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Rock A Little (Go Ahead Lily)

Lyrics Real Audio

Written by Stevie Nicks.

Contributors to this interpretation included: Becky, Tracy G, Barbara II, Shane, Rhiannon, Hope O., S., and Justine. (July 19, 1999)

The title song from Stevie Nicks' 1985 solo album, Rock A Little, is interesting in that it contrasts with the rest of the album. The album is mainly a rock one, with such strong, solid rock songs as "Talk to Me" and "I Can't Wait." There are two ballads on the album- "I Sing for the Things" and "Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You." But the song "Rock a Little (Go Ahead Lily)" is not a ballad, but not a rock song-it falls somewhere in between. The pace of the song is somewhat fast, but the instruments used in it create a haunting melody, reminiscient of a smoky bar.

An incident discussed in conjuction with this song, "Rock a Little" is an incident during one of her tours. One night, Stevie was sick with pneumonia, and didn't want to go on stage. Her father essentially told her that the people waiting for her to come out didn't care how sick she was; they had come to see Stevie Nicks perform and she had to give them what they wanted. In telling her to "hit the stage," he completed the "commercialism" of Stevie Nicks. The people who worked with Stevie were concerned with how to market her as a commodity, not as a person- Paul Fishkin said in her "Behind the Music" that they knew they had to market her as a rocker; that they had to sort of "banish" the witchy, airy-fairy image she had obtained with Fleetwood Mac. Even to a person who loved her as much as her father did, Stevie was sometimes nothing more than an item to be marketed and sold- even if the price was her health. In "Rock a Little (Go Ahead Lily)", Stevie talks about this attitude and how she got through it-by kicking back and just letting go every once in a while.

Sometimes it rages...rock a little
Even when it's calm...rock a little
Just like the sea...I rock a little
Say it was just like me...still rock a little

The term "rock a little" can be taken in two different ways. First, to literally "rock"-Stevie needs her music with her to survive, whether her life is rough at the moment or relatively peaceful. The second meaning is more figurative, it's that of relaxing every now and then- letting go of some of the control and kicking back, just to survive. Whichever way, the word "little" lets you know that Stevie is not going to completely let go; she is not going to completely get wrapped up in her music. She just needs that little bit to get through it. "Just like the sea..." sometimes the sea is rough and "raging;" at other times it is very calm and tranquil, just like Stevie herself-just like her life. And Stevie is going to be rocking through all the different times in her life.

Then you knew her...funny little dancer
And you watched her...all night long
And you tried to learn from her teachers
But the one thing that she wanted
Is that she would not be tangled it

Stevie is the "she" in this song; she is Lily. She is talking to someone, possibly her father, possibly one of her producers, engineers, her assistant- anyone that knew Stevie primarily as a star. The stardom came first. She is referring to someone watching her perform on stage-"all night long." She would have been wearing her chiffon and platforms; making her stand out; perhaps making her appear "funny" to some people. And this person- or several people- tried to imitate Stevie by studying Stevie's influences. Maybe they bought a Janis Joplin album or two; maybe they bought some copies of Bob Dylan or Tom Petty. Maybe they watched some ballet performances. The point is, they were trying to imitate Stevie as she appeared to be- not necessarily as she really was. The line "But the one thing that she wanted is that she would not be tangled it" is a bit familiar-Stevie said in her "Behind the Music" that she was no longer the girl who had been so caught up in the rock and roll and the drugs and everything. The implication is that Stevie had been caught up in it. However, the issue in this verse is that to be caught up in it had been the last thing she had wanted. But it had happened.

Hit it,
It's about time, Lily
Oh, I know Lily
Rock a Little
Hit the stage...hit the stage
Rock a Little

In this verse, Lily becomes a person outside of Stevie; at the same time, it is still Stevie- she is talking to herself. She understands the choices she has made- a career over a family and love. It is her destiny to be a performer. Lily (Stevie) may be nervous and may be unsure about her personal life, but she is giving herself a command- to "hit the stage;" to get out there and perform. Because if she is rocking a little, then things will be better. Her music was an escape mechanism for Stevie- it is a comforting presence,it gets her through the tough times in her life.

She's home now,
She says I've gone far beyond that song
She says rock and roll ballerina
Where else would she go?
He knows his daughter, says
Where does she live?
He says Oh, up there somewhere

Events in Stevie's life, such as Robin's death from leukemia, made her want to put up a wall around herself, as in "If You Ever Did Believe": "I continue to build the wall." When Stevie is not touring, she returns home because she feels safe two places- on the stage and at her home. She has no place to go but home at the end of a tour. But even when she is home with her parents she isolates herself and keeps her distance in a way. Her father understands that she has to do this-- "He knows his daughter." And he's not too exact about where Stevie spends most of her time- he knows that she has her own world, on "the other side of the mirror," and that she needs to spend time there. When Stevie was working, everything else, including family, sort of got pushed to the outskirts of her mind. Again, her father (and presumably her mother too) know this and understand this as long she she comes back down again.

Then he says, Go ahead, Lily
Hit it,
Hit the stage, dancin'...go on
Hit it...Well I know Lily
It's about time, Lily
Hit it
Well, I know Lily
It's about time, Lily
Hit it
Hit the stage
Hit it
Hit it, Lily
It's about time, Lily
Hit it
I know, Lily
It's about time, Lily
Hit the stage
Hit it, Lily

This verse is similar to something Stevie might have maybe told herself, sort of a self-help thing. It was about time to go on stage and again, even when she was sick, her father still told her to "hit it." Maybe the phrase "hit it" is a drug reference-Stevie needs a hit of cocaine before she can hit the stage. The man talking to her could also be a past (or present) lover-- telling her to go ahead and do what she does best- perform- because he loves her enough to sacrifice their relationship for her happiness.

Lots of them
And all one of a kind
But the most important thing was
What was on her mind out in a week
But she loved you the most
And you said...

The "lots of them" is quite probably a reference to Stevie's boyfriends. Most of them couldn't handle her career-- she needed a man who would be "strong enough," as the Sheryl Crow song goes. The most important aspect of the relationship was Stevie's own thoughts on it-- was she prepared to go all the way? What was on her mind as she looked at that man? The phrase "pale pink satin" could be referring to either her stage clothes, or maybe to that newness that makes every relationship so very special in the beginning, but sometimes fades. Her stage clothes were flimsy and wore out easily. Stevie was in love with one man more than with others, but that man told her to go ahead, rock a little, because again, he loved her in return enough to let her do what made her happy.

Go ahead Lily
Hit it
No explanations and I tell you no
You say...nothing
That is how songs are written
Stories are told, rumours are started

When she tells the men in her life, "no," she gives them no explanations; but this one special man understands and accepts her decision without argument. The final lines represent Stevie's whole career- her success comes out of the pain of her relationships. She takes the pain and heartache in her life and puts it into her songs- and those songs become masterpieces. They also make for great stories to be passed down. "rumours are started-" is Stevie perhaps offering an explanation for the album Rumours' success? It got started when she and Lindsey broke up, and prompted them both to write songs such as "Dreams" and "Go Your Own Way." Their break-up may have been hard, but amazing songs came out of it.

That is how songs are written
Stories are told, rumours are started

With these closing lines, Stevie perfectly wraps up the song. Everything she talked about in the song- the drugs, performing no matter what, and the break-ups-- all those things contributed to her songs. There is a tragic air to "Rock a Little," a sense of sorrow the listener feels for Stevie. But at the same time, Stevie lets us know that it is her own choice to put her music above love.

This song was written before Bella Donna was released, but Stevie still waited five years to put it on an album. Maybe she waited because the essence of the song fit her feelings at that time in her life, her need to just relax somewhat and have fun with her music. As she said in a 1986 interview, "Just rock a little all the time and you won't die."

Transcribed to HTML by Marty Adelson.

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