Sun 30 Sep 2007
'Joe Walsh and I were doing so much cocaine we were sure we were going to die'
STEVIE NICKS lives in a huge house in Pacific Palisades. As you'd expect, it favours the same kind of gothic, velvet fabric she wears on stage and has sported in publicity shoots over the years - lush and seductive, from the more-is-more school of decoration.
I wait with her dogs in the kitchen, where her assistant has prepared snacks. One Yorkshire terrier has the same blonde hair as Nicks, and it falls into a 1970s-style fringe. The dog growls at me, baring tiny, sharp teeth. Another is wearing a coat. Nicks's assistant tells me that the singer spent thousands of dollars on the pet, believing the dog was stressed and had alopecia. It turned out that the pooch is a Chinese Yorkie, the mother having got lucky with a Chinese crested canine - bald of body and hairy of face - at the breeders. The dogs weave in and out of Nicks's heels as she brings me into the living-room.
You get the impression that Nicks loves to be interviewed. She can always delve into her drug-addled past for a good story. Her life with Fleetwood Mac was one big, bad soap opera: unmissable, lucrative, tragic, addictive. She has had many rock-star lovers, including Don Henley and Joe Walsh of The Eagles, and two members of Fleetwood Mac - Mick Fleetwood, with whom she's still very friendly, and Lindsey Buckingham, with whom she's not. Buckingham was the love and hate of her life. The unravelling of him made for some pretty good songs, such as 'Landslide'.
Nicks's solo career has outshone that of Buckingham or the rest of Fleetwood Mac. Her greatest hits album, Crystal Visions, features a haunting version of 'Landslide' - deeper, growlier, sadder, especially when she sings the words "I'm getting older". She's 59 and you might expect her to look a little tragic. In fact, she looks much like a slightly less airbrushed version of her publicity photos: the eyes big and brooding; the skin peachy soft; and the long hair vibrant and lustrous. She's wearing her trademark chiffon top with multiple layers.
You might imagine that she's hypersensitive, histrionic, sad, ravaged, bitter - there are many things that have gone wrong with her life - but she's not. She is feisty. She is the kind of woman who has always said yes and never regretted it.
And through it all, she wrote an amazing collection of songs, including Fleetwood Mac's 'Rhiannon', and 'Edge of Seventeen' from her solo album Bella Donna. This year, she has been playing mostly in Vegas and before that she was on tour with some of the other former members of Fleetwood Mac.
Before Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, she was in a band with Buckingham, called Buckingham Nicks. They became lovers, and it seems that no matter whom they subsequently fell in love with, they could never fully get over that relationship.
"He wasn't ever able to revel in any kind of joy for my success for Bella Donna," recalls Nicks. "He would always start an argument - 'We're really not here to discuss your solo records, Stevie,'" she mimics - despite the fact that Bella Donna was laced with lines about him. "Oh, there's tons about him on that album," she says. "Even now I'm still writing about Lindsey. I always write about Lindsey - a line or two in every song. I pull him, the drama queen, back in whenever I need a dramatic moment. To this day, he provides me with so much stuff to write about. I thank him for that. Do you know, I gave him a signed copy of Bella Donna. He left it leaning against the recording studio wall for a month. I took it back, crossed his name out, and gave it to somebody else."
Bella Donna came out in 1981, but she recounts the slight as if it were yesterday. She says that she and Buckingham did 105 shows together two years ago and she felt she was walking on eggshells through every one of them. "Nothing ever changes," she says, almost relishing the irritation. "The way we are is similar to the way it was 30 years ago. Really, Lindsey never got over us breaking up in 1976, even though he is now married to a very nice woman and has stunning children. He has lots of issues and he blames Fleetwood Mac for us breaking up and he blames Fleetwood Mac for not letting him play the kind of music he wanted to play."
Nicks, though, doesn't seem to blame anyone, and explains why some former lovers can become friends and others can't. "I think Lindsey could never enjoy who I am because I've been that same person since he met me. Compare that to Tom Petty, who could invite me to go on the road and I ended up doing 27 shows for him. It was wonderful. I did not get paid - Tom paid my extremely expensive expenses instead. I went because I wanted to be with Tom and for the love of what we were doing. Tom would say, 'Here's Stevie Nicks, isn't she great?' We've always been very good friends because Tom is confident; Tom is not threatened by me."
She continues: "Mick Fleetwood is my dear friend. We, too, had a bad break-up because Mick fell in love with my best friend Sara, hence the song 'Sara'. It was painful and terrible. Not only did I lose Mick but I lost my best friend. I forgave Sara three months later and forgave Mick six months later. They were married for 18 years and now I'm godmother to his two five-year-old girls from his current marriage."
After all this, though, she doesn't rule out another Fleetwood Mac reunion. "Everyone could use the money, especially Mick and John [McVie], as they don't write. They don't get the publishing royalties that Christine [McVie], Lindsey and I get. They are going to want to play until they drop dead. I'll decide later. And if Lindsey has an epiphany, where he changes into a completely different person and suddenly realises he has no reason to complain about anything, who knows? But I don't think people change. I don't think I've changed since I was about 15 years old."
Maybe knowing who she was has been the key to her survival. Fleetwood Mac were so famous in their day, you wonder if it was hard for her to adjust to no longer being quite so famous. You also get the impression that the band itself was not her entire world. Probably, she was more interested in writing her own songs, taking her own drugs and having her own rollercoaster love affairs.
Does she have a man in her life now? "No, I don't. I had a relationship three years ago with someone I'd gone out with a long time ago. It didn't work out then and it didn't work out now. It just proved my theory that you can never go back. Before that, in 1997, around the time of The Dance, I went out with somebody for a little over a year who was quite enamoured with me. I decided he was way too young for me, though. I was nearly 50 and he was nearly 30. We had a riot but I said that eventually he would make me feel extremely old, so I ended it. But I'm never not open to the possibility of romance."
She says that her last relationship ended, or rather never really took off, because she made a huge amount of money in a publishing deal, and she was thrilled and excited but she couldn't share it. "I was tickled, thrilled, and I made the mistake of telling somebody who was struggling in this business. As the words came out of my mouth, I could see that he didn't think it was funny. So I knew our relationship was never going to work because I can't be a person who is not going to share that moment."
In fact, she shares the moment with me: she found out she'd made 7 million from "that little song 'Landslide'". "I wrote it in 1973 and it was about whether I should continue my relationship with Lindsey - 'I took my love, I took it down'," she sings softly. "And that was like taking your ego down from the mantelpiece, trying to find out whether this love affair was about the music or what. Was I willing to be in a relationship that was going to be difficult? Was it worth throwing away? Would it get better? And I decided to give it another chance.
"So, anyway, now I need to find the kind of guy who finds my whole life hysterical. I need one who is richer and more powerful, who thinks it's all a hoot." Nicks says even her assistant, "who is beautiful, talented and 39", can't find a man. "And I'm 59 and think I'm pretty fantastic. So what's up? Where are all the boyfriends? But I believe that there is a God and He will fill my life with work. I am never lonely, but this is a big, old house to be in all by myself. I am selling it - it's too big for me and my little dogs."
She adds: "My relationships were consistent until about ten years ago. I had some beautiful men in my life. I was passionately in love with Joe Walsh, for example. He was very rich, very famous, a huge rock star. He would come to my house and my friends would be over, and he would say, 'I don't know these people, get them out.' So I would throw them all out. He just wanted to be with me. It was flattering and irritating in equal parts. I could never have been married to Joe, but we were all so high at that point. Joe and I were doing so much cocaine, we were sure we were going to die.
"Joe became sober first and then I went to the Betty Ford clinic. No one did coke around me after 1985. I thought the whole world had stopped doing it but it turns out they were just being respectful." She talks about getting over her mountainous drug addiction as if all she was doing was getting over a cold. Is it true she has a hole in her nose? "I do. If I wanted to put a huge, gold ring through it, I could. A gold ring with diamonds. Sometimes with my nieces and goddaughters, I just want to say, 'Do you want to take a cigarette and put it through my nose?', just to gross them out, to get across to them this shit can hurt you. Check it out, I've got a gaping hole." She thrusts her head back but I decline the invitation.
"The hole in my nose was due to the fact that I used to have such headaches," she continues. "I would dissolve an Aspirin in water, take an eye dropper and put the Aspirin up my nose to take the pain away - without knowing that Aspirin dissolves anything. My whole nose could have collapsed."
That's the great thing about Nicks - much of her could have collapsed, but it never did. "Despite the coke, at least I still had a brain - I came out of Betty Ford and I felt capable of fixing this situation. But nobody would leave me alone about it. They told me to go and see a shrink to talk about everything, that I needed to have follow-up treatment. I really wasn't missing the drugs, but I got the name of a doctor from somebody and went to see him. 'I'm here because the world doesn't think I can do it by myself,' I told him. And he put me on a drug called Klonopin, a complex and dangerous derivative of Valium.
"I went from two blue pills in the morning to four blue pills; then it was two white pills in the morning and at bedtime. He just kept upping my dose. If I went without it for two days, I would start to shake. I was shaking all the time - shaking so hard that people would look at me. I thought I had Parkinson's. I can honestly say I lost most of my 40s to this drug. It was eight years of my life gone. Your 40s are the last vestige of your youth and mine was ripped away from me by this jerk. One day, I got my assistant to take everything that I took, and I said I would sit with him in case he died. 'I want to see how this affects you,' I told him, 'because I think I'm dying.' So he took it all." She recounts this story as if it was the most normal thing in the world - like Cleopatra might have had her slave taste her food for poison.
"He was a very good friend," Nicks goes on. "He was in the middle of setting up my stereo system and he just passed out. So I decided I should get off Klonopin. The doctor said he didn't think it was a good idea. That's what he always said.
"I told him I was going into rehab and he said, 'No, I can cut your dose down,' but I had made my mind up. I was in there for 47 days and it made the detox from cocaine look like a walk in the park. My hair turned grey and my skin moulted. I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't stand up in a shower. I thought I was going to die. But after 47 days I came out shining on the other side. I had a new lease of life. It's been easy for me to stay sober. I could still drink alcohol recreationally because I'm not an alcoholic, but for my menopause I take a drug called Neurontin. It handles the menopause brilliantly, but if you take so much as a nip of tequila it makes you very sick."
During her time on Klonopin, Nicks says she put on a lot of weight. "When I went to this doctor, I weighed nine stone and I ended up 12 stone. He watched me turn into a fat blob." She's not a fat blob now, I tell her. "That's because I'm wearing a good top. You should get one." She can't remember who made it, so she has me come round to the back of her and look inside for the label. And that's how the whole interview's been, really - she's let me look inside.
"My life is always open," she says. "I love my work. I have so many projects I want to do. I am going to have my children's story made into an animated movie. It's about a ladybug and a goldfish, and I've already cast Angelina Jolie as a goldfish. I feel that something really good is coming for me. It might be a person, it might be music, but something good is coming into my life."
Crystal Visions: The Very Best of Stevie Nicks is released by Warners
Go their own way
FLEETWOOD MAC were a highly influential and successful band, but were plagued by internal disputes and personnel changes.
They began as a British blues combo in the late 1960s and slowly evolved into a pop/rock act. In 1974, Stevie Nicks and then boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham joined the band "as a package", and took their positions alongside Mick Fleetwood and another couple, John and Christine McVie.
The band endured a host of changes throughout their career, but these five were considered the definitive line-up in 1975.
Unfortunately for them, the two couples in the band split not long after this. Fortunately for the public, this led to enormous creative and personal tensions, and spawned Fleetwood Mac's most successful album Rumours. Released in 1977, it is the tenth highest-selling album of all time. Its hit singles include 'The Chain', 'Go Your Own Way' and 'Don't Stop'.
In an interview last year, Buckingham hinted at a Fleetwood Mac reunion tour next year. But for now recording and touring plans are on hold.