Article From: Datebook
On the occasion of Stevie Nicks’ imminent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist (she was previously inducted as a member of Fleetwood Mac in 1998), Peter Hartlaub and I dug through the archives to look back on how The Chronicle covered her through the years.
As she frequently likes to remind us, Nicks has deep roots in the Bay Area. She was born in Phoenix, but her family moved to California when she was a teenager.
Nicks graduated from Menlo-Atherton High School, where during her senior year she met her future musical and romantic partner, Lindsey Buckingham. As a duo, they made their first demo recordings in Daly City while they attended San Jose State University.
And once she joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 along with Buckingham, helping it become on of the most popular bands in the world, she made sure to come back to the Bay Area often, both with the highly combustible group and as a solo artist.
“That’s where it all started,” she told The Chronicle. “It’s where I belong. It’s been years since I lived there, but to this day it still feels like home.”
The first mention of Nicks in The Chronicle arrived in 1974, when the pre-Fleetwood band named simply Buckingham Nicks opened for Hoyt Axton for six days at the Boarding House in San Francisco. (“HOYT AXTON also Buckingham Nicks,” the ad read.) Axton was credited as “a strong live performer,” while Buckingham Nicks was not reviewed.
First Bay Area concert with Fleetwood Mac
Nicks played her first Bay Area gig with Fleetwood Mac at Day on the Green in Oakland in early 1975, then returned for three nights at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Chronicle music critic Joel Selvin’s review on Dec. 1, 1975, the first mention of Nicks in The Chronicle by her full name, hailed the new band and mentioned her “harsher, piercing vocals.”
‘Tusk’ at the Cow Palace
Fleetwood Mac played three sold-out nights from Dec. 14-16, 1979, at the Cow Palace for the “Tusk” tour. Selvin called Nicks “the weak link in the entire show,” but she was as always the most photogenic band member. Photographer John Storey’s image of Nicks under the Cow Palace spotlights is an all-time great Chronicle rock photo.
Always the hippie
Nicks gave an interview to The Chronicle after the release of her hit solo album “Bella Donna” in 1981, crediting the Bay Area for shaping her as a performer.
“My influences were straight out of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix,” Nicks told The Chronicle in 1981. “For me, in terms of what I was going to do on stage, how I was going to sing and write, that was my rock ‘n’ roll Bible. San Francisco was for sure the whole reason I did this.”
Shoreline steals show from Nicks
In 1986, a solo Nicks was the first headliner at Bill Graham’s brand new Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, performing under the tent top that “looks like the world’s biggest brassiere.”
“The precious poetic content of her lyrics read more like Hallmark than Dylan Thomas,” Selvin wrote, “but the romantic soap operas she spins obviously find their mark with her audience.”
Band shakes off rust at reunion session
A decade later, Nicks was back with Fleetwood Mac and Selvin dropped in on one of the band’s rehearsals in May 1997. The story was headlined “Fleetwood Mac Thinks About Tomorrow / Band shakes off rust at reunion session”:
Stevie Nicks fluffed the opening line to “Dreams.” Twice. She can be forgiven her nervousness. Not only was she filming a concert for MTV and recording a live album, but she hadn’t played with her colleagues from Fleetwood Mac in more than 15 years. She stepped to the mike for her first lead vocal of the evening and blew the entrance to a song she has sung a thousand times.
Hearing old “Rumours”
In October 1997, the band’s comeback tour made it to Shoreline. Selvin was not impressed, according to his story headlined “Hearing Old `Rumours’ / Fleetwood Mac about the same as before”:
“Nicks looked tired, a fatigue that her heavy layer of cosmetics couldn’t disguise,” he wrote, “but the crowd’s adoration appeared to energize her as the proceedings progressed.”
In April 1998, Nicks was once again a solo act, touring in support of a box set called “Enchanted” and contemplating her life choices, including that one time she talked about possibly adopting a child.
“I don’t really need children. I have a niece who’s 6, who certainly fills my life up as far as a child goes. I’m going to just work on my work. I don’t think the world is going to have that much of a problem with me not being married or having a family. I don’t think that’s why I came here.”
Twirling in the spotlight
At her solo concert in support of “Enchanted,” once again at Shoreline, in August 1998, she gave the audience full Stevie. Chronicle critic Neva Chonin noted:
She assembled invisible runes in the air with snaky hand gestures, twirled a seemingly endless array of shawls, draped herself seductively over the microphone during “Rhiannon” and stomped her platform boots to the beat for the crowd-pleasing rocker “Stand Back.”
‘Trouble’ and paradise
With a new solo album, “Shangri-La,” Nicks opened up to me about her substance abuse problems in an interview from 2001:
Even though her years of cocaine abuse left a hole in her head the size of a Sacajawea gold dollar, she claims that the Klonopin did far more damage.
“It was not my drug of choice,” she says. “I’m not a downer person. I was looking for things that made me want to clean the house and shop, write songs and stay up for four days. I was sad and I was sick. I didn’t really understand right up until the end that it was the Klonopin that was making me crazy.’”
Fleetwood Mac rocks harder than ever
In 2003, she was back with Fleetwood Mac at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. Here’s how The Chronicle described that night:
When Nicks crooned the elegiac line, “I’m getting older, too,” (from “Landslide”) the deafening cheers ricocheted off the venue’s concrete walls.
Gold dust woman
In 2003, at 57, she dismissed the suggestion of retirement in an interview with Bill Picture.
“Honestly, they’ll probably be wheeling me out onstage in a wheelchair with rhinestones and raven feathers hot-glued to it,” she said.
And in a 2007 interview with Sylvie Simmons, Nicks talked about staying grounded in the face of impossible fame:
“I’ve always tried very hard to stay who I was before I joined Fleetwood Mac and not become a very arrogant and obnoxious, conceited, bitchy chick, which many do, and I think I’ve been really successful.”
Stevie Nicks is projected on screen during a Fleetwood Mac concert at SAP Center on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, in San Jose, Calif.
The band’s all here — sort of
In November, Nicks returned to San Jose with the newly reconstituted Fleetwood Mac, which is now operating without Buckingham. The Chronicle’s Warren Pedersen wrote that even at 70, Nicks “hasn’t ditched her shawls or heels.”
Throughout the night, Nicks professed her love to her old stomping grounds but revealed she was nervous to be performing in the Bay Area again — so nervous it seemed at one point she forgot the lyrics to “Landslide.”
“This is my home, so I can do this,” she laughed off. “Seriously, I’m so nervous I’m never coming back here!
“I’m kidding. I will always come back,” she assured the crowd. “This is when you know, after 70 years, that you still get this nervous when you sing a song for people that you love.”