Landslide is undoubtedly one of the most famous Fleetwood Mac songs. But before it belonged to the band, it belonged to its composer, Stevie Nicks, who would go on to join the group in 1975. At the time, her life and career were in flux, and she wasn’t sure if she should continue pursuing music. Landslide became one of the biggest singles of her career and one of the most iconic tracks of the 1970s.
Background Of The Song
Landslide was the breakthrough hit for singer Nicks, most notably for Fleetwood Mac. But she actually composed the track before she joined the legendary rock band, during a time when her future felt uncertain and she felt overwhelmed by the choices before her. When she joined the group, she brought the song with her, and it became one of their signature tracks.
She composed the song in 1974 during a visit to Aspen, Colorado. At the time, her first album—with her boyfriend at the time, Lindsey Buckingham—had proven to be a massive failure. Consequently, her record label dropped them, and it seemed as though their dreams of being professional musicians had been dashed.
Nicks said that she wrote the song in roughly five minutes while looking out the window at the snowy mountains in Aspen. She thought of the risks of an avalanche in the mountains and compared the image to her current challenges, resulting in the most famous track of her career.
Nicks’ first venture into music was with her former high school classmate-turned-music partner-and-boyfriend, Buckingham. By 1974, they had been trying to land their big break for close to eight years. Those times had brought significant struggle, poverty, and finally, their first album, released in 1973.
Eventually, both Buckingham and Nicks would join Fleetwood Mac and cease to exist as a duo. Their first album has by and large been lost.
Nicks’ Relationship With Her Father
By her late 20s, with her music career seemingly vanishing before her eyes, Nicks’ business executive father brought up the possibility of her trying something different. He pointed out that the venture had already taken up most of her 20s and that, if it didn’t pan out, it might not do so at all.
He suggested that she keep trying for six months. After that, he said, she should make a decision about whether that life was for her or if she wanted to try to go back to school. This possible massive life change eventually inspired Landslide.
In 1974, Polydor Records dropped Buckingham Nicks abruptly following the release of their first album. The debut LP was a massive flop. In an instant, it seemed as though their projected success had done a complete 180.
With all of Nicks’ plans hanging in the balance, she said that it really did feel as though her life was poised for a landslide. Everything she had built was crashing down, much like an avalanche destroys a mountainside.
After her conversation with her father, she took a trip to Aspen, Colorado, with Buckingham, who was there for a rehearsal with Don Everly. Staying in the home of a friend, she was inspired to write a song about the changes in her life.
“I Saw My Reflection In The Snow-Covered Hills”
Nicks said that she said a reflection of herself in the fragile mountains, which threatened to collapse at any moment. The line “I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills” suggests that her image of herself—as a musician—was at risk of imploding in a way that was devastating and irreversible.
“I’m Getting Older, Too”
Some people have pointed out the strangeness of Nicks including the line: “I’m getting older too,” as she was only 27 years old when the song was composed. However, she clarified the line later. She had spent years working menial jobs as a waitress and a maid; after a long period of poverty and hard work, she felt deeply weary and much older than she was.
“I Built My Life Around You”
One particularly relatable part of the song includes the lines:
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
Nicks had been building up a music career for several years by that point, and it seemed to be falling apart. She was trying to discern if she should continue pursuing music or choose to abandon everything she had built up to that point.
Relationship With Buckingham
It hasn’t escaped fans’ notice that Landslide sounds like it was written about a person rather than an event. In fact, it partly was. Nicks’ career wasn’t the only inspiration for the song; other changes were taking place in her life, including uncertainty about the future of her relationship with Buckingham.
The two of them had met in high school in Palo Alto, California. Shortly afterward, they formed the duo Buckingham Nicks and moved to Los Angeles with the dream of becoming a worldwide success.
Shortly after they formed their duo, they began a relationship. But the years of poverty and uncertainty were difficult on them, and by the mid-1970s, the relationship was deteriorating. They officially broke up in 1976 shortly after joining Fleetwood Mac.
“Landslide” And Fleetwood Mac
In 1975, Buckingham Nicks was absorbed into Fleetwood Mac. Landslide was included on the album the band released that same year and was a staple of their live shows for the entirety of Nicks’ time with the group, which was until 1987. However, it wasn’t widely known in popular culture until more than 20 years later, when Buckingham and Nicks rejoined Fleetwood Mac.
In 1997, the group reassembled and released an anniversary album, The Dance. It included Landslide as a single, launching the song into mainstream music. In the late 1990s, the track climbed to number 51 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Legacy Of “Landslide”
Landslide is remembered as one of Fleetwood Mac’s most important songs as well as one of the most iconic tracks of the 1970s. Rolling Stone has also named it on its list of Top 500 Best Songs Of All Time.
The track has periodically enjoyed a return to popularity thanks to several well-known covers. One of the best-known covers was by The Smashing Pumpkins in 1994. This version reached number three on the Modern Rock charts and earned praise from Nicks herself, who said that she was honored that Billy Corgan reached out to her.
It was also covered by The Chicks—formerly called The Dixie Chicks—on their 2002 album, Home. This proved to be another popular version, reaching number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Adult Contemporary charts. The group later performed the country-style cover live with Nicks herself.
Though Fleetwood Mac had many hits both before and after Nicks’ time with the group, Landslide remains one of their most iconic songs. Perhaps its popularity comes down to her sweet, ethereal vocals or maybe it is the expression of an experience we’ve all had before—not knowing where your life is going or who you’ll be if you survive the landslide.
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