A few years ago, I tweeted something kind of inconsequential about Stevie Nicks, and one of my followers, someone I'd never met or even interacted with before, tweeted back an incredible picture. It showed him sat half-naked on a kitchen counter, a bottle of vodka to his right, with the words "EDGE OF SEVENTEEN" scrawled in gold paint above him. That follower now seems to have disappeared from Twitter, but fortunately I had the good sense to preserve his iconic moment on my own feed for the benefit of future generations.
I mention this picture now as Stevie Nicks begins her "24 Karat Gold Tour" because, in a strange way, it says something about her enduring appeal. She's not just a rock icon—she's the sort of rock icon you'd fuck up your kitchen wall for after too much vodka. She's also the sort of rock icon who inspires her own annual drag extravaganza, Night of a Thousand Stevies, in which fans of all ages and genders come together in New York City for what is billed as "a riot of shawls, lace, baby's breath, twirling, tambourines, and great performance." Though the woman herself has yet to attend the event, which is now in its 26th year, she promised in a 2011 video message that one day she will. "Some day, some Night of a Thousand Stevies, I will be there in such a great disguise that not one of you will know it's me until I walk on stage and begin to sing 'Edge of Seventeen,'" she promised. "And then you'll know." Imagine how the place will erupt when they realize.
Stevie's unique look, all long blonde hair and floaty fabrics and slinky fringing, may lend itself to drag, but it's also made her a bohemian style icon. Thanks to Stevie, a shawl isn't just something a cute grandma in a Lifetime movie wears while sitting wistfully on her porch. One of the many great things about Stevie is she never bothers with false modesty, and she acknowledged her influence on fashion in a 2011 LA Times interview. "People have latched on to my look because I've never changed it," she said in a fabulously matter-of-fact way. "You open a magazine and you say, 'Oh, Marc Jacobs is definitely doing the Stevie Nicks handkerchief skirt and riding jacket and top hat and scarf,' because that's what I wore then, and I still wear it now."
Stevie has also been a serious influence on several generations of musicians. Courtney Love adores her and calls her a "legend." Taylor Swift said it was "a fairy tale and an honor" to sing with her a few years back. Alana Haim admits she can't remember what Stevie said to her the first time they met because she was so overwhelmed by her "insane aura." The phrase "women in rock" is now a tired and reductive journalist's cliché, but when Stevie Nicks became a star in the 70s, her attitude towards her gender made her remarkable, and a pioneer. Discussing how she and Fleetwood Mac bandmate Christine McVie went about navigating the male-dominated world of 70s rock 'n' roll, Stevie recalled in 2013: "I said to Chris, you know, we can never be treated like second class citizens here. So when we walk into the room, we have to walk in with a big attitude. Which does not mean a snotty conceited attitude. But it means like we have to float igoddesses, because that is how we want to be treated. And we will never not be invited to the party because we are women."
Stevie never muted her femininity to fit in; instead she embraced it because she recognized its power.
But of course, the main reason Stevie Nicks has become such a beloved figure is her music. Her very best Fleetwood Mac songs offer a unique fusion of the mystical and the relatable: "Gypsy" quietly breaks the heart of anyone who ever pines for a version of themselves that no longer exists. "Landslide" is one of the loveliest songs about getting older ever written. "Gold Dust Woman" acknowledges that even the most destructive of drug addictions, like the one Stevie battled with in the 80s, carries an irresistible tragic glamour. Then there's the delicate sadness of "Sara" which was initially attributed to being soley about Mick Fleetwood's eventual wife, Sara Recor (he left Nicks for the model). But in fact the song is also an ode to her aborted baby with Don Henley of The Eagles. Even through every tumultuous, messy love affair, she was never fully subsumed by her lovers—their fame or their powerful personalities or the relationships dissolution. Although she frequently teetered on the edge of self-destruction, she managed to take those gut wrenchingly bleak moments and spin them into sonic gold. Take a peek at Stevie freestyle singing an early rendition of "Wild Heart," taped at a Rolling Stone shoot from way back when. Stevie untamed. Total magic. It just poured out of her.
Her multi-faceted, deftly layered songwriting is just one of the reasons why her music has endured to captivate another generation of music musicians—St Vincent, Lykke Li, Bastille, Best Coast, (even Lindsay Lohan)—whose Stevie covers and reworks will surely inspire and educate another another generation of fans still.
Though her 80s solo hits tend to be slicker and more bombastic, Stevie's quintessential Stevie-ness shines through the production gloss. I still don't really know what "Edge of Seventeen" is about, but I know it's the song I want to sing every time I'm dragged to a karaoke bar. I could end this piece with a cheesy summary of #ThisWomansImpact, but in a way it feels fitting to sign off with this YouTube clip of Stevie getting her laughs from Big Mouth Billy Bass, the singing fish. It goes to show, I think, that Stevie Nicks is one of very few people in this world who remain cool even when they're doing something that really, really isn't. Bless you, Stevie, and never change.
Stevie Nicks "24 Karat Gold Tour"
OCT 25 TALKING STICK RESORT ARENA Phoenix, AZ
OCT 27 PEPSI CENTER Denver, CO
OCT 29 TOYOTA CENTER Houston, TX
OCT 30 AMERICAN AIRLINES CENTER Dallas, TX
NOV 2 AMALIE ARENA Tampa, FL
NOV 4 BB&T CENTER Ft. Lauderdale, FL
NOV 6 PHILIPS ARENA Atlanta, GA
NOV 7 BRIDGESTONE ARENA Nashville, TN
NOV 10 TIME WARNER CABLE ARENA Charlotte, NC
NOV 12 COLONIAL LIFE ARENA Columbia, SC
NOV 14 VERIZON CENTER Washington DC
NOV 15 TD GARDEN Boston, MA
NOV 19 SANDS BETHLEHEM EVENT CENTER Bethlehem, PA
NOV 20 WELLS FARGO CENTER Philadelphia, PA
NOV 23 VAN ANDEL ARENA Grand Rapids, MI
NOV 25 MOHEGAN SUN ARENA Uncasville, CT
NOV 27 THE PALACE OF AUBURN HILLS Detroit, MI
NOV 29 AIR CANADA CENTRE Toronto, ON
DEC 1 MADISON SQUARE GARDEN New York, NY
DEC 3 UNITED CENTER Chicago, IL
DEC 5 PINNACLE BANK ARENA Lincoln, NE
DEC 6 XCEL ENERGY CENTER St. Paul, MN
DEC 9 PEPSI LIVE AT ROGERS ARENA Vancouver, BC
DEC 13 GOLDEN 1 CENTER Sacramento, CA
DEC 14 SAP CENTER San Jose, CA
DEC 17 PARK THEATRE AT MONTE CARLO RESORT AND CASINO Las Vegas, NV
DEC 18 THE FORUM Los Angeles, CA
If Nick Levine didn't live in London you can bet he'd be attending Night of 1000s Stevies in a heartbeat. Follow him on Twitter.