I spent a little time with Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors in an earlier post about break-up albums, but I neglected this weird little gem from Stevie Nicks. “Gold Dust Woman” closes out the album, and leaves you unsettled and haunted. Listening to the studio version, with the tribal drums and spooky howling at the end, it’s kind of easy to see how people could accuse Nicks of being a witch. This song, and her performance of it, is spellbinding.
Like the most of the rest of the album, “Gold Dust Woman” is emotionally turbulent–angry and defiant with just a hint of sadness. But exactly who the anger is directed at is a little unclear. The first lines, “Rock on gold dust woman, take your silver spoon and dig your grave” is clearly a reference to the dangers of the drugs they were probably all using (Nicks had a notable problem with cocaine that lasted well into the 1980s). But she also seems to be referencing Lindsey Buckingham and their fractured relationship: “Well is it over now, do you know how to pick up your pieces and go home?” She also seems to be calling out his possessive and controlling attitude with “Rulers make bad lovers, you better put your kingdom up for sale.” Nicks seems to jabbing at both Buckingham and herself simultaneously. It can also be read as a critique of fame and life on the road; the line “Wake up in the morning. See your sunrise loves to go down” didn’t come out of nowhere, I’m sure. (Rock stars get all the fame, money, world travel, drugs, and groupies; they also get to live these weird lives where they have no privacy, sleep all day, work all night, never see anyone they love and never stay in one place more than a few weeks. It’s a trade-off.) This song simply refuses to be pinned down, a wonderfully mysterious musical experience.
I love this clip from their reunion concert. Time and experience add weight to Nicks’ performance here, giving the song a little more substance and meaning. It’s also really fascinating to watch her interact with Buckingham. They’ve been orbiting around each other for over 40 years now, constantly and consistently drawn to back together, like Pluto and Charon (our former 9th planet and its satellite, which are so locked into their orbits that they don’t rotate, the same sides always facing each other). The little dance of glances they cast back and forth tells almost as much of a story as the song. (At another point in the concert, when they play “Landslide” together, just the two of them, it’s almost magical. Their relationship might not have always been a healthy one but it’s always been special.)