Riding The “Landslide”: A Post for a 26th Birthday

Every time I attend a Stevie Nicks concert, I call my Dad the moment “Landslide” begins. Nicks often opts to perform this iconic ballad as an encore, acknowledging the leverage such artists as the Dixie Chicks and Smashing Pumpkins have given the track. At this point, the crowd is deafening and my cell phone reception becomes sporadic. My goal, however, isn’t to bootleg a Madison Square Garden rendition of “Landslide”; my sole aim is to remind my family of how they provided me with the greatest love of my life—music.

I discovered Stevie Nicks while rummaging through my father’s old vinyl. Among picture discs of Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman and KISS records, I found copies of both Fleetwood Mac’s 1977’s Rumours and Stevie Nick’s solo debut, Bella Donna. I had spent the first 13 years of my life hooked on my stepmother’s country pop and my sister’s obsession with 90’s R&B. Once I heard the opening verses of “Dreams,” however, my musical direction would shift lanes. ’70’s Stevie Nicks wasn’t the bouncy optimism of Shania Twain or Carey’s flashy belts and whistles; Stevie’s sang with both the humility of an early Dolly Parton and the eccentric mysticism that underscored Led Zeppelin’s most iconic songs. By the time I had reached Bella Donna‘s gruff, Police-inspired “Edge of Seventeen,” I interrogated my father about everything and anything that was Fleetwood Mac.

My father has devoted his life to his guitar. A gifted neoclassical guitarist, he dedicates every spare minute to his craft. He spent decades gorging himself on Yngwie Malmsteen imports and Van Halen videos. A self-taught guitarist before the coming of the Internet, he’s rehashed for me the nights spent playing along to guitar solos on vinyl records for hours on end. Before tablature on the web or DAWs, there were only haphazardly printed songbooks and the discipline to learn an upcoming gig’s setlist by ear. He mourns the lost art of discipline and dedication in the contemporary musician, who has endless Youtube tutorials and tab forums at his disposal; in this era of information overload, I envy his willingness to devote his time to nothing more than his guitar and his favorite records. My biggest musical hero, my father was the recipient of every inquiry I had—Fleetwood Mac would be no different.

Shortly after my Fleetwood Mac discovery, my father dug out his copy of their 1997 live album, The Dance. I wore out the gears in my yellow Walkman listening to a version of “Landslide” dedicated to her father. While I admired Lindsey Buckingham’s Travis-picking and Stevie’s wizened, yet emotive vocals, it was the timeless lyrics describing the reluctance and uncertainty in aging that kept the song on repeat. Any 13 year old would feel the gravity of such lyrics; with the arrival of a younger brother and strained ties within my family, “Landslide” reigned me in, easing the rough transition and reigniting my passion for writing.

As I write this, I am only half an hour away from my 26th birthday. The past year has been riddled with unexpected bouts of illness, uncertainty regarding graduate school, and a new romantic relationship. I’ve often told myself that this year was the most challenging in my life, despite family and friends reassuring me otherwise. For the past week, I’ve been listening to “Landslide” on repeat, contemplating the many paths I must choose from. I’ve found comfort, however, in remembering that Stevie was only 25 when she wrote “Landslide.” Dropped from Polydor Records after a failed record, Stevie created “Landslide” out of indecision: Would she appease her parents by finishing college or chase after a music career with Lindsey Buckingham? Stevie chose the latter, living off Hamburger Helper and a waitress’s paycheck until Mick Fleetwood signed the duo a year later.

The last time I saw Stevie Nicks was on her 24 Karat Tour. I left during the middle of “Rhiannon,” a song Stevie claims she’s performed at every concert since its release in 1975. As I scooted around hollering fans, I reasoned that “Landslide” must have been booted in favor of more obscure 80’s recordings. As I opened the door leading to the stairs, however, I heard the first chords to “Landslide,” soon followed by an arena full of cheers. The crowd roared and the reception wasn’t too great. Still, I dialed my father and waited as I listened to the concert from the fire escape.

photo credit: golfnride Stevie Nicksphotopin (license)