The Meaning of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”

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

By the time Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975, the band had already been around for 8 years and were known primarily as a blues band. They had some success but were not nearly the beloved legends that they are now until after the addition of Buckingham and Nicks to the lineup. That changed everything, and brought us wonderful songs like “Landslide” and many more.

In 1975 they released the self-titled album that launched off to become the number one album in the United States, introducing the Fleetwood Mac sound that is so classic today.

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 is now known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, after the blues musician who led the band from 1967-1970.

Among the now-classics on Fleetwood Mac was “Landslide”, a Stevie Nicks original that stood out for being the lone slow-burner on the record. Not to mention Stevie Nicks’ deeply reflective songwriting and delicately-sung vocals, plus the meaning of “Landslide” in relation to her life and career.

Stevie Nicks live with Fleetwood Mac in 1976.

Stevie Nicks wrote “Landslide” in 1973, during a trip to Aspen, Colorado with Lindsey for a rehearsal that he had with Don Everly. It was only a few months after Nicks and Buckingham’s debut album from their duo, Buckingham Nicks 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 upoin her life. She considered whether or not she would continue to pursue a career in music, among other things, including her relationship with Buckingham, whom was partially the subject of the song.

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
Oh! I’m getting older too

Lyrics from “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

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.

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
Fleetwood Mac live in 1975.

“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 it left. “Landslide” was for sure popular along with the rest of the album, it did not achieve the widespread popularity that it has today until years later, when the band released their live reunion album The Dance in 1998.

Fleetwood Mac’s lineup in 1975 consisted of Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie, and Stevie Nicks. This lineup lasted until 1987, when Buckingham left the band, followed by Nicks a few years later. 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.

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.

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

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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