The song sounds unusually mournful for someone beginning a career, and I ask Stevie if she was at a personal crossroads during that period. Nicks says that she was merely moving in the direction of an awakening that occurred a little more than a year later, just before she signed on with Fleetwood Mac. She received a phone call on a Sunday afternoon from her Uncle Jonathan, who told her to find her brother and to fly immediately to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, where her suddenly ill father was to undergo open-heart surgery the following morning at 6:30. Panicking, she scrambled to locate Christopher, and they eventually caught separate flights.
"In the six or seven hours it took us to get there, I thought about my dad and the possibility that he might not live through that operation. I can't tell you how I felt."
She sets down her wine glass and gazes at the New York skyline, which gleams orange in the summer sunset.
"We were running down the hallways of St. Mary's to get to his room. We find my mother sitting there, all by herself, weeping and saying, 'He said to give these Greyhound cuff links to your uncle, and he said I could sell the car he bought me; I don't want it and he knows it.'
"Christopher and I just stood there saying, 'He's gone? He's gone? We didn't get to say goodbye to him, just in case?' And then we had to sit in a somber gray corridor for ten hours and wait to be told . . . we didn't know what. When I went and saw him, well, my dad's not a complainer, he's real strong, and he looked up at me and said, 'I'm in so much pain! I couldn't do anything, so I went out and looked for lip gloss or something . . ." Her eyes redden, her shoulders slump and she begins to sob.
"From that day onward, I was never, ever the same," she says, trying to wipe away the stream of tears. "I'm sorry," she says with a cough, "this is not something I wanted to do. It was such a horrible thing for me and Chris and my mother; Chris passed out. Nothing else mattered; Lindsey didn't matter, music didn't matter, songs didn't matter, nothing mattered more. I said, 'Dear God, I would give everything up if you would just let me keep him for a little while.'
"Since that moment, he's the one who gets the first albums, the first everything. I think I live on eggshells all the time, waiting to pick up that phone and have them say he's gone. Every time I write him, I say that line from 'Crystal' I wrote for him: 'I have changed but you remain ageless.' To me, it says that this is what life is all about, because if somebody could take him away from me, they could do anything to me."
As Stevie Nicks composes herself, she acts a bit befuddled, as if the unexpected torrent of emotion has displaced her. She appears lost and more than a little forlorn. Despite her many friends and close family ties, she seems to move in her own exclusive sphere, a lonely space not unlike "the big old house" she sings about in "Blue Lamp," a song of hers on the soundtrack of the science-fiction film Heavy Metal. Echoic, forboding and sirenlike, it's the sort of music you'd expect to hear ricocheting off the walls inside a haunted castle on a stormy night, when only a solitary blue lamp beats back the encroaching gloom. If Stevie's songs really are "the mirror of her heart," as she maintains, then "Blue Lamp" is ominous but also offers some promise as she urgently intones, "I'm no enchantress!" and then advises the resident guardian angel, "If you were wiser, you would get out."
Stevie is at yet another crossroads, the significance of which only she can comprehend, but you wonder what turn she'll take. And if you're going to probe for answers, it's plain that you must ask for them on her terms.
There are, for instance, a lot of ways to look at Beauty and the Beast; you can view it as a tragedy, a morality play, a horror story. As it happens, a wealth of different versions exists. Jean Cocteau's film ends on an uplifting note, the Beast turning into a handsome prince and living happily ever after with Beauty. But Stevie Nicks doesn't remember it that way. For her, the roles of the two star-crossed principals are transposed, and Beauty recognizes her folly too late, losing the only being besides her parent who truly cared about her.
Sitting across from Stevie as she dries her eyes and slips back into the here and now, I can think of only one appropriate question.
"In your version of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty finally understands that there are difficult choices to make in this world. Knowing her fate, if you were her, what would your decision have been?"
"I would have chosen the Beast," she says softly. "Absolutely."
*Copyright © 1973, Welsh Witch Music
This story is from the September 3rd, 1981 issue of Rolling Stone.
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