All my Stevie Nicks listening last week caused a song I had nearly forgotten about to bubble back up to the surface. The great thing about being a Stevie Nicks fan is that you can double your pleasure so-to-speak because not only do you get solo songs from her (well, we USED to, anyway) but you also get songs from her when she’s working with Fleetwood Mac. It’s kind of like when Phil Collins was recording solo and with Genesis, which led to a pretty much uninterrupted onslaught of Phil Collins music, only Stevie produces music that I actually like. (that’s harsh, I listened to and enjoyed a fair amount of Genesis and Phil Collins back in the late 80s.)
The song in question is Fleetwood Mac’s “Sweet Girl” which was recorded for The Dance live album in 1997 and featured on the subsequent tour. I am fond of saying that it is one of the best Stevie Nicks songs of the last 15 years, and I stand by that assertion. Despite the brilliance that is shown on Trouble in Shangri-La, especially when you compare it to the previous two solo albums, there is something about “Sweet Girl” that sounds like classic Fleetwood Mac. Listen.
I don’t know if it’s the fact that you can hear all three voices, or if it’s that Stevie sounds so damn good (and looks so good too – the Street Angel days were definitely behind her at this point) or what, but it’s such a solid song. I was talking to my friend Matt about it the other day who I can always count on when I’m in a decidedly Fleetwood Mac mood. Our passion for Fleetwood Mac was one of the first things we discovered we had in common, but as we’ve discussed frequently, we see the band through decidedly different lenses. His is Lindsey-centric whereas mine is, naturally, more Stevie focused. We do agree on “Sweet Girl” though – it comes together just perfectly in the end. The harmonies, the guitar work, the production, Stevie’s vocals – everything just works.
Lyrically, this is in between some of Stevie’s more straight forward songs and her so-spaced-out-not-even-she-knows-what-it’s-about songs. It is a bit obtuse in places, but a Stevie Nicks song without at least some degree of hazy lyrical meaning is no Stevie Nicks song at all. It has a wonderful bittersweet tone that characterizes many of my favorite pop songs. And what’s better is that it reprises the “track a ghost through a fog” lyric that originally appeared in Tusk‘s “Angel.” It is one of my favorite examples of Stevie recycling her lyrics. From a lesser songwriter, it would seem lazy. From her, it is endearing.
And speaking of, Matt and I were also discussing the “dramatic conversational moment” in “Sweet Girl” – the point at which Stevie descends into a bit of speak-sing and says “Come down here for a minute” only to follow it up with a patented Stevie wail “Weeeeelll, come down here for a minute.” It starts at right about 2:50 in the above video. It works so well, and so few artists can get away with that and actually make it work. According to Matt – and I agree with him – it ends up sounding cliched. But with Stevie, she always makes it work. Examples are littered through her solo work, my favorite being the breakdown of “Some Become Strangers” where she mutters “I don’t really need this in my life!/Why don’t we forget about it.” Mentioning this to XO, he brought up the baby-talk “do it for yourself” in “Has Anyone Ever Written Anything For You?” You could do a whole blog post on it, but it would likely be only interesting to me.
I saw The Dance tour a month in the Quad Cities a month after Heidi and I got married. Little did I know that it would be the last time that version of the band would ever tour. My biggest wish for that band is that they can coax Christine McVie out of retirement for one more album. They don’t even have to tour (which is why she quit the band.) Just one more album of that lineup and I would be quite happy.
Sadly, I think it’s a pipe dream, but one can still dream.