Stevie Nicks ‘Stands Back’ While Prince Works His Magic: 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
Even on the day in 1983 that she married now ex-husband Kim Anderson, Stevie Nicks couldn't refuse her muse. As the couple drove out to Santa Barbara for their honeymoon, Nicks heard Prince's "Little Red Corvette," his big hit at the time off of 1999, on the radio. She spent the rest of the night writing the song it inspired: "Stand Back," which she recorded for 1983's The Wild Heart.
"It just gave me an incredible idea, so I spent many hours that night writing a song about some kind of crazy argument, and it was to become one of the most important of my songs," Nicks wrote in the liner notes for her greatest hits album Timespace in 1991. "I've been doing this song for years, Fleetwood Mac does it also, and I never get tired of it. 'Stand Back' has always been my favorite song onstage, because...when it starts, it has an energy that comes from somewhere unknown...and it seems to have no timespace. I've never quite understood this sound...but I have NEVER questioned it."
And while the Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter technically wrote it, she's long admitted the song "belongs" to Prince, whose synthesizer work is even on the recording, but never received a credit on the album. Once it was written borrowing the "Little Red Corvette" melody, she called Prince, told him of her inspiration, and asked him if he would meet her at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. Twenty minutes later, he was there.
"I didn't have to call and tell him that I kind of ripped off his song, but I did because I'm honest," she told Billboard. Nicks played the song for him and asked if he hated it.
"He said, 'No,' and walked over to the synthesizers that were set up, was absolutely brilliant for about 25 minutes, and then left," she told Timothy White for his 1991 book Rock Lives. "He was so uncanny, so wild, he spoiled me for every band I've ever had because nobody can exactly re-create — not even with two piano players —what Prince did all by his little self.
The song went to No. 5 in the U.S. Billboard Top 100, and it marked the beginning of a long relationship, though the two didn't spend a lot of time together. At one point, following a Fleetwood Mac show, she was flattered to realize Prince was putting the moves on her.
"We get into his purple Camaro and bomb out onto the freeway at 100 m.p.h. I’m terrified, but kind of excited too,” she recalled, but quickly added that things stayed platonic. “I get on the plane and the rest of the band are like [drum fingers, rolls eyes],” she laughed. “I’m like, ‘What? Nothing happened.'”
Nonetheless, their musical collaboration "turned into a really amazing relationship. Is my heart broken? Absolutely," Nicks told Billboard after Prince's death, and noted that she regrets having never performed the song live with him.
One thing they disagreed on was drug use: "He hated them. And he hated that I did drugs and that's probably why we didn't hang out more," she told the Associated Press. "He was worried that I would die of an accidental drug overdose and my sadness is that he did die of an accidental drug overdose. He's up there looking down, saying to me, 'Sweetie, I can't believe it happened either.'"
As she began a tour in September 2016, Nicks acknowledged that performing her hit will take on new resonance. "I will be singing it for the first time without Prince being on the planet," she continued. "That is going to be horrible, but it doesn't mean that I don't want to pay homage to my 'Little Red Corvette' friend. I'll sing it forever for him now."
"Stand Back" wasn't their last attempt at a collaboration. After working together on her song, she asked him if they might ever write a song together. In response, Prince sent Nicks a demo of the title track to the soundtrack for Purple Rain, asking her to write lyrics for the music.
“It was so overwhelming, that 10-minute track, that I listened to it and I just got scared,” Nicks remembered. “I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.’ I’m so glad that I didn’t, because he wrote it, and it became ‘Purple Rain.'”
There was also a demo, posted to Fleetwood Mac's YouTube channel on the day of Prince's death, that was reportedly recorded by the pair but never released. It's called "All Over You."
Listen to Prince and Stevie Nicks' "All Over You"
Prince Year by Year: 1977-2016 Photographs