(by Stephen Davis)
That “The” in the title is pretty rich. This is not a definitive biography of Stevie Nicks. This is a pedestrian grab for cash. Davis didn’t interview Nicks – he’s taken his material from published interviews, the music, quotes, interviews with friends and colleagues. He may have spoken to Nicks when working with Mick Fleetwood on the latter’s 1990 memoirs, Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac (which Davis says was “an international best seller (and the foundation text for almost every book written since about this band).” Gold Dust Woman isn’t a bad book, it’s just that it reads as if Davis wondered, “What can I do with he could do with this leftover Fleetwood Mac stuff? Oh I know!” There is little to nothing in these 312 pages that you don’t already know about Stevie Nicks, if you read anything about her at all. The book does begin with a rather good description of the 1975 recording of “Rhiannon” on The Midnight Special TV music show:-
“At just after four minutes the beat recedes, and Stevie sings the midsection: ‘Dreams unwind Love’s a state of mind.’ And then, with two minutes to go, the band launches into a militant 4/4 march with Stevie in a hieratic trance, – shouting, yelling, wailing lyrics, waving arms, strutting and stomping, acting out, wild-eyed. She’s shaking and vibrating, screaming like a bloody Bacchant, ready to tear the soul out of your body, her gesturing fingers making portents and prophesies in the smoky air.
The song crashes finally to a halt – ‘You cry / But she’s gone’ – as she lets out a final howl that lasts ten seconds, descending by octaves. Then Stevie bends way down into a deep floor bow, grasping the microphone stand with both hands to prevent an exhausted collapse.. The performance is complete: the studio audience applauds, and the image fades from the screen”.
But then we lose interest as Davis tries to place this 20th and 21st century American pop star (and Brian Jones, David Bowie, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page et al) into the tradition of the ancient Welsh bards who wandered about damp stony fields, telling stories.
After that it is a recitation of what Stevie did next, in fast and easy to read prose; packed with incident but no depth and mundane insight. To be fair, this is a workmanlike, unauthorised rock biography after all, and it just could be that Stevie is not all that interesting. The churning of the well-worn tale of the turbulent, juvenile relationships between the members of Fleetwood Mac will be of interest only to those who know nothing, or everything, about the band. Lindsey Buckingham comes across as the nasty, abusive whiner we always thought he was. Stevie finds it necessary to have a romantic relationship with just about every man she works with (ho hum). More interestingly, Davis (perhaps not entirely consciously) suggests that the late Tom Petty is the one who got way. Stevie was keener on him than he was on her. “‘I fell in love with his music and his band,’ Stevie remembered. ‘[I thought] if I ever got to know Tom Petty and could worm my way into his good graces, if he asked me to leave my band and join his, I’d probably do it. And that was before I even met him.’ Now Stevie made overtures toward Petty, phoning his management, but the calls weren’t returned.” Although they worked together now and then, in particular, on the excellent “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”, Petty just wasn’t all that interested. And neither are we.
If you’d like a description of Stevie’s style, click here.
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