Stevie Ladies and gentlemen, the reigning queen of rock — on recklessness, relationships and reincarnation
Contributing Editor David Rensin met with Stevie Nicks (whose album Bella Donna has sold more than 1,000,000 copies) just after the last show of her successful solo tour. Rensin reports: “We talked in the bathroom of her West Los Angeles hotel suite while her make-up was being applied for a television appearance. She looked great before. She looked great afterward. And she does her own lipstick.”
PLAYBOY: You’re part of the hugely popular Fleetwood Mac, as well as the proud mother of a number-one solo album. Do you still find you’ve had to work twice as hard because you’re a women trying to win at a man’s game?
NICKS: I never tried to beat men; that’s why I managed to do it. I tried to learn from them and be their friend and stuff. I didn’t want to be too pushy — no one likes pushy people, least of all guys who are in famous bands. It’s much easier to worm your way in with kindness.
PLAYBOY: Magazine articles have mentioned your belief in ghosts and reincarnation; your being in a “magic kingdom” — the whole Rhiannon Welsh witch thing. Have people had difficulty taking you seriously?
NICKS: At this point, people believe it’s me. I just couldn’t go on making this trip up if it weren’t true. I love Halloween and fairy tales. I get wonderful letters: Kids say they love the songs and “Go right ahead and live in your fairy princess castle, because we need somebody to live there and make us happy, to take away some of the everyday horribleness that goes on.”
PLAYBOY: What were some of your past lives?
NICKS: I think I spent a lot of time in old churches, like a monk. I’m very comfortable around that kind of music, with that kind of creeping around, with being very quiet. My ballet teacher believes that my head was cut off in another life, too. I totally give with my body except for my neck. Even if I go to the beauty salon, I can’t put my head back. They have to hold it or it will drop. The same thing happens when I dance or get a massage. It’s very weird.
PLAYBOY: How do you maintain your cosmic connection considering the pressures of fame and wealth? And how do you handle the abusive lifestyle-the drugs, the drinking, the long hours of being the reigning queen of rock ‘n’ roll?
NICKS: It’s not easy. But I can’t do what I do if I don’t retain some innocence and spirituality. You’d see a definite change in my lyrics if I became hardened. I’m not interested in existing on that critical level most people live on.
As I get older, the abusive side is coming to a close. I’m slowing down. Besides, I have bronchial, spasmodic asthma now. And everything that I do is wrapped up in my lungs. I’m scared now. This sure is the fast lane, but I don’t particularly want to die in the fast lane. I want to get there gracefully.
I need rest real bad. I also need some exercise. I don’t want to be this romantically fragile character everyone thinks I am. The image is fine for an image, but it’s not too fine if you have to go to the hospital for it. For my asthma, I have to take these miserable pills that make you feel like someone put something weird in your Perrier.
PLAYBOY: Do you want to marry eventually and have a family?
NICKS: If I had a family, I’d probably love it. Right now, I have my dog Sarah, two cats and a baby Doberman. But I wish I had a little girl. Even a little boy. Getting married would, of course, depend on the man; also on whether I cared enough. If I fell that deeply in love with someone, I’d have no idea of what to do. But I’d be willing to make whatever compromises were necessary.
PLAYBOY: What compromises?
NICKS: My interest in the music and everything else would have to drop off a little bit. But I don’t fall in love that often, because it’s sad when you fall in love and it doesn’t work out. I know it’s better to have loved, because otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to write about. And there are different kinds of love. But if it were the bib love, I’d drop everything. I’d still have my job, of course, but I’d get in my car and drive across town in the middle of the night — which I will not do under other circumstances, because I don’t have a license. I’d go crazy, I suppose. It’s probably the most wonderful feeling in the world.
PLAYBOY: It sounds as if your job would get in the way.
NICKS: It invades it. You can call up your boyfriend and say, “I’m sick; I can’t go to dinner.” But you cannot call in sick to Fleetwood Mac. So a certain number of my relationships are ruined, not because of the people involved but because of my other commitments. And so, every time, I’m just a little less interested in starting something up, because what has happened before is probably going to happen again. It’s not a lack of interest on my part; it’s a lack of time to be interested.
So maybe it’s good that I haven’t fallen deeply enough in love to give up a good half of what I do. I wouldn’t want to be a bad mother. And how could I be a good one when I don’t even have time to go to the dentist? So forget the child. And forget the boyfriend. I have so many commitments that he would have to come fourth — and I don’t like making anybody feel he’s fourth.
PLAYBOY: Yet love obviously means a lot to you. In Sara, you wrote, “Drowning in the sea of love, where everyone would love to drown.”
NICKS: Yeah, but I’m at the point where I realize that if my job is what I want to be doing, I’d just better stay out of the sea. I’ve been going with someone since I was 18 years old. I think I had a month between Lindsey [Buckingham] and Don [Henley, of The Eagles]. There has always been someone in my life. And I want my freedom at this point, because I really need to get to know Stevie again. I need to be able to paint all night without making someone feel horrible because he’s waiting for me to come to bed.
Yet I know intimacy is something we all need. When you want to get back to the fireplace with someone you care about or watch a little TV, it’s important that you like the person a lot, that he makes you laugh and that he’s fun. I’m as envious of that as can be.
PLAYBOY: What kind of man would make you happy?
NICKS: [Laughs] You were thinking maybe a nice doctor or something, Maybe an eye-ear-nose-and-throat specialist? Maybe an analyst? A musical artist? I’ve certainly had that experience. It wouldn’t be easy for me to deal with a guy who was as busy as I am. When I’m home one night, I definitely don’t want to be alone. I’m not amused if he’s busy. I’m no different, you know. If I met a guy who was able to put up with it, he’d have to be just as famous, have more money and be terribly secure within himself. Frankly, I have contemplated being single the rest of my life. But I said that in a radio interview once, and when I heard it back, it really freaked me out.
PLAYBOY: Do you ever encounter fans more spiritual or spaced out than you?
NICKS: Yes. I came out the stage door the other night and a girl was crying, hysterically. I can never walk away from someone in tears, so I asked what was wrong. She said, “Will you sign my arm?” I did. The next night, she was back — with her other arm tattooed with my name! I grabbed her and told her, “Don’t ever do that again. Don’t ever have someone take a knife and cut into your arm with my name. It’s not funny. It’s stupid and I’m not happy about it.” Her reaction was more tears.
Another night, one of her friends asked me to sign her arm. I said, “I did that the other day and the girl went out and had her arm tattooed.”
“Oh, she’s my best friend,” the girl said. So I told her, “I’m not touching your arm. And if I ever find out that you got my name tattooed on you anyway, I’ll sue. Don’t put that on me. That’s pain. I’m not here to bring pain. I’m here to bring you out of pain.” It bummed me out. I felt like I should have gone back inside, like I’d come out the wrong door.
PLAYBOY: What else upsets you?
NICKS: Waiting. [Long pause and a smile] And I’m always late. It’s the Gemini in me. Otherwise, just wrong things said at the wrong time. Like, “Oh, you gained a little weight around the chin.” You know, right before a photo session. Some people have incredible tact and an intuitive feel for your feelings. Others don’t. Some people can wake me up in the morning — they know how. Others, if I had a BB gun, they’d be on the wall.
PLAYBOY: Were you nervous going on the road as a solo act?
NICKS: Are you kidding? Terribly. I hadn’t been on-stage alone before. It’s a whole different can of beans to realize that if you’re not out there — if you have to run to the wings for some powder or to get your hair brushed or because you’re dripping wet — there is no one on-stage who’ll talk to the audience. But we had some truly spectacular moments, when the band and I were blown away at the response. At the last Los Angeles show, I must have looked like the bag lady of Bella Donna: I was bent over, because I had so many roses to carry. I was crying. Another great thing is that no one in the audience ever yelled out, “Where’s Don? Where’s Tom Petty? Where’s Lindsey? Where’s Fleetwood Mac?”
PLAYBOY: Were you offended by reviewers of Bella Donna who questioned your intelligence or who argued that the album was not a significant departure from your work with Fleetwood Mac?
NICKS: You mean when reviewers asked, “Is she incredibly hip or incredibly silly,” It didn’t bother me. They said a couple of rhymes were stupid, but I know those words aren’t stupid, so it doesn’t hurt me. I think the bit about not being a departure from Fleetwood Mac is also ridiculous. Bella Donna is in no way like Fleetwood Mac records. They didn’t even play on the record. On Bella Donna, Jimmy Iovine, the producer left the songs as close to the demos as possible, so it was really just me — which is what I’ve always wanted. Sometimes I don’t mind my songs being changed around; sometimes it makes them better. But often, I would rather they stayed real simple, like “Leather and Lace.”
PLAYBOY: Do you think you’re sexy?
NICKS: I can be. I do not normally try to be. In fact, there have been some reviews — which I’ve loved — that said I didn’t try to sell my show on sex, that I sang my show.
On the other hand, I know I’m cute. I can dance. I don’t have a bad figure. I know exactly what I am. I’m certainly no great beauty. I know exactly how far I can go.
PLAYBOY: Have you ever considered acting, as many of your rock-‘n’-roll peers have done?
NICKS: I wouldn’t like to be in movies. Movie people are strange. They live a different life than musicians do. They get up early and work in the day. And I really think they’re much wilder than we are. One time, four movie guys walked up to me at a party after a show. I was looking good. And they took me apart with their eyes. I was so completely insulted that I never forgot it. They were so slick and smooth and suited up — it looked like they all had had face lifts with perfectly tanned faces. I’m just a hippie. I wouldn’t fit very well into that world. Those guys gave me the creeps. The hair on my arms stood up.
PLAYBOY: Do you support activist musicians who give anti-nuke concerts or participate in demonstrations?
NICKS: That’s why I write. We need music very badly. The world is in pretty bad shape and it scares me. But I’m not one of those people, like Jackson Browne, who went up to the Diablo Canyon nuclear protest. I said to him, “But they could have broken your fingers — your beautiful fingers that write all those beautiful songs. Are you crazy? We need you to write songs. We don’t need you to be in jail.” He said it “had occurred” to him. I said it should have. I think it scared him. I’m not a martyr. I would much rather be around to write the story than die for it and leave nothing behind. I believe you should put your talent where your talent is and stay out of the rest of it.
PLAYBOY: You are very close to your father. What has he taught you that you’ve applied to your career?
NICKS: My dad said, “If you’re going to do it, be the best, write the best, sing the best and believe in it and yourself.” And as long as I didn’t give up on that, it would be OK. It was great to have supportive parents, though I’m sure they really would have been much happier at one point if I’d done something else, because they didn’t think I was strong enough. I was always sick and Lindsey and I had no money and whenever they’d see me, I’d be really down. My relationship with Lindsey was tumultuous and passionate and wild and we were always fighting, so I was never happy.
But my parents would hear me go into my room and sit there for eight hours with two little cassette players and sing and write and leave papers everywhere. I think they realized that I might not have been strong, but it was the only thing I wanted. My dad knew me well enough to know that I was just like him. So he told me that I should be what I want to be and not complain about it.
PLAYBOY: What should men know about women that they don’t?
NICKS: That we are stronger than they know. And maybe if they fed that a little bit, all of this women’s liberation would go away and everybody would be happy. If men gave us just a little more credit and an extra hug and said, “Good job,” that would solve a lot of it. Women want to be beautiful, sweet, feminine and loving. But they also want to be thought of as intelligent and necessary. And even if your woman is not all those things, you should want her to feel good about herself, to believe in herself.
PLAYBOY: Your immediate entourage all seem to be beautiful young women. Do you and the girls ever go out together?
NICKS: We can’t go anywhere. It’s fine for all the guys, but if we go, like, down to Le Dome for a drink or to the Rainbow for spaghetti, we’re immediately going to be classified as loose, roaming women. Me and some of the other female singing stars, like Ann and Nancy Wilson and Pat Benatar, can’t just go out boogying with our girlfriends. Anyway, I wouldn’t be allowed out. I’d have to sneak out. I’m way too recognizable. I’ve been securitied up to my neck for the past seven years, so I’d also be severely scared. I once tried to sneak out to a disco in Chicago with my girlfriend Christie, but we got caught. So the guys went with us. It was a bummer. Nobody in the disco would even come up to us. But people say it’s for my safety. Women are getting raped all the time. And I don’t need to get raped, because I’d never get over it. That’s when my songs would stop. That’s when my belief in the world would die. I know it happens, but it happening to me is another story. It tends to take away one’s spontaneity.
PLAYBOY: Do you often think about death — especially since you believe in reincarnation?
NICKS: I’m not afraid of it at all. But I try to get as much done as I can, because you don’t know how long you’re going to be here. That’s why it’s important that I type a page or two every night — even if that’s at 11 A.M. See, I think you live on earth a certain number of times until you finish what it is that you were meant to do here. And then you go on. I don’t think I’ll be back. I think I’m done.
David Rensin / Playboy (Vol. 29, No. 7) / July, 1982