Well, I never thought I'd make it here in Hollywood
I never thought I'd ever want to stay
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It's become something of a cliché: Small-town kid goes to Hollywood looking to make their dreams come true. They achieve their dream but lose sight of themselves in the process. Excess and desolation follow. Small-town kid kills themselves with drugs and alcohol or else rights the ship at the last minute and returns to God... or something along those lines. It's a story that's been told countless times, and "After the Glitter Fades" is Stevie Nicks' contribution to the legacy. This isn't to say that it's a vapid or unworthy tune. After all, how many love songs have been recorded?
Windsor Blvd. in Hollywood
thanks David Hanjani
It's natural to assume that "After the Glitter Fades" is Nicks' way of using archetypal Hollywood to explore her own show business malaise, but according to Zoë Howe's Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams, and Rumors
, Nicks wrote the song in 1972. This was before there was any music industry glitter at all for Nicks. A fateful call from Mick Fleetwood on New Year's Eve 1974 was still a couple years away, and the future diva was still trying to make it in music. She didn't even originally expect to record the song herself; it was written for Dolly Parton.
So "After the Glitter Fades" wasn't actually written by someone who'd been burned out by fame and fortune; it was written by someone who was just starting on the road to those things, someone who didn't even yet have enough of the platform to record the song themselves and get it into peoples' ears.
So, really, "After the Glitter" is a song looking into Nicks' own future, not her present. She did indeed go on to experience burnout from the rock star lifestyle, and to experience a lot of pain in terms of broken relationships and promises.
Hollywood's been making and smashing peoples' dreams for over a hundred years. Its use in "After the Glitter Fades" needs little explanation. The place transcended its geographical location long ago. It's become a symbol of both unlimited promise and twisted phantasmagoria. Everyone knows the dream is laced with PCP, yet no one can resist the urge to take a taste.
Nicks has said if you look closely at the cover shot on Buckingham Nicks, you can see she was crying, as she was coerced by the photographer and Buckingham to take off her top for the shot. She felt trapped and that she had no choice but to acquiesce.
The time period "After the Glitter Fades" was written in is generally referred to as the "Buckingham-Nicks Era," because it was the time when Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were trying to build a career together, producing an album titled Buckingham Nicks
, which had little success and got them dropped from the label. It was the same time period during which Nicks wrote "Landslide," which would become a signature Fleetwood Mac tune.
Nicks' unmistakable voice brings a poignancy to the song that makes it seem something much more than a cliché. As usual, she sounds so fragile in singing that we fear she's about to break, but we know she doesn't, and knowing that she doesn't turns that fragility on its head. It's her strength, this fearless emotional vulnerability, that is one of the things that's endeared her to fans for decades.
The song's got some nice turns of phrase, as well. A particularly interesting choice is, "We all chase something / And maybe this is a dream." The line doesn't say it is
a dream. It says maybe
it is, which adds an extra layer of subtext to the whole story. Because, if it isn't
a dream, then what the hell is it? What is everyone killing themselves for? Was this a question Nicks was asking herself in that young age, or one she imagined the Dolly Partons of the world asked themselves?
We might never know the answer to those things. The song is over 40 years old and Nicks herself probably can't recall exactly what she was thinking. Maybe it was just one of those flashes of the muse, a psychic gift from the music gods, and not something of which Nicks herself contemplated the full implications.
photo: Kristin Burns
Regardless, it's a question as relevant to us today as it was then. Maybe more than ever everyone's got Hollywood in their eyes and glitter in their brains. "After the Glitter Fades" certainly offers no easy answers. "It's alright / The feeling remains / Even after the glitter fades." True statement or self-deluding salve? Seems like everyone - stars and star-wannabes alike - is still trying to figure that out.
~ Jeff Suwak
Songplaces contributor Jeff Suwak is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of the novella "Beyond the Tempest Gate" and various works of short fiction. He writes for The Prague Revue, and has a blog about Pacific Northwest travel (Northwest Nomad.com). He loves being berated on Twitter @JeffSuwak and receiving visitors at beyondthetempestgate.com.
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