This post originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.
In 1981, Nicks joined former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch at the Roxy in LA for a taped concert where, accompanied by Christine McVie and Mick Fleetwood, she put on an electric performance of “Gold Dust Woman.” It’s a captivating performance: energetic, slightly aggressive. Gone are the leotards and flowing chiffon, replaced with a miniskirt, button down blouse, and legwarmers. Nicks is more fun-loving rock and roll than mysterious and witchy as she dances around the stage shaking her tambourine and mimicks Fleetwood’s bongo playing.
At the end of the song, Nicks thanks the crowd, telling them with genuine shock and appreciation, “They never let me play ‘Gold Dust Woman’ that long, ever!” The performance was just over 7 minutes, roughly 2 minutes and 30 seconds longer than the studio version featured on Rumours.
Cut to 2013. Nicks reprises the classic track for Fleetwood Mac’s 2013 world tour, bringing with it the first bits of what will come to be known as the “Crackhead Dance.” It’s a brief moment of interpretive dance where Nicks sways and staggers as the rest of the group jams behind her. This is only the beginning.
When the Mac regrouped with Christine McVie in 2014 to embark on their current On With The Show tour, the Crackhead Dance began to take on a life of its own. The dance has extended to span two to three minutes. Nicks bangs her head, waves her arms wildly above her, doubles over and shakes her entire body as if she’s being exorcised. Often, Nicks becomes taken by adrenaline and pushes herself to the point of physical pain.
“It’s like I could twist my head right off my body. […] And I really hurt my back. I need ice every single morning when I wake up. I go ‘You gold-dusted out last night,’” she told Rolling Stone in 2015.
It’s dark. Heavy. Transfixing. But most of all, it’s self-indulgent. Nicks isn’t only portraying the terrifying hypnotism of just any drug addict witnessed second-hand; in a way, she’s portraying herself. When she’s shaking on stage like a mild seizure, she’s releasing her past demons, setting them free before returning to the woman she has become.
Today’s “Gold Dust Woman” spans an average of 11 minutes. Each time that I’ve witnessed it live, I think back to that 1981 performance and how one song — and one woman — can evolve so much over time.
“Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby – you should see me now,” Nicks now coos in the coda. If only that 1981 Nicks could see herself now. She’s older. Wiser. Sober. More confident. She’s no longer thanking people for allowing her to stretch a song to such lengths, surprised that her bandmates have acquiesced. She gets on stage every night and shimmies to her heart’s desire, a force to be reckoned with.