The U.S. leg of the Bad Animals tour started in Denver in August, and we were then on the road for much of the next two years. The album would go on to sell over three million copies. We sold more tickets than ever, but our isolation on the road continued. Whenever we had more than a day off, Nancy would fly home to Cameron, and I would usually stay with the band.
For a brief while, I took up with a bad boy named Fred, who looked a little bit like Paul McCartney. I liked him because he was a gentleman who opened doors and escorted me places. Cocaine was a constant on that tour, and Fred always had a supply. Fred was wealthy and had his own butler named Master Bates. Fred claimed the source of his wealth was from Oklahoma oil, but everyone else around me thought it was from dealing drugs, something I failed to see, or acknowledge at the time. It was a road romance for me, during a time when I was open to casual sexuality. Cocaine also affected my ability to make smart decisions.
Our relationship fell apart when Fred decided he was going to make a film about Heart. Because of our relationship, Fred had shot a lot of footage. Soon, everyone around me began to freak out that Fred had been given too much access. Once I asked him to give us the film that was the end of Fred and me. It was only then that I realized how shady Fred had been. He died a few years later from drugs. It's amazing to look back and think that I made it through that time in one piece.
Cocaine continued to be an issue in my life. I had never suffered from stage fright before, but I began to occasionally have panic attacks onstage. If anything went wrong with any aspect of the tour, I thought it was my fault because I'd gained weight. If we had a bad review, it would end up on my seat on our bus, left by either someone in the crew or the band. Cocaine was a very powerful appetite suppressant, and too many times I thought it would help cure my problems, and I used too much too often. It made me paranoid, and, at times, physically ill. But I kept at it.
There was so much pressure. When I went onstage, everything was on me, and every eye in the audience was looking at me. I felt I was being silently critiqued on every single song. I couldn't forget any words. Because I felt self-conscious about my weight, I felt I had to prove to myself that I could nail every single high-powered note.
At one show, the panic came upon me all of a sudden, and I lost my focus. I had mixed cocaine and champagne the previous night, and, though I was sober onstage, the mixture had made me sick. I was freezing cold all of sudden, and the only way I was able to continue was because of sheer muscle memory. If I hadn't been onstage, I would have stopped to do breathing exercises, but at that moment, that wasn't possible. What came over me was an uncontrollable surge of adrenaline, pure fight or flight. I wanted to flee from the humiliating criticism, and from the pressure to personify the MTV sex goddess image in real life.
It couldn't have been more than five seconds that I was frozen, but it seemed like a lifetime. But my sister knew me and sensed something was off. She stepped forward, and began a guitar solo that wasn't planned. In that moment, I was able to gather it together and move forward. It didn't happen again that night, and knowing that Nancy had my back at all times gave me the ability to continue with the tour. But it happened many other times on the tour. Nancy learned to look over at me to see whether I was out of control, and she would make goofy faces, or start walking like Gumby, which would immediately bring the attention to her, so I could compose myself. She was trying to make me laugh, so I could catch my breath.
As the Bad Animals tour continued, the panic attacks began to happen earlier in the day, before I ever walked onstage. It finally got to the point that they would begin the instant after my wake-up call in the hotel. I would stare at the ceiling and think, "I'm supposed to be onstage tonight, and I can't possibly do it." But I did it.
We had a number of threats that year from crazed fans. Some insane rumor had started that we gave our royalties to Charles Manson, while another said we were in a witches' coven with Stevie Nicks. Those stories pulled out kooks, who felt the need to try to contact us. We began to travel with a bodyguard whose job it was to keep us safe, but that increased our claustrophobic existence.
We never did a single drug until after the show. No one in our band died or overdosed. For that reason, and because all the other bands of the era seemed far more out of control, I thought we were holding it together. But drugs took us away a bit. That is the truth. Most everyone in the band struggled, and we all went far, but I went the furthest.
When the Bad Animals tour finally ended in late 1988, I imagined that with rest and peace, I would clean up, and things would improve. I was mistaken. Things got worse. With all the time in the world, and plenty of money, I became the most famous customer for Seattle's cocaine dealers, who were more than happy to deliver, and bring me bottles of pink Dom Perignon as well. They would collect their money and leave me with my drugs and my booze.
It was only years later, looking through a pile of old clippings, when I noticed a 1979 interview I'd done that so clearly illustrated what some of my views were back then in my youth. "Rock and roll contains both beauty and filth," I said. "What Oscar Wilde says – and this is especially true for a rock and roll artist – is that an artist feeds on the fight between vice and virtue. That's true for me. I hate and love the vice, and I hate and love the virtue. I like sin, and I like to get high. I have very untraditional views of motherhood and the family unit. In the world today, that's considered vice."
But as an adult woman, my days of vice were coming to a close, and my family was not about to let me stay in the filth any longer. Nancy and Sue announced that we were all going to Hawaii for a Connie vacation that month. That sounded like fun, but also a great place to party. When we all three sat down on the plane, I asked who had brought the party favors. "There is no more party for you on this trip," Nancy announced. "You're getting off the party." Over the course of our vacation, they helped me get my life back in order. It wasn't an intervention, just more a wake-up call from my two best friends. I was still drinking. It also didn't mark the last time I ever did drugs, just the end of the downward spiral.
Part of the reason we didn't question the amount of drugs during the cocaine-infused Eighties was because most bands we toured with were worse than us. Some of our touring mates would have roadies whose only job was to line-up bottle caps full of blow on the back of the stage, so they could stay high during their entire set. We never did drugs onstage, and never before a show.
For a brief time earlier that year, Stevie Nicks became our best friend. She came to one of our shows, and she and her girlfriend just sort of became part of our entourage, traveling with us. She brought along a stack of fashion magazines, and her drawing books. We were partying hard that month, but Stevie, with her Courvoisier and blow, outdid us.
When the tour got to Arizona, Stevie invited us to a party at her house. Her home was filled with all these pictures of her, like it was a shrine to Stevie Nicks. We spent most of the night digging through her closets trying on clothes with her. It was fun to be girls together, and her closets were full of millions of shawls and colored tights wedged into teeny drawers. We spent hours there.
When it came to drugs, though, we couldn't keep up with Stevie. She had a system where she could do various substances, and then do other substances to help her sleep. We never knew how to do that, and, at some point, we had to leave to sleep.
But during those years, we did lose track of time, and often, of our behavior. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being Keith Richards, we squeaked in there at the peak as a five. We were half of Keith. Okay, on the Keith scale, maybe we were just a three, but that was plenty awful enough.
To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here
CULTURE 14 Gonzo Masterpieces
Picks From Around the Web
blog comments powered by Disqus