“Sara” by Fleetwood Mac: Live in Rosemont, IL (5 March 2009 – 7min 40sec)
Not a fan of any of the live versions I’ve been able to find from the Rock A Little or Say You Will tours, so I’m skipping all the way forward to Unleashed.
This is a recording from the audience, so the sound’s boomy but the band themselves are in great form. Maybe swinging it a bit too much, a la Stevie’s solo bands, but Stevie’s voice has a really nice, rounded timbre.
When she sings ‘Sara’ the first time, it sounds like she’s putting her head on one side. I can’t explain that, it just does. Stevie has always been able to coo in a way that sends shivers down the spine, but there’s something very gentle and fond about it here too. Unique.
I like when Lindsey joins in on ‘anywhere, anywhere, anywhere’ too.
It’s never gone
It always matters what for
When you build your house
I will come by
All I ever wanted was to know that you are dreaming
Yes, there’s a heartbeat
And it never really died
The wind became so crazy
All I ever wanted was to know that you are dreaming
“Sara” by Stevie Nicks: Live in Dallas (5 September 1983 – 7min 24sec)
Skipping the Bella Donna tour because I don’t like how Stevie’s band played the song. Also passing over FM’s Mirage tour because every version I’ve heard from that is played too fast (averagely half a minute shorter for the same content). There’s even one that was played with so much swing it sounds like a bloody quickstep. Hideous.
So here’s a belter from the Wild Heart tour. Stevie’s high and blethering a lot in this one. And the backing vocals are amazing, really lovely and clear in the mix towards the end.
Interestingly, this would’ve been around about when Stevie first met Dave Stewart too.
Spoken: ‘This next song is about a girl that I’m sure that either you know or you will know her. She will come into your life.’
And he was just like a great dark wing, within the wings of a storm – always been a storm.
Ooh-hoo, he was singing to me for a change – and I loved the change
Oh he said something about the laces
Said something about the laces
Then he said Sara – come back!
You’re the poet in my heart
And never stop
It’s never gone
It doesn’t matter what for
But when you build that tangible, weak house
Please call me, I’ll be home.
Then he said hold on [indistinguishable]
And the starling flew for days and days and days and days
Spoken: ‘It’s never gone, it ALWAYS matters what for.’
Stevie also repeats ‘I’ll be home’ many, many times and says further indistinguishable things.
Again, thanks to memoriesearthquakesandflashes for transcription.
When I first met Mick Fleetwood in 1975, I thought, Now, the way Mick smells is the way everyone should smell. It’s such a wonderful spicy, warm smell. He’d leave his velvet vest on a chair, and I’d wish I could take it home with me and make my whole house smell like that.
Stevie Nicks, interviewed by James Servin, Allure magazine (April 1995)
“I like phrases that roll off the tongue. I’ll find different way to put things, different ways of phrasing a certain feeling, that goes lyrically and emotionally with the track. I think Lindsey is a bit like that, too. For Stevie, the words are of prime importance; the song moves around the words, rather than the words moving around the song.”
Christine McVie, interviewed by Bruce Kaplan, Songwriter Connection, October 1984
Courtney: One thing you’ve always done, I realized recently, is write about these muses, these other females, these goddesses. These parts of yourself. You don’t write big, sexy love ballads about men. I wondered why that was for you? Because I do the same thing. I was listening to a song of Billy Corgan’s yesterday called “I Need a Lover”. It’s sexy, okay. But I’m listening and I’m going, “I can’t write like this.”
Stevie: You know who else asked me that same question a long time ago? Prince. We were really close for a while - we never went to bed together, but we had something that was very, very special. And he always said, “Why don’t you write songs that are more sexual?” And I said, “Well, because that’s not the way I am in my real life. I am not a person who walks naked through the house. I will always have something beautiful on. It will be beautiful, and it will enhance me.”
Courtney: Maybe what Prince was trying to say is you should be more, “I want to fuck you, baby”?
Stevie: But I believe that there is a certain amount of mysticism that all women should have, that you should never tell all your secrets, that you should never tell everybody all about you. I never have.
“Sara” by Fleetwood Mac: Live on the Tusk tour in Richfield, OH (20 May 1980 – 7min 43sec)
My favourite from this time period. The Tusk material is well-oiled by this point, and the chugga-chugga groove towards the end is exactly what Stevie’s solo ensembles have never been able to get near to with this song. ‘Sara’ is dominated by a killer backbeat, and you have to tear at it, not swing it.
I’m always floored by the ending, especially the last time Stevie sings that soaring ‘Sara’.
There’s a heartbeat and no it never really died
Never really died
Swallow all your pride
Oh it was such a heartbeat, yeah
And listen to the crazy wind because it will make you smile
Sara… oh my, my Sara…
Thanks again to memoriesearthquakesandflashes for sending me a transcription of Stevie’s ad-libs at the ending. (I think you have might have this one mislabelled as ‘Cleveland, OH’, though?)
EDIT: Sorry for my poor US geography. Richfield is a suburb of Cleveland. Thx, memoriesearthquakesandflashes.
“Sara” by Fleetwood Mac - The Remastered Demo (1978/9? – 10min 45sec)
Some parts of Stevie’s lead vocal on this are very different from both the earlier Cleaning Lady Demo and the final Album Cut. The biggest variation is in how she sings the ‘laces’ lines and the second, third and fourth instances of the ‘Drowning in the sea of love’ line. The fourth one – around 8:30 – is especially good and has a real swagger to it. Other parts sound identical to the Album Cut, to the extent that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were spliced in. There’s a lot of those ‘ooh-wah’ background vocals in the last minute or so.
Percussion sounds human rather than a beatbox and the most distinctive part of the bassline is exactly what John plays on the Album Cut. So my guess is that it’s an overdub tape made when they transferred the (8-track?) Cleaning Lady Demo onto the 24-track Studio D machines (hence the ‘remastered’ tag).
This is one of the versions where Stevie sings ‘He reached out gently’.
I don’t really like people knowing everything about me. I like being a mystery, and I even think I’m pretty mysterious to the people who know me really well. There is a part of me that isn’t available to the public, except in my songs.
When I’m writing I really do strive to be totally honest. I never make up a song. They either come right from my journals or straight out of my head because of something that is happening. It’s always been important to me that people think of me as more than just a ‘tune-sayer.’
Stevie Nicks, interviewed by Steven P. Wheeler, Music Connection (July 1994)
“[On Tusk, Stevie] turned in a clutch of her most powerful songs yet, with ‘Storms’, 'Sara’ and 'Beautiful Child’. Across all three, her voice resonated with emotion, following on the path she had started in Fleetwood Mac, but more confident now, and stronger. In the old days, she admits, she almost wrecked her untrained voice, trying to keep things going onstage every night. Now she knew precisely what she was doing, and how she would do it, and while she would, of course, lose some of the natural beauty of her natural tones, replacing it perhaps with a more studied approximation, the alternative would have been disastrous.“
From ‘Fleetwood Mac - Never Break the Chain’ by Amy Hanson, Goldmine magazine (November 1997)
I wonder what 'natural voice’ Amy Hanson means?
Stevie’s Buckingham Nicks voice is very nasal, heavy vibrato, massive breath control. Kind of a Baez-style foghorn. Take, for example, the end of the 'Sorceror’ demo. Her voice is huge there, and always makes me smile when I imagine that booming out into a deserted coffee factory in the middle of the night.
Her voice on the white FM album is shedding its folk/country blare and morphing into something altogether sweeter. There’s intimacy in the almost spoken quality of 'Landslide’, and a lovely crooning quality to parts of the studio cut of 'Rhiannon’ that makes it into the soft vamp of the legendary live renditions. But otherwise her live voice in 1975/76 was quite different: more reedy and, yes, at times raucous.
Rumours captured the Nicks voice that endures in the popular consciousness, and the one people mean when they claim she’s 'lost it’. The flipping into her head voice in 'Dreams’; the sinewy control and soaring sustain on 'Gold Dust Woman’; the agility of her harmonies on 'I Don’t Want To Know’ and 'Second Hand News’. The vibrato is under control and she hits the highs without fear - despite how roughed up her voice was by the rigours of the road.
On Tusk, though, it’s not just her voice that’s been roughed up. Stevie herself, as a woman, as a human being, is almost on her knees during this album. And her voice is the voice of someone who knows her best bet for survival is to let this stuff bleed out of her, don’t fight the feelings, sit with it and let it pass.
The result is something extraordinary: a voice that gets stronger the more passive it is. Like when you’ve been trying to hurry home through pouring rain, but then realise you’re not gonna make it, and you’re soaked to the skin, can’t get any wetter, and suddenly - it doesn’t bother you any more. In fact, if you’ve been drenched and dried out again before, you can even find it darkly pleasurable.
“So I think I probably write down the conflict of ‘Oh yes I do want to be in love, and yes I do want to be a loving, loving person and yes I do want to be the mother of many children but at the same time there’s a part of me that says but I’m also Lillian Hellman and I want to write the great novel of all time and I want to go on the beach with my silent typewriter and I don’t want anybody to bother me.’ Because I want to enhance this planet. I came here for a reason. I didn’t come here to be a mother. I didn’t come here to be a nun and I did not come here to be a cleaning lady. I came here to be a poet.”