11/6/17: Fleetwood Mac “Gold Dust Woman”
Often dark and mysterious, always intriguing, music with a story to tell. That’s the kind of music you hear from Fleetwood Mac, and that’s the kind of music in my head today.
It always seems to be the brilliance of Stevie Nicks that pulls me back into Fleetwood Mac, a band that everybody knows that I love by now. For some reason, it’s “Gold Dust Woman” that has been in my head all weekend, starting on Saturday morning and continuing until right now. It’s a great song, but it’s got a definite dark side to it. To put it bluntly, “Gold Dust Woman” is about cocaine.
Stevie Nicks and everybody else in the band apparently had a very familiar relationship with coke, especially during the time they were working on “Rumors,” their incredible record-setting album. The stories have all been told before: turmoil within the group, Christine McVie and her husband John were splitting up, Mick Fleetwood was going through serious problems with his spouse and, of course, Stevie Nicks and Linsey Buckingham were beginning to break down as a couple. Lots of things were coming crashing down around the ears of pretty much everybody in the band, but they still had jobs to do and a record to cut. It’s consistently incredible to me that somehow, someway, all these people who were basically at war with one another managed to work together to produce what’s easily counted as one of the greatest single albums of all time. During a period where “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” was a catchphrase, these people were literally living it out, and it took quite a toll on all of them.
“Pick up the pieces and go home.” That’s one of my favorite lines in the song, and I think that’s a big part of the message that Nicks is putting forward about her risky affair with a dangerous drug. She’s admitted to doing a whole lot of the white stuff, and she’s confirmed that “Gold Dust Woman” is about that.
“Everybody was doing a little bit,” said Nicks in an interview with SPIN magazine in 1997, where she was asked what “Gold Dust Woman” was about. “You know, we never bought it or anything, it was just around. I think I had a real serious flash of what this stuff could be, of what it could do to you. The whole thing about how we love the ritual of it, the little bottle, the diamond-studded spoons, the fabulous velvet bags. For me, it fit right into the candles and incense and all that stuff. I really imagined that it could overtake everything, never thinking in a million years that it would overtake me. I must have met a few people who I thought did too much coke, and I must have been impressed by that, because I made it into a whole story.”
It’s said that when she went into the studio to do this song, Stevie wrapped her head with a black scarf and tapped into all her emotions to produce the strongest performance she could for the album. I guess there’s a lesson involved here – that in the end, addiction gets the best of everyone. The Stevie Nicks of today would undoubtedly tell you not to put yourself in that situation, to make yourself vulnerable to something that could throw your entire life out of balance. She picked up the pieces, and went home.
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After playing a show at The Cat’s Cradle in July and at Local 506 in August, and The Carrboro Music Festival in September; the School of Rock students’ next public performance will be Sunday, Nov 5th on the Southern Village Green!
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