Shuffle: Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”

10Apr08

Robert Christgau once referred to Stevie Nicks as a “mooncalf,” and in general has dismissed all her post-Rumors recording career, both with Fleetwood Mac and solo, preferring Buckingham the soundmaker on later Mac albums and McVie the deep voiced singer of prime love songs for solo work.  To my ears, Nicks’s ten best songs — which include the three hits off of the solo Bella Donna (two in collaboration with Christgau nonfavorites Tom Petty and Don Henley), and “Stand Back,” as well as the best of her Fleetwood Mac output — are as good as the ten best songs by Chryssie Hynde or Joan Jett, and are noticeably better then the ten best songs by Buckingham, McVie, Debbie Harry or Warren Zevon (to take some nonarbitray examples). 

In this light, and as a New Yorker who moved to California by choice and preference, I note the following lyric from Nicks’ biggest hit:

Now here I go again I see a crystal vision

I keep my visions to myself

A perfect distillation of mooncalfness, this couplet, represents all of Nicks’s best lyrics both in its straightforward report about the gender wars of the 1970s, and also the war between the coasts over who gets to say what to whom.  I don’t happen to believe the world was better when California “mooncalfs” remained silent among New York critics.  The rest of the words of the song suggest listening, solid interpersonal communication, emotional caring, and other sissy things.

And, like you who are reading this, I have no crystal visions to report.  But I do wish you’d learn something about organics.

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7 Responses to “Shuffle: Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams””

  1. 1 schweitzito

    One of my two favorite Lindsey Buckingham songs from his mock-insane voice, one from his solo debut, one from Fleetwood Mac’s about a year later, are “That’s How We Do It In L.A.” and “Empire State,” both chauvinistic in their way, both gleeful in their bi-coastal luxury, and I got over worrying about how ill it was to listen to rich people glory in their riches once I heard Marianne Faithfull do “Penthouse Serenade.” (Hey, for 12 years I did live in an apartment that was “in view of the Hudson/Right over the Drive,” albeit the cheapest section of Riverside. But I digress.)
    But my main point isn’t about NY vs. CA at all (and don’t forget that FM in the Buckingham Nicks days represented LA, not Kenny’s favorite part of the state — and Don Henley’s a decided nonfavorite of his as well, last I checked.)
    It’s about when I got down to cases I was surprised at how few great Stevie Nicks songs I think there are, odd for someone who seems like such a presence. Let’s see — “Rhiannon,” “Landslide,” “Dreams,” “I Don’t Want to Know”, “Edge of Seventeen,” “Think About It,” “Stop Draggin'” and then I start to get stuck.
    Comparison to Hynde, Jett and Harry proved weird — more than Nicks, Joan Jett and Debbie Harry are more performance-oriented and more band-oriented, and to a lesser extent Chrissie Hynde is as well. I really couldn’t see comparing, say, “Do Ya Wanna Touch Me?” to “Landslide” or even “Edge of Seventeen.” But, sure, when you limit them to 7 or 10, Nicks does look better.
    But Nicks looks even better as part of the Fleetwood Mac whole, a remarkable whole, and possibly a unique one. I can’t think of another group, at least not another good one, where none of three singer-songwriters seemed pre-eminent or group-defining, even though all were starkly different — Buckingham flighty, both ecstatic and enraged, Nicks pensive and exploratory, McVie guarded and common-sensical but not so much that she can’t get in over her head, or recognize that when she does it sure feels nice.

  2. 2 kmostern

    This may be a skewed response, regarding not Stevie Nicks but different principles in regard to the relationship of the social to the aethetic:

    I have no issues with Lindsay Buckingham or Marianne Faithfull, but Luna’s Penthouse, which I listened to for the first time ever yesterday, sucks ass. Buckingham is (intentionally) funny, and Faithfull is rough, but Luna is ideologically and in-your-face rich, no rich by accident or accomplishment but in their very being. (Yes, Christgau is upfront about this.) Why this shouldn’t be a problem for leftists is something genuinely beyond me. From my point of view, Yo La Tengo is too insular already. Why do I need Yo La Tengo whose direct approach to me is “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah”?

    Stevie is doing her best, which isn’t as good as Corrine Tucker’s but is fine for all that.

    (and of course I didn’t mean to imply that I like Don Henley, though I do prefer him to Glen Frey, Joe Walsh, and the band they were/are all in together)

  3. 3 kmostern

    Oh, and before I forget . . . I’ve long since made my peace with Southern California, David. These days I spend more time there then in the Bay Area — it’s bigger, I have more work there — and while I prefer the north, I also prefer LA to New York. And, of course, I live in an entirely other part of the state again.

  4. 4 schweitzito

    Well, if I get your clearly and loudly stated opinion, forgive me for quoting it if you change it without further word. You prefer Henley to Walsh? I think Henley’s “Life in the Fast Lane” is indeed the most self-aware Eagles song (and as quoted a phrase as Warhol’s “15 minutes,” except most people don’t realize where it actually started), and it’s both smug and slight next to Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good,” (in its full 8-minute glory, please) which is, OK, in-your-face rich (& famous).

  5. 5 schweitzito

    And I disagree that Stevie’s doing her best — her mystical-to-mystifying song persona lacks the humor and candidness of her best interviews. ( Look for the one Courtney Love did with her in SPIN sometime in the mid’90s. – not on their website that I could find, though.)

  6. 6 schweitzito

    Of course, any claims of Eagles quality are strictly anamolous — last night, Wire’s Colin Newman (I think) said from the South Street Seaport stage, “Thank you for, uh, not going to see the Eagles tonight” (Lots of applause.) “In 1977, the Eagles were (pause) the enemy.” (More mixed reaction from a median-age-30 crowd processing the history lesson.) “They still are” I shouted back reflexively.

  7. 7 kmostern

    I don’t know when you think I’ve said anything specifically antagonistic to Henley (“changed my position”). For better or worse, I owned the “I Can’t Stand Still” album in high school, and always thought it was better then Eagles’ Greatest, which I also owned. But of course since 1984 or so I have agreed that they both suck. And I have also hated “Life’s Been Good” from the first. So what else is new.

    Henley is on my iPod twice, once with “Leather and Lace,” the other with “The Boys of Summer,” which I like for some random reason.

    I am sick of the “Life’s Been Good”/”Material Girl”/Luna’s “Penthouse” over and over and over and over argument. (1) It is not true that everyone really feels that way, opr wishes they could. (2) It is not true that these sentiments are somehow “honest” — actually, they are playing directly to a particular crowd, as a gazillion and one rappers in the present will be happy to tell you — they do not merely reflect, but create a subculture, one filled with people I don’t care for, and by the way, neither do you, you fucking liberal. (3) The sentiment, as much as it is wrong, is boring. (4) I have different political interests — and I’m not alone. The fact that my political position is not dominent in no way means I should run and hide. Which is of course the effect that Luna and Joe Walsh (though not necessarily Madonna) want from me.

    Why is all of this not perfectly obvious?


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