Gypsy (Fleetwood Mac song)
|Single by Fleetwood Mac|
|from the album Mirage|
|Released||September 4, 1982|
|Genre||Rock, soft rock|
|Fleetwood Mac singles chronology|
"Gypsy" is a song by the rock group Fleetwood Mac. Stevie Nicks wrote the song originally circa 1979, and the earliest demo recordings were recorded in early 1980 with Tom Moncrieff for possible inclusion on her solo debut Bella Donna. However, when Nicks' friend Robin Anderson died of leukemia, the song took on a new significance and Nicks held it over for Fleetwood Mac. "Gypsy" was the second single release and second biggest hit from the Mirage album, following "Hold Me", reaching a peak of #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.
Stevie Nicks' inspiration for the song
There are two points of inspiration behind "Gypsy", as stated by Stevie Nicks. The first of which is a point of nostalgia for Nicks: her life before Fleetwood Mac. Before joining the iconic band, Nicks lived with Lindsey Buckingham, who would also join Fleetwood Mac. Nicks and Buckingham were partners in both the musical and romantic sense; however, only their musical partnership has survived. Nicks met Buckingham at a high school party, where he was singing “California Dreaming” by the Mamas and the Papas. Nicks joined in with perfect harmony, then they introduced themselves. They didn't see each other again until college, where they started a relationship, and started a duo called Buckingham Nicks. They barely got by with Nicks' waitress and cleaning-lady income. They couldn't afford a bed frame, so they slept on a single mattress, directly on the floor. Nicks says the mattress was decorated in lace, with a vase and a flower at its side. Whenever she feels her famous life getting to her, she goes "back to her roots," and takes her mattress off the frame and puts it "back to the floor" and decorates it with "some lace, and paper flowers."  It takes her back to the days when she had no wealth—back to herself as a poor gypsy. Some speculate the rest of this song is directed at Buckingham, assuming the lyrics depict her leaving him. On March 31, 2009, Nicks gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly discussing the inspiration for the song:
"Oh boy, I've never really spoken about this, so I get verklempt, and then I've got the story and I start to screw it up. Okay: In the old days, before Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey [Buckingham] and I had no money, so we had a king-size mattress, but we just had it on the floor. I had old vintage coverlets on it, and even though we had no money it was still really pretty... Just that and a lamp on the floor, and that was it—there was a certain calmness about it. To this day, when I'm feeling cluttered, I will take my mattress off of my beautiful bed, wherever that may be, and put it outside my bedroom, with a table and a little lamp."
On March 25, 2009 during a show in Montreal on Fleetwood Mac's Unleashed Tour, Stevie Nicks gave a short history of the inspiration behind Gypsy. She explained it was written sometime in 1978-79, when the band had become "very famous, very fast," and it was a song that brought her back to an earlier time, to an apartment in San Francisco where she had taken the mattress off her bed and put it on the floor. To contextualize, she voiced the lyrics: "So I'm back, to the velvet underground. Back to the floor, that I love. To a room with some lace and paper flowers. Back to the gypsy that I was." Those are the words: 'So I'm back to the velvet underground'—which is a clothing store in downtown San Francisco, where Janis Joplin got her clothes, and Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane. It was this little hole in the wall, amazing, beautiful stuff—'back to the floor that I love, to a room with some lace and paper flowers, back to the gypsy that I was.'"
On January 25, 2015 at a concert at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, Stevie Nicks gave an alternate inspiration for the song. Noting that the song was written after the band had become "very famous, very fast" she recounted a time when she first found herself with with her own money. At that time, she said, her parents were paying for her education, and she had her father's sports car to drive, so she could do whatever she wished with the money she was earning singing with Buckingham. She explained that she wanted to buy herself a wardrobe at a store in San Francisco called The Velvet Underground, where her idols Janice Joplin and Joni Mitchell bought their clothes. Upon arriving, she realized she couldn't afford anything in the store, and she simply stood in one spot on the floor, and imagined what her life would be like if she could afford the clothes on display around her. After becoming "very famous, very fast," she recalled that moment in The Velvet Underground, and wrote the song as a return "back to the floor" where she stood fantasizing about future success.
The second, and most emotional, subject of this song is the message as a tribute to someone's passing. On October 5, 1982, Robin Snyder Anderson, Stevie's best friend, died of leukemia.
Stevie Nicks and Robin Snyder Anderson
Nicks met Robin Snyder at Arcadia high school in Los Angeles, CA when they were either 14 or 15. Around this time, Nicks had written her first song, and played it for Snyder. After that, they became best friends. Snyder was theatrical, herself; she took part in a dance troup, choir, and a theatre club. She later became Nicks' speech therapist on tour, and helped her with her voice. Videos of the two preparing for concerts are easily accessible over the internet, for instance, one video in particular where Snyder helps Nicks prepare for a concert during the "Rumours" tour. Not only did she help her with her singing, but she was also her confidante, and the person who knew her best. According to Carol Ann Harris' book, "Storms", Snyder could calm her down within just a fraction of a second. The night before her "Bella Donna" was released, Nicks received a terrifying call from Snyder saying she had leukemia, and the doctors thought she could only last three months. Even more horrifying to Nicks was the news that Snyder had gotten pregnant, as to leave her husband, Kim Anderson, with something after she left. If she aborted the child, she could've possibly lived for another year. However, the baby was born (three months-premature), and Snyder died three days later. Nicks was on tour  The only person Nicks felt could understand her grief was Kim Anderson. He felt the same way, and out of grief, as well as the duty to give the baby (named Matthew) a good home, the two married. Three months later, Nicks filed for divorce, after she "received a sign" from Snyder telling her to get out of there. Nicks has stated that she has put Matthew through college and told him about what had happened many times. As Snyder was dying, Nicks dedicated "Gypsy" to her. Nicks found it extremely difficult to sing the song in concert.
The video for this song, directed by Russell Mulcahy, was the highest-budget music video ever produced at the time. It used several locations including a highly detailed portrayal of a forest, and required many costumes and dancers. It was the very first "World Premiere Video" on MTV in 1982.
Interpersonal difficulties among the band members complicated the shoot, much as they had with the earlier video for "Hold Me." When he was pairing them during blocking, Mulcahy recalls, "people were pulling me aside saying 'No no. Those two were fucking and then they split up and now he's sleeping with her'. I got very confused, who was sleeping with whom."
Stevie Nicks especially remembers the experience as unpleasant. Two weeks beforehand, she had gone into rehabilitation to attempt to end her cocaine addiction. However, the video shoot could not be rescheduled, and she had to take a break for it. Near the end of the first of three days, she was exhausted and said she wanted some cocaine. A small bottle that was discreetly brought to her was later thrown out before she could use any. "I think we would probably have gone on to make many more great videos like 'Gypsy' had we not been so into drugs."
Those issues were further strained by having to work closely with her former boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham. "We weren't getting along well then. I didn't want to be anywhere near him; I certainly didn't want to be in his arms," she says of the scene where the two are dancing. "If you watch the video, you'll see I wasn't happy. And he wasn't a very good dancer."
The b-side of the "Gypsy" single was "Cool Water," an acoustic performance featuring Buckingham and John McVie on lead vocals, a rare occurrence where McVie contributed his vocals to a Fleetwood Mac recording. The song was originally written in 1936 by Bob Nolan and has been covered by a large number of artists and musicians over the years. The Fleetwood Mac version has yet to be re-released or remastered on any format.
- Stevie Nicks – vocals
- Lindsey Buckingham – guitar, vocals
- Christine McVie – piano, vocals, organ
- John McVie – bass guitar
- Mick Fleetwood – drums, percussion
- "Stevie Nicks Biography." The Fleetwood Mac Legacy. Web. <http://www.fmlegacy.com/Bios/biostevie.html>.
- "Stevie Nicks on Gypsy." Stevie Nicks In Her Own Words. Web. <http://www.inherownwords.com/gypsy.htm>.
- "Stevie Nicks Story Pg3 - Arcadia High School ROCK Legends." Arcadia High School Reunions | Find Arcadia Apaches Online! Web. <http://www.arcadiaapaches.com/memories/rock_history/stevie_nicks_story3.htm>.
- "Stevie Nicks "Merlin" - Preparation before a show w/ Robin". YouTube. 2008-02-14. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- Harris, Carol Ann. Storms: My Life with Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac. Chicago, IL: Chicago Review, 2007. Print.
- "Stevie Nicks on Robin Snyder Anderson." Stevie Nicks In Her Own Words. Web. <http://www.inherownwords.com/robin.htm>.
- Barrett, Annie (2009-03-31). "Stevie Nicks On Her Favorite Songs: A Music Mix Exclusivere | The Music Mix | EW.com". Music-mix.ew.com. Retrieved 2011-08-17.
- Marks, Craig; Tannenbaum, Rob (2011). I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution. New York, NY: Dutton. p. 100. ISBN 978-0-525-95230-5.