February 14, 2012

Teenage Scribbles: Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks

Tom Petty, March 27, 1980
Pencil on bond paper

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers got lumped into New Wave for a bit, maybe because their debut album sounded like such a throwback? That label quickly proved false, but it did lead me to Damn the Torpedoes.

I was blissfully free of any Byrds or Bob Dylan associations, so I took their work at face value, and loved it. Plus, Tom Petty just came off as effortlessly cool, which was a major selling point to someone who was tragically uncool.

Looking at this old drawing reminded me of someone... who is it? Ah yes, Dale Gribble! No editorial opinion is meant by that.

Stevie Nicks, August 1982
Pencil in sketch book

Since 1975, I've had an intense love/hate relationship with Stevie Nicks. She was given a reprieve from my hatred when she started hanging around Tom Petty, reasoning that someone as cool as him would only hang with other cool people, right? Their relationship resulted in some adultery rumors for Petty's marriage and Stevie's debut solo album, of which I genuinely liked 40% of.

Back in the day, the image of Stevie Nicks was compelling, but the musical output that came from it too often bothered me. I was never a fan of poetic mysticism, save for a few tunes from The Doors. And it bothered me that she got the lion's share of attention in Fleetwood Mac, when it was clear that Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie consistently had the goods while Stevie was hit or miss.

A good case in point is the Fleetwood Mac album Tusk. In my mind, the 2-record set is really 3 solo albums. Christine McVie’s songs were faultless, and so organic and seemingly effortless that it was easy to once again take her for granted, rather than praise her as being the most consistently great member.

Then there were Lindsey's songs! I was captivated by the ad hoc feel of his tunes, as if he’d haphazardly thrown a mess of wet noodles on the wall and whatever stuck became a song. They sounded alive and urgent and even when he was pissed off (on something like “That’s Enough For Me”, for instance) it still sounded…fun. “Fun” was never a word one would use to describe any part of Fleetwood Mac, but neither was “alive” and “urgent,” you know? But that’s what I heard coming from him, and at times it seemed like Lindsey was making a jittery new wave record while his bandmates were putting on more cocoa butter to soak up the Southern California sun.

Then there were Stevie's songs. "Sarah" is undeniably pretty. "Angel" remains her best rock moment. But then there was "Sisters of the Moon," which makes me cringe just typing the title.

As soon as I had home-taping capability, I made a cassette of just Lindsey's Tusk songs, with some Christine bonus tracks thrown in. Pointedly, there was no Stevie. And by the time of her second solo album in 1983, I was decidedly anti-Stevie (save for the track "Enchanted"). Turns out Lindsey's production was her emperor's clothing, and here was my editorial cartoon on the matter:

For the Bird, Winter 1983
Charcoal on sketch paper

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