Stevie Nicks talks about Fleetwood Mac, the dark days of drugs, and getting her confidence back to record a new album.
It’s a miracle Fleetwood Mac are still together and touring. A musical soap opera of tangled love lives and drug and drink-fuelled breakups has lasted since the seventies, when the best-known lineup of the group formed.
But it’s always been about the music. Surviving the breakup of two couples – Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, and John and Christine McVie gave the band their multi-million selling 1977 album Rumours.
But their love of their band and their belief in its music has helped them to endure and today they’re as popular as ever, currently in the middle of a mammoth world tour.
Rip It Up meet Nicks in LA, where the band are in rehearsals. And the legendary singer says: “This band is the longest relationship any of us have had. It’s more than our individual issues.
“When Lindsey and I split and Christine and John were about to break up, we were all in a room, saying, ‘Well, I’m not going to quit so you quit’.
“Mick was in the middle saying ‘Well, is anybody quitting? If not, can we just carry on?’ “And that’s exactly what happened. No one was willing to give up Fleetwood Mac – it just wasn’t an option.”
The band have endured what would have killed most other bands.
The breakdown of Nicks and Buckingham’s five-year relationship and the McVies’ divorce during the making of landmark album Rumours became part of the Fleetwood Mac story. And even today, forty years after their split, it’s when Nicks and Buckingham get close on stage,that the crowd really erupt and cheer.
“I guess fans are still fascinated by us,“ she admits in her famous husky drawl. “It’s part of the story and whatever happened between me and Lindsey or the others, the power of the band and the music meant more.”
After her split with Buckingham, Nicks embarked on a two-year affair with band drummer and Fleetwood Mac founder Mick Fleetwood who was in the middle of a divorce with wife Jenny Boyd.
And it wasn’t just the band’s love lives which were full of drama. The band’s intake of drugs in the Seventies and Eighties is also part of their story.
Nicks says she first tried cocaine when she moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco with Buckingham.
“Everyone did it then,” she confesses. “And if Lindsey and I had stayed in San Francisco there would never have been any drugs. We probably would never even have had a drink.”
Nicks moved to LA with Buckingham to join Fleetwood Mac in 1974 – establishing a new line-up that remains the line-up of today – apart from Christine McVie who quit in 1988 but recently rejoined the band on stage at London’s O2.
“Chris was a tough girl but she never really told us just how afraid she was of flying,” says Nicks.
“She’d started having panic attacks about it. We did the Grammys and then she turned to me and said, ‘I can’t do this any more, I’m quitting.’ I said, ‘You’re leaving me? Abandoning me?’ “She goes, ‘I’m sorry, honey, I just can’t do it.’ So she went home, sold her beautiful house in Los Angeles, her piano, her truck, and she was gone in three weeks.
“We never saw her again until we played Earls Court in London in 2004. You just have to respect her wishes but we’ll always be close. We’ll always be friends though it’s been very hard to try Christine’s songs in rehearsals. Lindsey and I have tried singing some in harmony but we were just disappointed with it.
“Christine just can’t be replaced.”
After Rumours came their experimental album Tusk which Nicks says saw her use of cocaine “go into overdrive”.
By the time it came to making 1987’s Tango In The Night, Nicks was an addict and also “a mess”.
“I had a hole on my nose,” she says honestly.
“I checked into Betty Ford for two months and a plastic surgeon looked at my nose and told me it would collapse if I carried on. My vanity made me stop the coke.
“I went to see a doctor who said the only way to stay off the drugs was to take a tranquilizer. If I didn’t then my nose was going to collapse. He prescribed Klonopin and I thought it was going to be the end of this chapter.”
However, what Nicks wasn’t told was that Klonopin was also highly addictive and left her a wreck.
She says: “I couldn’t move. I certainly couldn’t work and I was useless in the studio.
“For Tango In The Night I couldn’t do anything. I just lay on the couch, called the deli and drank wine – and that went on for eight years. I lost eight years of my life – my forties – because of that man.
“I went to Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Marina Del Rey, LA, to wean myself off it.
“It was hell. I thought I was going to die, I was in so much pain. I was really sick. To this day I will haunt the psychiatrist who gave me Klonopin. One day somebody is going to find out who the bastard is and I will be there.”
As well as Fleetwood Mac’s world tour, Nicks is hoping to get time to work on another solo album after 2011’s In Your Dreams album that she made with former Eurythmics starDave Stewart.
“I’m writing all the time,” she confesses. “I write down everything. Poems, notes, drawings all feature in my books which hold my life story. All my songs starts in here.”
Working with Stewart, who she also co-wrote with for the first time in her career, gave her the confidence she’d been lacking. In Your Dreams arrived ten years since 2001’s Trouble In Shangri-La after Nicks believed no one was interested in her as a solo singer any more.
“When we came off the road from Fleetwood Mac’s Say You Will tour in 2005, I was going to make a record but I was told not to bother by the powers that be,” she reveals.
“ Everybody was depressed by the downturn in the music industry and I was not the fighter I usually am. I just believed what they said, that no-one would want to hear a Stevie Nicks album and went with it. But after the Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits tour, I got my confidence back and decided I was going to hit the ground running the second I got home, and start an album and that’s what I did. I needed to do it for my soul as I’ve always made a record every couple of years.”
As soon as she was home Nicks called Stewart and asked him over to hear what she’d been working on.
“Before we knew it we were making a record. We didn’t even talk about it, we just started making it. He just said: “I’ll be back Wednesday.” It only took six months to record but making that record was the best year of my life – the most fun, satisfying and the most magical. Dave believed in me and saw something in my poetry. I keep all my poems in my journals and lock them away. They are the start of everything.
“It gave me a creative burst, the kick that I needed. And long may it continue.”
Jaime Wynn / Rip It Up (NZ) / Tuesday, October 29, 2013