Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Maybe we should just hug it out? Nah....

You know the drill. Your relationship with a significant other just ended. You find yourself lying on the couch, an empty bag of Oreos clutched in both hands and Love Story paused on the DVD. If only someone understood your pain. If only someone shared your agony. If only a short blond woman would record a series of multi-platinum songs chronicling soul-crushing break-ups and the general misery of love so you could experience some much needed vicarious relief.

You may be on your own with those first two “if onlys” but Stevie Nicks has got your back on the last one, offering up 35 years worth of truly great kiss-off music, perfect for easing even the toughest break-up. How effective are her songs? Let’s just say she’s the one Johnny Cash would have turned to if he ever needed his romantic frown turned upside down.

Both as a solo artist and with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks has penned some of the finest “I hate you, I love you, no, wait, I’m pretty sure I hate you again” music this side of Puccini. For anyone who has been dumped, her songs offer a vituperative cure for rejection. You know Stevie will get revenge on the man who done her wrong… and your psyche is going to be geeked about riding shotgun.

Take, for example, “Silver Springs,” a song Nicks originally wrote for Fleetwood Mac’s mega-platinum Rumours, an album recorded during Nicks’ break-up with long-time boyfriend and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. The song was left off the album, but Nicks successfully resurrected it as part of Fleetwood Mac’s live reunion album, The Dance, in 1997. Whether you watch the video or simply listen to the song, Nicks’ energy and rage are palpable as she sings – or rather hurls — the lyrics at Buckingham: “Time cast a spell on you but you won’t forget me / I know I could have loved you but you would not let me/ I’ll follow you down ‘til the sound of my voice will haunt you / you’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you...”

And with those words, she vocally nails Buckingham to the stage like a floor board. Thinking about your own ex and shaking your fist in shared anger during this number is worth four or five therapy sessions. At least.

As “Silver Springs” shows, Nicks has a true talent for crafting wonderful “I’m glad you’re gone, jackass, and boy, are you going to miss me” lyrics that are a restorative elixir for any crushed heart. In the Fleetwood Mac hit “Dreams,” she sings: “You say you want your freedom/ well who am I to keep you down/ iIt’s only right that you should/ play the way you feel it/ but listen carefully to the sound/ of your loneliness/ like a heartbeat…drives you mad/ in the stillness of remembering what you had/ and what you lost…/ and what you had…/ and what you lost…”

See, right there? That’s a gut-punch that’s going to stick. Who wouldn’t be tempted to pull a reverse Lloyd Dobbler, grab a boom box and stand outside in the rain playing that number for an errant ex or two?

It’s not like Nicks grew bitter over time either. Throughout her career, she has exuded a careful romanticism, one that is always, always tempered with the knowledge that love can go bad at any time. On her 1973 album with Buckingham, entitled Buckingham Nicks, the duo offered up this lyric from their song “Frozen Love”: “Life gave me you; the change was made/ and there’s no beginning over/ you are not happy, but what is love?/ hate gave you me for a lover...”

Yes, it’s one of those, “I guess we’re stuck with each other even if we’re miserable” love songs you hear so much at Valentine’s Day. I don’t know for certain whether it was Buckingham or Nicks who wrote that lyric, but it sounds an awful lot like Stevie. And as a fan, I hope it is hers because it shows that hint of darkness that has made her an enduring, one-of-a-kind performer. And you’ll never find lyrics like those on a Hallmark card – further evidence that there’s no better Pied Piper for pragmatists and broken-hearted romantics than our own Miss Stevie Nicks.


Dana said...

Yes yes yes! Poor Stevie always gets compartmentalized as just another permed/fringed/witchy nether-being. She may very well be all of those things, but even moreso she's a gifted songwriter who can pen a straightforward gut-wrencher better than most sneaker gazers. Love her!

Nancy said...

I actually used "Dreams" as a fuck you to an ex. I gave him a card that I had written the lyrics in. A few years later after he was married I ran into him and he told me he had a dream about me. He'd been listening to his walkman before going to sleep (next to his wife) and Dreams came on the radio. He said he always thought of me when he heard it so he dreamt about me.

Stevie is so damn good...

Shan said...

Great post, Liz. I was particularly amused by the tag "angry short women."

I've always appreciated the poetic bitterness present in the witchy one's lyrics. Though I'm sure it was painful for them (but somewhat balmed by the platinum records and cash), I really enjoyed watching/hearing the whole Stevie/Lindsay relationship crash and burn in front of us. In addition to the songs you mention, "Go Your Own Way" was a pointed retort from Buckingham.

Bakerloo said...

Wonderful post, I especially like the Puccini line - you are hilarious. My A+ #1 Go-To breakup elixer album, of the tall, angry woman variety is Aimee Mann's "I'm With Stupid." The album starts with "You fucked it up! You should have quit till circumstances had changed a bit! Whatever!" Then it goes on to the super self-empowering "Superball," which includes the line "And I warn you now: the velocity I'm gathering will knock you down." And into one of the greatest breakup songs ever, "Amateur" ("I was hoping that you'd know better than that/I was hoping but you're an amateur/ and I've been wrong before.") and then "Par for the Course" with the haunting refrain of "I don't even know you anymore."

I heard a rumor that she wrote it after breaking up with Elvis Costello, which makes "Amateur" all the more scathing.

Liz said...

I love Aimee Mann, but I don't have that album. It sounds great! And good for her taking it out on Elvis. He looks too smug sometimes.