Stevie Nicks

Who: Stevie Nicks

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday and March 21, 23 and 24

Where: Caesars Palace

Tickets: $96 to $196; 731-7333

At 58, Stevie Nicks sounds as good as she did at 20 when she got a call from former classmate Lindsey Buckingham.

Nicks and Buckingham had met at Menlo Atherton High in the suburbs south of San Francisco, and he called to ask Nicks to join his band, Fritz.

Their bands struggled, but their collaboration eventually made both stars.

Nicks became a rock icon in the 1970s and ’80s, closely associated with Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty and others.

An independent spirit, Nicks eventually struck out as a solo artist, but she has maintained close ties with her peers, recently appearing with Petty and his band on their 30th anniversary tour.

Her upcoming album, “Crystal Visions,” is a collection of songs from her three-decade career as a solo artist and member of the legendary Fleetwood Mac.

Nicks, who will be performing at Caesars Palace, recently talked to the Sun by telephone from her home in Los Angeles.

Q: There was a time when a lot of the top rock ‘n’ roll artists refused to perform in Las Vegas. Do you like it here?

I really enjoy it. For that moment, you don’t have to travel, so you can put all your energy into the show. Would I want to sign up for five years like Celine (Dion) did – to play in one place, whether it is Vegas or Paris, France? No, that would be very hard for me. I like to be on the move. I move from house to house to house. If I lived in a condominium building, I’d move from condo to condo. I’ve been on the move for so long I’m not happy in one place for very long. About four days in one hotel, and that’s it. I’ve got to go someplace else.

How did you get started in the business?

I graduated from high school in ’66 and went to junior college from ’67 to ’68. At the end of ’68 I got a call from Lindsey’s band (Fritz). We practiced every day. I was the only one going to school. By then, I had transferred to San Jose State.

The other four members were not going to school so they were very unsympathetic to me. I would drive from San Jose to Menlo Park, Atherton, Redwood City – that area – driving for 45 minutes, and then practice from 5:30 to 10:30 every Monday through Thursday and then we would play on Friday and Saturday night, sometimes Sunday.

When did the big break come?

From the very beginning we were opening for big shows – Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin. We played the Fillmore (Auditorium in San Francisco). We opened for Chicago. We opened for so many big huge amazing acts that we started to feel like we were one of them. Lindsey and I were able to walk into Fleetwood Mac so easily because we had done all those shows and kind of perfected our stage show.

Do you miss the old days?

I just did two shows in Berkeley (at the Greek Theatre) with Tom Petty. The dressing rooms were just partitions, no ceiling. The opening acts were in one room, me and the girls in a second room, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in the third and fourth rooms. One bathroom at end of hall for the entirety of the people. So of course I thought, “Oh, this is so like the old days.” It ended up being so much fun. It made it feel like the old days that I miss so much.

How did you survive the 60s and the sex, drugs and rock n roll culture?

There were no drugs for us then. I didn’t even drink. We didn’t have money to hardly buy food. We were really, really young. We didn’t even know about drugs until we got to Los Angeles, and that was in ’71. I was with Lindsey and the band in ’68, ’69 and ’70, then the band broke up in ’71 and we moved to Los Angeles. On the first day of 1975, we joined Fleetwood Mac.

What was that like?

It was incredible. We had dinner on the first day of ’75, went into rehearsal two weeks later, rehearsed for six weeks and then we went straight into the studio. We did the record (“Fleetwood Mac”) in February, March and April and they mastered it. It went out like on June 1. By the end of summer, Lindsey and I hired business-management people because we had so much money we didn’t know what to do with it.

But you had some tough times, financially when you were just starting out.

I was a cleaning lady, a waitress, which I enjoyed. Lindsey and I really had five years when we were, for all practical purposes, married. We had five years to really struggle and have a real life and become real people, so that we didn’t get famous at like 18 like Bob Dylan. We actually had to be real, struggling, normal people for five years until the day we joined Fleetwood Mac and the band started paying us each $200 a week in cash and then, as soon as we went into rehearsal four weeks later, $400 a week in cash. I was finding $100 bills in pockets and in shoes and in clothes I had washed and I had to hang the money up to dry. It was hysterical.

What do you remember most about the early days?

The thing I remember the most about the beginning of that time in my life was Fleetwood Mac and Peter Frampton – but it was Frampton and Fleetwood Mac – at the Oakland Coliseum. There were 75,000 people there. It was right when Peter’s big huge album came out. When I look back on my entire career, that was the moment when I went “This is really the big time.” I was so shocked. It just kind of kept going from there. What can I say?

You and Buckingham are a lot alike in many ways, such as artistic temperament. Both of you put art above everything else. With the up and coming artists today, it seems to be more about style than substance.

To take a little bit of blame off of the young people today, we had so much support from the record companies. Everybody supported us in every way. They helped us and let us write songs and gave us a leg to stand on for that whole thing. When we put out “Tusk” it was not the success that say “Rumours” was, but they didn’t, like, fire us. They said “OK, it’s a big completely artsy-fartsy double album that’s nothing like ‘Rumours’ but that’s OK because it’s just a part of your journey.” Whereas now – from the Britneys to the Jessica Simpsons to the Vanessa Carltons – it’s like you have a big hit record and if you don’t have a big hit record to follow it up with you’re done. You’re gone from the label. So you’re panicked. There is so much pressure to be a hit from the beginning.

So artists come and go very quickly today.

Right. So people with the labels tell you, “You’re kind of a folksy rock singing chick so now we’re going to pair you up with a bunch of famous black artists and we’re going to make you wear no clothes and you know what, you’d better do it or we’re dropping you from the label.”

I can’t imagine having somebody direct me like that and saying “This is what you’re going to have to do.” I would have quit. If it was now I would have said, “I’m going back to school. I’m not going to do this.”

Seriously? What would you have studied?

I went to five years of college. I almost graduated. I can go back today for six months and get my degree in speech communication and psychology. I would probably have taught and I would have totally taken my songwriting and my music into my classroom. I would have dug it.

Tell us about the new release.

It’s going to be an amazing package. The record companies are so trying to figure out what to do with the Internet and all of the new technology, the thievery and how to save the music business. It’s all going toward rethinking the whole DVD thing. So this package is a CD with 18 songs on it, songs from ’81 to now. Then there’s a DVD, all the videos I did starting way back with “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”

I did like a director’s cut. I talked through 12 songs on the videos. It was amazing. Every video is in chronological order and each is a part of my life. So it was like I relived my entire life for a couple of weeks while I made the cuts. You can click on and see and hear the videos or click off and hear me tell you how it was made, who was involved and what was going on in my life at the time. Why I wrote the song.

Are you as busy as you want to be these days?

Every time I think I have a day off, I don’t. I was supposed to have the last year off. We went to Australia in February (2006) to do a month’s tour and play with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. We were gone for the Australian tour for almost six weeks. Then we came back and Tom Petty called me and said “It’s my 30th anniversary, do you want to come with me?” I’m going like “What, open for you, bring my band?” “No,” he said. “Just you. Come with me and just do five, six, seven songs – whatever you want.” I said, “Are you kidding? Of course.”

So I called my manager and he goes, “This is your year off,” and I’m like, “Well, I can’t turn this down,” and he goes “OK, but just remember at the end of the year when your year off is over your time off was Tom Petty. He was your vacation.”

So now I’m completely starting up again. I have the four shows in Vegas coming up and then I have three more shows in Florida before I come back and go into rehearsal for the summer tour to back up the “Crystal Visions” record. And at the end of summer we’re going to Europe to do press for the record and then probably back to Australia.

So no. Everybody thinks I get all this rest but I don’t. Tom Petty was my vacation, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had on the road. I loved it.

What is on the horizon for you?

I have a lot I want to do. I want to make a movie out of the stories from “Rhiannon,” which came from a Welsh mythological book. I have a cartoon story I wrote when I was 17 about a lady and a goldfish that could be made into an animated feature, a Disney thing. I have songs written for both projects, but until I get some time off I can’t do them.

So somewhere in the 10 years that’s coming in front of me I would really like to be able to make the space to do these other things before I’m too old to do any of them. I’m 58 years old. I still have great energy at this point but I figure in 10 years I’ll be 68, so I need to get some of this done.

Las Vegas Sun / Wednesday, March 14, 2007

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