Edge of Seventeen, Herbert Worthington, photographer


I had lived up in the hills with Jimmy [Iovine] for almost six months. He was coming to the end of Tom Petty's album...it seemed I had waited a long time, and since no one really knew where I was, I was starting to get very edgy to do something.... I was also starting to feel very unimportant and very sorry for myself. I was ready to begin Bella Donna and it seemed like it would just never happen. Jimmy had told me many times about his incredible friendship Stevie and former boyfriend  & producer Jimmy Iovinewith John Lennon; how John had taken Jimmy in and taught him to record. He was his teacher... and I was entranced because I could not imagine these two together. Anyway, it was a real life fairy tale and I believed it. Then one grey day, the fairy tale ended... Jimmy's friend was dead... But Jimmy's love for John did not die. A terrible sadness set in over the house, there was simply nothing I could say. So I went home... Jimmy would have to go this one alone.

I went home to Phoenix... and went to visit my uncle (who was very sick), not knowing that no one but his son, John, was there... and I sat on his bedside, while John sat on the floor beside him, and we stayed there. My father did not come, nor my mother... nor my aunt... so I sat there and held his hand, and sometime right about sunset, he turned his head slightly to John, and then to me, and his hand slowly let go of mine. I did run out into the hallway, but no one was there... and the white winged dove took flight...

'Well I hear you, in the morning....
And I hear you, at nightfall/
But sometimes, to be near you....
Is to be unable...to hear you....'

Goodbye to you both, I said....
There was nothing else left to say.
~Stevie Nicks, Timespace Liner Notes, 1991



The line 'And the days go by like a strand in the wind' that's how fast those days were going by during my uncle's illness, and it was so upsetting to me. The part that says 'I went today... maybe I will go again... tomorrow' refers to seeing him the day before he died. He was home and my aunt had some music softly playing, and it was a perfect place for the spirit to go away. The white-winged dove in the song is a spirit that is leaving a body, and I felt a great loss at how both Johns were taken. 'I hear the call of the nightbird singing..... come away ... come away....'
~Stevie Nicks, Rolling Stone, September 3, 1981



And my aunt's house, when my uncle died, was like, very pale yellow... very ethereal. And there was just real quiet music playing. And, 'So I went today, maybe I will go again tomorrow. The music there, it was hauntingly familiar. And I see you doing what I tried to do for me, with the words of a poet, and the voice of a choir and a melody... and nothing else mattered.'

And I just sat there and held his little hand, and he died. The end of the song, it says, 'I hear the call of a nightbird, singing come away...', and that's when I felt that the black bird was taking the white bird to wherever. And it was terribly sad. And I was like, holding his hand when he died. And I really felt the loss of these spirits. And that's the white winged dove, that's the spirit.
~Stevie Nicks, 1981


And when we recorded the song, the energy that was written into that song was so intense that it took us about two nights to get the track to that, and it's like nobody's feet ever stopped moving. It was like there was this energy that was so strong. I cried in the middle of the bridge thing, about the sea never expects it when it rains but the sea changes color, but the sea does not change. And so with the slow graceful flow of age, I went forth with an age old desire to please. It was like, well we have to keep going now. And I wanted that song to have all that energy of them and of us going on.

And it was quite incredible to see, especially that entity of the band that played on that song. And they just put every bit of their heart and soul into it. It was like they just stood right there and held my elbows, you know, so that I could just stand really tall and sing that song for my uncle and for John Lennon and for everybody. And understand that we were doing what both of them would have wanted us to do. I said, 'My Uncle John wouldn't have wanted me to cry. He would have wanted me to write. He would have wanted me to go straight to the piano. ' You want the story and I'll give it to you.'
~Stevie Nicks Interview, Vox Magazine February, 1992


Stevie 1981This was one of those impulsive things that you could never do again... So we put the earphones on, they turned the track up and we just sort of doubled it ~ which is what we do in the studio... So I said, 'Well if God is with us, it's a big risk' and we did it perfect.
~Stevie Nicks singing almost-acapella live vocal of Edge of Seventeen from the WBCN radio interview, July 5, 1983


Click to download the WBCN 1983 almost-acapella vocal of Edge of Seventeen with Real Audio G2



The immediate inspiration is from Jane Petty, who is Tom's wife, because she told me that when she met Tom he was, she said, 'at the age of seventeen' but she has this incredible southern drawl so it sounded like 'edge of seventeen' and I said, 'Jane, (I 'm writing it on the menu, right! Im going...) I'm writing a song called Edge of Seventeen.' And she laughs, you know, she didn't ever think I was ever serious. So it started out about Tom and Jane basically, who I have no idea what they were at 17, but I made it up. And, uh it went into being written about [her Uncle Jon and John Lennon].
~Stevie Nicks, The Stevie Nicks Story from The Source, 1981

The most recent [song on Bella Donna] is Edge of Seventeen, which is also my favorite song on the record.... Edge of Seventeen closes it [the album] ~ chronologically, anyway ~ with the loss of John Lennon and an uncle at the same time. That song is sort of about how no amount of money or power could save them. I was angry, helpless, hurt, sad.
~Stevie Nicks, BAM, 1981


Stevie and Sharon perform Edge of 17 on VH1's Storytellers 1998What happened with this song was I was in Australia with, hanging out, playing, doing something with some band and uh, John Lennon died. So, I was of course upset by this and I was very far away and it was really strange to not be in the country when he died.

Um, I went home to Phoenix and I had this idea about writing a song about him about the white wing dove. Which comes from uh, Arizona and like nests in the Saguaro cactus. But I didn't know that until I got to Phoenix and started writing this song and somebody told me that. And then to make a bad situation worse, um my uncle who was my dad's older brother, very close brothers ~ family my dad's. And uh, he was very sick. And um, I went to visit him one day, couple weeks after that. And my cousin Jon, whose name also was Jon, we, we were both there and for some reason nobody else was there and my uncle died. And we were, we were just there by ourselves with him and we didn't even know what to do. It was like, I can't believe this is happening. So when it says you know, 'And I went running down the hall searching for somebody and up the stairs and down the hall, I did not hear an answer but I did hear the call of the nightbird,' that's what that was about.
~Stevie Nicks, VH1 Storytellers, 1997


Edge of Seventeen definitely ~ that's probably the closest to being my favorite [song]. It was written about my uncle Jon having cancer and and that was about the time of [the murder of] John Lennon, and it was right before we knew Robin was sick ~ the final 'white winged dove.' When it starts playing my head turns around.
~Stevie Nicks, Arizona Living, September, 1983

Jimmy [Iovine] was absolutely best friends with John Lennon. So when that happened, a hush came over the house that was so overwhelming that there was nothing that I could do to help. There was nothing I could say, there was no way I could comfort him. [Unable to help, Nicks flew home to Phoenix] I went straight over to my uncle's house, and my uncle died that day. He died right there with me holding his hand, just me and my cousin, who's a little younger than me, sitting there on the bed and on the floor next to him.

Stevie Nicks Wild Heart Tour 1983I have to deal with it every single night when I sing it. That's why I can [sing it]. When that song starts, I go back to that week. And it's not like I try. I don't make a physical effort to do it. In my mind, my little timespace, I'm back in the house at Encino finding out that news, and when I sing it to everybody, I try to make them understand in a way what I was talking about without actually telling them. That's why I can sing Edge of Seventeen just like I wrote it yesterday. Because it will never, ever lose the intensity. I will never forget how I felt when that happened to me. And when people read this, they're going to understand that this hasn't been so glamorous, and each one of these songs was one more chip off an already broken heart.
~Stevie Nicks, The Sun (Columbia, MD), July 17, 1991

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