Stevie Nicks soars with Bella Donna

(Photo: Neal Preston)

A fearsome Kabuki doll grimaces malevolently from atop an antique upright piano into a pastel pink room, where porcelain flamingos stand in fixed motion next to a beige satin-covered bed littered with pillows. Jungle plants complement a lush green velvet sofa. Black- and white-striped chairs stand next to a large wooden organ alive with colorful buttons. A light scent of gardenia filters through the rooms, and windows frame a perfect view of the white California beach and blue sea.

It seems the ideal setting for a fairy tale, and indeed it is — in a way. For here lives Stevie Nicks, who, after seven years with Fleetwood Mac, is being hailed as “Queen of Rock and Roll.” Nicks appears from the far reaches of the bedroom. Black sweater, black ruffled taffeta skirt, boots. The Queen doesn’t take long to show her humanity.

“What are you doing there, shorthand? I always got grounded for shorthand,” she says. “I’d get Ds, then work them up to Cs by the end of the semester, but still…”

The singer-songwriter’s mission today is promoting her first solo LP, Bella Donna — but after bulleting up the charts from the day of its release, the album doesn’t need much help. Nicks, 33, considers it the beginning of an important part of her career, an outlet for some of the things she’s wanted to do, but as a Fleetwood Mac member couldn’t. “In a group of five people, you can’t just be you — you have to be a part of them. This was a chance for me to really get into my feelings and my fairy tales — the things I really love — that I couldn’t impose on them.”

Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty image
Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty perform onstage, 1981 (Lynn Goldsmith)

Working with Tom Petty

Bella Donna also gave her the chance to work with singer Tom Petty, who’s featured on the track that has become the hit single, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” Nicks has been making surprise appearances at various Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concerts around the country to sing the duet live.

She talks of Petty’s group in reverent tones, bringing to mind a little sister thrilled to be admitted into the realm of the boys. “They make me feel like a true Heartbreaker,” she says, “which is really something, because I know the Heartbreakers never planned to have a girl hanging around.”

When she had to miss a concert in Providence, R.I., she says, “Tom called and told me, ‘It was an incredible concert, but it just wasn’t the same without you. “That’s the nicest thing Torn Petty has ever said to me. It was just a simple thing, but it knocked me out.

“I’ve really become attached to them, because they’re all like my brothers and they’re all proud of me in their own little kind of male-type way. I go through a sort of ‘post Heartbreaker depression blues’ after I do a couple of dates with them and wake up the next morning and they’re gone and I have to go on all by myself,” She admits that at such times she calls the group to ask if the guys miss her, 

The Heartbreaker experience

She’s written a song out of her Heartbreaker experience which will be featured on the next Fleetwood Mac LP. It’s called, “If You Were My Love.” Nicks says, “It’s like a love song, but it’s not. It’s about going outside your own life and getting attached to something that isn’t yours.

“It’s been kind of like falling in love with another band — for a minute. It has nothing to do with — and truly, clarify this — there is absolutely nothing going on between me and anybody in that band. They’re all married. They’re all expecting babies. That’s what makes it very easy for me to be with them and be their friend, and almost be one of the guys.”

Why does she make a point of clarifying her relationship with Petty and the Heartbreakers? Has someone implied it’s more than platonic?

“Well, not really,” she says, “but you know, you kind of wait for someone to start talking and I just don’t want anyone to start talking.”

Actually, the recent Rolling Stone cover story on Nicks made clear her relationship with record producer Jimmy lovine, who went from work on Petty’s Hard Promises LP to Bella Donna. She frowns at the reminder. “I don’t like people to know about that either. I just don’t want people talking about that part of my life,” she says.

The same celebrity status that’s made her a subject of the rumor mill has brought numerous acting offers. “I never wanted to be an actress and I don’t want to be an actress now,” she says. “I don’t like getting up early. I dislike being unspontaneous.

I’m not your person who’s going to sit around all day — I get real nervous and restless. So unless somebody brought me a story that just KILLED me, I wouldn’t do it. I don’t think it’s in the stars.” 

Fleetwood MacNo conflict with ‘Mac’

Nicks is adamant about her solo career not interfering with her Fleetwood Mac work, “I don’t see why I can’t do both — unless everyone gets crazy. But if Fleetwood Mac doesn’t believe in my loyalty by now, I’ve made a big mistake,” she says. “I will be there for them ‘til the end. It’s just that I have to have time to do my music. I waited six years to put out the 10 songs on Bella Donna. Five of those songs were written before 1976. That’s a long time to wait. And those songs were all available to Fleetwood Mac.”

That there has been friction within the ranks of the group is hardly a secret. Nicks acknowledges the fact with a nod. “It’s like a family though. We can get mad at each other and yell, then not see each other for a few days or weeks, and when we get together again we look at each other and it’s like, ‘Were we mad?’ There’s such a feeling. You can’t replace seven years of solid togetherness.

“Outside people talking — that’s what corrodes a band. Someone could say something and by the time it goes through 15 people, it’s entirely different. You’ll tell the rest you didn’t, and they’ll say, ‘I believe you’ — but it’ll leave a mark. Sometimes those things take time to get over.”

Another irritant is the image people have of her. “Through the last seven years, I have wished people would consider me a songwriter instead of a girl singer in the pile with the rest, or a rock star who dances around a stage,” she says. “What I really want to hear is, ‘Did she really write all those songs?’ What I’ve done with Fleetwood Mac hasn’t been enough to convince anyone of my ability as a writer.”

But Bella Donna, she hopes, has opened a new door.

Marilyn Beck / Chicago Tribune-New York News / September 1981

The Charts

Pop

  1. ENDLESS LOVE — Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
  2. QUEEN OF HEARTS — Juice Newton
  3. SLOW HAND — Pointer Sisters
  4. STOP DRAGGIN’ MY HEART AROUND — Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  5. URGENT — Foreigner
  6. WHO’S CRYING NOW — Journey
  7. ARTHUR’S THEME (BESTTHAT YOU CAN DO) — Christopher Cross
  8. THE BEACH BOYS MEDLEY — Beach Boys
  9. NO GETTIN’OVER ME — Ronnie Mllsap
  10. HOLD ON TIGHT — Elo

Upcoming Events

  1. Stevie Nicks 24 Karat Gold Tour

    Stevie Nicks – Green Bay, WI

    August 23 @ 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm
  2. Stevie Nicks, 24 Karat Gold Tour, banner

    Stevie Nicks – Minnesota State Fair, St. Paul, MN

    August 25 @ 7:30 pm - 11:00 pm
  3. Ravinia Festival

    September 9 @ 7:30 pm - 11:00 pm
  4. Ravinia Festival, Night 2

    September 10 @ 7:30 pm - 11:00 pm
  5. Stevie Nicks, 24 Karat Gold Tour, banner

    Stevie Nicks – St. Charles, MO

    September 13 @ 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm

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