Flashback: Stevie Nicks Delivers a Scintillating ‘Rhiannon’ in 1981
Stevie Nicks‘ 1981 debut solo LP Bella Donna was her first chance to shine outside of Fleetwood Mac, but that doesn’t mean she did it alone. To make up for the absence of her bandmates she cobbled together an incredible supergroup of stars from many of the biggest acts of the late 1970s. Not only do Tom Petty and most of the Heartbreakers play on the album, but so does Don Henley of the Eagles and Roy Bittan of the E Street Band along with session pros Waddy Wachtel, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Russ Kunkel.
Many of them were unable to hit the road with her that summer because of their own commitments, but it happened to come when Bruce Springsteen was beginning a long hiatus from the road following his grueling tour in support of The River. It gave keyboardist Roy Bittan time to go on a rare tour with someone other than Springsteen. “She’s the only artist I toured with other than Bruce,” Bittan told Rolling Stone in 2015. “She asked me to go on the road, and I had some time off – I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. It gave me a chance to reinterpret some of the Fleetwood Mac stuff. We began ‘Rhiannon’ real slow, almost a classical version of it. Then after the first verse the whole band would kick in. It was a fantastic experience.”
Check out video of the incredible version of “Rihanna” he’s referring to right here. It begins almost like “Thunder Road” from Springsteen’s Live 1975/85 box set and is almost a glimpse into another world where Roy Bittan wound up in Fleetwood Mac instead of the E Street Band.