Friday, February 15, 2008

How will we feel 20 years from now?

It was 20 years ago that I first started listening to Stevie Nicks. She had always existed on my periphery prior to that, but in the winter of 1987-88, I bought up her solo albums and really started listening to her, almost to the exclusion of everything else. Her music is a huge part of the soundtrack of my sophomore year of high school. Listening to the first three albums (Bella Donna, The Wild Heart, and Rock A Little) is like stepping into the Tardis and being magically transported back to those times. That is not all good, but it is what it is.

Matt and I were discussing "Illume (9/11)" the other day which is a Stevie track from Fleetwood Mac's Say You Will album. For me, that's an example of a song in which Stevie is being deliberately spacey and obtuse. While at times, that is exciting and cool, there are also times that it is highly annoying and I'm all "just stop that already!!" So it got me to thinking about what makes my favorite Stevie Nicks songs my favorites. What better time than a Friday when I don't work to ponder Stevie songs? I limited myself to her solo work, as including Fleetwood Mac would have rendered this list an impossibility. So, here they are (in no particular order as is usual, and links to YouTube videos where I could find them):

Dan's 12 Favorite Stevie Nicks Songs

1) "Stand Back" - (from The Wild Heart) - If a gun were held to my head and I was forced to pick my #1 favorite Stevie Nicks song, it would be "Stand Back." Stevie talks about how it has an energy that comes from nowhere, and it's true. Those big synths, the driving drums, it's near perfect. Without a doubt, the best dance song Stevie has ever done, even though the video is VERY swing choir (but still infinitely better than the scrapped Civil War one.) Not as crazy about it live as, despite what Stevie says, I feel like she's a bit bored with it.

2) "Blue Lamp" - (from Heavy Metal: Original Soundtrack) - A fan favorite, and certainly in my top five. It's an incomprehensible song about God only knows what (although this is interesting.) I love this song because it's a straight on rocker with a great melody. One of the highlights of the Crystal Visions DVD is watching her lay down the vocals for this song when it was slated to be on Bella Donna. Those very vocals I swear are the ones that we hear now on the song.

3) "Think About It" - (from Bella Donna) - Featuring a lyric that got me through my overly dramatic, melancholy-for-no-real-reason teenage years ("Even when you feel like your life is fading/I know that you'll go on forever, you're that good/Heartbreak of the moment is not endless/Fortune is your life's love.") this is one of my favorite album tracks on Stevie's stunning debut album. A demo version of "Think About It" showed up on a expanded remaster of Rumours from a few years back and I almost like that version better!

4) "Blue Denim" - (from Street Angel) - Another straight forward rocker, but this time from her critically maligned 1994 Street Angel album. What I love about it is how it hearkens back to early Stevie, especially at the end of the song when she speak/sing/yells "Well, I'm going away for a little while to remember how to feel!" While the album itself has not aged well, this song is a good addition to her catalog.

5) "Nightbird" - (from The Wild Heart) - Written in the aftermath of friend Robin's death from leukemia, I listened to this song time and time again as a 15 year old trying to figure it out. The funny thing about The Wild Heart as an album is how it is such a bridge between Bella Donna and Rock A Little, almost as if it is the offspring of those two albums. It has both the acoustic/classic rock sound of Bella Donna, but is also quite synth heavy (although not as much as Rock A Little.) "Nightbird" is, I think, a good example of this.

6) "Greta" - (from Street Angel) - Another one from that critical and commercial misfire, but when I first heard this song, it had a classic Stevie sound about it, including speak-sing (Ooh, she's got a movie star view!) Well, behold the power of the internets because "Greta" is actually a song Stevie wrote for The Wild Heart. No wonder it had that classic Stevie sound! The demo is much cheesier, but Stevie is not in a daze on Klonopin in that one, as she is on the version on Street Angel, so really, it's a toss-up as to which is better.

7) "I Can't Wait" - (from Rock A Little) - Oh, how I love this song. Rock A Little as an album is rather dated (in a good way at least for me), but for some reason, "I Can't Wait" is just timeless. With vocals famously laid down in one take and the fabulous "how will we feel 20 years from now?" break-down, I just love this song from start to finish. I am also especially fond of the pseudo tongue twister "In secret she says she needs to see him but no words are spoken." "Stand Back" was given the remix treatment last year. I think "I Can't Wait" should be next.

8) "Trouble In Shangri-La" - (from Trouble In Shangri-La) - After the duds of The Other Side of the Mirror and Street Angel, Stevie was back in her finest form since I can't even remember when with this album. And this song is a latter-day classic for her. Having Sheryl Crow produce was a stroke of genius, even though Lindsey Buckingham is still her best producer. It's always great when you've kind of written an artist off as never being able to top what they've done, and then they prove you wrong.

9) "Mirror Mirror" - (B-side to "Blue Denim" single) - A leftover track from the Rock A Little days, it sure sounds the part. But since I have such a soft spot for Rock A Little, it's not surprising that this song makes the list. It was the B-side for the cassette single (those were the days, my friend) of "Blue Denim" and truthfully, it was the only reason I bought the single!

10) "Bella Donna" - (from Bella Donna) - This song gets me with the first 5 notes. Those ascending piano chords that open the song and the album are among my favorite musical moments. I think what makes Bella Donna such a great album is that it was her first solo record and she just had massive amounts of unreleased material to choose from. I also think she benefited quite a bit from Jimmy Iovine's production. I remember reading in Rolling Stone that he was very unforgiving with her, telling her that she needed to stop thinking that she was a part of a supergroup and think of herself as completely unproven. And really, as a solo artist, she was at that time. (The song in the video linked is actually a demo - the finished version is much more epic.)

11) "If Anyone Falls" - I played this song till my ears bled when I was 15. It is heavy on the synths, some guitar (not much) and a classic Stevie vocal. Plus an extremely cheesy video. Enough said.

12) "The Nightmare" - (from Rock A Little) - There are many that think this song should have been jettisoned from Rock A Little in favor of "Mirror, Mirror" or "Thousand Days." I would have to disagree vehemently, as it was, after "Talk To Me" and "I Can't Wait" the third Stevie Nicks song that I really "discovered." It is spacey and out there and Stevie at her most coked-out, but it starts out with an energy (perhaps left over from "Stand Back") and it never lets up. And it contained yet another line crucial to my adolescence in "This is not the world, not the world, not the real world!"

Yes, I was a handful as a teenager. But not in the ways you might imagine.

There were so many good songs that did not make the cut. "Edge of Seventeen", "Talk To Me" and "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" are notably absent. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that these are the ones that, when I listen to Stevie, are likely to get the most play. You'll notice that it is heavy on the first three albums. There's something about that trilogy of albums, the ones that were already released when I discovered Stevie's solo work, that is magical.

Wow, this has been kind of fun, even though it has sucked up my entire morning!!


Myfizzypop said...

i feel my knowledge of Stevie Nicks is shockingly subpar so i will check out some of these songs...

Yuяi said...

Totally agree with your #1. "Stand Back" is Stevie at her finest! I think it would be hard to do a top 12 list, but kudos to you. Nice work.

xolondon said...

I became obsessed with Stevie in maybe 1982 (?) when Edge Of Seventeen came out.

I heard Bella Donna (the song) on the radio - AOR radio - and I absolutely agree about the first piano notes. For some reason they just sort of feel like a part of me - I knew the melody like it was inside me before. That sounds NUTTY but it's true. We went to Pizza Hut and Bella Donna was a b-side on the jukebox, so I played it and asked my parents not to talk. That was sort of the genesis of how I approach music so personally.

We could have an all night conversation about Stevie.

Anyway, I always like the incomplete lines on Bella Donna that don't quite flow. "You are in love with - and I'm ready to sail. It's just a feeling."

Beautiful song.

xolondon said...

Okay I am back with my top ten. I should do a post sometime on this! I will follow your no FM policy but suffice it to say that FM songs would be at least half otherwise.

Gun to my head, Bella Donna is my favorite.

If I Were You
If Anyone Falls
Edge of Seventeen
Outside The Rain
Sleeping Angel
Wild Heart
I Miss You
Every Day
Has Anyone Ever Written...

FM tracks:

Beautiful Child
Silver Springs
Sisters Of The Moon
No Questions Asked
Everybody Finds Out
Thrown Down

Loved this post. Wish more pop fans understood about Stevie. We'll always find something to talk about with people at a truck stop or biker convention though!

Anonymous said...

God damnit!

You made you go buy "I Can't Wait", and "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You", on iTunes. I had totally forgotten about these songs. Thanks!