Monday, November 19, 2018

Stevie Nicks: Just Like the White-Winged Dove

Everybody loves Stevie Nicks’ songs: “Rhiannon,” “Sara,” “Landslide,” “Dreams.” Too bad we’re not supposed to consider any of those records here, because they were all Fleetwood Mac songs, and Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 1998. We’re here to deal only with solo Stevie, which means “Stand Back,” “Talk to Me,” “Edge of Seventeen.”

Stevie was also a great duet partner back in the day (which was evident from her Mac work as well): “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” with Tom Petty, “Leather and Lace” with Don Henley, “Whenever I Call You Friend” with Kenny Loggins. That stuff, she’ll get credit for here. But when it comes right down to it, there are really only two strong points in Stevie’s favor: The whole Welsh Witch persona, and “Edge of Seventeen.”

The shawls ‘n’ twirls Stevie has arguably already been inducted; she was doing that crap as far back as “Rhiannon,” from 1976, with Fleetwood Mac. Let’s not kid ourselves that it’s not a huge factor in her mystique, and therefore in her iconic brand of stardom. My feeling is that you absolutely should take that kind of stuff into account. Would Kiss have made it in without the makeup?

Since it’s already been recognized, though, I don’t really feel the need to recognize it again. It’s a little weird to ascribe her personality to her group’s candidacy but not to her solo career, but here we are. Opinions may differ.

Stevie’s other real talking point is “Edge of Seventeen,” which wasn’t her biggest solo hit (it only went to No. 11 back in 1982) but certainly has had the longest shelf life. I saw Stevie at Red Rocks about ten years ago, and “Edge” got possibly the biggest response from the audience (with the chainsaw riff being played by the man who played it on the original single, Waddy Wachtel). The title comes from Tom Petty's wife Jane, who told Stevie she had met Petty "at the age of seventeen," but her strong Southern accent turned it into "edge."

Of course that riff showed up again on “Bootylicious,” Destiny’s Child’s Number One single from 2001. Stevie appeared in the video but had nothing to do with the recording of the song, aside from the sampling, but it’s a killer record. To my mind, though, the rest of Stevie’s solo career doesn’t add up to much.

Fun fact: Did you know that Stevie Nicks considered Joe Walsh to be the one true love of her life? That’s a bit icky, ain’t it? Joe Walsh doesn't come across as the kind of guy who bathes very often.

The Matched Set Don Henley was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of Eagles, also in 1998. It’s largely forgotten now, but Henley had a substantive solo career, placing nine singles in the Top Forty between 1982 and 1990. (He and Stevie get shared custody of “Leather and Lace.”) “The Boys of Summer” is still kind of an Eighties touchstone, for good or ill.

But does anyone think that Don Henley should be inducted as a solo artist? I don’t think so.

The Verdict Everybody loves Stevie Nicks, who has evolved from the ethereal spirit of the 1970s to that supercool aunt that your parents kinda wish you wouldn’t talk to. Shoot, I love Stevie Nicks, too. If she hadn’t already been inducted with Fleetwood Mac, and we could consider her body of Mac-work in the current decision, I’d be inclined to vote for her. But her solo career is really thin. I vote no on Stevie Nicks.


  1. Edge Of 17 is absolutely her show stopper as a solo artist, as evidenced by the following live version from 1982 - no support from Fleetwood Mac needed to absolutely bring the house down, just the pure stage presence of a Rock Star.

    I tend to give her credit for "Landslide" and "Rhiannon" as a solo artist as well since she wrote both songs before actually joining Fleetwood Mac, though the band was the vehicle through which they ultimately were presented to the world. I tend to think her solo career is short changed due to her continued participation in Fleetwood Mac. If she only had her solo work and nothing else, she would still be a solid candidate. I see people keep complaining that she was nominated for the shot at first woman double-inductee instead of say, Tina Turner - but commercially she easily stands up to comparison with Turner's solo career. Artistically would be up for debate.

  2. Tony, I'm not sure if any of her albums commercially easily stood up compared to Tina's. She had Private Dancer, which sold 5 million copies, Bella Donna did two million. Plus Private Dancer was a hit factory compared to Bella Donna.

  3. Bella Donna actually did 4 million. Her second solo, The Wild Heart was the one that sold 2 million. Her third and fourth albums both went Platinum.

    Private Dancer as you state went 5X Platinum, the followup only went single Platinum. None of Tina's remaining studio albums reached that level.

    Tina did get a Platinum album for the soundtrack to her biopic and two compilation albums that went platinum. Stevie has no soundtrack album, and only one of her compilation albums went Platinum.

    As you note Private Dancer did well for hits, 5 top 40 pop singles; three of those in the top 10, one #1. She has 8 additional top 40 pop hits since that big solo breakthrough (so thirteen overall). She has one as a featured artist.

    Bella Donna had four top 40 hits, two in the top 10 (both were her famous duets with Tom Petty and Don Henley). She had six additional top 40 pop hits after Bella Donna. Stevie is a guest vocalist on at least six other top 40 hits, not including her credit on "Bootylicious".

    So Tina sold one more million of her biggest album in the USA than Stevie, and it had five vs four hits (with one of those being a #1 which stevie never accomplished solo); but Stevie has had more consistent album sales success in the US with six top 10 studio albums to Tina's two.

    Tina is absolutely much bigger internationally than Stevie. 200million worldwide album sales vs 30million. But the Rock Hall doesn't often seem to care much about international success.