The resurgent appeal of Stevie Nicks

Her generous songs provide an antidote to today’s often embattled pop music.

Stevie Nicks Bella Donna (1981)The cover of Bella Donna, Stevie Nicks’s first solo album, shows the artist looking slender and wide-eyed, wearing a white gown, a gold bracelet, and a pair of ruched, knee-high platform boots. One arm is bent at an improbable angle; a sizable cockatoo sits on her hand. Behind her, next to a small crystal ball, is a tambourine threaded with three long-stemmed white roses. Nicks did not invent this storefront-psychic aesthetic—it is indebted, in varying degrees, to Hans Christian Andersen’s Thumbelina, de Troyes’s Guinevere, and Cher—but, beginning in the mid-nineteen-seventies, she came to embody it. The image was girlish and delicate, yet inscrutable, as if Nicks were suggesting that the world might not know everything she’s capable of.

This intimation is newly germane: a vague but feminine mysticism is in. Lorde, Azealia Banks, FKA Twigs, chvrches, Grimes, and Beyoncé have all incorporated bits of pagan-influenced iconography into their music videos and performances. Young women are now embracing benign occult representations, reclaiming the rites and ceremonies that women were once chastised (or worse) for performing. On runways, on the streets, and in thriving Etsy shops, you can find an assortment of cloaks, crescent-moon pendants, flared chiffon skirts, and the occasional jewelled headdress.

While Nicks’s sartorial choices have been widely mimicked, it’s rare to hear echoes of her magnanimity in modern pop songs, which are frequently defensive and embattled, preaching self-sufficiency at any cost. It’s difficult to imagine Nicks singing a lyric like “Middle fingers up, put them hands high / Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye,” as Beyoncé does in “Sorry,” a song from her newest album, Lemonade. Nicks’s default response to betrayal is more introspective than aggressive. Her music has long been considered a balm for certain stubborn strains of heartache; her songs are unsparing regarding the brutality of loss, yet they are buoyed by a kind of subtle optimism. It’s as if, by the time Nicks got around to singing about something, she already knew that she would survive it.

Stevie Nicks - Bella Donna Deluxe EditionThis month, Bella Donna, from 1981, and Nicks’s second solo album, The Wild Heart, from 1983, are being reissued. Nicks was thirty-three when Bella Donna was released. Though its cover might not suggest an excess of reason, in its songs she is a sagacious and measured presence. Her acknowledgment of the heart’s capriciousness is gentle, if not grandmotherly. There’s surely no kinder summation of love’s petulance than the chorus of “Think About It,” a jangling folk song about taking a breath before hurling yourself off a metaphorical cliff. “And the heart says, ‘Danger!’ ” Nicks sings. She pauses briefly. “And the heart says, ‘Whatever.’ ” For anyone busy self-flagellating over an error in judgment, this can feel like a rope ladder thrown from above—an invitation to scramble up and out of despair. It is generous and knowing, and offers a clear-eyed conclusion: some things can’t be helped.

Stevie Nicks - The Wild Heart Deluxe EditionIn 2012, Tavi Gevinson, the young founder of Rookie, an online magazine concerned chiefly with the complexities of teen-age girlhood, ended a tedx talk with some blunt advice: “Just be Stevie Nicks. That’s all you have to do.” What does it mean to be Stevie Nicks? To understand loss and longing as being merely the cost of doing business? To acknowledge the bottomless nature of certain aches, yet to know, in some instinctive way, that you’ll keep going? Nicks evokes Byron, in spirit and in certitude: “The heart will break, but broken live on.”

Nicks was born in 1948, in Phoenix. Her paternal grandfather, A. J. Nicks, Sr., was a struggling country musician, and he taught Nicks how to sing when she was four years old. She was given an acoustic guitar for her sixteenth birthday, and immediately wrote a song called “I’ve Loved and I’ve Lost and I’m Sad but Not Blue.” The title is a surprisingly succinct encapsulation of Nicks’s lyrical alchemy: a combination of acceptance (I am hurting) and perspective (I will not hurt forever).

1966-menlo-athertonIn 1966, when Nicks was in her senior year of high school and living in Atherton, California—her father, an executive at a meatpacking company, had been relocated there—she met the guitarist Lindsey Buckingham at a party. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor—bearded, curly-haired, and strumming the Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” Uninvited, she joined him in harmony. (“How brazen!” she later said.) Buckingham asked Nicks to join his band, Fritz. By 1971, the two were romantically involved. They eventually took off for Los Angeles, where they tried to make it as a duo, called Buckingham Nicks, releasing one album, in 1973, to very little acclaim. Not long afterward, Buckingham was asked to join Fleetwood Mac, a British blues band featuring the singer and keyboard player Christine McVie, the bassist John McVie, and the drummer Mick Fleetwood; the group was being rebooted as an American soft-rock act. Buckingham insisted that Nicks be invited, too. She ended up writing two of the band’s biggest early hits, “Landslide” and “Rhiannon.”

1977_uncredited03Extraordinary success often leads to spiritual dissolution, and Fleetwood Mac had its share of psychic turmoil. In 1975, Fleetwood divorced his wife, the model Jenny Boyd, after she had an affair with one of his former bandmates. Nicks and Buckingham broke up the following year. Around the same time, John and Christine McVie’s marriage collapsed. There was an ungodly amount of brandy and cocaine on hand to help nullify the despair. Still, in 1977, Fleetwood Mac—now five wild-eyed, newly single people—released Rumours, a collection of yearning songs about love and devotion. The record spent thirty-one weeks at the top of the charts, and is one of the best-selling albums in American history.

(Norman Seef)
(Norman Seef)

Tusk, which the group released two years later, was a bombastic double LP that cost a million dollars to produce. The critic Stephen Holden, in his review of the album for Rolling Stone, suggested that Nicks sounded “more than ever like a West Coast Patti Smith.” Superficially, at least, Nicks and Smith aren’t obvious analogues. Nicks is hyperfeminine, intuitive, and bohemian; Smith is androgynous, cerebral, and gritty. But both are unusually perceptive chroniclers of their time and place.

If Smith is obliged to the Lower East Side of Manhattan—and the punk scene that included the Ramones, Television, and Suicide—Nicks’s debt is to Laurel Canyon, and to the sentimental, silky-voiced artists who emerged from L.A. in the late sixties and early seventies. Some of those acts—James Taylor, the Eagles—are now considered, fairly or not, irrelevant to the Zeitgeist: too mellow, too affluent, too sexless, too white. Candles and incense and macramé plant hangers; wistful thoughts about weather. Nicks’s lyrics often worry over domestic or earthly concerns—gardens, mountains, flowers, the seasons—and how they might affect the whims of her heart. “It makes no difference at all / ’Cause I wear boots all summer long,” she sings in “Nightbird.” When compared with the dissonant and provocative music coming out of downtown New York, the California sound could seem limp. But the scene in Laurel Canyon was tumultuous. Many of its artists—including, at various times, Nicks—were wrecked by drug addiction. Nicks’s voice, a strange, quivering contralto, gives her songs unexpected weight. Its tone reminds me of the gloaming—that lambent, transitional moment between night and day.

Jimmy Iovine Stevie Nicks
Jimmy Iovine and Stevie Nicks, 1981 (Chris Walter)

Bella Donna was produced by Jimmy Iovine, a Brooklyn-born audio engineer who worked on Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and produced the Patti Smith Group’s Easter and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedoes. Iovine spent time in California, but his sensibility was tougher and more plainly that of the East Coast. He later became a co-founder of Interscope Records, where he helped to establish the career of the rapper Tupac Shakur, and, for a period, he oversaw the hip-hop label Death Row Records. Iovine was aware of concerns that Nicks was too coddled and immature to make a solo record as good as the records she’d made with Fleetwood Mac. Regardless, there was romantic chemistry. “This record was our love story unfolding,” she has said.

Bella Donna reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart, and produced four hit singles: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” a duet with Petty; “Leather and Lace,” with Don Henley; “Edge of Seventeen”; and “After the Glitter Fades.” The last, a country song about the travails of stardom—Nicks wrote it just after she and Buckingham moved to Los Angeles, long before she had a record deal, showing either hubris or prescience—contains organ, pedal steel, and reassurances. “The dream keeps coming even when you forget to feel,” she sings.

Nicks, like most artists, culls inspiration from disparate sources. She is prone to saying things like “ ‘Edge of Seventeen’ was about Tom Petty and his wife, Jane, my uncle dying, and the assassination of John Lennon.” But her personal life—a tangle of love affairs, often with her collaborators—informs her work in explicit ways. “Heartbreak of the moment isn’t endless,” she sings, in “Think About It.” This might seem like a billowy platitude, but if you are someone who does not think that every flubbed decision is fodder for personal growth, it is comforting to hear someone assert that nearly all mistakes can be neutralized, if not conquered. If Bella Donna contains a single directive, it’s to love freely, love fully, and hang on.

Fleetwood Mac 1982
(David Montgomery)

In 1981, Iovine flew with Nicks to the Château d’Hérouville, in northern France, where Fleetwood Mac was recording its next album, Mirage. Iovine left almost immediately, to escape the interpersonal conflicts that roiled the band. Iovine and Nicks’s relationship foundered. The following fall, while Fleetwood Mac was on tour, Nicks’s childhood friend Robin Anderson died, of leukemia, at the age of thirty-three. “What was left over was just a big, horrible, empty world,” Nicks has said. Days before her death, Anderson had prematurely given birth to a son. Nicks, operating under the savage logic of grief, married her friend’s widower, Kim Anderson, thinking that she would help raise the child. They divorced three months later.

By 1983, Nicks was ready to make another record. Her relationship with Iovine was strained, but Nicks asked him to produce the record anyway. The Wild Heart is inspired in part by the unravelling of that relationship, and in part by her mourning for Anderson. Nicks frequently cites as a guiding influence for the recording sessions the 1939 film adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, which depicts an undying, almost fiendish love. Mostly, the songs are about bucking against the circumstances that separate us from the people we need.

(Herbert W. Worthington, III)
(Herbert W. Worthington, III)

The artist Justin Vernon, of the band Bon Iver, uses a brief sample of “Wild Heart” (a track from The Wild Heart) on the group’s new album, “22, A Million.” Nicks’s voice is sped up, pitch-altered, and barely discernible as human—just a high, grousing “wah-wah,” deployed intermittently. Vernon pinched it from a popular YouTube video of Nicks, in which she sits on a stool having her makeup done, wearing a white dress with spaghetti straps. She begins to sing. Soon, someone is messing with a piano; one of her backup singers joins in with a harmony. The makeup artist gamely tries to continue with her work, before giving up. While the studio recording of “Wild Heart” is saturated, almost wet, this version is all air, all joy.

What affects me most about the video is how profoundly Nicks appears to love singing. Her voice has an undulating, galloping quality. It is as if, once it’s started up, there’s no slowing down, no stopping; the car is careering down a mountain, with no brakes. You can see on her face how good it feels just to let go.

Stand Back 1983“Stand Back,” the first single from The Wild Heart, was inspired by Prince’s “Little Red Corvette,” which Nicks heard on the radio while driving with Kim Anderson to San Ysidro Ranch, in Santa Barbara, for their honeymoon. (Prince played keyboards on the track, though he’s not credited in the album’s liner notes.) The song was produced in accordance with the style of the era, with lots of synthesizer and rubbery, overdubbed percussion. The lyrics describe a deliberate seduction followed by an acute betrayal. “First he took my heart, then he ran,” Nicks sings. The chorus is appropriately punchy: “Stand back, stand back,” she warns. Nicks is capable of going fully feral before a microphone, perhaps most famously at the end of “Silver Springs,” a song intended for Rumours and one of several that she wrote about Buckingham. (It ends with Nicks hollering, “Was I just a fool?”) On “Stand Back,” she erupts briefly, on the middle verses, but for the rest of the song she is more characteristically sanguine. “It’s all right, it’s all right,” she concedes. “I did not hear from you, it’s all right.”

Nicks went on to make six more solo albums, and three more with Fleetwood Mac. Following her divorce from Kim Anderson, she never married again, or had any children, though a rich maternal instinct runs through all her songs. This, more than anything else, may be the reason that Nicks’s work has endured—why listeners turn to her for consolation, especially now, when many feel wounded and the radio remains rife with confrontational whoops. To be Stevie Nicks is to offer shelter. ♦

Amanda Petrusich / The New Yorker / November 28, 2016

Amanda Petrusich is a contributing writer for, and the author of “Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records.” MORE

This article appears in other versions of the November 28, 2016, issue, with the headline “What the Heart Says.”

Bella Donna, The Wild Heart deluxe editions out now!

The deluxe editions of Stevie Nicks’ first two solo albums Bella Donna (1981) and The Wild Heart have been released. Both albums are available as CD deluxe editions with remastered sound, bonus tracks, new liner notes, and rare photos. The remastered vinyl edition of each album is also available.

Click here to see a list of purchase options.

Stevie Nicks - Bella Donna Deluxe Edition Stevie Nicks - The Wild Heart Deluxe Edition

Stevie Nicks Bella Donna Deluxe Edition Stevie Nicks Bella Donna Deluxe Edition Stevie Nicks The Wild Heart Deluxe Edition

Stevie Nicks dusts off rarities for 24 Karat Gold Tour

For fans craving something fresh on the concert stage, Stevie Nicks’ new 24 Karat Gold Tour is truly golden.

She rehearsed 30 songs with her band to come up with the 20 that made the cut for the tour, which comes to Sunrise’s BB&T Center on Nov. 4 with opening act The Pretenders. Her goal was to include tunes she has never (or rarely) done live in a career that dates to the 1973 Buckingham Nicks album with then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham.

Rarities like “Bella Donna” and “Wild Heart,” the title tracks of her first two solo albums that are also being reissued in expanded versions Friday, are in the set. So is “Crying in the Night” from Buckingham Nicks that predates the couple joining Fleetwood Mac.

Fans will also appreciate the live debuts for a couple of tracks from her most recent solo album, 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault — “The sex, drugs, rock and roll glory songs between 1969 and 1987,” Nicks said of demos she polished and recorded anew in Nashville in 2014.

“I can never write those songs again. Those were songs I am very proud of. I pulled them off Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac records. The reasons were I didn’t like the production or I didn’t like the way they were recorded. I considered those to be my best songs so what I am going to do is go out with those songs and songs off In Your Dreams [her 2011 solo album] I didn’t do live, and it will be really fun.”

Such familiar hits as “Stand Back,” “Edge of Seventeen” and “Rhiannon” still figure in the set. The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde steps in to sing Tom Petty’s part on “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” The show even opens with a rocking outtake from 1981’s “Bella Donna” — “Gold and Braid” — which Nicks hasn’t performed live since 2000.

After more than a year on the road with Fleetwood Mac on a worldwide reunion tour that grossed almost $200 million in the U.S., Nicks has been promising a radical departure from the same old for this tour and a late 2017 return with the Mac.

“Maybe when Fleetwood Mac does our last tour, maybe if I have anything to say about it, we’ll definitely go through the catalog and do a very different set. People have heard the set we’ve had to do all these years. Now they deserve to hear all the great stuff through all of these records,” she said. “I will put my foot down. I’m not going back on the road to do the same things we did on those 220 shows.”

The September release of Fleetwood Mac’s 1982 album, Mirage, as an expanded boxed set and the Bella Donna and Wild Heart reissues have put Nicks in a reflective mood. (The group’s 1987 album, Tango in the Night is also forthcoming in deluxe fashion.)

The outtakes discs from Mirage and Bella Donna include versions of “If You Were My Love,” a song re-recorded for “24 Karat Gold” that she’s premiering live on the tour.

Meantime, the other members of Fleetwood Mac have recorded new songs and want to release a studio album, but Nicks is reluctant to participate. Listening to such classic tracks as “Gypsy” from the Mirage sessions hasn’t quite convinced her to go back into the studio with the others.

“When you listen to that song you wish Fleetwood Mac could make those kinds of records now, but it’s just not possible,” Nicks said. “It was such a different world then, and everything was done so differently and everyone was more on the same page. As the years went by, not really everybody, but mostly Lindsey and I, just went such different ways. It’s really hard to come back together.”

Stevie Nicks and The Pretenders perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Pkwy., Sunrise. Tickets: $45.25-$320. Ticketmaster.

Howard Cohen / Miami Herald / Thursday, October 27, 2016

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

LISTEN: ‘Bella Donna’ demo

Hear Stevie Nicks’ Intimate ‘Bella Donna’ Demo

Deluxe reissues of singer-songwriter’s first two solo albums, Bella Donna and The Wild Heart, out November 4th

On November 4th, Stevie Nicks‘ first two solo albums — Bella Donna and The Wild Heart — will be reissued via Rhino. Each deluxe release will feature not only the original LP but rarities and bonus tracks, like the previously unreleased demo of her solo debut’s title track, streaming below.

Stripped of its backing vocals as well as the raucous live band and synthesizers featured on the original album version, Nicks’ demo is a tender, intimate take on the song. She sings softly above just the piano track, nearly whispering “Bella donna, my soul” and barely reaching the full-throated belt she unleashes on the 1981 recording.

Later this month and just before releasing the reissues, Nicks will embark on a solo tour with opening act the Pretenders. Nicks’ tour is in support of her 2014 album 24K Gold, a collection of songs she had cut from her prior solo releases for various reasons. “These are the glory songs,” she told Rolling Stone of her reason to follow a multi-year world tour with Fleetwood Mac with the solo dates. “These are the sex, rock & roll and drugs songs that I’m actually not really writing right now, and these are the songs I could never write again.”

Brittany Spanos / Rolling Stone / Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bella Donna, The Wild Heart deluxe editions out Nov 4


Legendary Singer-Songwriter Builds On Her Unparalleled Legacy With Deluxe Editions Of Bella Donna And The Wild Heart. Available From Rhino On November 4.

24 Karat Gold Tour With Pretenders Kicks Off October 25

LOS ANGELES – Stevie Nicks, the legendary singer songwriter whose highly acclaimed 30 year solo career includes seven studio albums, iconic hits, and record sales in the millions, will release deluxe editions with newly remastered audio and never before released live and recorded music from her first two solo albums Bella Donna and The Wild Heart. The end of October dual releases will come out in conjunction with the start of Nicks’ 24 Karat Gold Tour with Pretenders which begins in Phoenix on October 25. Complete tour schedule follows this release.

BELLA DONNA: DELUXE EDITION is a three-CD set for $29.98 and THE WILD HEART: DELUXE EDITION is a two-CD set for $19.98. Both will be available on November 4. On the same day, newly remastered versions of the original albums will also be available on LP ($21.98) and CD ($11.98). The music will be available digitally and through streaming services as well. A complete list of cuts on both deluxe editions follows this release.

“I’ve had so much fun reliving the making of Bella Donna and The Wild Heart while working on the liner notes and listening to all of the alternate versions and demo takes,” says Nicks. “The liner notes are so much more than liner notes. They are like a little novel. I tried to make whoever reads this feel like they were there. I think…I succeeded….”

Nicks joined producer Jimmy Iovine to begin recording songs for her solo debut, Bella Donna following the recording of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk and subsequent tour. The 1981 album was quickly certified platinum. Today, the album is 4x platinum thanks to Nicks classics like “Edge Of Seventeen,” “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) and “Leather And Lace” (with Don Henley).

BELLA DONNA: DELUXE EDITION uncovers unreleased versions of “Edge Of Seventeen” and “Leather And Lace,” as well as rarities like “Blue Lamp” from the Heavy Metal Soundtrack and “Sleeping Angel” from the Fast Times At Ridgemont High Soundtrack. This deluxe edition also includes a concert from 1981 that features performances of songs from Bella Donna along with several Fleetwood Mac favorites.

Nicks returned in 1983 with her follow-up, The Wild Heart, which peaked at #5 on the album chart and has been certified double platinum. The album produced hits like “Stand Back,” “Nightbird” and “I Will Run To You,” which features Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. THE WILD HEART: DELUXE EDITION builds on the original album with unreleased versions of “All The Beautiful Worlds” a session version of “Wild Heart” and “Garbo,” the B-side to “Stand Back.”

Stevie Nicks - Bella Donna Deluxe EditionBELLA DONNA: DELUXE EDITION

Track Listing

Disc One: Original Album

  1. “Bella Donna”
  2. “Kind Of Woman”
  3. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” – with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  4. “Think About It”
  5. “After The Glitter Fades”
  6. “Edge Of Seventeen”
  7. “How Still My Love”
  8. “Leather And Lace”
  9. “Outside The Rain”
  10. “The Highwayman”
Stevie Nicks
(Photo: Herbert W. Worthington, III)

Disc Two: Bonus Tracks

  1. “Edge Of Seventeen” – Early Take *
  2. “Think About It” – Alternate Version *
  3. “How Still My Love” – Alternate Version *
  4. “Leather And Lace” – Alternate Version *
  5. “Bella Donna” – Demo *
  6. “Gold And Braid” – Unreleased Version *
  7. “Sleeping Angel” – Alternate Version *
  8. “If You Were My Love” – Unreleased Version *
  9. “The Dealer” – Unreleased Version *
  10. “Blue Lamp” – From Heavy Metal Soundtrack
  11. “Sleeping Angel” – From Fast Times At Ridgemont High Soundtrack

Disc Three: Live 1981

  1. “Gold Dust Woman”
  2. “Gold And Braid”
  3. “I Need To Know”
  4. “Outside The Rain”
  5. “Dreams”
  6. “Angel” *
  7. “After The Glitter Fades”
  8. “Leather And Lace” *
  9. “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”
  10. “Bella Donna” *
  11. “Sara”
  12. “How Still My Love” *
  13. “Edge Of Seventeen”
  14. “Rhiannon”

Stevie Nicks - The Wild Heart Deluxe EditionTHE WILD HEART: DELUXE EDITION

Track Listing

Disc One: Original Album

  1. “Wild Heart”
  2. If Anyone Falls”
  3. “Gate And Garden”
  4. “Enchanted”
  5. “Nightbird”
  6. “Stand Back”
  7. “I Will Run To You” – with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  8. “Nothing Ever Changes”
  9. “Sable On Blond”
  10. “Beauty And The Beast”

Disc Two: Bonus Tracks

  1. “Violet And Blue” – from Against All Odds Soundtrack
  2. “I Sing For The Things” – Unreleased Version *
  3. “Sable On Blond” – Alternate Version *
  4. “All The Beautiful Worlds” – Unreleased Version *
  5. “Sorcerer” – Unreleased Version *
  6. “Dial The Number” – Unreleased Version *
  7. “Garbo” – B-side
  8. “Are You Mine” – Demo *
  9. “Wild Heart” – Session *
  • previously unreleased


Source: Official press release

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Kind of Woman: ‘She matters to you…’

For Track No. 2, Stevie Nicks delved deep into her back catalog for “Kind of Woman,” a composition that dated back to the mid-1970s. In the song, Nicks confronted the infidelity in her romantic partner, pointedly addressing the temptation as the “kind of woman that’ll haunt you.” Although the completed 1981 track took on a less somber tone than the original demo, the weight of Nicks’ moral convictions — affirmed with a series of compelling vocal runs — remained undiminished.

Album Version

Piano Demo

Courtesy of Street Angel

Bella Donna: ‘Come in out of the darkness’

A look back on Stevie Nicks’ landmark solo debut

On July 27, Stevie Nicks’ debut solo recording Bella Donna turned 35. As we celebrate this historic recording, Stevie Nicks Info looks back on the tracks that comprised Nicks’ most important album, a personal statement of artistic expression and independence. First stop: “Bella Donna.”

While Nicks’ primary goal was to record a backlog of quality material, Bella Donna quickly transcended all expectations, setting the stage for a monster solo career. High Times described the songs of Bella Donna as Nicks’ “special way of combining vulnerability with strength,” a quality that Nicks affirmed in the standout title track.

“That’s what ‘Bella Donna’ is about…’come in out of the darkness,'” Nicks explained in 1981. “I had to prove to myself that I could exist on my own” (High Times).

The self-empowering title track kicked off Side A of the five-million bestseller and literally set the stage for even bigger showstoppers.

Here is the live version of “Bella Donna,” recorded at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, December 1981.

Video courtesy of jonjon1303

Album Version

Stevie Nicks, Redbeard look back on Bella Donna

Long before she became a star as a solo performer; before she and her musical partner (then lover) Lindsey Buckingham helped to transform the British blues rock band Fleetwood Mac into one of the top-selling groups of all time; even before her professional recording debut in 1973 on the album Buckingham Nicks, Stephanie Lynn Nicks was living a real-life version of the Glass Menagerie.

Listen to the full interview now

[jwplayer mediaid=”374388″]

Stevie Nicks: “I remember exactly what it was like to be 20. I mean, I was a cleaning lady, I was a waitress. I had problems… I mean, Lindsey and me together trying to figure out how we’re going to make it in the music business. And this is the only thing that either of us wanted to do. And what if we didn’t we make it ? I had to go to school. And he didn’t so… that, ya know, he had all this time. I didn’t have much time. I mean I was I was an emotional wreck at 20. Oh, yeah. I was an emotional wreck at 18 because that’s when I started singing in a band with Lindsey and we played three and ½ solid years up and down the San Francisco peninsula and opened for all the big huge bands in that special moment in time that was Haight-Ashbury and San Francisco. Where everybody came. And so I got to stand and watch from the side of the stage. Everybody. You name ‘em, we opened the show for ‘em. So I got like first hand experience, it’s the only reason I was able to walk into Fleetwood Mac without having a nervous breakdown. And walk out center front stage to the center mic and not just, ya know, collapse and faint, because I had already played in front of 75,000 people. Standing in the middle of the stage as lead singer.

It was a big adjustment and a lot to take. I was very young. Well, I wasn’t very young, I was 27, but I felt very young and it was like it was overnight, overnight, hugely successful. And it was hard for my little brain to accept that kind of fame that fast. And to go from being that poor and having all these little jobs that I had because Lindsey didn’t know how to do anything else except play music, and I could do anything. And did, to keep us going so that we could do it. Because at that time I had realized that we were going to make it if it killed me. And ya know working solidly to getting the Buckingham-Nicks deal and doing that record and having that record dropped and being just crushed. Because it’s one thing to be working towards it, and another to go into a big studio with a big producer and do a big record with all the 24 track board and everything and having the taste of the big time. And then be just be dropped like a hot potato, and go back to wondering if I should go back to school or if I should just work and let Lindsey pursue the music career. And I should just step out.Because by that time I was to the point where… ya know I’m very loyal and I certainly was Lindsey’s biggest fan and I thought he was the greatest guitar player in the world and had the most beautiful voice. He was one of those people that… I walked into a room once and he sat there and played a song and it was “Rooms on Fire.” He’s one of those. He was one of those men. And… whatever I had to do to keep him going was ok because it was more important for Lindsey than it was that I make it. Because I knew I could do a hundred other things and nobody could ever take my music away from me. I could still write songs and play. And, I could take my music in anything I did. I could go back to school. I only had a year to go to finish to get a masters. I could go back to school for three years and get a PhD. I would be fine. I knew that. I worried about him. I didn’t know what he would do. And because I was so in love with him there wasn’t any question in my mind that I would I stick in there until if we didn’t both make it, at least I got him up there. And when you love somebody and you see the pain in their face, when they even consider the fact that you might not make it… it’s like, “Don’t even think that we’re not going to make it. We are.” And in my heart I’m saying to myself, “If I have to comb this town, I will find somebody to listen to us that will understand how good we are, or that God willing, at least know how good he is.”

RB: What about expectations of you without the safety net of a band?

“I learned a long time ago never to expect. Because I think that was something that was instilled in me when I was really small. Don’t expect anything. Not that you can’t be confident about it. But just don’t expect the greatest things and then you won’t be disappointed. And then if great things do happen, you’ll be much more excited and happy about it. Then if you just said,” I know it’s hit record”, and then what if it isn’t? Then you’re devastated. And I don’t particular love being devastated, so I just thought a long time ago that I would take in my stride whatever happened, especially with my solo records. Being that they were solo records that means that yes, of course they’re more personal. Of course I’m giving away a whole lot more of myself, as my mother says to me, “too honest for the world sometimes”. So I never know exactly how people are going to take them. But every time I do a solo record I get more… convinced that the more honest I am with everybody, with what happens in my life and what has happened and what has gone on, and how I’ve managed to get to this point and still have my sanity, … the better. And the more people understand it, that this is real and these aren’t made up songs… and that I’m really trying to do a whole lot more than sing songs to people. That I’m trying to give out a little experience to people, I think. Maybe run by them, in a fantasy sort of way, experiences that I’ve been through that may save them a little bit of time. A little bit of hard time. Just help a little bit. I have to really feel that the song itself is important because I feel long after the singer is gone, and the songwriter is gone, that the song will remain.”

Editor’s Note: This appears to be an archived interview, rebroadcast for this radio special.

In the Studio with Redbeard / August 2016

Happy 35th Anniversary, Bella Donna!

(Photo: Herbert W. Worthington, III)
(Photo: Herbert W. Worthington, III)

Stevie Nicks‘ debut solo album and crowning commercial achievement Bella Donna turns 35 today.

Packed with radio-friendly tracks, Bella Donna spawned four Top 40 singles: “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) (#3), “Leather and Lace” (with Don Henley) (#6), “Edge of Seventeen” (#11), and “After the Glitter Fades” (#32) To date, Bella Donna has sold than 5 million copies in the United States and Canada and 10 million copies worldwide. In 1982, Nicks earned two Grammy nominations for Best Rock Vocal Female for “Edge of Seventeen”; and Best Rock Vocal Group for “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”

Stevie Nicks
(Photo: HBO)

Nicks supported the release of Bella Donna with a short 10-date national tour, dubbed “The White Winged Dove Tour.” The tour culminated with a series of concerts at the iconic Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, parts of which were later broadcast on HBO and NBC Radio. Nicks created one of the strongest set lists of her touring career, performing an unprecedented 8 tracks from a single album (Bella Donna); Fleetwood Mac classics “Dreams,” “Sara,” “Rhiannon,” and “Gold Dust Woman”; high-level deep cuts “Blue Lamp” and “Gold and Braid”; and even a Tom Petty cover, “I Need to Know.”

Jimmy Iovine Stevie Nicks
Jimmy Iovine and Stevie Nicks, 1981 (Photo: Chris Walter)

Nicks began her mission to launch a solo career in the late 1970s, planning the ambitious career move with record executives Paul Fishkin, Danny Goldberg, and Doug Morris. “I had all these tunes stored up,” Nicks explained. “I really needed to know that I could do something on my own” (People, 1982).

(Photo: Herbert W. Worthington, III)
(Photo: Herbert W. Worthington, III)

Along the way, the Nicks A-team recruited Tom-Petty-producer Jimmy Iovine, who enlisted Petty and the rest of his band The Heartbreakers to play on Nicks’ record. Nicks rounded our her band with backup singers Sharon Celani and Lori Nicks, who remain dear friends and loyal bandmates to this day.

Rolling Stone magazine
In 1981, Rolling Stone crowned Stevie Nicks as “the reigning queen of rock and roll.”

“I was particularly nervous about making this album,” Nicks revealed, “because I knew I wouldn’t have [the four other members of Fleetwood Mac] to blame if it didn’t do well. Fortunately, I had great people to work with who encouraged me constantly” (BAM, 1981).

Thirty-five years later, Bella Donna stands as Stevie Nicks’ most important recording, with timeless songs that continue to inspire and move generations of listeners. Fans would heartily agree “the feeling remains even after the glitter fades.”

Redbeard celebrates 35th anniversary of Bella Donna

During the week of August 8, In the Studio with Redbeard will celebrate the 35th anniversary of Stevie Nicks’ debut solo album Bella Donna. The nationally syndicated radio show will air tracks from the 5X platinum album and interviews from Nicks talking about the recording sessions and the beginning of her solo career.

Bella Donna marks its 35th anniversary on Tuesday, July 27.

For a list of radio stations that air the show, click here.