Blissful escapism? No, Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams is one of the bitterest break-up songs ever written
Fleetwood Mac, circa 1982 - Getty
The room where it all started had a velvet-lined bed, Victorian curtains, and a wild red and black color scheme. In the middle, in a sunken pit, was a piano. Here, in the spring of 1976, a one-off folk singer and former high school teacher-to-be sat down and poured out her emotions in a flood of storm-lashed images.
"Now it starts again / you say you want your freedom ...", 28-year-old Stephanie Lynn Nicks sang in the converted studio, which was tricked according to the specifications of the funky-eccentric Sly Stone.
She was lying on the bed when she cooed and played on the electric keyboard she had brought with her. Immediately afterwards, she took the tape and handed it to her former lover, Lindsey Buckingham.
He was just down the hall at the Record Plant, an opulent hit factory north of San Francisco. As the newest recruits to Fleetwood, Mac Nicks and Buckingham had worked with their bandmates on what would become their Rumors album. And Nicks had just given the group one of their biggest hits, the Eternal Ethereal Dreams.
"It was a difficult task, I was the only one who sang and played the piano," Nicks later recalled. “Even though he was mad at me at the time, Lindsey played it and then looked up at me and smiled. What was going on between us was sad - we were couples who couldn't make it. But as musicians we still respected each other. "
There are songs that live forever. And then there are songs that, a bit like the reborn Doctor Who or the shape-changing James Bond, take on new shapes over time. Dreams is very much in the latter category, as evidenced by the extraordinary response to a recently released Mac-themed TikTok video by Idaho worker Nathan Apodaca.
♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) - Fleetwood Mac
Apodaca hit the internet filming himself skateboarding on a freeway, drinking cranberry juice and munching on Nick's lyrics on Dreams (after his truck broke and he got to work). The clip quickly achieved over 20 million views and gives Dreams a new level of relevance. This 44-year-old power pop lament about a long-dead romance was streamed nine million times in the United States last week. It has also returned to the top 100 in the UK and America and is now at the top of the iTunes list.
The video is silly in that TikTok way. But at a dark, claustrophobic time, it also provides an irresistible infusion of bliss and escape. It helps that Apodaca (38) is decades older than the average TikTok user. It really should be too wrinkled and sensible for something like that. But as great is the power of dreams, as the video implies, he cannot resist following Nick's words.
The magic of the moment was instantly recognized when dozens of tribute and copycat videos surfaced. This included a tribute from none other than Fleetwood Mac's founder and drummer, Mick Fleetwood. He's joined TikTok and uploaded his own Dreams video. He said Apodaca "got it right ... dreams and cranberries are just different".
Fleetwood Mac - Getty
Pop is always most exciting when a little irony is poured into it. And on TikTok there is a whole lot swirling around Dreams. The fleeting melodies that set social media on fire end up in stark contrast to the somber feelings that underlie them.
Buckingham, Nick's former friend at the time, was the first to recognize the tension that drives the lyrics. He and Nicks had split up when they went to the rumor sessions. But she had been on most of the hiatus and had already started a relationship with Don Henley of the Eagles.
Dreams wasn't a breakup song back then. It was a post breakup song in which Nicks asked her ex to come out and start over. She imagined him washing away the grief and finding love elsewhere. She says so much in chorus, part of it is, "Women, they will come and they will go ... When the rain washes you clean, you will know."
In the midst of the positive attitude, however, there was a grain of anger. Buckingham had already given Fleetwood Mac a tune that analyzed his relationship with Nicks. Go Your Own Way was vehement and dark, heartbreak with a bonus two-finger salute.
Nicks, who never hid her hippie tendencies, was impressed with his unwavering traits and vengeful acidity. So much so that, possibly without intending to do so, she had written dreams to show Buckingham that it was possible to be graceful about their breakup.
“I told him that dreams in my heart were open and hopeful, but his heart was closed in Go Your Own Way,” she said. "That's how I felt. That line, when the rain washes you clean, was like starting over to me, and that's what I wanted for Lindsey. I wanted him to be happy."
"We had to go through this laborious exercise in denial," was Buckingham's view. "Keep our personal feelings in one corner of the room while trying to be professional in the other."
“Although Go Your Own Way was a little angry, it was honest too,” Nicks said in the liner notes for the 2013 reissue of Rumors. “So I wrote Dreams and because I'm the chiffony girl who believes in fairies and Engel, and Lindsey is a hardcore guy, it turns out differently. Lindsey says go ahead and hang out with other men and live your shitty life and [I] sing about the rain that washes you clean. We came up with this from opposite angles, but we really said exactly the same thing. "
Fleetwood Mac: Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John Mcvie, Christine Mcvie and Lindsey Buckingham - Rex
Dreams covered Buckingham for obvious reasons. The rest of Fleetwood Mac wasn't entirely blown away at first, however. “When Stevie first played it for me on the piano, it was just three chords and a left-hand note. I thought it was really boring, ”said Christine McVie of the Mac (who had a lot on her mind when she broke up with bassist John).
“But the Lindsey genius came into play and he made three sections with identical chords, making each section sound completely different. He gave the impression that there was a thread running through the whole thing. "
Rumors were an instant sensation and Dreams was his top chart single. On one final wrench, it topped Buckingham's Go Your Own Way, which stalled at # 10 in the US. In contrast, dreams went all the way to number one and sold over a million copies. Nicks had broken Buckingham's heart. And now she had claimed ultimate bragging rights as a songwriter too.
The success of Dreams made Fleetwood Mac an easy destination for musical elitists in the late 1970s. In the decades since then, however, the band has belatedly been recognized as one of the greatest rock groups of all time. The twist is that their rehabilitation has been led by Millennials and Gen Z-er's who can't get enough of the Mac's lissom tunes and excessive lyrics.
One of their greatest champions of the last few days is Harry Styles of all people. He and Nicks have been friends since he invited them to duet with him on a promotional tour for his first Post-One Direction album.
The cover of Fleetwood Macs rumors
"I'm pretty sure this will be one of the best nights of my life up there," he said before singing Fleetwood Mac's Landslide and her solo hit Leather and Lace. "If there was any doubt, I'm pretty sure I want to confirm that in my entire life I never thought I could say this. Welcome to the stage, Stevie Nicks."
Of course, it would be absurd to say that Fleetwood Mac owes its current popularity to Harry Styles. As early as the mid-2000s, hipster-loving groups like Rilo Kiley and later Best Coast bore their debts to Nicks, particularly like the world's most sparkling elbow patches.
Her sensitivity to scented candles has since been outrageously appropriated by Florence and the Machine, Bat For Lashes, and others. And the credibility factor was off the scales when artists like Lykke Li, MGMT and Haim came together in 2012 to record a Mac tribute album, Just Tell Me That You Want Me.
One of the most noticeable covers was Gold Dust Woman by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, aka Will Oldham. You know you've reached the intergenerational motherlode when Harry Styles and Will Oldham are united in their excitement.
Nicks has been generous in responding to the devotion Dreams has drawn. Some artists get annoyed when they become synonymous with a particular song. However, she is at peace as her story is linked to that of dreams. "Sometimes you can get tired of singing a certain song over and over again," she once said. “But I never went on stage with Fleetwood Mac or in my solo shows without singing dreams. I don't think I could. "
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