69 years ago today, on May 26, 1948, Stephanie Lynn Nicks was born in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. While in high school, Stevie met her future music (and romantic) partner, Lindsey Buckingham, and in mid-1967, she took over as the lead singer for Lindsey’s Psychedelic band, Fritz, a band that would open for huge acts like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin from 1968 through 1971.
Speaking of 1967, Stevie Nicks was exactly 19 years old when The Beatles released (in the U.K.) the brilliant SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, what many folks still consider as the greatest album of all time. Happy 50th SGT. PEPPER!
Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham both attended the San Jose State University in Northern California, and Stevie dropped out just a semester before graduating. She had wanted to become an English teacher, which is indeed a noble profession (my oldest niece, Elizabeth, currently on a two-year journey working with the Peace Corps in Tanzania, will most likely be an English teacher somewhere here in the U.S. when she returns. You can check out Elizabeth’s amazing blog here: https://elizabethlivinglifetanzania.wordpress.com.)
While I’m sure Stevie Nicks would have made an excellent English teacher, the profession she ended ended up excelling at – being a Rock star – worked out pretty well, but not at first. For a couple of years, from 1972 through 1974, she and Lindsey Buckingham worked together as Buckingham Nicks, and released an unsuccessful self-titled album in 1973, and whose cover prolly got more press than the album itself.
In 1975, when Lindsey Buckingham met up with Mick Fleetwood, the namesake of the Rock band, Fleetwood Mac, he said that he and Stevie were “a package deal,” if he was to join the band (following the departure of Mac guitarist Bob Welch). Well, even if it ended up not working out romantically for Stevie and Lindsey, their contributions to Fleetwood Mac changed the band forever.
After the huge success of the albums FLEETWOOD MAC and RUMOURS, the latter of which still holds the record for the longest run at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Album chart (31 weeks) by a band, and still remains as one of the Top 10-selling albums of all-time here in America.
Following RUMOURS, Stevie started contributing to the songs of other recording artists. In 1978, she sang backup on the Top 10 hits “Magnet And Steel” by her friend, Walter Egan (a song she inspired), and on “Whenever I Call You Friend,” the first big solo hit for Kenny Loggins. In 1979, both Stevie and Lindsey teamed up with the late, great John Stewart and contributed their talents on three Top 40 singles for The Kingston Trio alum, including the big Top 5 hit, “Gold.”
On July 27, 1981, Stevie released (on the Atlantic Records imprint, Modern Records, a label she co-founded) her debut album as a solo artist – BELLA DONNA. The album was a huge success, reaching No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Album chart (selling over four million copies in the U.S. alone), plus, it charted four Top 40 singles (including her biggest solo hit – with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”), and she was instantly hailed by ROLLING STONE as “the Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.”
In between BELLA DONNA and her second solo album in 1983, THE WILD HEART, Fleetwood Mac released their No. 1 album, Mirage, which generated the big singles, “Hold Me” and “Gypsy,” which I just heard on the radio this past week, and hear often.
THE WILD HEART was released on June 10, 1983, and while it was not as popular as BELLA DONNA, the album still reached No. 5 on the BILLBOARD Album chart, was certified Double-Platinum, and gave Stevie another three Top 40 solo hits, including one of her all-time biggest hits, “Stand Back.”
Released exactly a week before her 35th birthday in May 1983, “Stand Back” has a cool and interesting story behind it, one I didn’t realize until after Prince’s death in April 2016:
On January 29, 1983, Stevie Nicks had just gotten married, and was on her honeymoon, driving North to Santa Barbara, California, when she heard Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” for the first time. Inspired, she wrote “Stand Back” that day, while humming along to “Little Red Corvette.”
When Stevie went to record “Stand Back,” she called Prince and told him the story of how the song came about. 20 minutes later, Prince showed up at her studio. She once told ROLLING STONE that Prince “walked over to the synthesizers that were set up, was absolutely brilliant for about 25 minutes and then left. He spoiled me for every band I’ve ever had because nobody can exactly recreate – not even with two piano players – what Prince did all by his little self.”
Prince’s work on “Stand Back” remains uncredited, but Stevie has always maintained that even though she wrote the song, she says it belongs to Prince (they did end up splitting the publishing royalties 50-50). She added, “he got up and left as if the whole thing happened in a dream.”
Well, what a dream, and what a story, and what a song. “Stand Back” remains as one of my all-time favorite songs by Stevie Nicks. It debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in early June 1983 at No. 60, while Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” was still driving itself within the highway of the Top 10.
“Stand Back” took just a couple of weeks to reach the Top 40, giving Stevie her fifth consecutive Top 40 hit on the Hot 100. In mid-August 1983, “Stand Back” spent a week at No. 5 and stayed on the chart for 19 weeks, finishing its chart run at No. 100 in early October 1983. According to BILLBOARD, it finished the year at No. 44.
Over on BILLBOARD’s Mainstream Rock chart, it’s no surprise that “Stand Back” was a big hit, reaching No. 2. Prolly more surprising was that it also reached No. 12 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart. (It’s not surprising to me, though, as it features a killer funky guitar riff in the middle of the song that sounds like it could have easily been provided by Nile Rodgers, or for a Michal Jackson song).
Around the globe, “Stand Back” reached the Top 20 in Canada and Australia, and the Top 40 in Germany and Holland. A reissue of “Stand Back” in 2007 sent it to No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, thanks to several updated remixes.
“Stand Back” was so popular in fact, that, on Fleetwood Mac tours since 1987, it has been a staple at their shows, including the band’s 2013 world tour.
Stevie was in Boston in November 2016 for her 24 Karat Gold Tour, which included The Pretenders, and yes, “Stand Back” was thankfully on the playlist. Would have loved to have seen that show. In July, she’ll be performing two dates at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles with Fleetwood Mac as part of The Classic West, a two-day concert featuring six classic acts, including The Eagles, Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Journey and Earth, Wind & Fire. All of these bands return a couple weeks later at New York’s Citi Field for The Classic East. That’d be fun.
For 69 years, time and space have been two incredible factors in the life and continued success of Stevie Nicks. She even titled her first hits compilation, in 1991, TIMESPACE: THE BEST OF STEVIE NICKS. I don’t think that was an accident. And, I think if you do stand back and look at the career of birthday girl Stevie Nicks, I’d bet my record collection that you’d agree and say she’s definitely still Rock royalty, and always will be…
Happy Birthday, Stevie!