Monday, March 24, 2008


(for the rest of the week, the Lodge will be blogged or maybe not blogged from an undisclosed location near the Atlantic Ocean in the US south, where I will be busy working and/or celebrating the imminent marriage of all-star 502 alumni Peter and Heather and/or eating quality bbq.)


fleetwood mac - sara (single edit)
fleetwood mac - sara (demo)

the more I listen to FM the more I've learned to appreciate the various talents of its non-Stevie Nicks members, but I think it's fair and probably non-controversial to say that Stevie's unique voice - half coquettish California girl, half bitter old witch - is kind of the main attraction, you know?  brief internet searching reveals "Sara" to be the #2 all-time favorite Fleetwood Mac song in some online poll, and there's a lot of questions about who exactly Sara is and whatever happened to the 16-minute long demo etc.  I can't really speak to any of that stuff and while I don't necessarily not care, the importance of the historical 'facts' of the song kind of pale when compared to the indisputable vibe facts - this song is maybe the purest distillation of both the heady magic of Nicks as well as maybe the emotional heart of the Tusk experience - and made all the more thrilling b/c it's the first lead vocal for Nicks on the album and it's kind of deep into it at track #5, kicking in with that instantly compelling chord sequence immediately after the mellow warmth of 'save me a place.'

re: Stevie Nicks.  before I really understood what FM was I thought of Stevie Nicks as kind of this silly old hippie chick that wore a ridiculously lacy, quasi-mystical wardrobe, but you know what I would definitely wear really lacy clothes too if I was Stevie Nicks and got to sing the lines in this one about "undoing...  the laces...  undoing the laces."  so awesome.  back then I did not understand that Stevie Nicks actually CAN cast spells with her voice and words, channelling the elements as well as raw feminine emotional energy in a way that is both incredibly alluring and deeply terrifying 

wait a minute baby
stay with me awhile
you said you'd give me light
but you never told me 'bout the fire

one of the theories re: who is "Sara" that Holly mentioned in her Tusk post is that Sara is Stevie's aborted baby that was fathered by Don Henley (!?).  I can't be bothered to fact check this but I will say that the first couple dozen times I heard this I thought the line was "you said you'd give me life / but you never told me 'bout the fire" and I was like "holy shit, she is giving voice to her aborted daughter singing to her from fucking hell!!!"  this is an awesome way to think of it admittedly, but the more correct-seeming lyric with her getting light but then burned by the fire etc is also pure lyrics-as-total-fucking-poetry, and it reminds me of Janet Jackson on the intro to "That's the Way Love Goes" ('like a moth to a flame,' etc), which is a pretty nice fucking bonus vibe to tap into here if you ask me -

also obv note the next line for its similar vibe of elemental potency, enhanced by the incantory, spell-like circularity and repetition -

drowning in the sea of love 
where everyone would love to drown

you could maybe criticize some of the lyrics here as kind of vague and hippieish to be honest, and the song is 'just' a kind of relatively unchanging, if gorgeous and driving, backdrop to Stevie's nonlinear vocal riffs - but I get goosebumps and kind of bite my lip every fucking time she begins that verse, 

and he was just like a great dark wing
within the wings of a storm
I think I had met my match
he was singing
and undoing
the laces

RAW MAGIC!!!  the extended demo version is pretty mandatory, not just b/c it is 8 minutes long instead of just 4 minutes, not just because it has a couple of awesome lines that I sing to myself all the time lately ("I stay home at night / all the time"), but for the utterly, mind-blowingly perfect and revealing way she starts it - "I wanna be a star... I don't wanna be a cleaning lady!" that's where the trouble begins - that star is the light, that star's the fire

re: the production of "Sara" and Tusk.  basic internet research reveals that Tusk was one of the first albums to use digital mixing!  and Sara maybe more than any track really glistens in a way that sounds exactly what a state-of-the-art rock album in 1979 should sound like - still full of the humanity and darkness of the '70s but with an icy, coked-out lacquer of crisp reverb and lush delays straight out of the imminent '80s that establishes this kind of atmospheric and emotional distance between us and Stevie's cold, burning heart.  listen to the infinite-seeming space in the beginning, and how the typically relentless drums and bass suddenly pull you in closer - but not really close.  listen to that ghostly, luminescent choir rising slowly up behind her in the second verse, those shimmering, echoing little guitar filigrees falling over the chorus like Stevie's undone laces...

this is the emotional core of Tusk - beautiful moments preserved like flies in aspic, perfect and inaccessible, dead and ready to be pulled apart


stephenjames said...

John -- being at the tail end of a profound heartbreak, i must thank you for calling my attention to the profound meaning of Tusk. You blog has been my life-line the past week!

Squibby said...

John - I'm a moron and couldn't find your blog until now. Alexis had to point me in the right direction. I like what you have said although I was going to comment that while you think it is the baby speaking "you said you'd give me light but you never told me 'bout the fire" that it is more likely both Sara and Stevie speaking. Both of them are at the mercy of this "fire"/fame. In that way "undoing the laces" makes the same point about the circumstances of her career and chosen lifestyle and her resulting sacrifices and regret. "Undoing the laces" is basically saying "pulling her apart, dissolving her iconic image and consequently her protective armor. But maybe she just had no choice like the baby was deformed or something but something tells me this is not the case. This comment is long and out of the blue I'm sure but thanks a bunch. A lot of people's opinions have really hurt my opinion of Stevie Nicks but you have surely helped.