Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
It’s a powerhouse year of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and as we witness the pinnacle of success for some of our favorite artists, it’s fascinating to look back at their humble beginnings. Stevie Nicks wasn’t always Fleetwood Mac or even her magical solo artist self. Before Fleetwood Mac, there was an everyday life as a waitress and…..the song “Landslide.” Read on for Nicks’ story of how the song came to be from an interview with Performing Songwriter in 2003.
It was written in 1973 at a point where Lindsey [Buckingham] and I had driven to Aspen for him to rehearse for two weeks with Don Everly. Lindsey was going to take Phil’s place. So they rehearsed and left, and I made a choice to stay in Aspen. I figured I’d stay there and one of my girlfriends was there. We stayed there for almost three months while Lindsey was on the road, and this is right after the Buckingham Nicks record had been dropped. And it was horrifying to Lindsey and I because we had a taste of the big time, we recorded in a big studio, we met famous people, we made what we consider to be a brilliant record and nobody liked it. I had been a waitress and a cleaning lady, and I didn’t mind any of this. I was perfectly delighted to work and support us so that Lindsey could produce and work and fix our songs and make our music. But I had gotten to a point where it was like, “I’m not happy. I am tired. But I don’t know if we can do any better than this. If nobody likes this, then what are we going to do?”
So during that two months I made a decision to continue. “Landslide” was the decision. [Sings] “When you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills”—it’s the only time in my life that I’ve lived in the snow. But looking up at those Rocky Mountains and going, “Okay, we can do it. I’m sure we can do it.” In one of my journal entries, it says, “I took Lindsey and said, We’re going to the top!” And that’s what we did. Within a year, Mick Fleetwood called us, and we were in Fleetwood Mac making $800 a week apiece (laughs). Washing $100 bills through the laundry. It was hysterical. It was like we were rich overnight.
The song has inspired many artists and young aspiring musicians with its beautiful lyric and simple yet effective melody. The Smashing Pumpkins cover has always been a personal favorite, but upon delving deeper into the list of covers, one surprise artist catapulted to the top.
Miley Cyrus – Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
This incredible live performance caught me by surprise. It puts front and center Miley Cyrus‘s vocal ability and her range-especially the juicy low end. You can’t cover “Landslide” without being 100% convincing with that distinctive low scoop. Cyrus wisely keeps the beautiful melody intact, which results in a very musically accurate rendition. It’s simple, heartfelt, and lovely.
Smashing Pumpkins – Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Smashing Pumpkins covered “Landslide” in 1994 and it went on to become one of the bands’ most beloved songs. Nicks even praised the song: “There’s nothing more pleasing to a songwriter than [someone else] doing one of their songs. [‘Landslide’] also led me to being friends with Billy [Corgan] and the possibility that we’ll work together,” she told SonicNet in 1998. Over this song, there’s been this incredible connection … he reached out … I believe that my poetry is really meant for everyone, no matter what age.” Much like the Miley Cyrus cover, Corgan keeps the vocals simple and pretty much identical to the original. Instrumentals remain simple as well, continuing the trend of highlighting the lyric and melody.
Bush – Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
In keeping with the rock band trend of covering “Landslide,” Bush delivers a surprisingly sentimental (for them) version, although once again, we find a simple acoustic accompaniment and straightforward vocals from Gavin Rossdale. It’s as if no one can imagine improving on such a perfect piece of music.
Glee – Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
During the run of the popular TV show Glee, a number of songs were covered by the high school glee club. A song highlighted on the show proved to be an open door for generations of artists to reach a whole new age of music listeners. Sung by the character Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow), the cover veers into country territory with the guitar and banjo accompaniment and slight twang in Paltrow’s voice. In this version, harmony becomes a major factor in the song which has been absent in the previous three covers.
Dixie Chicks – Landslide (Fleetwood Mac cover)
In the final spot and certainly the most stylized, we are fully invested in a country version of “Landslide.” Twangy guitars, harmonic voices, and a lilting feeling to the beat set the Dixie Chicks‘ cover apart from the rest. Interestingly, though, the most stylized version proves to be the least genuine and heartfelt.
This “Landslide” top five is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out our Best Fleetwood Mac Covers EVER as we celebrate Stevie Nicks and her much deserved induction into the Hall of Fame this year. And if you haven’t heard Stevie’s isolated “Landslide” vocal, you’re in for a treat.