Zoe Howe couldn’t have chosen a more fitting title for her account of one of pop music’s most iconic and successful figures of the last century. Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams and Rumours demonstrates how the subject’s ‘visions and dreams’ would appear to have played a key part in all aspects of her life, most notably in her song writing. And the rumours? Well, I don’t need to explain the significance of that word… though, it would seem that the title of Fleetwood Mac’s second collaboration with Buckingham–Nicks was more fitting than one could have ever imagined. The rumours surrounding the increasingly complicated inter–band relationships would continue for its duration, and not without reason.
As the prologue begins with an evocative description of Fleetwood Mac’s hugely acclaimed 1997 reunion, The Dance, we are immediately introduced to Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham as the tragic star–crossed lovers we’ve always imagined them to be, locked in “an unbreakable attachment between two people who still seem to yearn for something more”. This theme of that well known love/hate relationship continues throughout the book: from the first time Stevie heard Lindsey sing ‘California Dreamin’’ at the tender age of sixteen, to the extreme bitterness Lindsey was to feel for years to come post break-up, materialising in bursts of anger such as that “completely satanic” onstage attack during the Tusk tour (in which his guitar narrowly missed her head).
The scene of each recording session, with the intricacies of each and every heart–breaking love triangle (square? hexagon?), is set perfectly as Howe depicts the protagonists in this dramatic and complex tale with incredible insight. As each chapter is introduced with a concise summary of what we’re going to learn about the artist, we start to feel like we are getting to know the real Stevie Nicks. Each of her many beguiling assets are covered – was she a feminist? A sex icon? Girly and naive? Determined? Selfish? All of the above? Despite her flamboyance and excessive charisma, we learn that she could be modest: her reluctance to do the Buckingham Nicks topless shoot being evidence that she may not have been your conventional poster girl after all. As she asserted to her good friend Prince (I was surprised, too) upon his advice to “sex up”: “I don’t have to write about sex, because I am intrinsically sexy”.
The main characteristic of Stevie Nicks that consistently reappears throughout the book is her attachment to the supernatural, to her visions and dreams. We learn that this ‘white witch’ of pop was continually inspired by her own superstitions and ‘crystal visions’; her swirling scarves and eccentric, ethereal, stage persona actually a pretty spot-on likeness to the Stevie of everyday life. As Nicks is consistently portrayed as this cosmic beacon of light, she is forever juxtaposed with Buckingham – a brooding, fiery presence, seemingly on a mission to outshine her, both on and off stage. And, as we learn of both the cosmic and personal significance behind so many of the Mac’s infamous numbers, there is one lyric that seems particularly prominent and central to Stevie’s, and indeed the band’s, story – “Damn the dark, damn the light” (‘The Chain’). As these two forces are constantly at odds with each other, so are the opposing ‘forces’ of the complex personalities and relationships within the band.
As the story goes on, we continue to learn all the juicy details behind each song, relationship, heartbreak and, indeed, rumour. Ever wondered about Fleetwood’s obsession with his wooden balls? Perhaps you’ve always pondered what really happened at that Rolling Stone cover shoot? How much did Stevie’s solo career conflict with the band’s interests? Or maybe you just want another, more imaginative, name for cocaine…? You’ll find it all in here. Drugs and the complexities of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle aside, however, Howe also delves into the deeper, darker world of Nicks, how tragedy would impede her whimsical, magical lifestyle on more than one occasion: most devastatingly, the tragic death of her best friend, Robin.
Each intricate tale we are offered is delivered in a wonderfully warm and personable way. Reading Visions, Dreams and Rumours, I not only felt like I was getting to know the real Stevie Nicks, but also came to think of Howe as a friend, a confidante filling me in on all the drama and glamour of someone’s life I could only previously imagine. Her style of writing is unpretentious, witty, with simple yet effective language and constant asides and whispers – it’s endearingly scatty, yet beautifully eloquent and to-the-point.
As the tale of this mystical icon draws to a close, it would seem that Nicks’s career has now gone full circle as the future continues to “take her back to her past”. The band have reunited with the Nicks, Fleetwood, Buckingham and McVie (x2) line–up we know and love, Nicks and Buckingham’s affair has been rekindled (on stage, at least) and Nicks literally returned to where it all began in her appearance in Dave Grohl’s Sound City documentary.
Put simply, Visions, Dreams and Rumours is an epic tale of an epic woman that has left me even more desperate to find tickets for Fleetwood Mac’s UK tour next year…