Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks

Image of Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks
Release Date: 
November 20, 2017
St. Martin's Press
Reviewed by: 

Gold Dust Woman, the unauthorized biography of pop music legend Stevie Nicks, can be read two ways. It is the remarkable, comprehensive bio of a woman who weaved her mystical poems into gigantic rock and roll hits, but it’s also the ultimate take-down of her erstwhile partner Lindsey Buckingham.

For sure, Davis—a rock music writer who knows his field exceedingly well—doesn’t pull any punches with little Stevie. He shows us Stevie as a great songwriter but also one who was hopelessly addicted to cocaine and cigarettes, drank and ate way too much, and became a zombie hooked on Klonopin (not her fault).

Despite all this, Stevie’s portrayal is generally a sympathetic one. Not so Lindsey Buckingham who is depicted here as the ultimate male rocker asshole. He bullies Stevie from nearly the first moment of their careers together (commanding her to take off her shirt for their first album cover against her will), treats her with disdain (even when they’re a couple), and, in the book’s ultimate scene of brutality, Lindsey bends Stevie over a car hood and begins choking her. Nearby friends break it up or who knows what might have happened.

In this era of hyper-awareness regarding male sexual aggression against women, Lindsey is not going to come out of this well. The infamous Lennon-McCartney feud seems almost quaint compared to these two.

And what’s most fascinating, perhaps, is that neither Stevie nor Lindsey can seem to give up the other, no matter how horrid it gets. Lindsey, we’re told, knows intuitively more than any other human alive, how to spin Stevie’s poems and journal entries into great music. He does this brilliantly given how many great Stevie Nicks’ compositions came out of Fleetwood Mac. But he does this with increasingly gritted teeth as Stevie’s popularity and solo career soars and his becomes an afterthought.

It is this relationship that is driving force of the book.

Davis co-wrote a previous memoir of Mick Fleetwood so he knows his subject well. Whether you’re one of those Stevie Nicks fans who attends the kitschy “Night of a 1,000 Stevies” celebrations or a casual fan, you’ll appreciate the reporting and stories here. There are a lot of cool little anecdotes, like the way Stevie came up with the inventive title for her song “Edge of Seventeen.”

At the time, Stevie, who willed herself into Tom Petty’s orbit, was chatting with Petty’s wife when his wife mentioned how old she was when she met Tom.

“Did you say ‘the edge of seventeen?’” Stevie asked her.

“No,” Jane Petty drawled in her Southern accent, “I said the age of seventeen.”

No matter. Stevie had found a great title for a song and files it away. That’s one of the best examples of how a true writer’s mind works. And Stevie is nothing if not a writer. Her entire life she’s been journaling her poems, dreams, and sketches in notebooks and that’s the material that makes up her amazing catalogue of hits.

The book goes back to how Stevie began singing in pubic when she was five years old when her grandfather took her to bars, and details how she met Lindsey and how they were asked to join Fleetwood Mac by Mick Fleetwood, who had no idea what kind of talent he was bringing into the band. At the time, Mick’s focus was on Lindsey’s guitar playing; Stevie was part of the package. But it is she who ultimately took center stage with the band.

Davis does a great job of showing how, even at the height of her power as the public face of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie had almost no power within the band itself. There are so many anecdotes of Lindsey and even Mick Fleetwood dissing her that it’s a minor miracle she is still performing with them from time to time.

Above all, Davis’ portrayal of Stevie is that of a manic consumer. She goes through men, songwriters, cocaine, houses, band members, food. You name it—Stevie consumes it in mass quantities. Friends and band members became so alarmed at the quantity of cocaine she was ingesting (the joke among the roadies was that you could drive a truck through her nose) that they staged an intervention and forced her to face reality. She did, checking into the Betty Ford clinic where she learned how to avoid cocaine.

As harsh as all this may sound, one comes away from Davis’ book thinking he admires and even loves Stevie Nicks who has become an American legend.