Friday, November 24, 2017

Review: 'Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks'

Stephen Davis’s The Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga is the infamously salacious story of the seventies’ hugest hard rock group, and often considered to be the definitive rock biography for its grotesque tales of sex slavery, Satanism, and sand sharks. The decade’s hugest soft rock group, Fleetwood Mac, perhaps didn’t slam out riffs as devastatingly as Zeppelin did, and they certainly never did half the horrid things Davis accused Zeppelin of doing, but their self-zombification through cocaine is legendarily decadent.

However, Davis’s new biography of the Mac’s central star, Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks is more relentlessly sad than page-turningly sleazy à la Hammer of the Gods. This is due to the main villain of a story with quite a few of them. Lindsey Buckingham apparently subjected the singer to decades of mental and physical abuse, from the relatively early days of their musical/“romantic” relationship when he browbeat her into posing nude on the cover of their Buckingham/Nicks LP to when he physically attacked her in front of the entire band while planning to tour behind Tango in the Night to his general cold, calculated, and creepy behavior toward her through the more recent reunions. It’s painful to read about how her successful solo career seemed to free her from Buckingham’s proximity yet she serially fell back into working with him again for various reasons. The devastating punch-line of this story that comes with the birth of Buckingham’s first child in 1998 is even more painful and a sad statement on the dependent nature of abusive relationships.

There isn’t much that lightens the mood of Gold Dust Woman, though the fact that Davis is so firmly in Nicks’s corner is heartening, and he reaffirms his mastery of writing a rock biography that is more than a rock biography by creating actual atmosphere, which is not necessarily considered an essential element of the rock biography. He does so by setting an appropriately witchy mood by delving into the mystical history of Wales to build Nicks’s cultural background or recreating the dank, stygian atmosphere of the “Gold Dust Woman” recording session. At times, Davis can get a bit repetitious—we could feed the world’s poor with a dollar for every time he refers to “Rhiannon” as the “old Welsh witch”—but as a whole Gold Dust Woman is a fine biography— though a depressing one that may make you want to take a long break from the music Lindsey Buckingham masterminded.
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