by TAYLOR HINE
Mercifully, the blizzard had subsided. The sun shined for the first time in nearly a week, from a cloudless, clear sky. My father’s black Nissan Sentra was completely buried beneath clean, crystalline snow, untarnished. The curve of the car’s roof was barely visible. Before long, my father shoveled a driveway full of melting snow, and my mother and I packed our bags. We loaded them into the Jeep Cherokee and began the three-day drive to southern Louisiana, where my best friend lived.
I own the Cherokee now, and the tape player works just as fluidly and magically as it did when I was a child. My mother rummaged through the center console, moving plastic cassette covers around, searching. I leaned forward to watch her.
“Oooh,” she said, presenting a black and white cover to me. It was the strangest I’d ever seen: A man with long hair and a beard to match looked to be on his knees, tossing a clear ball into the air. Next to him was another man with unnaturally long legs in a black suit, holding a cane and sipping from a glass, head tilted upward. Behind them was an empty doorway, and FLEETWOOD MAC was printed across the top in a strange font.
I glanced at my mother quizzically.
“You’ve never heard this?” she exclaimed, then smiled. She put the tape in as my father drove eastward, away from the mountains.
Road trips are sleepy affairs for me, pleasantly so, and “Monday Morning” was not unwelcome for me in that moment because the excitement of a trip just begun had yet to wear off. The first time I fell in love with the idea of falling in love was with “Warm Ways,” and “Landslide” told me that love is something that people actually fear. They may not know what it is and, even as adults, they may not have actually grown up yet. When I heard “Landslide” for the first time, I knew it was beautiful, and I was aware of the passage of time in a different way other than a ten-year-old might.
My parents bought The Dance, their 1997 live album, for my twelfth birthday – the first CD I ever owned. I had recently won a silver stereo from having raised the most money for a school fundraiser, and it was rarely off when I was at home. A year before, I had taken a series of guitar lessons, only to tuck my guitar away in my closet mere days after they ended.
The version of “Big Love” on that album made me pick up my guitar again the very same day I heard it. I was convinced that I would be able to pick up right where I left off without having practiced, and when I fumbled with the strings and dropped my pick inside the guitar not once, but twice, I gave up, thinking that I would never be good enough to play “Big Love” anyway.
In middle school, we were required to take a year of typing classes, which consisted of interactive games that tested our speed and accuracy. On Fridays, we were allowed to bring in a CD of our choice and listen to it on our computers as long as we brought our own headphones. My parents had bought The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac for me recently (God knows why, because they owned most of their studio albums anyway). A boy next to me said, “Is that Fleetwood Mac?” as if there could be another Fleetwood anything.
“Yeah,” I said, smiling over at him shyly.
“My parents listened to them while we were living in the Ukraine. All the time. Fleetwood Mac is their favorite band. We moved here last year.” His voice was thickly accented, and I liked it.
I smiled again. “Want to listen to the second disc of this?”
He and I never became actual friends; I was too shy and withdrawn to really make friends with anyone – not for long, anyway – and this lasted for several more years.
Throughout middle school, I rode the bus from our suburb with a group of kids who teased me mercilessly whenever they saw what was playing on my iPod. I’d tried desperately hard to listen to the likes of Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys back in the early 2000s, for the simple reason that all the other kids were, too. It didn’t take me long to appreciate not why my mother didn’t let me listen to her, but that she didn’t let me.
“Who’s Fleetwood Mac?” one boy, named Leo, scoffed.
I rolled my eyes, turned up the music, and leaned my head against the window, looking out.
You can’t really talk about Fleetwood Mac without talking about the relationship between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.
The Dance was released as a concert DVD, and I watched it one Saturday morning with my mother. Lindsey remained carefully in shadow while he deftly played “Silver Springs,” just behind Stevie, and he looked at her intently all the while. Christine, John, and Mick all remained on the periphery. I thought that, perhaps, it may have been a stage act – hadn’t they broken up thirty years ago? Was this for the benefit of the audience, to keep them guessing? Was it to keep the spirit of the old band in the audience’s minds? I didn’t know. I couldn’t ignore how they looked at one another, how he seemed to avoid her eyes when she sang at him. Like the “voice will haunt you,” this performance haunts me still.
Back when Rumours was in the process of being released early in 1977, Stevie was told that “Silver Springs” was too long to fit on the album, and that another song of hers, “I Don’t Want to Know,” was to replace it. In a BBC radio interview back in 1991, Stevie talked about the incident:
And then I started to scream bloody murder and probably said every horribly mean thing that you could possibly say to another human being, and walked back in the studio completely flipped out. I said, ‘Well, I’m not gonna sing ‘I Don’t Want To Know.’ I am one-fifth of this band.’ And they said. ‘Well, if you don’t like it, you can either (a) take a hike or (b) you better go out there and sing “I Don’t Want To Know” or you’re only gonna have two songs on the record.’ And so, basically, with a gun to my head, I went out and sang ‘I Don’t Want To Know’. And they put “Silver Springs” on the back of ‘Go Your Own Way.’
This placement of “Silver Springs” with the “Go Your Own Way” single is interesting, given that thet represent the two sides of their breakup during that period. It’s no wonder that people still feel this album, still listen to it fervently, and it’s no wonder why it remains one of the greatest selling albums of all time. Songs being tossed back and forth at one another in the wake of a breakup – and these don’t even comprise the entire album – who would ask for more? This is why we love Adele’s 21, or Taylor Swift’s Speak Now or Red: they are up for interpretation, either in the context of our own lives or in the musicians’. In many cases, the writers will come out and say directly who or what these songs concern.
Celebrities are treated as fictional characters in the real world – the stuff of myth and stories that just happen to be alive. We forget that they are actual people. For me, musicians hold a more significant place than, say, an actor or celebrity chef. They expose themselves the most through their work, through their words, and at the same time, like other celebrities, are subject to media attention. I will only pry into their lives as far as interviews and biographies will allow me. However, when they lay emotions out in their songs, or stories, or anecdotes, it’s incredibly hard not to want to know more: Are they inviting us to figure out what they’re saying about themselves, or about ourselves?
Interpretation of songs is a double-edged sword: it can be either universal or in the context of the songwriter or band. I try to stick to the universal end of things, where it’s safe, where I’m not treading dangerous ground. Of course, Fleetwood Mac is one of those rare exceptions, because we know so much about them and their relationships with one another, so much about Lindsey’s violent streak and Stevie’s affair with Mick, that we can’t help but wonder.
My mother and father picked me up from school on a dark, overcast day. Light filtered through the clouds and dispersed evenly among the kids, the houses, the sidewalks, and the playground.
“We have a quick errand to run before we go home,” my father said as he pulled away from the school.
He consulted some printed MapQuest directions and drove us to what looked to be an abandoned warehouse.
“Where have you brought us?” my mother asked him irritably.
“I just followed the directions. I’m not sure what this place is even supposed to be.”
Fleetwood Mac’s latest album, Say You Will, had been playing with the volume turned low. The CD started over again, the player making small noises, adjusting itself. They began to shout. I reached between them to turn the volume up, for the first time having the audacity to come between them and remind them that I was there, that I was witnessing all of their un-love.
Lindsey’s voice soared over theirs, the guitar and bass booming everything else out. I closed my eyes and leaned back into my seat.
It isn’t the artist’s job to hold the hand of the viewer or listener or when the work is presented. There certainly can be, and often there are, clues. Words can have different interpretations, even if they don’t make a whole lot of sense – and this can be very, very bad at times. We can’t assume that Buckingham and Nicks wrote their songs solely for and about one another just because they were together at one point. But it’s so much damn fun, trying to figure out exactly what they’re saying to us. We then wonder: Who are they speaking to? Each other? Us? Themselves? Why can’t it be all of these?
“Silver Springs” – Lykke Li (mp3)
“Rhiannon” – Best Coast (mp3)