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Dreams: How Stevie Nicks Wrote Fleetwood Mac’s No.1 Hit In 10 Minutes
Warner Music
In Depth

Dreams: How Stevie Nicks Wrote Fleetwood Mac’s No.1 Hit In 10 Minutes

Written following her breakup with Lindsay Buckingham, Steve Nicks’ song Dreams became Fleetwood Mac’s only No.1 hit.

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Dreams is one of Fleetwood Mac’s best-loved songs, a Stevie Nicks classic that became the group’s only US No.1 hit and continues to win hearts today. And yet, according to its author, it took just ten minutes to write, pouring from Nicks as she took time out from the studio to reflect on the deterioration of her relationship with bandmate Lindsey Buckingham.

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The backstory: “What was going on between us was sad”

The subject matter was typical of Rumours, the 1977 album Dreams appeared on, which was made at a time when the band’s personal relationships were in a state of turmoil. The success of Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled 1975 album – the first of the group’s records to feature Buckingham and Nicks – had led to a packed touring schedule, the strain of which resulted in the collapse of keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie’s marriage. Drummer Mick Fleetwood was going through a divorce of his own. And Nicks and Buckingham’s tempestuous relationship had also fallen apart.

Despite the inter-band tensions, sessions for Rumours began in February 1976 at The Record Plant, a lavish studio located in Sausalito, near San Francisco, that had recently been used by Sly And Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and Grateful Dead. It quickly became apparent that these would be no usual recording sessions, an air of no-holds-barred debauchery taking over as the band attempted to deal with their respective frustrations and heartbreaks. Mick Fleetwood later described the mayhem in a 1997 interview with Q magazine: “It was the craziest period of our lives. We went four or five weeks without sleep, doing a lot of drugs. I’m talking about cocaine in such quantities that, at one point, I thought I was really going insane.”

The writing: “I sat down with my keyboard and wrote it in about ten minutes”

Despite the hedonism, the band’s quest for sonic perfection meant that the Rumours sessions dragged on, reportedly costing the group over a million dollars and resulting in long stretches where Nicks – less interested in the technicalities of recording – found herself at a loss. On one such occasion, her boredom was Fleetwood Mac’s gain, as the singer took herself away from the action.

“One day when I wasn’t required in the main studio, I took a Fender Rhodes piano and went into another studio that was said to belong to Sly of Sly And The Family Stone,” Nicks told Blender magazine in 2005. “It was a black-and-red room, with a sunken pit in the middle where there was a piano, and a big black-velvet bed with Victorian drapes. I sat down on the bed with my keyboard in front of me. I found a drum pattern, switched my little cassette player on and wrote Dreams in about ten minutes.”

The lyrics: “I’m saying we’re gonna be all right. We’ll get through this”

It’s little wonder that Nicks felt so inspired – Dreams was a response to one of Lindsey Buckingham’s new songs, Go Your Own Way, his own angry response to the couple’s breakup. As Nicks explained to The New Yorker in 2017, the songs took very different approaches to the subject:

“Go Your Own Way and Dreams are, like, counter songs to each other,” Nicks reflected. “I’m, like, ‘When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know,’ and he’s, like, ‘Packing up, shacking up’s all you want to do.’ Both songs kind of mean the same thing – it’s really about our breakup. He’s looking at it from a very unpleasant, angry way, and I’m saying, in my more airy-fairy way, we’re gonna be all right. We’ll get through this.”

Talking to BBC Radio 2 in 1998, Nicks recognised the cathartic benefits of the band’s dynamic at the time of writing the song: “Maybe we would have killed each other if we hadn’t have been able to write those songs, you know… if we hadn’t have been able to put that energy into the music and rise above it that way, then maybe we would have just gone totally freaked out on each other!”

The recording: “She did a guide vocal, and that was the keeper”

Nicks knew that she’d written something special, and on her return to the studio she wasted little time in sharing Dreams with the band. Rumours engineer Ken Calliat remembered the moment in a 2007 interview with Sound On Sound magazine: “She came in and said, ‘I’ve just written the most amazing song.’ ‘Really? Let’s hear it.’ So, she walked over to the Rhodes – which, like everything else, was always mic’d up and ready to go – and she played Dreams. Everyone else joined in, she did a guide vocal, and that was the keeper. It’s the only time that ever happened. She tried to redo the vocal again and again, but she could never beat the original.”

The release: Fleetwood Mac’s only No.1 hit

The heady drama that was captured on Dreams was typical of the tempestuous Rumours album. “What was going on between us was sad,” Nicks later told The Daily Mail. “We were couples who couldn’t make it through. But, as musicians, we still respected each other – and we got some brilliant songs out of it.”

These songs of heartache and jealousy connected with the public, and Rumours became an enormous hit, winning Album Of The Year at the 1977 Grammys and going on to sell over 40 million copies worldwide. In March 1977, a month on from the album’s release, Dreams was released as a single, selling over a million copies and becoming the group’s only No.1 hit in the process: received by listeners as one of the best Fleetwood Mac songs, it topped both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the Canadian RPM Top 100.

Dreams becomes popular again: “Morning vibe” on TikTok

Over 40 years later, Dreams reached a whole new audience after TikTok user Nathan Apodaca, going by @420doggface208, posted a video of himself sipping cranberry juice and skating around Idaho while miming to the song. Captioned “morning vibe”, the video received over four million likes and even caught the attention of Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks, both of whom uploaded their own takes on Apodaca’s video.

“Afternoon vibe. Lace ’em up!” Nicks wrote alongside hers, which features her singing along to the song while tying the laces on her own roller skates. With its streaming numbers doubling almost overnight, Dreams’ return to popularity showed that thunder may only happen when it’s raining, but lightning can strike twice.

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