The Pick Of Stevie Nicks: 12 Underrated Gems
The Pick Of Stevie Nicks: 12 Underrated Gems
Stevie Nicks’ songs such as “Rhiannon”, “Edge Of Seventeen” and “Dreams” have guaranteed her status across multiple generations, but the 73-year-old songwriter’s legacy goes deeper than Fleetwood Mac hits collections. As her 1981 debut solo album Bella Donna celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, I Like Your Old Stuff goes back through the archives and highlights some of her finest unsung songs: from Bella Donna to Buckingham Nicks and beyond.
1. “If You Were My Love”
Sharing Fleetwood Mac songwriting duties with Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham often meant Nicks’ song submissions missed the cut. In 1981, the release of Nicks’ debut Bella Donna not only provided her with an additional musical outlet, it proved she was a formidable solo artist. Bella Donna’s high standard is demonstrated by “If You Were My Love” – a song also demoed by the Mac – being left off the original version. Subsequently appearing on the archival collection 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault, Bella Donna (Deluxe Edition) and in draft form on Mirage (Deluxe Edition), “If You Were My Love” has the brooding acoustic feel of a Bruce Springsteen B-side.
2. “Planets Of The Universe”
“Planets Of The Universe” is another track with a long and fascinating gestation. Trialled during Rumours sessions, the song finally found an official release on Nicks’ solo 2001 album Trouble In Shangri-La. A less fully-formed version of the song, the Fleetwood Mac demo featured on Rumours (Deluxe Edition), captures Nicks at the piano and musing on the collapse of her relationship with Buckingham. Strangely, the remix was a number one dance hit in the US in 2001.
3. “Beautiful Child”
Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 double album Tusk has often been written off as Buckingham’s coke-fuelled folly, but the real tragedy is the overlooked Nicks songs on the 20-track behemoth. “Beautiful Child” is one of her most gorgeous songs, written about a short love affair with The Beatles’ former PR officer Derek Taylor. “It didn’t last very long, because he was married, but it affected me very much,” Stevie noted. The subtleties of “Beautiful Child” are its strengths, with Buckingham delivering backing vocals and steel string guitar. Fleetwood Mac hasn’t played it live since 2004, but the song’s aching beauty remains intact.
While Nicks’ Tusk songs “Sara”, “Sisters Of The Moon” and “Angel” were released as singles in various territories, “Storms” was one of her 1979 Mac contributions which deserved wider notoriety.
“It has so many layers of telling the world what was happening to me without actually saying what was happening!” Nicks remarked of the song, which was written about her short-lived dalliance with Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood. The song has since been redeemed thanks to appearances on compilations (including the double-platinum 25 Years – The Chain) and regular appearances in Fleetwood Mac live sets in the last decade.
5. “Beauty & The Beast”
“Storms” isn’t the only time Mick Fleetwood proved a muse for his blonde American collaborator: “Beauty & The Beast”, a track from her second solo album The Wild Heart, is another touching paean. “We come from different worlds… We are the same,” Nicks opined to her two-metre-tall percussionist, while Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan offers poignant keys. Sounding like a romantic finale from a melodramatic musical, “Beauty & The Beast” was also inspired by the Jean Costeau film of the same name.
6. “24 Karat Gold”
Written in 1979 and initially demoed for Bella Donna, “24 Karat Gold” was kept locked away until 2014’s 24 Karat Gold: Songs From The Vault. With its mentions of chains, dreams and gold, the track glistens with a Rumours lustre, as Nicks asks for a former lover to “set me free”. You can’t help but wonder if Buckingham’s ears were once again burning…
7. “Straight Back”
Recorded in the wake of Bella Donna’s number one success, Fleetwood Mac reconvened in France to lay down tracks for 1982’s Mirage. While failing to match the highs of 1975’s Fleetwood Mac or 1977’s Rumours, Nicks’ contribution “Gypsy” became a beloved track. Hidden away on the second side of the album was the lesser-known “Straight Back”, which sounded like a punchier sequel to Tusk’s “Sisters Of The Moon”. Initially written with the supplementary title “The Dream Has Just Begun”, the song hints at Nicks’ excitement about her burgeoning career beyond Mac’s confines.
8. “Sleeping Angel”
Nicks’ Bella Donna scraps were an embarrassment of riches. “Sleeping Angel” didn’t make the final cut of the original 1981 album, instead popping up on the soundtrack to the 1982 hit film Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Sharing a through-line with songwriting forebears such as Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon, this marvellous track was later returned to Bella Donna’s tracklisting on the 2016 Deluxe Edition.
9. “Blue Lamp”
As with “Sleeping Angel”, “Blue Lamp” was left off Bella Donna and instead turned up in a film. A collection of animated shorts based on the comic of the same name, Heavy Metal’s testosterone-fuelled soundtrack of 1981 seemed a strange home for Nicks’ song. Produced by her lover Jimmy Iovine and with guitar contributions from David Bowie collaborator Carlos Alomar, “Blue Lamp” has a “Don’t Fear The Reaper”-meets-The Hooters vibe to its incessant rhythm. “The sort of music you’d expect to hear ricocheting off the walls inside a haunted castle on a stormy night,” a 1981 issue of Rolling Stone suggested.
Few Stevie Nicks songs have been dusted down, refurbished and reissued as many times as “Crystal”. First appearing on the lone Buckingham Nicks album in 1973, it was re-recorded when the pair joined Fleetwood Mac and released on 1975’s massive self-titled album. On these two versions guitarist Buckingham took the lead vocal and Nicks was reduced to backing and harmonies. A quarter century after its first release, Nicks wrestled the song back for the 1998 Practical Magic soundtrack. Produced by her friend Sheryl Crow, Nicks’ lead vocal version proved the song had aged beautifully.
11. “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)”
The 50 Shades novels aren’t the only mainstream creations inspired by the Twilight films: Stevie Nicks’ song “Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)” was written after checking out Twilight: New Moon in a Brisbane cinema. “It’s my favourite song,” she suggested after releasing it on her most recent studio album, 2011’s In Your Dreams. “I played it 1000 times.”
“Moonlight” has aged far better than anything inspired by the wretched Twilight series has any right to.
12. “Kind Of Woman”
Bella Donna tracks such as “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” and “Edge Of Seventeen” might have taken the lion’s share of column inches in 1981 reviews, but the lesser-known “Kind Of Woman” retains a magnetism without its companion tracks’ bombast. Having seen her extraordinary song “Silver Springs” left off the final tracklisting of the original pressings of 1977’s Rumours, Nicks reused its idea of a lost romance forever haunting a lover on “Kind Of Woman”. It’s a perfect, underrated track first sketched out in 1973 when partner Buckingham was off touring with The Everly Brothers. “Somebody is waving a magic wand for sure over this whole thing,” Nicks told Mademoiselle magazine in 1982 when asked about Bella Donna’s success. Four decades on, the album still sounds magic today.
Stevie Nicks’ 1981 debut solo album Bella Donna celebrates its 40th anniversary this month, check out the very special gold vinyl edition and stream the album below!
Listen to Bella Donna on Spotify:
Listen to Bella Donna on Apple Music:
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