Stevie - American Songwriter (09.01.2011)

You’ve written some of the most enduring songs in the pop-rock lexicon. I’m sure you’re very proud of that. How about if we start with Buckingham Nicks? “Frozen Love” was the biggest song that you two were known for as a team. Did you write that together?

No, I wrote it. Lindsey and I did not ever write a song together. The only—strangely enough—time I’ve ever written a song with anybody is Dave Stewart.


I mean anybody in the same room. I do write with [Heartbreaker] Michael Campbell, but he sends me a CD that has three or four tracks on it, so he’s not sitting there. That’s very different, because if you don’t like it you can like wait three days and call and say, “You know, I just didn’t see anything/hear anything right now, but I’ll revisit it.” So you can kind of get out of it without hurting anybody’s feelings. That’s a problem with writing songs with people—you can really end up hurting peoples’ feelings, because if you don’t like it, you either get stuck with something you don’t like or you’re honest and you tell them you don’t like it, and, it takes a very special team to be able to write together without that ego thing happening. So Lindsey and I never wrote. He would leave guitars all over our little house and they’d all be tuned in different tunings and God knows what. He’d be gone, I’d write a song, I’d record it on a cassette, and then I’d put the cassette by the coffee pot and say, “Here’s a new song, you can produce it, but don’t change it.” Strict orders. “Don’t change it, don’t change the words, don’t change the melody. Just do your magic thing, but don’t change it.”

When Fleetwood Mac first reconvened in 1998 for The Dance after not playing since 1987, since Tangle in the Night, there were mostly people that were our age, a lot of people who looked definitely older, and Lindsey said, “Where are the younger people?” I said “Lindsey, give it a chance here, these are all the people that are our fans, and their children will come along with them and so will their grandchildren, by the way, so just give it two weeks,” and in fact that’s exactly what happened. Within weeks, there was like, super young people there, and it’s because we had great, serious fans, original fans in 1975-’76, ’77, ’78, and their children have grown up with us, and their children. Lindsey and I were 27 and 28 when we joined Fleetwood Mac—we had fans for those first two records that were probably, 50? Twenty-two years older than us? So think about that now. We’re 63 and 62. So if they’re still alive, we have fans in their 80s! [laughs]

I wrote all the lyrics on the whole record except for the chorus of “Everybody Loves You,” and that’s the first song that he sent me the night that I called him. It had the chorus, which said [sings], “Everybody loves you but you’re so alone, no one really knows you, but I’m the only one.” He said, “Write the verses to that.” And I said, “OK.” But that’s not like getting a track with no vocals. He had set the song up with that chorus, so then I had to build a story around those four lines, which was great—it was a challenge. And I immediately took it like he was writing that about Annie Lennox, because that sounded like a person from a duo writing a song about the other person in the duo. And what Dave and I had that was great was that we’d both been in really famous duos, so the whole time we were making this record, I feel like Lindsey and Annie were floating around in the room. Because a lot of the stuff that we both wrote seemed to be directed to our years as famous people in duos.

Have you ever talked to Lindsey about that?

Well, he’s very aware. And the words to “Everybody Loves You” came from a poem that’s pretty old, like maybe 12 years old, that was definitely written about him. Where it says, “No one else can play that part. No voice of a stranger could play that part/It broke my heart,” that’s pretty much all about Lindsey. I took Dave’s lead on that because I knew that this was about being in a duo, because being in a duo’s very different than being in a band, especially a man and woman. There haven’t been many famous duos, not that many men-and-women duos, that really lasted.

True, and the ones there are, generally they are romantically linked.

Lindsey and I were broken up at the end of 1976, so we were no longer a “duo” even within Fleetwood Mac, because we were no longer romantically linked. So you can be romantically linked and be a duo, or be in a band and that falls apart, and you can still stay in the band if you make the choice that you’re not gonna quit. And your reaction to that is like, “You quit, I’m not quitting. I’m not leaving Fleetwood Mac because we’re not getting along. You leave.” So nobody’s leaving.

Was it stubbornness or resiliency?

I think it was both, definitely. And it was all of us knowing that we had a good thing. And that none of us were gonna break that up over a personal relationship.

That’s part of what’s amazing about your story—you all understood that the strength of the band outweighed all of the drama that was going on. Looking back on it with 20/20 hindsight, would you have changed any of it?

No. I think it was fated. It was totally destiny that the guy who found Lindsey and I in San Francisco and who produced Buckingham-Nicks and the first Fleetwood Mac record would play “Frozen Love” for Mick Fleetwood. He knew that Mick was looking for a studio; he wasn’t that schooled in the fact that Mick was also looking for a guitar player because Bob Welch was getting ready to leave. Mick [was]searching for somebody to replace him if he did, so when Keith Olsen played “Frozen Love” for him, he definitely heard strains of Peter Green and all the other famous guitar players who had been in Fleetwood Mac for the five years before that. So the fact that that happened out of nowhere—that this big tall guy would come in and Keith Olsen would play him a song off a Buckingham-Nicks record that never really went anywhere, that two years before had opened to critical acclaim and then was dropped like a rock by Polydor—what are the chances of that? One in 20 million?