Today (July 27th) marks the 41st anniversary of the release of Bella Donna — Stevie Nicks' first solo album away from Fleetwood Mac. Although the album only topped the charts for a single week, Bella Donna spent nearly three years on the Billboard 200 albums chart — from July 1981 to June 1984 — and has sold over four million copies to date. Bella Donna featured four Top 40 hits; her first single with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Stop Draggin' My Heart Around” (#3), her duet with former flame Don Henley on “Leather And Lace” (#6), “Edge Of Seventeen” (#11), and “After The Glitter Fades” (#32).
Back in 1978, Nicks had dipped her foot in the solo waters by duetting with Kenny Loggins on his Top Five hit, “Whenever I Call You A Friend.” The song, which Loggins wrote with Melissa Manchester, was featured on Loggins' album, Nightwatch — which credited Nicks — unlike the single, which was credited to Loggins only.
Among the high profile side musicians appearing on the Jimmy Iovine-produced Bella Donna were the E Street Band's Roy Bittan, Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone, Booker T. & The MG's bassist and Stax legend Donald “Duck” Dunn, along with such top drawer L.A. studio musicians as guitarist Waddy Wachtel, bassist Bob Glaub, and drummer Russ Kunkel.
Last year, in commemoration of Bella Donna's 40th anniversary, Stevie Nicks posted a message to fans. In it she recalled how she chose her longtime singing partners to become part of her permanent team, “I chose Lori Perry-Nicks and Sharon Celani as my army to go on that journey with me. I wanted us to sound like the girl version of Crosby, Stills, & Nash. I did not want the record to sound anything like Fleetwood Mac — that would have defeated the dream.”
Nicks spoke about how she was a rare case of a solo artist having tremendous success and not quitting her band: “It did not break up Fleetwood Mac. If anything, it kept us together. And then — as all never-ending dreams always do — it opened the doors of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, took my hand, and invited me in for my own work, for the women of the world. The thing I am most proud of.”
Stevie Nicks admitted to us that when she kicked off her solo career in 1981, becoming a bandleader was the last thing she was ever looking to be: “In the beginning, I didn't really wanna be a solo artist. I really had no interest in being a solo artist, because I loved being in a band. Then, after you've been in your solo work, and now, I don't know what I've done, 11 solo albums, where I am absolutely the boss, you get used to being the boss.”
After 40-plus years of juggling both solo work and Fleetwood Mac band duties, Stevie Nicks told us that she's finally come to terms with the difference between the two jobs: “Being in a band — you're not the boss. And I always wanted to be in a band, from the very beginning when I was 17; I wanted to be in a band. And when you're in a band, you're a team. When you're in your solo work — I'm the boss. And I've decided that I actually do like being the boss; but, I've been in Fleetwood Mac for so long that I understand how to not be the boss, and to be part of the team, and to be a team player.”