THE PHOENIX GAZETTE, June 6, 1994

STEVIE NICKS SURVIVES STORMS

By Howard Cohen, The Miami Herald

"So I try to say / Goodbye, my friend / I'd like to leave you with something warm / But never have I been a blue calm sea / I have always been a storm." - "Storms," 1979 Stevie Nicks believes she has finally found the calm within the storm.

It has been 19 years since rock's mystical poet with the distinctively raspy voice helped turn the floundering Fleetwood Mac into a hit-making machine. Since then, her life has teetered from fairy tale to nightmare.

The band's record-setting LP "Rumours" made Nicks the reigning queen of rock in the late '70s, and her first solo album, 1981's "Bella Donna," began a solid string of gold or platinum solo releases (including 1983's "The Wild Heart" and 1991's "Timespace: Best Of" package).

But the highs have been offset by devastating lows: drug and alcohol addictions, a painful split from Fleetwood Mac two years ago and less-than-stellar performances in the recording studio and on stage.

As the '90s dawned, it seemed as if the glory days of Nicks were long behind her.

But Nicks, 46, is back. This summer she'll go on tour to promote her sixth solo album, "Street Angel." The new release, which arrives in stores Tuesday, is a marked departure from Nicks' last studio album, 1989's intensely serious "The Other Side of the Mirror." Musically upbeat, even lyrically cheerful at times, it features a positive look at love.

The irony isn't lost on Nicks.

"Well, you know, I think it is a good time in my life," she said by telephone from her Scottsdale home. Her speaking voice -- deep and husky -- takes on a lilting quality. "I was very excited to begin this record. I started in my house with (former Eagle) Bernie Leadon and (guitarist) Andy Fairweather Low, and we just started playing songs. By the time we went into the studio, we had become kind of like a little band, just the three of us, and it was very happy because it was more fun for me."

"Fun" and "playing songs" haven't always been synonymous for Nicks.  Between 1981 and 1992, she juggled the conflicting demands of a solo career with membership in a high-profile band. Her dual roles led to friction with her Fleetwood Mac bandmates -- and the muse on both sides suffered.

The last two Mac albums on which she appeared -- 1987's "Tango in the Night" and 1990's "Behind the Mask" -- contained Nicks' weakest songwriting and singing efforts to date. Even her 1990 farewell tour with Mac was marked by apathy. As for her solo albums, 1985's "Rock a Little" was unfocused and "The Other Side of the Mirror" fell short of the platinum mark reached by its predecessors.

"It probably would have been a lot more fun for me had I not been in Fleetwood Mac," she says. "It's hard to enjoy something when you're instantly booted back into your other job, and those people aren't real excited about it. In fact (my solo career was) not even mentioned. It wasn't talked about at all."

With reason, perhaps. Although Fleetwood Mac's celebrated rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie provided the band with its musical muscle, singer Christine McVie its sweetness and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham its sense of adventure, it was Nicks' enigmatic "Dreams" that gave the band its only No. 1 single. And her impassioned live performances -- especially of her signature song, "Rhiannon" -- elevated the group to superstar status.

  But her recent musical efforts sounded forced, as if she had lost sight of her "crystal visions."

Not so, says Nicks. Writing songs is the best therapy she knows for sorting out life's problems.

"Songwriting has always been therapeutic for me since I first started writing when I was 16. I could be real worried about something or have a problem, and putting it down on paper and then setting it to music is a great way to let go of things. Because then you can read them back, and it's almost like they didn't happen to you."

On "Street Angel" -- Nicks' first album since leaving Fleetwood Mac -- her love of making music comes through clearly.

Listening to the album, it seems as if the passing of time has helped Nicks come to terms with her split from Fleetwood Mac -- and the difficulties associated with the past decade. To fans, Mac may have been a rock band. To the Warner Bros. label, it may have been a lucrative business arrangement. To Nicks, it was more like a marriage.

Leaving Fleetwood Mac, Nicks says, was like "the worst love breakup in the whole world. It was worse because it was more than one person. It was breaking up with a whole bunch of people."

Of course, most relationships aren't documented on record the way Nicks' was on "Rumours," Fleetwood Mac's soap-opera-as-art LP. During the recording of the album, Nicks broke up with longtime boyfriend Buckingham, the group's nomadic guitar player. The band's other pair, Christine and John McVie, also divorced at the time, but the lyrical battles between Nicks and Buckingham were particularly pointed. Witness Buckingham's "Go Your Own Way," which included these lyrics: "Shacking up is all you wanna do."

"Oh, it bugged me terrible," Nicks says of the song. "And I had to listen to it every night and sing along with it. It would just put me right back in the place where Lindsey and I were when he wrote that song . . . back to our apartment (where he was) really angry with me. It was like I had to revisit the world of the big fight every time he sang it."

But Nicks got in her shots, too. "I'll follow you down 'til the sound of my voice will haunt you / you'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loved you," she wrote in "Silver Springs."

"Rumours" massive acceptance acted as a salve to the rockers' fragile egos and carried the quintet into a new decade marked by the breezy songcraft of "Mirage" and "Tango in the Night." The love affair wasn't over. Until a U.S. president tracked them down.

Nicks' final performance with Fleetwood Mac was at Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration when the original "Rumours"-era quintet reunited for a one-shot-only gig. At Clinton's urging, the band played its rousing "Don't Stop," a tune the new president adopted as a metaphor for his young, energetic administration.

"It was great," Nicks says of the evening. "It was something I don't think any of us will ever, ever forget. Walking out (on stage) . . . and knowing that we were walking out because Bill Clinton wanted us. That was the most incredible thing. You couldn't feel more special than we did that night."

Thanks to Anusha for the submission.