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Alice

Lyrics

Written by Stevie Nicks.

Contributors to this interpretation included:Becky and Tracy G.. (April 26, 1999)


The novel of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is perhaps one of the best loved children's books ever. It is also a classic Disney animated masterpiece, and the tale is known to virtually everyone. There are two different versions of this story-prompted by the two different books Carroll wrote concerning his beloved character Alice. Alice in Wonderland was one of those; the other book was entitled Through the Looking Glass (and What Alice Found There). In the former, Alice enters Wonderland by tumbling down a rabbit hole in search of the White Rabbit, in the latter, she steps through a mirror. Both ways, she ends up in a completely different world, where nothing makes sense and yet, at the same time, everything makes perfect sense. Perhaps the more romantic of these images is the one of her walking through a mirror-you can almost imagine the reflection blending with the real person; then, for the briefest of moments, the two become one, and then the person emerges again on the other side of the glass- and the adventure begins.

Stevie Nicks takes this image and embellishes on it. In "Alice," Stevie portrays the character initially as someone trying desperately to get home- but she can't. Very similar to Lewis Carroll's stories, except that this time, Alice is trapped by herself- it's not the Queen of Hearts or anyone else trying to detain her. And in a way, her Alice feels almost as if she is being forced out of Wonderland. This song is the "title" song of Stevie's 1989 album, The Other Side Of The Mirror. However, it is unique because it is the only one of Stevie's albums that does have a song with the same title as the album; "Alice" contains the line that the title was taken from. On this album, Stevie created a whole new world; a magic place for everyone who is willing to give it a chance.

Well I heard she flew down to the mountain city
He said, "That's not what I heard, I hear she went higher…"

The point of view in this song is interesting. The main character is Stevie herself. However, she talks about herself in the third person- which isn't all that unusual for her, in itself. What makes this a little different than most of her other songs is that Stevie is also the narrator-the "I" and the "she" in the first line are the same person- Stevie. In a November 1989 interview, Stevie was quoted as saying that "I love making up little fantasy things. All the characters in my songs…on this album, Alice and Juliet- they're all me. But they're all different sides of me. It's a great way to write about what's going on in your life without telling it in a real serious way, but the point comes over and I think people understand that." This confirms who the Alice is in this song. And that Alice is going somewhere- the "mountain city." Is she really going or is it just a rumour? Because after all, the man contradicts her in the next line- he had heard something different. She was going higher. But how much higher can one go than a city nestled in the mountains? Maybe the difference is figurative- she is going to someplace that is better for her; a healthier place for her to be at this time in her life. There is also the image of flying "down" and of "higher"- it is, possibly, a reference to Stevie's drug use. She had thought she was free from drugs, but now she realizes she has another problem- this time with the tranquilizer Klonopin. Although she had thought she was free from the addictions, in reality she is not. But her starting point for this journey was somewhere between those mountains and the sky-that is, after all, that would be the only way that she could go "down to the mountain city."

She depended on her friends to tell her when to stop it
To make a statement
This is me, talking to you.

Stevie cannot rely on herself to make her own decisions- she is dependent on her friends, both male and female. The "stopping" could be a reference to her cocaine addiction- she didn't stop until the pressure had mounted unbelievably high; not until her doctor told her she had to stop it. This is symbolic of Stevie's position in Wonderland- she is unable to do what is best for herself; she is in a place where the world keeps spinning around her and she cannot seem to figure out what is the best thing for her. As her dependency on Klonopin grows, so does her dependency on others- she is becoming so tired that she cannot think clearly anymore. And then she clarifies things- "this is me, talking to you…" She is making a "statement". But she wants that statement to be perfectly clear (like so few things are in her world at the time.) She steps out of the character of Alice and becomes Stevie-and emphasizes the "me." It is truly her; it is not the girl who was "so caught up in the drugs and the whole rock and roll lifestyle," as Stevie describes herself on VH1's Behind the Music. Who is she speaking to? Maybe someone such as Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood or Don Henley. Maybe it is one of her good female friends, such as Sharon Celani. Whoever it is exactly, she is asking them to remember the girl she used to be-and she hopes they are still able to do so. "I can't help but wonder if / Every once in a while / You remember the girl-when you were a homeless angel / That drove you wild…strange and elusive…" In these lines from 1994's "Street Angel," we again get the same image of Stevie wanting to be remembered for who she was-not necessarily who she is now. As she says in her performances of "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You," "I want you to remember me."

Like Alice through the Looking-Glass…
She used to know who she was
Call out my name, call out my name
But I get no answer, she prays

Stevie now makes a direct comparison between herself and the fictional character Alice. She went through the Looking-Glass, and now her identity is considerably different than what it was before she went through it. The Looking-Glass can be considered a transition in Stevie's life-one so profound that there is no way to ever undo the effect it had on her. This transition could be any number of things. It could be something such as the decline of her relationship with Rupert Hine- after all, he did something "that made it impossible for us to ever be together again." It could be a reference to the new Fleetwood Mac that was forming- one without Lindsey. Maybe Stevie is talking about the image of yourself that is reflected in a mirror- everything about you is still the same, but reversed. There is something eerie about a mirror, if you study your reflection too long. Stevie is almost two entirely different people- one is in Wonderland, and one is not. She is asking someone to call out her name, but "I get no answer." There are two possible ways of viewing this line. One is that no one will call her name- she is calling out in vain. The other is that she is calling her own name- the one Stevie is calling out to the other Stevie in the glass. She is trying to connect to who she used to be- "We were mirrors of our former selves" But there is nothing but silence. And so Stevie prays- prays that she'll be able to get back to her own world, prays that her life will change for the better, prays that she will realize what is wrong with her-after all, she didn't know right away that she was addicted to Klonopin, and that the drug was not helping her, after all.

"Better run for your life!" cried the Mad Hatter
"Alright," said Alice, "I'm going back
To the other side of the mirror. I'm going back"

Stevie makes her decision to return home from Wonderland- at the urging of the Mad Hatter. There is the idea of her life being at risk if she stays any longer. It is now not only an unhealthy situation, but a potentially fatal one as well. "To the other side of the mirror." Stevie chose this line as the title of her album; it is interesting because it is the only album where the album title is not also a song title. Perhaps she was trying to get across the point that the song was about a woman, trapped in another world; it is not a song about that world itself. It can be considered that the "Other Side of the Mirror" is Stevie's world itself- a world of magic and gypsies and angels and witches. Maybe she is not trapped in Wonderland, but rather, trapped outside of it- the Mad Hatter is calling to her to get out of the "real" world and come back into her magical kingdom. There is a duality about Wonderland- it is both a paradise for Stevie and her own personal hell. In a way, she needs it to survive- it is an escape mechanism; and yet, in another way, it is harming her.

Oh no, you cannot tell a gypsy…ooh that she's no longer a member
Become a deadly weapon now…along with everything else
Oh call my name

Stevie is the "gypsy" in this verse; this line is a reference to her belief that due to her weight gain, the music critics no longer praised her work. It is the same sentiment as in her "Behind the Music"- "It makes you feel bad- what- I'm not a good songwriter anymore, because I'm twenty pounds too heavy? I'm not talented anymore?" Stevie is beginning to feel betrayed by the critics and fans- not her true, loyal fans, but by the ones who bought her albums because that album was the one to buy at that time. The criticism is hurtful and Stevie cannot completely shield herself from the pain. This criticism is one more "deadly weapon" other people have to use against her. But then, Stevie is starting to feel that everything is a weapon; everything she does and says is something that can be turned against her by anyone who wants to do so. And again, she sends out a plea for someone to call her name. She wants someone to care enough about her to try to find the real Stevie Nicks; she desperately needs somebody to care enough to make an attempt to save her from the pain.

Like Alice through the Looking Glass
She used to know who she was
Call out my name (Like Alice through the Looking Glass)
But I get no answer (She used to know who she was)
And she prays for the world that she comes from

This time around, the chorus offers more insight into what Stevie is going through. Again, there is the image of Stevie walking through a mirror and coming out as something different than what she used to be. Most of the time, a person can look back at years ago and say, "Well yeah, I was that way then, and I'm this way now." It is more difficult (maybe even impossible, in some cases) to look back at the day before and say how a specific experience changed them. But when Alice walked through the mirror, it was deceptively simple for her to be able to look back and remember what she had been like moments before. Alice also knew very well she would never be the same again. Likewise, Stevie can pinpoint an exact occurrence that changed her in an irreversible way. And she prays once more- but here is where Stevie reveals more to us than she did in the first refrain. She is not praying for herself-she is praying for her world. Her world is on the other side of the mirror; what does Stevie pray will happen to it? That she will be able to return home? Or maybe that her world will still be standing after she has recovered from the draining lifestyle that she leads.

Each had their own charm…
Buried beneath a solid piece of armor or a steel plated vest
Some carry a stiletto in their garter along with everything else- that they carry
Oh, call my name

In this verse, Stevie describes the people of her world. The main question that is emerging is, which world is hers? Before, she just says "the world that she comes from;" she doesn't come out and claim it as hers. Therefore, is Stevie describing people in Wonderland, or in the real world? The best assumption is that she is not describing people of a physical world, but rather, of the world she inhabits that is characterized by "candles, crystals" Some people fit into that world of hers much better than others. And those people that fit in are of a certain type- there is something special, precious and charming about each one. But it is not necessarily the most obvious feature of the person. They all wear suits of armor or, at the very least, a "steel plated vest." They are armed, with their daggers hidden underneath their flowing skirts. Stevie herself is like this. Paul Fishkin described Stevie as having a side of her that was as "tough as nails;" this side of her is essential to her survival. Despite the necessity of carrying those daggers and wearing the armor, they carry other things as well. What, exactly? It could probably be a reference to the feeling one gets sometimes that they carry the whole world on their shoulders. Stevie's career was not only a high-profile career, but a high-pressure one as well. And the pressure was slowing wearing her down. The purpose of the dagger and armor and steel is to prevent her from being worn down too much- they keep the world at bay when Stevie feels that she needs some privacy.

Like Alice through the Looking Glass
She used to know who she was
Call out my name (Like Alice through the Looking Glass)
But I get no answer (she used to know who she was)
And she prays for the world that she comes from
Alice! Call my name

Once again, Stevie adds a little more on to the end of the refrain that lends more insight to its meaning. She is becoming desperate to find herself; to find out who she is now; she knows who she was in the past, and the fact that she knows the past but not the present is making her crazy. She calls, "Alice!" Is she calling herself Alice? Or, is she perhaps calling to Alice in Wonderland? Stevie feels like the only person she can connect with anymore is the fictional Alice. She wants others to recognize this as well and reach out to her. Maybe she just uses the name as a way of bringing to mind what Alice had to go through before she could go home- and Stevie asks someone to call her name so that she doesn't have to go through the same sort of experience.

"Ooh run for your life" said the Mad Hatter
"Alright," said Alice "I'm going back to the other side of the mirror"
This is me talking to you…well this is me talking to ya
Alice Alice

This verse clarifies for us Stevie's position on which side she is returning to. Her world may be the one "through the Looking Glass;" but she has made a commitment to return to the real world, the one that is better for her. The world inhabited by the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, White Rabbit and other classic characters is one that is possibly, for Stevie, drug-induced. Therefore, by her saying she is going back, she is not saying that she is going to abandon her position as the "Lady of the Stars." She is simply saying that she needs to get all drugs out of her life. Again, she enforces the notion of it being herself, the real Stevie. The repetition of the line, "This is me talking to you" could be symbolic of an introduction- almost a welcome back, as she makes it patently clear to all who are listening that she has returned from Wonderland. The cry of "Alice" at the end of this song could be two things. First, it may be Stevie looking back at Wonderland and remembering what it was like. Or, it may be doing what no other was willing to do- "call my name." And so she finally calls her own name- "Alice." Again, Stevie is linking herself to the character. In the song "Stand Back" from 1983 Stevie also used this idea of waiting for her name to be called-- "No man called my name / No man came." Stevie is not waiting for someone to merely call her name; she is waiting for the time when she will be needed and wanted again. The final words of this song evoke a sense of sadness, as if Stevie is looking back longingly at Wonderland, despite the fact that it was her own decision to leave it. And sometimes, this is all too true. We leave a place that is not necessarily healthy or beneficial to us, but even when we are in a better place, we still look back at the place we were and wish we were there. It is human nature to be somewhat afraid of change, and it is also human nature to be reluctant to leave what is known and familiar.

Stevie's "Alice" can be considered one of her most obscure songs. It is filled with imagery that can be taken any number of ways. The song is the epitome of the entire album, "The Other Side Of The Mirror," being a magical song but not her clearest in meaning. Stevie referred to this album as her "magic album;" she recorded it in the Dutch-style castle in Los Angeles. Could that castle be "The Other Side Of The Mirror?" We know that Stevie asked Rupert Hine to produce the album, and that those two became extremely close. But then, something happened, and a chasm arose between them, dividing them. According to Stevie's liner notes of Timespace in 1991, Rupert was the one responsible for this divide. Perhaps Stevie is referring to that time with him as "The Other Side Of The Mirror." In another song from this album, "Rooms on Fire," Stevie again talks about looking back and remembering, longingly, what once was- "Long nets of white cloud my memory there is magic all around you"

It would take a few years more yet before Stevie would be completely drug free; it would be another year before she would leave Fleetwood Mac; it would take a while for her to once again gain complete control over her life. Her world had been affected for so long by drugs and other incidents. Events such as Lindsey Buckingham's departure from Fleetwood Mac greatly rattled that world; Stevie was becoming desperate to live her life just as she wanted it. It can be very frustrating when one is attempting to do that but their attempts are foiled by things they have virtually no control over. Stevie's word itself was in danger, both by outside forces and by her own actions. This song is representative of Stevie's trying desperately to reclaim that world, somewhere on "The Other Side Of The Mirror."

Transcribed to HTML by Marty Adelson.

Copyright © 1995-2001, Martin and Lisa Adelson
All Rights Reserved.