This theory does not entirely hold true because I can't remember the last time that I deliberately listened to Expose or the theme song from Dirty Dancing, but it definitely is true about Stevie's first three solo albums, particularly Rock A Little. For starters, she's gorgeous on the cover, in that fabulous English peacoat and black hat. Then there's "I Can't Wait" the vocals of which were famously (or maybe not so famously) recorded in a single take. And it just gets better from there.

Two songs in particular stand out for me. The first is "If I Were You." In it, Stevie begs her lover to take the love she's giving. But she also sang to the 15 year old me - "Every boy must learn to be a man/Well maybe I can help you/Yes I can." For whatever reason, that line resonated with me. And I kept coming back to it. Perhaps it was because I was just of the right age to hear it. And the second? It's "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?" In it, Stevie asks "In all your darkest hours/Have you ever heard me sing?"

More than you can possibly know, Stevie.

I think the thing I love most about Stevie is the fact that she's such an enneagram type four - just like me. And fellow fours can appreciate each other well, understanding the drama that is in their lives, be it real or manufactured. And at that time in my life, it seemed like she understood the drama (real or perceived) in my angsty teenage life.

So it's been almost 20 years since I discovered Rock A Little. I have no doubt that I'll still be listening to it in 20 years. Which answers Stevie's question that she posed in "I Can't Wait" (during the musical breakdown - it's so easy to miss) -- "How will we feel 20 years from now?"


xolondon said...

I love the two songs you highlighted. The bridge (or middle eight, bada bing!) to "If I Were You" is amazing and no Stevie fan doesn't love "Has.."

Another one that has aged well for me is "Some Become Strangers"

Her fast slide downward after this CD was so distressing! I really could not believe what I was hearing when she had her Lazarus moment with her last solo album, which is right up there with her first 3.

Anonymous said...

I first saw Stevie on the "Rock A Little" tour...she had gained loads of weight after semi-accompanying Dylan with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers down in Australia (couldn't get something 'down under'?)..the Village Voice columnist Michael Musto bitchily commented that she was on the "add ten pounds...add another shawl" diet. She entered the Betty Ford clinic immediately after the tour..but the concerts I saw..about 6 altogether along the East Coast were "magical":terrific band, great song selection..even though not in the best of health...terrific. Peter Framptom opened--also terrific. I have always preferred side B of the album...especially "The Nightmare" (co-written by her brother Chris) and "If I Were You"...definitely overloaded with synth/pop...but what else could her producer reasonably do...her voice was basically gone after the "Wild Heart" and "Mirage" consecutive tourings...what other female artist (and remember female voices are (mostly) supposed to be 'sweet') has done this many live concerts over a 30+ year period. Her conversation-like, stream of consciousness? lyrics continue through today and she often refers back to older songs in new ones...why not? isn't life one great variation on a theme...besides if anyone is a "fan"...some things don't need to be becomes part of your/her life!!! and the hell with the critics...Rock On! glenn from the bronx