"TIMESPACE: THE BEST OF STEVIE NICKS" is an album that collects
the most exciting moments from her four solo albums, while also presenting
stirring new songs. So it's a good time to wonder: What exactly is the secret
behind the longevity of Stevie's musical career?
Start with the fact that Stevie is one of rock's wild hearted originals and make no mistake, there are very few of them. She is a singer, songwriter, performer, and platinum selling superstar who has always existed on her own terms, setting forth a unique and compelling vision. Armed with her special lyrical imagery and distinctive vocal style, Nicks has movingly examined the complexities of relationships and the nature of her own personal and spiritual quests.
Stevie has that rare quality: whether her music is coming out of a car radio or she's performing it to thousands of fans in concert, she makes each listener feel that they've been singled out, that Nicks is communicating directly with them. It's no wonder that a remarkably dedicated and immense group of fans is able to connect with Stevie's muse. This is a woman who stirs the soul, and, in this cynical age of push button rock, that's a lot to be thankful for.
Apart from the songs themselves, "TIMESPACE" offers a deep and introspective look at the true life stories that brought them about, candidly related by Stevie in the liner notes she personally wrote for each song. "I feel like I'm giving everybody not Just an album," she explains, "but I'm giving them my whole insight on the last 12 years -- what has gone on in my life to prompt me to write these songs, what my life has been. So that they might understand a little bit more why I am the way I am. And why I don't change very much, why I'm not very trendy, why I'm not a 'fad' person."
The idea of not changing, of staying true to herself, is most apparent on this collection of a decade's worth of hits. This is made particularly evident by the fact that eight earlier songs were specially remixed for this collection (seven by Chris Lord Alge and one by Tom Lord Alge). As a result, they technically stand up next to Stevie's more recent material. Even two brand new songs -- the Jon Bon Jovi penned "Sometimes It's A Bitch" and "Love's A Hard Game To Play," written by Poison's Bret Michaels -- both make perfect segues into songs recorded as much as ten years earlier. "They all sound new," Stevie exclaims. "You know the songs; you can sing along because you've heard them a million times. But there are little extras, like sparkle dust dropped on each one of them."
The reason behind remixing the older songs, however, went far beyond giving them a more modern sound. "A lot of original tapes were damaged," Nicks notes. "This was a good time to take them all out, see what was damaged, and get them onto a fresh reel as quickly as possible. Some of the tapes were literally falling apart, and we couldn't even remix 'Talk To Me'; the tape actually snapped.
Stevie was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and by the age of four she
was already performing in living rooms and gin mills with her country crooning
grandfather, A.J. "I danced around like Isadora Duncan, and paid my brother 50
cents a week just to dance with me," she remembers. "I knew I couldn't bluff my
way through, say, Russian ballet, so I started singing along with the Beach
From Phoenix to Albuquerque to E1 Paso to Salt Lake City to Los Angeles to San Francisco, Stevie's childhood was a rambling succession of new scenery thanks to the constant relocating of her business executive father. Having taken guitar lessons for merely a month, she was given her music teacher's guitar for a birthday present and wrote her first song that very day. Calling herself the "mad songwriter" ever since, Stevie formed her first band a year later while attending Arcadia High School in Los Angeles. Dubbed Changing Times, the folk rock quartet fashioned themselves after The Mamas And The Papas -- a move that would prove most prophetic when Stevie moved to San Francisco the following year.
"I went to a kind of church meeting that everybody went to, to get out of the house on Wednesday night," she recalls. "Lindsey (Buckingham) walked into the room, sat down, and started playing a song that I knew every word and harmony to, 'California Dreamin'. I thought he was absolutely stunning, so I casually manoeuvred my way over. He didn't let me know it, but I guess he was ever so slightly impressed. And he did sing a song with me."
It was two years before Stevie and Lindsey saw each other again, but beginning in 1968 -- at the height of the Haight Ashbury scene -- the two would spend the next three "Summers of Love" in a psychedelic band called Fritz. By 1972, with Stevie now concentrating on her songwriting, she and Lindsey moved to L.A., where they would work all night recording songs in a relative's coffee factory. A year later, seven songs had been completed. After a slow start finding a record deal, Keith Olsen engineered the "coffee factory" tapes, and the "BUCKINGHAM NICKS" album was born. But before elation had time to set in, Polydor Records dropped the record, leaving the duo back at square one. Reflecting on their disappointment, Stevie says, "All of a sudden, we were nobody. But something in our hearts said, we'll beat this, we'll sing our songs. We became aware that if we didn't fight back, they'd break up our love, our house, our music: so we walked away from them first."
Stevie had already written a song entitled "Rhiannon" for a second Buckingham Nicks album when, on New Years Eve 1974, producer Keith Olsen brought news that the British blues band Fleetwood Mac wanted the pair to join the group. "We bought all the Fleetwood Mac albums and listened to them front to back, again and again," Stevie remembers. "There was a mystical side: there was that Peter Green guitar thing that Lindsey is very adept at. There were a lot of threads that worked for both of us. It probably wasn't the perfect thing, but it could have been a band that we absolutely hated. We finished the 'FLEETWOOD MAC' album in three months, and we were on the road. It happened overnight." And Stevie's "Rhiannon" put Fleetwood Mac higher on the charts than they had been in the group's previous nine years.
Nicks kept on writing outside of the group, including composing "Leather And Lace" for Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter, who broke up before the song was recorded. Inspired all along by Don Henley, Stevie performed the song with him a few years later. It appeared on Stevie's first solo album, "BELLA DONNA," and became a top ten hit single. Stevie talks about the song on the liner notes to "TIMESPACE": "I worked very hard trying to explain what it was like to be in love with someone in the same business, and how to approach dealing with each other. Don Henley was pretty much responsible for this song because he came over every day and made me finish it. Then I found out that Waylon and Jessi were breaking up, and Waylon wanted to just sing it by himself. After all the work I had put into the philosophy of two people dealing with this problem, I told Waylon that only four people in this world could sing this song: he and his wife, or myself and Don Henley. Bless his heart, Don did sing it with me... and it became one of the most special love songs that I would ever write."
As she continued to pen songs for a future solo project, Stevie also composed "Dreams," a song that became Fleetwood Mac's all time biggest hit, going to #1 on rock and pop charts around the world, and helping sell more than 20 million copies of the "RUMOURS" album. Even through Fleetwood Mac's meteoric, image setting rise, Stevie dreamt of the day she would complete her first album on her own. Seven whirlwind years after joining the band, as yet another exhausting world tour ended, Stevie wrote the song that would tie together her solo debut: "Bella Donna," a song that declared she had survived as an individual.
"BELLA DONNA," the album, was released in 1981 to critical and commercial praise. It hit #1, sold over four million copies, spawned a sold out solo tour, and yielded an hour long national television special. The first single from the album, "Stop Draggln' My Heart Around," was a duet Stevie agreed to sing out of admiration for Tom Petty. "I wasn't used to doing other people's songs, so I didn't really like the idea at first.., but I loved Tom Petty," she says in the "TIMESPACE" liner notes. "We went into the studio and sang it live, together. I was completely entranced, and I instantly fell in love with the song." She wasn't alone, as "Stop Draggln' My Heart Around" went to #3 on the national charts. With "Leather And Lace" and "Edge Of Seventeen" also climbing high as 1982 drew to a close, Billboard magazine named "BELLA DONNA" one of the top ten albums of the year. A year later, as 1983 came to a close, the album was still selling so heavily that the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) declared it the best selling album by a female artist for the second consecutive year.
Stevie wasted no time returning to songwriting, concurrently composing material for both her future solo albums and for Fleetwood Mac. She starred in the award winning video for "Gypsy," a song which she penned for the group's multi-platinum "MIRAGE" album, and which became one of three hits from the project. In 1983, spearheaded by the single "Stand Back," Stevie released her second solo album, "THE WILD HEART," which earned top five chart status and multi platinum success. "Stand Back" also scored a top five on the charts, a Grammy nomination, and even attracted enough dance floor play to scale the club charts. As Stevie says on "TIMESPACE": "I got married the day I wrote this song. We were driving to Santa Barbara and a new song by Prince came on, so we pulled over somewhere and got the tape. It just gave me an incredible idea, so I spent many hours that night writing a song about some kind of crazy argument... Prince came into the studio the night I called him and told him about the song, and he played incredible synthesizer on it... and then he just walked out of my life, and I didn't see him for a long time." By year's end, Stevie was named the #1 female pop album artist on the strength of not one, but two solo albums.
Nicks's third album, 1985's "ROCK A LITTLE," was released to no less fanfare. Her third straight album to top the million mark, it hosted yet another top five single, "Talk To Me," and one of Stevie's personal favourites, "I Can't Wait." "I think this was about the most exciting song that I had ever heard," she notes on "TIMESPACE." "My friend, Rick (Nowels), whom I had known since I was 18 and he was 13, brought over this track with this incredible percussion thing, and he asked me if I would consider writing a song for it. I pretended not to be that knocked out, but the second Rick left, I ran to my little recording studio and wrote 'I Can't Wait.' That night, Rick and I went into a big studio and recorded it. I sang it only once. Some vocals are magic."
Fleetwood Mac ended a five year hiatus with 1987's "TANGO IN THE NIGHT," which featured several Stevie compositions and sold eight million copies worldwide. Even while she toured the world in support of the new Mac album, her own concert home video, "LIVE AT RED ROCKS," was released, certified gold, and nominated for a Grammy.
As 1988 came to a close, "FLEETW00D MAC'S GREATEST HITS" was released. One of the a/bum's two new songs, "No Questions Asked," was another Stevie contribution, signalling that one of the group's most prolific songwriting sources was at it again. Less than a year later, Stevie's fourth album, "THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR," was released, highlighted by one of the most compelling and mysterious songs of her career, "Rooms On Fire." Written for and inspired by producer Rupert Hine, the single was recorded in the perfect environment for any artist who finds good company in the spirit world: a Dutch castle on a lonely mountain top. "We recorded it in the formal dining room.., where upon the walls hung all these very old and expensive pieces of art.., looking at us... We were never alone," Stevie recounts on "TIMESPACE." "It always seemed to me that whenever Rupert walked into one of these old, dark castle rooms, that the rooms were on fire."
After completing a solo tour, Stevie rejoined Fleetwood Mac for one more album, "BEHIND THE MASK," but when the group's tour closed, she once again thought of working outside the confines of the band. Teaming up with a collection of top notch musicians, producers, engineers, and writers, Stevie entered the studio twice more to put the final touches on her greatest hits compilation. With Jon Bon Jovi providing co writing, co-production, and acoustic guitar work, Nicks renders powerful vocals on the poignant song, "Sometimes It's A Bitch." "With the Bon Jovi sessions," she notes, "I realized that it was going to be work, and it was going to be tough. But we came out with a really great song." Another track to find a place on "TIMESPACE" was the dramatically produced rock ballad, "Love's A Hard Game To Play," produced and co written by Poison's Bret Michaels, who also handles 12 string guitar and co vocals. "Because he gave me a lot of love, and so therefore I gave him a lot of love, there was an incredible friendship that was built during those two or three weeks," Stevie relates. "It had what I needed: love, fun and laughter... So with both songs," she adds, "I came out with what I wanted."
A third new song, "Desert Angel," appears as a CD bonus track on "TIMESPACE." "It was written for all the men and women involved in 'Operation Desert Storm,'" says Nicks, who wrote the song's lyrics, while Michael Campbell (of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) penned the music. "I hope that for all of you that were there, it will always be a lullaby," says Nicks in the liner notes. "Desert Angel" was produced by Campbell, Chris Lord Alge and Ms. Nicks.
For Stevie Nicks, it has been a long but fulfilling road of discovery with pleasure and pain all part of the adventure. "Someday, maybe people will really understand what the rock and roll people of my generation really went through," she confides, "because the young generation of rock and roll musicians has no idea. There's no way to explain it, unless you were in it. It was just too completely overwhelming, and took up every minute of your life, and everything we did was dangerous. We tripped the light fandango, so to speak. There's absolutely no way that you can say we didn't dare life, because we did. Some day, people will understand how lucky we are -- I am -- to be alive today. It was a 50/50 chance."