“People needed a little bit of magic. I think it’s a little bit of magic.” – Stevie Nicks
Fleetwood Mac song ‘Dreams’ holds a special place in the hearts of many, and not just because of its incredibly poignant and forever pertinent lyrics: “Thunder only happens when it’s raining/ Players only love you when they’re playing”. The now-iconic vocal delivery by Stevie Nicks has, rather fittingly, conjured up a rather intoxicating effect on its listeners. The track isn’t just their only number one hit, but a distillation of everything that made Nicks, the band and their sound so beguiling – a potent cocktail of magic, music and melody. But the track wasn’t crafted in the myrrh-tinged smoke of a mercurial studio but in the bedroom of a famed funk master.
‘Dreams’ was one of the singles taken from the eleventh studio album by the British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac. Released in 1977, rumours was the band’s second album after Nicks and her partner Lindsey Buckingham joined the group. ‘Dreams’, one of the most popular Fleetwood Mac songs of all time, which was also a creation credited to Nicks.
Ironically enough, ‘Dreams’ was a song born out of a time when the band went through what seemed like one of their worst nightmares. It was a tumultuous time for the group, individually as well as collectively. With more or less all the members going through rough patches in their romantic relationships and their interpersonal bridges seemingly burned, it became a struggle for the band to come together as a whole, too. Yet as Buckingham, Nicks’ partner for almost eight years romantically and professionally, later said in an interview: “We had to go through an elaborate exercise of denial keeping our personal feelings in one corner of the room while trying to be professional in the other ”.
However, when the literal and metaphorical room started to get too suffocating, they needed to get out and take a breather. For Nicks, this was the moment that separated her abilities as a songwriter and as a musician from all others.
During a particularly heated moment in the studio, fueled no doubt by cocaine and creative differences, Nicks decided she had had enough. She walked out of the room – the studio where the band was at work – took her Fender Rhodes piano with her and didn’t return until she had the primary draft for ‘Dreams’ in her hand, ready to play to the rest of the tape. In an opportune moment as that, ‘Dreams’ came to Nicks relatively smoothly. She took the heartbreak that plagued her during the separation from Buckingham after their eight-year-long relationship that had begun in high school and put it to constructive use. ‘Dreams’ was the outcome.
At the time, the band were stationed at the Record Plant studio in San Francisco, working on their demos for the upcoming album rumours. As Nicks said in an interview, “Everybody was working on something else in the main studio, and I had this idea,” she commented. “I was kind of wandering around the studio, looking for somewhere I could curl up with my Fender Rhodes and my lyrics and a little cassette tape recorder.”
Then, Nicks came across a friendly guy who seemed to understand her plight and asked if she was looking “for a place to go and play”. He said he knew a place, but he remained secretive about it. As Nicks recalled him saying, “You can never tell anybody,” to which Nicks’ response was quite amusing: “Oh my God, a magic room! Oh my God, I’ll never tell anybody.”
The room in question was the quadrant of the esteemed Sly Stone, which happened to be a mini-studio. She never once in all the time she had worked in the building with the band knew that this room existed. According to Nicks, “It’s a big studio with a sunken circular shape, actually like a lighthouse, like a circle, and there’s keyboards all around, a bunch of keyboards that went down this tunnel kind of thing”.
Up next was the part of the room that would become the hub of Nicks’ solo part-brainstorming-part-meditative session – the exquisite bed that occupied a part of the room. It was, as Nicks recalled, “This big half-moon circular bed with all black and red velvet. It sounds a little garish, but it was actually beautiful”. Nicks took her place on the bed and “just started playing ‘Dreams’. And within about 20 minutes, it was written and recorded – I mean, super-simply, but I thought, ‘Thank you, Sly Stone and the spirits of Sly Stone and all of your band.’
Just like that, in a matter of less than half an hour, one of the biggest hits in the history of contemporary music was conceived and composed. Stevie Nicks made it look like it was a breeze, but that was only possible because she was Stevie Nicks.
It’s true when they say that inspiration hits you at the most unusual times, in the most unusual places. Who knew that place for Nicks would be Sly Stone’s very comfortable and very aesthetic bed in his equally beautiful studio? Either way, let’s take this moment to thank the lucky stars for how marvelous the coincidence was and continues to be even now.
Follow Far Out Magazine across our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.