You’re stumbling through the streets under the seedy Vegas lights, haunted by the woman who loved and left you in a single night. Or maybe those drugs you took are finally wearing off and you’re faced with the lonely pain of withdrawal. Or maybe you imagine something entirely different. An obscure experience presented by rock that draws from folk, this is the atmosphere created by “Gold Dust Woman”, one of Fleetwood Mac’s most ambiguous songs.
Written and sung by Stevie Nicks, this track was the result of a long night of multiple recording attempts before success struck at 4am. The meaning of the song was never clear; Stevie herself was unsure, saying in one interview it might have partly been about cocaine, while others believe it was about a Las Vegas showgirl. No matter what the message is, with lyrics like “Well, did she make you cry/Make you break down/Shatter your illusions of love?” it undeniably fits with the overarching themes of heartbreak and failed relationships present in the other tracks.
Nicks’s crooning voice is the centrepiece of the song, emitting an eerie echo that resonates through you. The music lingers in your mind, emphasized by the use of instruments like an electric harpsichord which wavers alongside the plucking guitars. A steadily kept rhythm only breaks loose in the last third of the track. As the volume of the guitars and drums heightens, tortured wails rise from the background to fill the void left by Nicks’s absence, before fading away with the end of the song. A ghostly atmosphere that evokes a cynical memory of loss, “Gold Dust Woman” will stay with any listener long after the track comes to an end.