Music Box: Fleetwood Mac GYPSY
It remains my favorite music video of all time. Fleetwood Mac’s Gypsy is still, even after hundreds of times viewing it over the years, fresh and new every time I watch it. Such is the power with a work of art.
At the time of its release in 1982, Fleetwood Mac was enjoying its first #1 album since RUMOURS with MIRAGE, a more mainstream release than the eclectic, head-scratchingly gorgeous avant-garde TUSK. MIRAGE’s first single, the luscious Christine McVie-penned “Hold Me” reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and a few months later, Stevie Nicks’ Gypsy was released as the album’s second single – it’s success on radio helped the song reach #12 on the Hot 100, become an F.M. Rock radio staple and as MTVs very first World Premiere Video, was one of the then still-fairly new network’s most popular and heavily rotated clips.
After spending a million dollars on TUSK, opulence was something FM was all too familiar with; although music video budgets would soar soon in the succeeding years, at an unheard of $750,000, Gypsy was heretofore the most expensive music ever made. It was worth every penny. A stroke of artistic genius, the video was shot with film, rather than video tape, and it gives the clip a resonant tone, a deeply layered quality. Gypsy is a fairy tale spanning the century, with Stevie as a time-traveling muse – dancing and singing to the reflection in her magical mirror, transporting across time to the depression era (filmed in evocative sepia tones), the swinging 40s (in sumptuous black and white), and in a Technicolor forest where she dances with her fairy sprites. Unlike most videos of that era (including their very own Hold Me), you can actually marry Nicks’ cryptic, wistful poetry with soon-to-be legendary director Russell Mulcahy’s scope and vision – there’s a cohesive storyline connecting the threads, resulting in one of the rare music videos of that time which imagines an independent vision of the artist’s song without insulting the artist’s aesthetic.
This footage isn’t a “making of” per se, but rather (also like my post of Hold Me) rarely seen behind the scenes footage of the video shoot itself. There’s Stevie, of course (watch for a mini-interview with her at the 5:31 mark where she discusses the learning experience as difficult, but she’s enjoying herself), but there’s also copious footage of the director, stagehands, effects crew, sound operator, etc. There was such an abundance of B-Roll footage that I actually edited a lot out (but, none of Stevie).
In hindsight, we can look at the material and know all was not right in the Mac’s microcosm, but without the backstory, these scenes of Stevie are exceptional glimpses of an artist at work, practicing her “mirror dance” sequences, obviously exhausted, but forging ahead. We now know that (according to Wikipedia), Nicks especially remembers the experience as unpleasant:
Two weeks beforehand, she had gone into rehabilitation to attempt to end her cocaine addiction. However, the video shoot could not be rescheduled, and she had to take a break for it. Near the end of the first of three days, she was exhausted and said she wanted some cocaine. A small bottle that was discreetly brought to her was later thrown out before she could use any. “I think we would probably have gone on to make many more great videos like ‘Gypsy’ had we not been so into drugs.”
And working with Lindsay wasn’t helping:
“We weren’t getting along well then. I didn’t want to be anywhere near him; I certainly didn’t want to be in his arms,” she says of the scene where the two are dancing. “If you watch the video, you’ll see I wasn’t happy. And he wasn’t a very good dancer.”
Mulcahy is interviewed at the end of the footage and discusses his storyline for Gypsy and why he chose to shoot in film, rather than video, his inter-continental crew and how it was working with Stevie earlier that day and Fleetwood Mac overall. Again, hindsight isn’t always 20/20. When asked how it was working with the Mac, he says, “Great! They were fabulous to work with!” While I’m sure that sentiment is true, it was complex as well. Also according to Wikipedia, Mulcahy says,
…people were pulling me aside saying ‘No no. Those two were fucking and then they split up and now he’s sleeping with her’. I got very confused, who was sleeping with whom.”
Also below, there’s footage of Nicks being interviewed, while getting coiffed for the 1940s black and white sequence of the video. Stevie, looking celestially beautiful, is coached for the MTV promo contest One Night Stand With Fleetwood Mac and is asked about working on the video with Russell, shooting film vs. video, what the song Gypsy means and the differences between TUSK and MIRAGE (she likes the music of MIRAGE better).
My only caveat with this footage is that it isn’t in stereo – if you watch with headphones on, it’s only on the left track. I’ve caught this online in the past and remember it being stereo – and the below Stevie interview is still on YouTube in stereo, though lesser video quality. I surmise that in the scope of things, that’s fine, I know. But it’s a little peeve of mine. Should I come across the footage in stereo, I will re-encode and update the post. Oh, and don’t worry – the music video is in full stereo.
Despite the turmoil within the band, or perhaps because of it, the classic lineup of Fleetwood Mac of Stevie, Lindsay, Christine, John and Mick has always made great music. The beauty of Gypsy, the video, is only outshined by the timelessness of Gypsy, the song.
Did I mention it remains my favorite music video of all time?
And of course, the classic video~