B&V Playlist: Songs For New York City

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*Photo taken from the internet, likely subject to copyright

Ah, New York…

I was on a plane the other day, gliding miles above the frozen, snow covered ground, headed for yet another far away city. (Thoughts From The Traveling Salesman And A B&V Playlist: Hanging On The Telephone). It’s been a grim and cold January. I had my Beats headphones on, as is my wont when on an airplane. I slap those on almost immediately upon fastening my seatbelt to avoid anybody trying to strike up a plane conversation with me… you can’t be too careful. I try to avoid those “Chatty Kathy’s” whenever possible. Plus the airlines typically seat me in the maternity section of the airplane so obviously blaring rock and roll music is preferable to the wailing and lamentations of the children. I remember when traveling was a tad more… elegant.

I wasn’t in the mood, musically speaking, for anything in particular so I just hit the “Shuffle” option. I figured, “why not,” I was probably just going to fall asleep anyway. I struggle with powerful insomnia and can barely get myself to sleep in a big, soft, restful bed in a dark, cool room. However, if you put me on a plane with a little music I’m asleep before the wheels are off the ground. Which, coincidentally also dissuades anybody from striking up a conversation with me, so there’s that bonus. As I sat there drifting off, I heard two songs, back to back, John Lennon’s “New York City” followed by AC/DC’s “Safe In New York City.” I often get my playlist ideas from random stuff that happens when I “shuffle” and I was quickly thinking about all the great songs written about New York. Perhaps I was on to something… and let’s face it, there’s no new music out right now, save for the Raconteurs, Review: The Raconteurs’ Great New Single, Jack White’s Original Side Project Delivers! so I figured I’d explore it.

When I was a kid growing up in the American Midwest, New York was like Oz, a fantasy city that only existed in movies or television. My all time favorite cop show was, of course, Kojak, and it was set in New York. Who wasn’t a fan of Kojak… “Who loves ya baby?” but I digress. The wide shots of the city always left me awe-struck. Of course, every third episode or so there was someone addicted to heroin. The frightful depictions of the addicts on that show probably kept me away from hard drugs, thankfully. The crime, the drugs, the gritty nature of the big city. I loved it all. Then there were movies like ‘The Warriors’ depicting young gangs running wild. New York was alluring and frightening all at the same time… kind of like pretty girls when you’re in junior high school. Mick Jagger and all the original cast of Saturday Night Live were all in New York hanging out at Studio 54, it seemed like the center of the “cool” universe. It was a beacon of hope to all of us misfits and people who didn’t quite fit in where we were…

As fate would have it, right after college I had the pleasure of living in Boston for a summer. I was working in a liquor store and didn’t have two nickels to rub together. One of the first weekends I was there, my roommate Matthew and I jumped in his Subaru, which always smelled like bong water, and drove into New York City. It was the first of many times I would ever visit. I still get goosebumps on my arms when I think of that first drive into NYC. We knew a woman from high school who worked for the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and we crashed with her and her brother, an aspiring actor. We walked all over the city for two days. We couldn’t afford to do anything, we just walked. The highlight was riding the Staten Island Ferry, because it only cost a quarter. I spent the whole time staring up at the skyline… it’s a wonder we didn’t get rolled. We actually went to a party with the dancers from Alvin Ailey at someone’s apartment. If you don’t think two straight kids from the suburbs meeting a bunch of gay, black men who looked like they were chiseled out of marble wasn’t awkward at first… you’re wrong.

I’ve been back many times, for work and pleasure, but I’m still that wide-eyed twenty year old. Whether I’m drinking in McSorley’s with a work buddy or dining in some outrageously expensive restaurant with the Rock Chick, New York will always blow me away. I was lucky enough to see the Stones’ 50th anniversary show (in Newark, but I stayed in New York) where Springsteen, Lady Gaga, the Black Keys/Gary Clark, all jumped on stage and joined them. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over seeing Springsteen do “Tumblin’ Dice” with the Stones. Nothing like that ever happens where I live…

Because it’s so magical, I rooted through the B&V music inventory and came up with the following set of tracks celebrating the greatest city on the planet (with all due respect to Paris or London). When I first compiled this, I had over 50 songs and over 4 hours of music. I tried to trim it down to my usual 2 hour playlist. I mean, sure I love Dylan’s acoustic “Talkin’ New York” played after Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” but I didn’t want to get too sprawling. If you have suggestions or if there are any egregious omissions, please suggest the song in the “comments” section and we’ll get it added. As always the BourbonAndVinyl.net playlists can be found on Spotify. Just search on kcorsini64 if BourbonAndVinyl doesn’t work. As usual I’m all over the place stylistically, but that’s how we roll here at B&V. Enjoy!

  1. AC/DC, “Safe In New York City” – Does anyone feel safe anywhere any more?
  2. Beastie Boys, “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” – One of my all time favs by the Beasties!
  3. Ace Frehley, “New York Groove” – Laugh all you want at this selection, I certainly laugh every time I hear it, but there’s just something about it.
  4. Aerosmith, “Bone To Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)” – “Flatbush boy cruisin’ Sheephead’s Bay…” I don’t even know where those places are, but I love it, even though it’s a song about used condoms. With Aerosmith, the sleazier the better.
  5. Bruce Springsteen, “New York City Serenade” – Springsteen at his epic best. The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle will always be my favorite Springsteen album, and this is the best track there.
  6. The Cult, “New York City” – The Cult rockin’ out on Sonic Temple. For reasons unclear I like to quote the line “Hell’s Kitchen is a DMZ” to the Rock Chick at random, typically inappropriate moments.
  7. Ryan Adams, “New York, New York” – “I still love you New York…” Well said Ryan, well said.
  8. Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind” – We turn a little mellow here, but what a great, great song from Billy’s third album.
  9. Leonard Cohen, “First We Take Manhattan” – I typically like my Cohen with natural instruments and this ones a little electronic for me but I like the paranoid defiance.
  10. Bruce Springsteen, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” – Sure, I know Bruce is from Jersey, and I’m not certain that he’s talking about Amsterdam Avenue here, but it sure feels like it.
  11. David Bowie, “New York’s In Love” – This track is from Bowie’s much maligned Never Let Me Down. I chose the newly imagined version from last year’s box set Loving the Alien (1983 – 1988). No one likes this album, but I like the guitar on this song.
  12. Black Keys, “Brooklyn Bound” – Dirty blues rock from the Keys’ debut album.
  13. Lou Reed, “Coney Island Baby” – I feel like Lou Reed is the living embodiment of New York. He’d have gotten my vote for mayor.
  14. Dion With Paul Simon, “New York Is My Home” – A couple hometown boys harmonizing about their city.
  15. Billy Idol, “Hot In the City” – Some may argue this isn’t about New York, but if you listen, toward the end he yells, “New York!” Yes, Billy, yes.
  16. Frank Sinatra, “Theme From New York, New York” – The Chairman of the Board singing the greatest song about New York ever written. It’s not rock and roll but it fits, baby.
  17. John Lennon, “New York City” – From the maligned album Somewhere in New York City this great track was a break from the political broadsides that made up the rest of the album. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper for the gems.
  18. Lou Reed, “Dirty Blvd.” – New York isn’t specifically named, but there is no doubt the Dirty Blvd is in NY.
  19. Lenny Kravitz, “New York City” – A great, soulful track with horns and guitar from Strut. 
  20. The Ramones, “53rd & 3rd” – You can’t have a playlist about New York without the Ramones and this infamous corner.
  21. Little Steven, “Down And Out In New York City” – Little Steven pulls out an epic track like his boss from his day job…
  22. Rolling Stones, “Shattered” – It could be argued the entire album Some Girls is about New York but this track especially… “Bite the Big Apple, don’t mind the maggots.” God, I love the Stones. Very punky.
  23. Steely Dan, “Daddy Don’t Live In That New York City No More” – “Driving like a fool out to Hackensack…”
  24. Norah Jones, “Back To Manhattan” – Norah’s beautiful crooning belongs on every playlist.
  25. Sting, “Englishman In New York” – There isn’t a guy who has disappointed in his solo career to the degree Sting has but I always loved his second album, Nothing Like the Sun. 
  26. U2, “New York” – U2’s album All That You Can’t Leave Behind seemed to predict the 9/11 tragedy. This is one of the few upbeat moments on a somber album.
  27. Fleetwood Mac, “Empire State” – A great Lindsey Buckingham track that never got any attention.
  28. Steely Dan, “Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Under Me)” – An overlooked gem from Can’t Buy A Thrill with original lead vocalists David Palmer at the helm.

I pared it down to a mere 2 hours and I know there is much, much more that I could have added. But on a cold wintery day, listening to these tracks is a lot better than shoveling snow. Cheers and stay warm and dry out there.

 

 

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Review: The Raconteurs’ Great New Single, Jack White’s Original Side Project Delivers!

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Other than car trouble, I can’t imagine anything worse than moving. Physically packing up all of your shit and putting it in boxes, loading it in the car and then unloading it at a new location is just awful. When I was younger and single, I didn’t have any possessions. I never wanted to own anything I couldn’t carry to the car in the middle of the night if I had to avoid the law or some angry woman. I have spent almost every weekend since early December doing just that, carrying stuff to the car. It’s tough work to crate up all these albums and barrels of bourbon… Add to it the miserable, grey, snowy, cold weather and you’ve got a “seasonal affect” depression diagnosis that writes itself. Luckily, my local football team, the Kansas City Chiefs have been winning, so that kept me afloat. In the midst of all of this tedious moving, the Rock Chick burst in and said, “I have to play you something.” There’s only one or two things she could say to me that would fill me with more joy and anticipation… and I can’t really discuss those here, it’s a family blog. Who else will teach the children about rock and roll?

Much to my great surprise, when the Rock Chick hit “play” I heard a burst of pure, energetic rock and roll guitar. To my great pleasure, the Raconteurs have returned! And here I was wondering if there’d be any new rock and roll to write about before spring. I try to stay positive here on B&V, so I rarely write about music I don’t like. I try to use this blog as a place where I can shed a little light on music that may not make it to your local radio that I feel deserves more attention. If you can discover something you like here, then my job is more than done! However, it’s no secret that I didn’t like Jack White’s last solo album LP Review: Creativity And The Curious Case of Jack White & ‘Boarding House Reach’. There’s a theory in history, known as the “great man theory,” that I actually think has some merit. It posits that history can be explained by the impact these so called “great men” had on the course of human events. I believe in this for rock and roll. And I think Jack White is certainly one of those great men. Unfortunately the experimentation and reaching for something completely different on Boarding House Reach left me cold. White had been on a hiatus prior to that release so that miss left quite a void.

I was frankly quite surprised to see that the Raconteurs had reunited. One has to look back over a decade to get to their founding. It was in 2006, in between the White Stripes’ Get Behind Me Satan and Icky Thump that Jack White, bursting with creativity, reached outside the power-duo outfit that made him famous for his first side project. White was on guitar and vocals and was joined by solo artist Brendan Benson (guitar, vocals) and former Greenhorns’ members Jack Lawrence (bass), and Patrick Keeler (drums). So full of music was Jack White he later formed a second side project, The Dead Weather, with Lawrence on bass and his main squeeze Alison Mosshart from the Kills on lead vocals. White actually played drums in that band, with a QOTSA veteran, Dean Fertita on guitar. White’s creativity truly seemed boundless.

But it’s been over a decade since the Raconteurs recorded anything. Back in the early part of this millennium, the Raconteurs released two albums. Broken Boy Soldiers, their 2006 debut was an interesting start. “Steady As She Goes” was a great lead single. “Blue Veins” was just a fabulous bluesy number. It was probably my favorite song on that album. But other than “Level,” there wasn’t much else on the record I could connect with. It sounded like old friends having a nice busmen’s holiday. By 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely, things had improved vastly. With Meg White becoming more reclusive, Jack turned a more serious eye toward his supergroup side project. That was a great record. I especially liked the “story song,” “Carolina Drama.” The mysterious ending…”go and ask the milkman” will always stick with me… There were so many great tunes on that record, “Salute Your Solution,” and “Top Yourself” spring to mind. Everyone should check out that second Raconteurs’ album.

So after a decade that found the members of the Raconteurs’ working on other things, they’ve reunited. Jack sounds enthused and re-energized on these tunes. The first new song is titled “Sunday Driver.” It’s a punchy, classic rocker. White’s solo’ing is off the charts. It has an almost Beatlesque, psychedelic bridge in the middle. The guitar riff is absolutely infectious. It’s muscular and frenetic rock and roll. To hear Jack rock out this freely is so refreshing. It’s nothing like the bizarre experiments of Boarding House Reach. 

The second track, “Now That You’re Gone,” is where things get really interesting. It’s a “my baby has left me, good riddance” tune. “What will I do, now that you’re gone…” It’s probably what my old neighbors are thinking about me now that I’ve moved… well, probably not. I tend to play loud music at odd hours… Anyway, “Now That You’re Gone” has got a wonderful burst of bluesy guitar that plays through out the song. This song sounds like a 60s girl group had a baby with an old bluesman. White is absolutely torturing his guitar through out this song, conjuring the pain and torment felt by a spurned lover. This is another home run of a track.

While the Raconteurs’ first record was a bit of a disappointment and the second one was strong, these two new tracks are just stellar. This could point to a very, very interesting album. Keep an eye and ear out for the Raconteurs. I highly recommend everyone purchase these songs immediately and play them as loud as your neighbors will allow.

Cheers!

B&V Playlist: Beatles vs Stones Covers? No, Our Favorite Beatles AND Stones Covers!

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*Image of Jagger, Wyman & the McCartneys (and unidentified groovy chicks) taken from the internet, and likely subject to copyright

The world has become a really divisive place. Whatever the issue, there always seems to be disagreement these days. Politics, don’t get me started. Religion, I’m not qualified to talk about. For every opinion in the universe there exists an equally strong, opposite one. Meat eaters vs the vegans, hedonists vs the devout, drinkers vs the sober, and I could go on and on. I believe it was Sir Isaac Newton, that groovy cat with the apple and gravity, who stated in his Third Law, that for every action there is an equal, opposite reaction. For example, I would like to quit my job and sit around listening to rock and roll records all day. Perhaps I would occasionally take a break from that strenuous activity to head down to the used record store to check out some additional vinyl, only to return home and hang out. My wife has the opposite reaction to this idea and wants to work me like one of the old mules from the farm she grew up on until I collapse. Marriage, it seems, like life is a compromise.

However, we shouldn’t pretend that these disagreements are a new and modern convention. I remember, as a child in the 70s, there were similar fault lines amongst the population. I remember there was a fierce, Superman vs Batman thing. You were either a fan of the man from Krypton or you were on team Caped Crusader, and you couldn’t dig both. Me, I was a Batman fan. Ironically I later roomed with a guy whose nickname was Batman. We’d get crank calls in the middle of the night from his friends asking for Batman… When I’d say he wasn’t home they’d ask to leave a message from the Joker, or Commissionor Gordon. Real fuckin’ funny guys at 3 am. I think which Super Hero you dug said a lot about your personality. You were either the ideal of virtue and the perfect man or you were a troubled guy who hung out late at night looking for bad situations. Hmmm.

Anyway, one of the fiercer battles in the old days revolved around the Beatles and the Stones. The Beatles were huge. They were, well, the Beatles. In the late sixties the Stones began to get tagged with the nickname, “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World.” I don’t know if it was the nickname, but suddenly the debate was real. The feud began even before Led Zeppelin came along, so all you Zep fans, stay calm and keep reading. There was suddenly a Superman-Batman type of line drawn. You were either a Beatles fan or you were a Stones fan and never shall the twain meet, as they say. It was the 60s version of East Coast vs West Coast, without the guns. Lennon claimed once that everything the Beatles did the Stones would do six months later. While you might cite Their Satanic Majesties, the Stones ill-fated trip into psychedelic music (after the Beatles Sgt Pepper album) as proof, I think after that the Stones forged their own bluesy, rootsy road.

But once a feud always a feud. I have often thought of my brother and I as polar opposites, which isn’t true, but we all have stories we tell ourselves about our families. My brother, who got into music way before me was a solid Beatles guy. He had the Rolling Stones’ Hot Rocks, perhaps the best “greatest hits” package ever released, but he had every Beatles album out there. I think he had UK and US versions of each album, although I could be wrong about that. I bet he’s sitting on a stack of very valuable vinyl. Anyway, my first love, of course, was the Rolling Stones. I can’t say that fueled any tension between he and I, but I’m sure it didn’t help.

Eventually, I realized feuds were silly. I like both the Beatles and the Stones. They’d both be on my greatest bands of all time list… although the Stones will always be #1 for me. That doesn’t mean I can’t love the Beatles too. Hell, Keith Richards once said, about John Lennon, that he wasn’t as “hen-pecked” by Yoko in his latter days as people say… he said whenever the Stones were in New York he and Lennon would party their ass off. Now that’s something I wish I’d have gotten in on. How much fun would that be? Lennon, Richards, I wanna party with you guys. Alas, I was just a kid in junior high school.

I was noodling around with some playlist ideas and I came across the idea of doing a playlist of Stones covers, of which there are too few. Then I started thinking of doing a list of covers of Beatles tunes, of which there are myriad artists to choose from. I was thinking of battling playlists, this could potentially be a B&V thing. But then a weird thing happened. I combined the two playlists and frankly I really enjoyed the results. Since it’s a slow time musically right now, I thought I’d share it with all of you. This is not a comprehensive or complete list of Beatles or Stones cover songs, it’s just a list of my favorites. As always you can find this playlist on Spotify by searching on kcorsini64 or BourbonAndVinyl (at least I sure hope so). Enjoy… and if you have any additions you think I missed, please mention them in the comments and I’ll add to the Spotify list. My comments on each tune below this link. And I’ll say again, there are always more Beatles covers than Stones covers… oh, well.

  1. Aerosmith, “Come Together” – What a great place to start. Lets all come together over the Beatles and the Stones.
  2. Black Keys, “She Said, She Said” – I love this song. I never figured the Keys to cover the Beatles but they do so beautifully.
  3. Peter Frampton, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” – I like the live version and the studio version.
  4. Linda Ronstadt, “Tumbling Dice” – My favorite song of hers, save anything she covered by Warren Zevon or Lowell George.
  5. David Bowie, “Let’s Spend The Night Together” – Bowie’s frenetic take on the classic Stones track.
  6. Soundgarden, “Everybodys’ Got Something To Hide (Except Me and My Monkey) – God do we miss Chris Cornell.
  7. Fiona Apple, “Across the Universe” – Great track from a soundtrack. A track also nicely done by Bowie… but he’s already on here.
  8. Phil Collins, “Tomorrow Never Knows” – Say what you want about Collins but it took some real balls to cover this song.
  9. Montrose, “Connection” – Great, slowed down version of the Stones track.
  10. Cheap Trick, “Magical Mystery Tour” – Was any band more influenced by the Beatles than Cheap Trick? Well, besides ELO?
  11. Billy Joel, “A Hard Days Night (Live)” – Ok, maybe Joel was as influenced by the Beatles as Cheap Trick. It’s probably a coin toss.
  12. Social Distortion, “Backstreet Girl” – Social D doing a a down and dirty Stones cover. Whats not to love?
  13. Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Dear Prudence” – I almost like this version more than the Beatles original.
  14. Joe Cocker, “A Little Help From My Friends” – This one was a huge hit for Joe.
  15. The Allman Brothers Band, “Heart of Stone” – From their last studio album.
  16. U2, “Paint It Black” – One of their best covers!
  17. Lindsey Buckingham, “She Smiled Sweetly” – Buckingham recreates a whole band just plucking an acoustic guitar.
  18. Johnny Winter, “Stray Cat Blues” – A lot of blues guys cover the Stones.
  19. Motley Crue, “Helter Skelter” – A lot of folks have done this one, but this is my nasty favorite.
  20. Ray Charles, “Eleanor Rigby” – Also done beautifully by Aretha.
  21. Aerosmith, “I’m Down” – Great track from Permanent Vacation. 
  22. Billy Joel, “I’ll Cry Instead (Live) – Like I said, he rivals Cheap Trick in his love of the Beatles.
  23. Luther Allison, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – Obscure blues track but I love it.
  24. Guns N Roses, “Sympathy For the Devil” – From the ‘Interview With A Vampire’ soundtrack, believe it or not. This was the best thing to come out of that movie.
  25. The Who, “Under My Thumb” – Yep, the Who covering the Stones…worlds collide.
  26. Otis Redding, “Satisfaction” – The Rock Chick always laughs at me when I play this. I think it’s all the horns. Otis was soulful…
  27. Elton John, “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” – As a youngster I liked this track better than the original. What fools these mortals be…
  28. CSNY, “Blackbird” – Love the version on CSNY 1974. Stills takes the lead vocals, but those harmonies kick in, oh, man!
  29. Rod Stewart, “Get Back” – An outtake from the Tonight’s the Night album.
  30. Taj Mahal, “Honky Tonk Woman” – Stripped down to vocals, acoustic guitar, and harmonica, it’s like a porch blues jam.
  31. Tom Petty, “Taxman” – Petty covering his friend George.
  32. Cheap Trick, “Day Tripper” – They do the Beatles rockier stuff so well.
  33. Rage Against the Machine, “Street Fighting Man” – I chose this version to show the diversity of groups who cover these two bands.
  34. The Longshot, “As Tears Go By” – Billie Joe Armstrong’s side project on a nice Stones’ cover.
  35. Dhani Harrison, Prince, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – From the Rock Hall of Fame ceremonies… Prince’s guitar solo is on fire. If you’ve seen the video, the other guys just stand there with their jaws dropped as Prince shreds… If Clapton was there I trust he snuck out quickly.

I may have dug deeper in some areas than most folks would have expected. I may have dug a little too shallow in other areas. But in the end, my Spotify playlists are for anybody whose interested. I add songs from the comments suggestions to the playlist all the time. Enjoy and I hope you all find this as an enjoyable a listen as I did! Beatles + Stones… Peace and Love, baby!

 

 

Stevie Nicks: The New Rock Hall of Fame Inductee’s Essential Albums

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I can’t believe I’ve been so bone-crushingly busy lately that I haven’t had a chance to do what I love…sit back, crank tunes and then think entirely too much about what I’ve just heard. And then, of course, share it with you. The end of the year was crazy. The Rock Chick and I are in the midst of moving to new quarters. Every time I’d drop the needle on an album, she’d appear with boxes for me to carry, “tote that barge, lift that bail,” indeed. I can barely stand upright… thank heaven for bourbon to ease my back pain.

If you’re like me, you couldn’t turn the page on the calendar from 2018 to 2019 fast enough. Jesus, what a shitty year. Too many crazies out there, too much bad news. However, I did see one bit of good news. Stevie Nicks, of Fleetwood Mac fame, is going to be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame this year as a solo artist. She’s in somewhat rare company there – Clapton is in solo and with Cream, each Beatle (save for Ringo) are in the hall as solo artists and with the Beatles, and I’m sure there are a few others – so good for her. I have to admit, I’ve always been a fan of her spacey, rootsy rock and roll. We often tend to focus on the harder rock end of the spectrum here and I don’t think we give the women rockers their due at B&V.

Ah, Stevie. I used to describe her as the “Mistress of Her Generation.” I didn’t say that because she’d burned through half of Fleetwood Mac (Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood), the better part of the Eagles (Don Henley, Joe Walsh) and producer Jimmy Iovine… I called her that because we all loved Stevie Nicks. Every man of a certain age will get a peculiar, glazed look in his eyes when he hears Stevie Nicks sing. She was the cool, stoner chick that we all aspired to go out with in high school. Beautiful, mysterious, and wildly talented, she had it all. And likely she was carrying…

When I first got into music, I was way behind my brother. He had twice the number of albums that I did. Oddly, he traded me Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours for Supertramp’s Breakfast In America, which was a great album, but it was no Rumours. I listened to that album endlessly. Almost every song was played on the radio. “Dreams” was a song I’d been aware of even before I knew who it was or even liked music. It always seemed to be on the radio. I can close my eyes and I’m back at the neighborhood, public pool and there’s Stevie singing, “Do you have any dreams you’d like to sell?” I can think of a few… I would stare at this little pixie of a woman on the front and back cover… who was this “Gold Dust Woman”? Even my college roommate whose record collection was almost exclusively heavy metal (Van Halen, Sabbath, Zeppelin) had a few Fleetwood Mac albums…

While I loved Fleetwood Mac’s follow up album, Tusk, I may be in the minority there. I have to admit when I first heard it, the only songs I really, truly loved, other than the bizarre title track, were Stevie’s songs. “Sisters of the Moon,” “Sara,” “Storms” were all great tunes. Show me a man who says he didn’t mist up a little the first time he heard “Beautiful Child” after a break up and I’ll show you a liar. “Angel” was a great rock song that only Stevie could write and sing and only Lindsey could play guitar on… It is one of the quintessential Mac tunes for me. I guess the record company guys realized that Stevie’s songs were the best ones on the album and so Tusk did what all the romantic breakups in the band couldn’t do – it pushed the members to do solo stuff. It almost broke them up.

Stevie’s first two albums are just incredible. I can remember driving up and down the main drag where I grew up with the windows down and blasting “Edge of Seventeen” or her duet with Petty, “Stop Dragging My Heart Around.” Her backing band on those first two albums was sublimely talented. Waddy Watchel on guitar, members of both the Heartbreakers and the E Street Band (Roy Bittan, piano) backed Stevie on those first couple records. Jimmy Iovine produced them both and they were smash hits.

I saw Stevie on the 1983 tour in support of The Wild Heart. Joe Walsh opened. It was amazing. We had nose bleed seats and crashed down to the stage. Stevie sang “Beauty and the Beast,” and I swear she was looking at me and my friend next to me. We certainly qualified as “the Beast” in question. Her band that night included Watchel (guitar), Bittan (piano), Benmont Tench (keyboards), and Liberty Devito from Billy Joel’s band on drums. Instead of concert T’s we all bought the same photograph of Stevie and taped them to our walls. Jeez, what fan boys we were!

After doing the best tracks on Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage album, Stevie’s hot streak started to falter. It’s the classic Hollywood rise, fall, rise storyline. I remember my college girlfriend bringing me the aptly titled album Rock A Little. She knew I dug Stevie and she liked the song “Talk to Me” which looking back, may have been her attempt to send me a message… I wasn’t the most communicative of boyfriends. That album was a surprise for me. Stevie went heavy into the drum machine/synth sound of the 80s. The magic seemed to be fading. Stevie had cowrote most of the tracks on that album and her stuff was always better when she alone wrote it…

What we didn’t know was she was burning out from too much cocaine. Drugs always creep up on these guys. She finally got over that only to succumb to an addiction to Klonopin which led to excessive weight gain and a whole host of other problems. I think most people lost track of Stevie after that. But she emerged from all of that and started releasing a series of late period albums that are the kind of records B&V was born to write about. Here are the B&V Essential Stevie Nicks LPs:

  1. Bella Donna, 1981 – We all already loved Stevie from Fleetwood Mac and this album solidified her as a solo force to be reckoned with. From the hits “Stop Dragging My Heart” around and “Edge of Seventeen” to some of the deeper tracks, this is a great album. “After the Glitter Fades” and “Think About It” are two of my favorite deep cuts. The music is all real instruments – guitar, acoustic guitar and piano – coupled with Stevie’s nasally, throaty vocals. This album is almost perfect.
  2. The Wild Heart, 1983 – This was almost a sequel to Bella Donna. Iovine is back in the producers chair and most of the same musicians are assembled. A taste of the 80s synth sound is here in the first hit, “Stand Back” where Prince plays an uncredited synth riff. I heard Stevie say, “Prince just showed up and did this amazing thing on keyboards with just two fingers.” One can only wonder why Prince was hanging around… naughty, naughty man. “If Anyone Falls” was also synth heavy but still a great tune. “Enchanted” rocked and “Beauty And The Beast” features strings. Stevie was on fire.
  3. Trouble In Shangri-La, 2001 – An album, I must admit the rock chick turned me onto. After a number of misfires through the end of the 80s and 90s, I’d all but forgotten about Stevie. She’d actually asked old friend Tom Petty to write songs for her and he gave her a stern talking to about being confident and writing her own songs which resulted in “That Made Me Stronger.” My favorite track was an older Fleetwood Mac outtake, “Planets of the Universe.” I heard that song and knew Stevie was back. Sheryl Crow helped out on a couple of tracks on this record as well. This was a miraculous comeback album.
  4. In Your Dreams, 2011 – It had been a decade since her last album and I was thinking maybe she was done when this great record came out. Produced by Dave Stewart of Eurythmics’ fame, this record jumped out at me. “Secret Love” was a great opening track. “For What It’s Worth” is a beautiful acoustic track. Stewart seems to capture all the elements of Stevie’s early work, without being nostalgic. He even gets Stevie rocking on the harder edged “Ghosts Are Gone.” Check out the title track as well.
  5. 24 Karat Gold – Songs From the Vault, 2014 – I admire the truth in advertising in the title – these are all old tracks Stevie wrote back in the 70s and 80s, but I fear the title put people off. Once again we have Dave Stewart at the producers helm with none other than Nicks’ old pal Waddy Watchel helping. Stevie wrote so much great music for Fleetwood Mac, but with three writers she couldn’t get all her stuff on the records, so she had plenty of leftovers. Hell, “Silver Springs,” one of her greatest songs was a b-side. “Starshine” is a nice, tight little rocker that opens the proceedings. “Carousel” and “The Dealer” are two of my favorite Stevie songs. It was a brilliant idea for her to revisit these tracks she’d only demo’d before.

Congratulations Stevie on your induction to the Rock Hall! Folks, enjoy spelunking through this woman’s catalog. Her music and wonderful melodies will stick with you.

Cheers!