The Meaning of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”

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    The Meaning of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”
    Published: December 14, 2021

    Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac live in 1976.

    “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac stands out for being a slow-burning, acoustic number among an album filled with bangers. It’s also one of the most enchanting Stevie Nicks compositions, beloved for both its deeply reflective songwriting and its delicately-sung vocals.

    Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled album, released in 1975, was the first one recorded with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who joined the band that same year.

    At the time, the band had already been around for 8 years and were known primarily as a blues band. Buckingham and Nicks changed everything.

    Fleetwood Mac (1975) was actually the band’s second self-titled album, and is not to be confused with the band’s self-titled debut, Fleetwood Mac (1967). The original Fleetwood Mac album is now known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, after the blues musician who led the band from 1967-1970.

    A Hit, But Not A Single

    “Landslide” was not released as a single at the time of the album’s promotion, but it was part of every single live show that the band played from the day Stevie Nicks joined the band until she left in 1987.

    In the 70s, it was popular for sure, but it didn’t skyrocket into widespread fame until later, after their anticipated reunion.

    Buckingham and Nicks would rejoin Fleetwood Mac in 1997, and after doing so they released The Dance, for which “Landslide” was a single, recorded live at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, CA 5/23/97.

    The Dance version of “Landslide” reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and marked a resurgence in popularity for the track. “Landslide” has since maintained its popularity as one of the most beloved songs of the 70s, and the signature song of the elegant Stevie Nicks.

    “Landslide” Origins

    Stevie Nicks wrote “Landslide” in 1973, during a trip to Aspen, Colorado with Buckingham for a rehearsal. This was only a few months after the Buckingham Nicks album was released. The album was a flop and they were subsequently dropped from Polydor Records.

    Nicks recalls feeling like her world was falling apart, and while surrounded by snow-covered hills she reflected upon her life.

    She considered whether or not she would continue to pursue a career in music, among other things, including her relationship with Buckingham, who was partially the subject of the song.

    Her father told her that she had already been doing this for a long time, and that she should pursue the music thing for six more months and then decide if she wanted to continue.

    So she stared out at those mountains, pictured the whole thing collapsing around her, and wrote a little tune called “Landslide” that marked her having made the decision to move forward.

    This she said during a radio interview in 1992:

    I realized then that everything could tumble, and when you’re in Colorado, and you’re surrounded by these incredible mountains, you think avalanche. It meant the whole world could tumble around us and the landslide would bring you down. And a landslide in the snow is like, deadly. And when you’re in that kind of a snow-covered, surrounding place, you don’t just go out and yell, because the whole mountain could come down on you.

    “Landslide” I wrote on the guitar, and it’s another one that I wrote in about five minutes. But see, when I’m really thinking about something ~ I mean when something’s really bothering me ~ again, the best thing that I can do is go to the music room, or to the office, where I can write. Because once I put it down and I can read it back, and I can think about what I’m saying, then it makes sense to me.

    When I’m just thinking it in my head, it’s going around and around, and I feel like a little child unable to make a real, substantial decision. And we were talking about our lives… the rest of our lives.

    Stevie Nicks discusses “Landslide” on In the Studio with Redbeard, May 1992

    These memories that Stevie speaks of led to the creation of one of the most touching acoustic tracks to come from the 1970s. It goes to show that sometimes life’s most difficult moments lead to the most beautiful things.

    “Landslide” Lyrics Meaning

    With the backstory covered, it’s time to dive into the lyrics to “Landslide” and discuss their meaning, line-by-line.

    I took my love, took it down
    I climbed a mountain and I turned around
    And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
    ‘Til the landslide brought me down

    First verse to “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.

    Stevie recalls the fateful trip to the mountains following the poor reception of Buckingham Nicks, when she felt like her world was falling apart. This is a reflective verse, and we picture her on a quiet, snowy mountain morning, contemplating life.

    The second verse is up next:

    Oh, mirror in the sky
    What is love?
    Can the child within my heart rise above?
    Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides?
    Can I handle the seasons of my life?
    Hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm

    Second verse to “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.

    She looks to the moon, referring to it as a mirror in the sky. She asks it the big questions: Will she overcome her fears? Will she get through this difficult time? Will her life’s changes be the death of her?

    Then, the chorus:

    Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’
    ‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
    But time makes you bolder
    Even children get older
    And I’m getting older too

    Chorus to “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac.

    Stevie could be singing about both a deep relationship with her artistic career, and a deep loving relationship. This is partially why the song is so relatable, because we all connect with the fear of change and getting older.

    The chorus repeats again before she sings the third and final verse:

    Oh-oh, take my love, take it down
    Oh-oh, climb a mountain and turn around
    And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
    Well, the landslide bring it down

    Third verse to “Landslide” by Stevie Nicks.

    She contemplates change and the impact of time, symbolized by the climbing of a mountain and the natural phenomenon of a landslide.

    From the band’s transformative era with Buckingham and Nicks to its resonating impact through covers, “Landslide” endures as an emblem of timeless music. A mere acoustic tune with a mountain of meaning, its legacy is as enduring as the questions it poses.

    Watch the official video for “Landslide” featuring a live performance of the song from 1977 below.

    Covers of “Landslide”

    There have been a number of noteworthy covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” over the years, further adding to the impact that this song has had on the music industry.

    Smashing Pumpkins – “Landslide” (1994)

    Perhaps the most well-known cover of “Landslide” was done by the Smashing Pumpkins in 1994, released as a B-Side to the single “Disarm” and also included on their B-Side compilation album Pisces Iscariot. The Smashing Pumpkins’ version is true to the original, except it features the much dirtier voice of Billy Corgan.

    Stevie Nicks approves:

    I was very honored to have Billy Corgan pick out that song on his own. There’s nothing more pleasing to a songwriter than [someone] doing one of their songs. It also led to me being friends with Billy Corgan, and the possibility that we’ll work together. Over this song, there’s been this incredible connection…he reached out.

    Stevie Nicks on the Smashing Pumpkins cover of “Landslide”, 1998.

    The Chicks – “Landslide” (2002)

    The Dixie Chicks (now just The Chicks) also covered “Landslide” on their 2002 album, Home.

    Glee – “Landslide” (2011)

    Finally, the cast of the television show Glee released a cover of “Landslide” in a season 2 episode aired in 2011.

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