Stevie Nicks, “Wild Heart Demo” (1981)
Whenever I watch this video it fills me with a sense of anticipation. The very nature of the scene unfolding is one of preparation. We presume there is an audience waiting nearby and that we are backstage with Stevie Nicks in those tender moments before she hits the stage. This is a performer in her natural environment, engaging in a familiar ritual… She sings along to a backing track – summoning the courage? – and it feels like the most real, the most raw performance I’ve ever seen.
Here we bear witness to her wild heart, exposed, vulnerable… She’s inside the song. We are like tourists, outbackers, adventurers catching a glimpse of this object of fascination doing its thing… unselfconscious, untamed… and certainly, wild.
There are feathers in her hair, her makeup is being applied. The transformation is in progress from wild heart to witchy woman. Pretty soon the stage lights will come up and she will be revealed, fully adorned, all bangles and big hair, fabrics flowing… the sorceress will cast her spell on an obliging audience. She has tricks, to be sure. But they are just that. The magic will have already happened backstage.
It is nature’s great joke that such creatures of the wild must also be fleeting. We have the sense watching this video that we are getting a tiny glimpse into a scene unfettered and unspoiled, a rare and wonderful thing of “the present” that will soon be replaced by “the presented.” I love this video because it captures Stevie Nick’s wild heart. And just as quickly, it sets it free.
What’s truly heartbreaking is that this “early version” was never recorded. It was tastelessly decorated, the heartbeat of the song reduced to half-time, and forever caged in cheesy over-production (it was the eighties, after all.)
The first verse begins: “Something in my heart died last night…” The recognizable chorus kicks in and continues: “Don’t blame it on me, blame it on my wild heart.” Of course we don’t blame you Stevie, we adore you in all your leather and lace. As for your wild heart? Here’s hoping it’s still running free.
Stevie Nicks, “Wild Heart” (from “The Wild Heart,” 1983)
– Jill Barber