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Sex, drugs and Stevie Nicks

27 Sep 2003
The Courier Mail (Australian Newspaper)


Drug addiction, relationship breakdowns, alcohol abuse and now menopause: Stevie Nicks has been there and done it all. Nui Te Koha meets a candid Nicks on the eve of the revamped Fleetwood Mac's Australian tour

STEVIE Nicks is a proven fighter who wins battles. But her latest struggle is proving difficult. "Rock and menopause do not mix," the Fleetwood Mac legend, 55, sighs.

"It is not good, it sucks and every day I fight it to the death, or, at the very least, not let it take me over."

This is remarkable, given her world tour workload in the re-formed and revitalised Mac, a genuine supergroup in which Nicks became the distinctive face and voice.

"I was never going to return to cocaine because when I made the decision to stop doing coke, I was saving my life," Nicks says. "I was never going back to coke, so that doctor was an idiot.

"If I could, I would go and kill him today because he ruined my life.

"For those eight years, from 1986 to 1993, I wrote nothing memorable, I did nothing memorable. I sat in my house and gained weight.

"Did you ever see that movie The Never-Ending Story?

"There is a character in that film, a blob called The Nothing.

"Well, I turned into The Nothing. I was The Nothing for eight years.

"So when people say to me, 'I guess that everything you do makes you into the person you are today', I don't buy it.

"If I didn't spend those eight years on medication, I would have done two or three really great albums, Fleetwood Mac may have re-formed . . .

"There are a gazillion different possibilities that would have been terrific and memorable.

"But I have nothing from those eight years. It ruined my life. It took my soul."

These days, and since snapping out of her medicated haze 10 years ago, Nicks is in a good place.

Her latest solo album, Trouble In Shangri-La marked a stellar return to form.

And the good chemistry in the historically turbulent Mac has warranted several happy reunions.

"We have our own 737 jet now, and we are picked up by seven limousines every day," Nicks giggles.

"As I watch those limousines come out to the airfield, I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, where is Jimmy Page? Where is Robert Plant?'

"I have to stop for a minute and thank all the gods of rock 'n' roll that this can still be done, one more time, in this fashion."

For Nicks, this latest journey, a world tour to support Mac's latest record, Say You Will, began two years ago.

Initially, she took 17 songs from her vaults for the new Mac album, then pulled those tracks to write four new compositions.

She asked the band � Lindsey Buckingham (vocal, guitar), John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums) � for 30 days to write the new songs.

A month later, Nicks returned to the studio with her cassette demo. By the fourth song, Buckingham, with his hand on Nicks' knee, was crying.

"How do you do that?" he said, tears streaming down his face.

"Then I cried, we all cried, and we started work," Nicks says.

The Mac dynamic is different this tour. Christine McVie, a singing-songwriting equal on Rumours, is not in the line-up. She is chasing a solo career.

"You never want to say it's better without her because, of course, it's not better without her. She is my best friend," Nicks says.

"From the day I joined Fleetwood Mac, she has been there and all of a sudden, she's gone. So that has not been good for me. There is a feminine power that I really miss."

But keyboardist McVie's absence has put them back to a guitar sound which Buckingham and Nicks refined before joining Fleetwood Mac in 1975.

"It is more dramatic on stage," Nicks says. "It has pushed Lindsey and I into a situation where there is no Christine to throw a third of the songs to. There is no Christine to take a third of the blame.

"That has been a very stunning thing for us: to understand and accept that when we look at each other, there is nobody else there to help us.

"We had to take up the torch, we had to take up the challenge.

"It's great, it's strong, it's fun, it's electric, it's romantic. We have our love affair that goes on that stage for 2� hours every night. That goes on stage with us and stops when we come off."

Their real-life love affair ended spectacularly in 1976 and permeated the bitter but nonetheless brilliant Rumours.

Back then, Buckingham emoted the sour break-up anthem Go Your Own Way, and Nicks, the sublime Dreams, but for the longest time, neither could speak to each other.

This silent treatment spilt through the Rumours album, its global success and a subsequent world tour.

Yet, the perception is: Nicks dealt better with the split than Buckingham.

"I'm just more adaptable. Since I was in the third grade, my parents moved every two or three years. I learnt to change," Nicks says.

Nicks has been on the road since May 3. She will do European dates in November and December, break for Christmas, then stop in Hawaii to acclimatise for the Australian tour in February.

"If I were to have a husband or boyfriend, what would they do, and what would I tell them? I am really sorry, but I have no time for you," Nicks says.

"I'd end up saying: 'I totally love you, but I'm too busy, and also, you can't come out on the road because you don't have a job out here'.

"It's very hard for men to come out on the road with their rock 'n' roll women. What do they do? In about three days, they go home."

Nicks pauses, then takes a softer tack.

"You know, maybe someday I will meet some incredible man who will walk around the corner and sweep me away."

So why has Fleetwood Mac endured? The songs, she says.

"The music never seems to get old, the music never seems to really change. Sometimes, I go home and can't believe I'm in this band. But this is what we have worked our whole lives for. We are now able to enjoy total freedom of walking on that stage and knowing this band is one of the greatest in rock 'n' roll history."

Fleetwood Mac, Brisbane Entertainment Centre, February 19 and 20, 2004. Ticketek 13 19 31. "I have a big handful of vitamins in the morning and another big handful at night and I am controlling it," Nicks says. "I break out in hot flushes and I just have to sit down.

"That is when I get a big, fabulous Japanese fan and cool myself for five minutes," she laughs. "I may as well be fabulous while I'm suffering.

"But the most important thing is, I have figured out a way to control this. I will not go down.

"I walk on stage, I'm very strong, I'm still pretty cute and I rock."

That goes without saying.

Nicks is the original rock chick, poetic soul and do-or-die survivor in an extraordinary career of surreal highs and soulless lows.

After their defining record, the classic Rumours (1977) and follow-up Tusk (1979), Fleetwood Mac spent the subsequent decade getting high.

Nicks lived so hard on drugs and booze, a period she calls the "cocaine and brandy days", it almost killed her.

A retreat into Klonopin, an anti-depressant drug, led to addiction and eight years of hell in a social and creative vacuum.

"The cocaine and brandy period was bad, but we managed to have some fun, though," Nicks says. "I also managed to do some of my greatest work through those years.

"That's not saying that's a good thing to do, because it's not. But in comparison with the eight years I spent on Klonopin, the cocaine and brandy wins hands down."

Nicks was prescribed Klonopin in 1986. "Klonopin is the nastiest thing I've ever done," she says. "And it was the fault of the doctor who told me, 'Here, this will help you sleep. This will also help you not return to cocaine'.

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