On the cover of her 2011 album, In Your Dreams, Stevie Nicks appears in a flowing black gown, bathed in light, while standing beside a white horse. The image – romantic and whimsical, while still maintaining a foot in the real world – perfectly reflected the songs found on the LP.
Ten years had passed since Nicks’ previous solo album, Trouble in Shangri-La. With a decade’s worth of thoughts to convey, the singer decided to borrow a page from Led Zeppelin. Much like how the legendary English rockers lived and recorded at Headley Grange, Nicks turned her Southern California mansion into a recording dreamland.
The singer recruited Glen Ballard and Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart to produce and set out to create an album from her treasure trove of handwritten poetry books. The result was some of the most vibrant, yet personal, material of her career.
Nicks had long admired the work of Edgar Allan Poe, whom she first became enamored with while in high school. At the age of 17, the aspiring singer was assigned to read some of his poetry and immediately fell in love with his words. “Did you know that I wrote a song with Edgar Allan Poe in the 1800s?” Nicks has often asked fans before live performances of her glittering “Annabel Lee.” Its lyrics come from Poe’s 1849 poem of the same name: “And the moon never beams / Without bringing me dreams / And the sun never shines / But I see the bright eyes.” Nicks’ witchy character, enchanting voice and musical vision all aided in breathing life into the old poem.
Listen to Stevie Nicks’ ‘Annabel Lee’
In the same vein of fantasy, “Wide Sargasso Sea” alludes to Jean Rhys’ 1966 feminist and anti-colonial interpretation of Charlotte Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Taking a cue from the film adaptation of the novel, Nicks sings the sensual tale with a wild jungle drum beat. Her warbling voice portrays the life of a character who, for hundreds of years, has been reduced to the “mad woman in the attic.”
“Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream),” inspired by the second movie of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight vampire series, prompted Nicks’ work on the album. The first and third verses of the tragic love song began in 1976 and were written about Lindsey Buckingham. As Nicks watched the vampire-human relationship unfold onscreen in 2009, she identified a similar Byronic hero quality in both Buckingham and character Edward Cullen that compelled her to complete the gothic love ballad.
Watch Stevie Nicks’ ‘Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream)’ Video
While much of the material on In Your Dreams was rooted in fantasy, real-world issues still had their place, too. “New Orleans” was written in 2005, within six days of Hurricane Katrina touching down in Louisiana. Through the storm and the devastating aftermath, Nicks imagined the spirit of the Big Easy remaining steadfast. “I see hope in all their faces / Behind the mask of Mardi Gras,” she sang, intertwining symbols of the city – such as beads and Bourbon Street – within her words.
“Soldier’s Angel” offered a poignant reflection on Nicks’ many visits to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Hearing the stories of the wounded servicemen and seeing the full extent of their injuries deeply affected her. While visiting London in 2009, she witnessed the city’s emotional response to the deaths of seven British soldiers killed in Iraq; that led her to complete lyrics to the song. In an effort to perfectly capture the emotional resonance she was aiming for, Nicks recruited Fleetwood Mac bandmate Buckingham to provide guitar and vocal harmonies to the song.
Buckingham wasn’t the only noteworthy outside collaborator on In Your Dreams: Contemplative country ballad “For What It’s Worth” was built upon a guitar part given to Nicks by Heartbreaker Mike Campbell.
Watch Stevie Nicks’ ‘For What It’s Worth’ Video
But In Your Dreams supplied much romance, too, like on the opening track, “Secret Love.” Written in the mid-’70s, the song finds Nicks meditating on an old lover, though she conveniently “can’t remember” which one. The song was reportedly demoed for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album but was left off and eventually lost in her archives until it was rediscovered more than three decades later
In Your Dreams was released on May 3, 2011, and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard chart, becoming Nicks’ fifth Top 10 solo album. Every aspect of the LP’s creation was captured in the 2012 documentary Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams, which gives fans insight into her creative process, while also revealing the tireless effort put in alongside producers Ballard and Stewart.
Throughout her career, Nicks has painted a sonorous landscape populated by fairies, witches and ghosts to guide fans through the real world. In Your Dreams serves as a cornerstone work in this fantastical catalog of musical visions.