Still dressing for Stevie

FOCAL POINT Stevie Nicks at signing event. (Photo by Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times)
FOCAL POINT Stevie Nicks at signing event. (Photo by Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times)

By Ruth La Ferla
New York Times
April 8, 2009

STEVIE NICKS is the consummate tease. Fanning out her arms, which are veiled, as always, in chiffon, she seems about to fold her audience into an embrace. Yet when she turns away, raising those arms in a priestesslike gesture, that fabric acts as a curtain, shielding her from prying eyes.

Her audience last month at Madison Square Garden, where Ms. Nicks sang with Fleetwood Mac, was clearly seduced by her come-hither/keep-back performance. Aging hippies and youthful rockers swayed and twirled in the aisles, their faces upturned to watch her shake her tambourine.

Her stylistic persona is as rock steady as her sound. Part healer, part sorceress, at 60 she is still working the gossamer tunics and shawls that have influenced two generations of Stevie acolytes, and given her performances the feel of a Wiccan ritual. Now, as if timed to the vernal equinox, Ms. Nicks has resurfaced with two new DVDs and a three-month concert tour. As might be expected, troupes of leather-and-lace-clad Stevie clones are popping up like crocuses.

They love her music, of course. “But time makes you bolder/Children get older/I’m getting older, too,” lines from the ballad “Landslide,” which she wrote at 26, can bring tears to their eyes. But they are besotted with Ms. Nicks herself. Never mind that the rock star is no sylph. She is the anti-Madonna — fragile and ethereal — and as constant as the tides.

“She does her own, thing, always has done,” said Lily Donaldson, the celebrity model who attended the concert last month. “I love her music and her look, that whole flowing thing.”

Anna Sui, who dedicated an entire collection to Ms. Nicks in the late ’90s and turns out Stevie-inspired handkerchief hems almost every season, admires her consistency. “She’s the iconic California woman,” Ms. Sui observed. “Everyone has their version of her.”

These days Ms. Nicks is the inspiration for Web sites like gypsymoon.com, which offers Nicks-style top hats and shawls; and enchantedmirror.com, which sells tambourines, fringed shawls and a musky fragrance in homage to the singer. In February, Jill Stuart paraded Nicksian feathers, leather and lace on her fashion runway.

Variations on her costumes were precursors, Ms. Nicks will tell you, of “that grungy girl who wears the little ballerina dresses and big buccaneer boots.”

She will also tell you that the West Coast Ophelia look, all ruffles and belled sleeves, is the product of canny self-packaging.

“I needed a uniform,” she recalled, one that would counteract the stage fright she encountered in the mid-’70s, when she first began touring with Fleetwood Mac. At the time, her brief to Margi Kent, who still designs much of her wardrobe, was to create “something urchinlike out of Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities, ” a chiffonlike, raggedy skirt that would still look beautiful with black velvet platform boots.

“We came up with the outfit: a Jantzen leotard, a little chiffon wrap blouse, a couple of little short jackets, two skirts and boots,” Ms. Nicks said as she reminisced in her suite at the Waldorf Towers last week. “That gave us our edge.”

And an effective disguise. “I’ll be very, very sexy under 18 pounds of chiffon and lace and velvet,” Ms. Nicks promised herself as a teenager. “And nobody will know who I really am.”

Today she remains a woman under wraps, her legend as carefully tended as her wardrobe, which she stores in her home in Los Angeles. That legend encompasses the shaky vicissitudes of her romantic life — fans still speculate about the nature of her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac’s guitarist and her long-ago lover — and her risen-from-the-ashes saga of drug abuse and rehabilitation.

She is slow to detail the ravages of cocaine, which caused her voice to falter and her weight to fluctuate wildly over the years. But she does vow heatedly, “I will never do another line.”

Wed briefly in 1983 to Kim Anderson, the widower of a close friend, she has never remarried. “I didn’t want to be held down by a relationship,” she said, elaborating only that she was simply not equipped for the responsibilities of family life.

Her assiduously cultivated mysteriousness helps to keep her alive in the minds of fans. Yet at times she can appear guileless. Leaning in confidentially, she bemoaned the state of her arms. “They’ll never be what they were.” To tone them, she flexed a few times too many on her Power Plate machine, tearing a ligament. “When I’m pulling up my tights, I’m like dying,” she said.

She was limber enough, though, to lay out on the carpet three variations of her favorite stage turnout: a cutaway jacket, a ruched and ruffled dress and chunky boots. Missing was the airy shawl that is part of her concert uniform.

“A shawl is a great prop,” said the star, who is 5-foot-1. “It makes for big gestures.” Spreading her arms and whirling like a gyroscope, she added, “If you want to be seen at the back of that arena, you have to have very big movements.”

Her reach extends to Hollywood as well. Lindsay Lohan hopes to buy the rights to her life story and to play her on film. Unmoved, Ms. Nicks responded: “Over my dead body. She needs to stop doing drugs and get a grip. Then maybe we’ll talk.”

That candor endears her to fans, who evidently equate it with authenticity. “She’s not a trend or a fad,” said Nicholas Kalinoski, 30, the creative director of a fashion house in New York. “She’s an original, and people follow an original.”

Standing in line behind him at Barnes & Noble in Union Square last week, Johanna Ramos, 21, waited stoically for Ms. Nicks to sign her DVDs, Live in Chicago and The Soundstage Sessions. “She looks like a sorceress,” Ms. Ramos said, “like someone powerful who owns the stage.”

Indeed, with her back to the audience, Ms. Nicks projects the fervor of a tent revivalist. “There are times when she stands completely still, and then she’ll just put one hand up,” said Chi Chi Valenti, the founder of Night of a Thousand Stevies, an annual Nicks-inspired costume bash. “Especially with the backlighting, she almost looks like a religious statue.”

Some 1,000 people lined up to greet Ms. Nicks in Union Square, bringing offerings of handmade greeting cards and amulets. There were boys in Nicksian top hats and urbane looking women in black chiffon and crescent moon pendants.

“You are my mentor and my inspiration, and I’ve loved you all my life,” one long-haired admirer in her 40s said. Ms. Nicks took her hand. Another, in her 20s, glided forward in a wheelchair, and Ms. Nicks squeezed hers as well, just as she did when a girl, 17, told her that she had given her the strength to stop using cocaine.

Looking on, Liz Rosenberg, Ms. Nicks’s longtime publicist, was having none of it. “Stevie is the new kabbalah,” she joked. Then she urged her to step up the pace.

Q&A: Stevie Nicks

Fleetwood Mac’s singer on their new tour, turning 60 and making mixtapes
By Austin Scaggs
Rolling Stone
Thursday, March 5, 2009

‘IT STILL GIVES ME GOOSE bumps, and it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up,” says Stevie Nicks, who is eagerly anticipating the first Fleetwood Mac tour in five years, which kicks off on March 1st in Pittsburgh. And later in the month, Nicks is releasing a DVD, Live in Chicago, and a concert CD, The Soundstage Sessions. With her dog barking in the background, Nicks checks in from her home in Los Angeles: “We still feel like Fleetwood Mac have a lot to give to the world. In this time of trouble and turmoil, I think the world needs Fleetwood Mac.”

What’s the latest from the Mac rehearsals?

I don’t want to give the set list away, but it’s pretty exciting. The fact that we haven’t been on tour since 2004 makes every song sound fresh. It’s just bang, bang, bang — all fantastic songs. We always start with the staples: “Go Your Own Way,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Rhiannon” and “Dreams.” We will play one song we’ve never done at all. If I were going to see Fleetwood Mac, this is definitely the set I’d want to see. It’s like a big steam locomotive that doesn’t stop until we walk offstage.

How are you getting along with Lindsey Buckingham?

When Lindsey and I aren’t getting along, nobody’s getting along. We haven’t had one disagreement since we started rehearsing. And instead of treating me like his miserable old ex, he’s treating me like his difficult but beloved older daughter. He’s been very sweet.

How often do you speak with Christine McVie?

We check in with each other, but we can’t hang out, because she lives in England, and she won’t fly. The only time I’ve seen Chris since 1998 was when we did three nights in London in 2003. I miss her every day. But we’ve all finally started to accept that nothing could make Chris go back out on the road.

Last May you turned 60. How do you feel about that?

I don’t feel any different at 60 than I felt at 50. Age is a state of mind. You can either get old or not get old.

On the “Live in Chicago” DVD you’re joined by Vanessa Carlton on a couple of songs. What other artists of her generation do you mentor?

I love Vanessa — I feel like she’s an adopted child, in a way. And Michelle Branch and I had dinner the night before last. I have a lot of information for all of these women. I should do a “Dear Stevie” column in ROLLING STONE. When Mariah Carey was going through all her craziness a few years ago, I wrote her a long letter telling her how everybody else is crazy — not her. I saw her recently, and she told me she keeps the letter with her jewelry! I love that.

What’s wrong with the record business today?

The Internet has destroyed it. I miss buying an album and lying on the floor for three days and going over it with a magnifying glass. I still go to the record store and spend hours there and buy a bigbag of CDs. I don’t have a computer or a cellphone, because I don’t want to be that available to anybody. I’m all about mystery. Little girls think it’s necessary to put all their business on MySpace and Facebook, and I think it’s a shame.

You’ve always made mixtapes on cassette. Do you still do that?

That’s how I do it. Cassettes sound so much better. And I’m deaf as a doornail, so I like to crank my little boombox.

What songs are worthy of a Stevie Nicks mixtape?

I was just in Hawaii, and I made a mix called “Lahaina Twilight.” It’s got songs by the Goo Goo Dolls, Jackson Browne, Sting, Coldplay, Tom Petty, the Fray, Snow Patrol.

What albums do you lore in their entirety?

I don’t, usually. In the beginning, I was inspired by songwriters like Jackson Browne, David Crosby, the Eagles, Neil Young, Buffalo Springfield — those are the people I learned from. And I probably listened to Joni Mitchell’s For the Roses, Blue and Court and Spark a hundred million times. But now, I can’t listen to a whole album unless it’s a Fleetwood Mac record, where I made sure that every song is spectacular. Sequencing is my forte. I sequenced Rumours. Lindsey doesn’t like to admit it, but he will admit it.

Last year, Sheryl Crow claimed that she would be part of the 2009 Fleetwood Mac tour, but Buckingham later denied it. What really happened?

It was absolutely discussed and she was absolutely invited to join. The reason was because I missed Christine [McVie] so much, and I wanted another woman in the band — it’s hard to be in the boys’ club. I explained to Sheryl what it was like to be in the group — that it’s all-encompassing. Like, on 2003’s Say You Will tour, we went out expecting to do 40 shows, and it turned into 135 shows. So Sheryl called me and said, “I’ll have to pass.” As Stevie Nicks, I was disappointed. As her friend, I told her she made the right decision. Sheryl Crow passed on Fleetwood Mac — I want that out there.

What are the origins of your patented onstage twirl?

A lot of ballet and a lot of dance. I wanted to be a ballerina, but I realized I was not going to be Pavlova, so I became a rock singer instead.

PHOTO (COLOR) [removed from article]: UNBROKEN CHAIN Nicks and Fleetwood Mack kick off their first tour in five years on March 1st.

Revamped Soundstage CD/DVD to be released

Stevie Nicks Live In Chicago — featuring most of the songs performed at Stevie’s taping of Soundstage —  is tentatively slated for release on Tuesday, January 13 (formerly October 28). The DVD features 17 tracks, including “Dreams” which was omitted from the PBS DVD released on July 17. A highlights CD, called “The Soundstage Sessions,” includes the orchestral versions of “Landslide” and “Beauty and the Beast,” but both performances are omitted from the DVD.

Tentative DVD track list:
Stand Back
Enchanted
If Anyone Falls
Rhiannon
Crash into Me
Dreams
Sorcerer
The One
Gold Dust Woman
I Need to Know
Circle Dance
Landslide
Sara
Fall from Grace
How Still My Love
Edge of Seventeen
Rock and Roll

Tentative CD track list:
1. Stand Back
2. Crash
3. Sara
4. If Anyone Falls In Love
5. Landslide (Orchestra Version)
6. How Still My Love
7. Circle Dance
8. Fall from Grace
9. Sorcerer
10. Beauty And The Beast