40 Years Ago: Prince Adds His Magic to Stevie Nicks’ ‘Stand Back’
Stevie Nicks couldn't refuse her muse, even on the day she married now ex-husband Kim Anderson.
She heard Prince's "Little Red Corvette," the big hit at the time off of 1999, on the radio in 1983 as the couple drove out to Santa Barbara for their honeymoon. Nicks spent the rest of the night writing the song it inspired: "Stand Back," later released on 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 time-space. I've never quite understood this sound ... but I have never questioned it."
The Fleetwood Mac singer-songwriter technically wrote it, but she's long admitted the song "belongs" to Prince. His synthesizer work is even on the recording, but Prince never received a credit on the album. She called him once it was written borrowing the "Little Red Corvette" melody, told him of her inspiration, and asked 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," Nicks told Billboard. She played the song for Prince 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.
Watch Stevie Nicks' 'Stand Back' Video
"Stand Back" went to No. 5 in the Billboard Top 100, marking the beginning of a long relationship. Still, the two didn't spend a lot of time together. At one point, following a Fleetwood Mac show, Nicks 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, while quickly adding 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," Nicks told Billboard after Prince's sudden death, noting that she regrets having never performed the song live with him. "Is my heart broken? Absolutely."
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.'"
She launched a tour later in 2016, acknowledging that performing "Stand Back" would 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.'”
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