Week 90: “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

My first encounter with this song was the version recorded by Smashing Pumpkins in 1994. At the time, my hair was slightly too long and my regard for Billy Corgan’s poetry was slightly too high. I remember hearing this delicate song, a b-side on the Pumpkins’ “Disarm” single, and thinking, “wow, I didn’t know Corgan had this in him”.

As it turns out, he didn’t. I soon discovered that it was not his song at all, but a cover of a classic tune by Fleetwood Mac.

But it’s no surprise that the lyrics appealed to Corgan’s angsty generation-X sensibilities. Stevie Nicks wrote it at a pretty turbulent time in her life: her band, Buckingham Nicks (a two-person forerunner to Fleetwood Mac, with guitarist Lindsey Buckingham) was floundering, had been dumped by its record label, and the two weren’t getting along. Nicks was visiting a friend in Colorado, considering the crossroads at which she found herself, wondering whether she should go back to school, or continue in the music industry. As she looked out over the Rockies, she visualized her life as a landslide of events crashing down all around her…and the lyrics to this song were the end result of that visualization.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The guitar is picked so delicately. It almost sounds like little drops of rain are hitting the strings, especially right at the opening.

2. Stevie Nicks’ voice. Although it’s got some of the same delicate sound as the guitar, it has a nice solidity to it. Just a bit deeper than most women’s voices, with a nice edge of sadness in this song.

3. It manages to be reflective without being indulgent. I still like the Smashing Pumpkins, but Billy Corgan never quite got to this level with his lyrics. Nicks’ lyrics pose the type of simple questions that everyone has asked themselves in difficult times.

Recommended listening activity:

Reading poems you wrote in high school.

Buy it here.