Stand Back is a song by Stevie Nicks from her 1983 album The Wild Heart. It was released as the first single for the album on May 19, 1983, and went to # 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and # 2 on the U.S. Top Rock Tracks chart in August of that year. The song still receives substantial airplay to this day.
The song has been a staple in Nicks’ live shows since its pre-album debut at the US Festival in May 1983, and it has also been included in Fleetwood Mac tour set lists since 1987.
The main intro of the song features an Oberheim OB-Xa synthesizer. The synth-bass is played on a Roland Jupiter 8. On the Rock a Little tour, the Oberheim is replaced with a Yamaha DX7. There were two mixes made of the song; the generally more well known album version (4:48) and the edited single version (4:18). Differences between the two are somewhat subtle, but the single mix tends to have more of a “collapsed” or “mono” sound to it and the electronic drum programs are mixed, rather dry and flattened, especially in the song’s intro bars; whereas the drum tracks on the album mix are accentuated by a generous amount of reverb effect and harder compression. Acoustic drums were given a more backseat role on Stand Back. There is a further ‘polished’ version of the track, with crisper percussion and louder foreground synth, featured on Nicks’ 1991 best-of compilation Timespace, remixed by Chris Lord-Alge, and running at 4:59.
In the UK, the single was given Nicks’ first 12-inch release, featuring a different glossy picture sleeve and the inclusion of a third track, Wild Heart (album version), whilst a very limited 12-inch extended DJ promo was released on vinyl in the US in 1983, featuring longer instrumental and vocal sections and clocking in at 7:56.
A 12-inch promotional single was also released to US radio stations in 1983, featuring a full-colour sleeve, but playing the standard 4:48 album version (in mono and stereo) on both sides. The wider grooves, however, allowed for a deeper bass sound.
Stevie Nicks has often told the story of how she wrote the song. She wrote it shortly after she was married to Kim Anderson. The newlyweds were driving up to San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara when Prince’s song Little Red Corvette came on the radio. Nicks started humming along to the melody, especially inspired by the lush synthesizers of the song, and Stand Back was born. They stopped and got a tape recorder and she recorded the demo in the honeymoon suite that night. Later, when Nicks went into the studio to record the song, she called Prince and told him the story of how she wrote the song to his melody. He came to the studio that night and played synthesizers on it, although his contribution is uncredited on the album. Then, she says,
“he just got up and left as if the whole thing happened in a dream.”
According to U.S. Copyright Office records, Prince is officially a co-writer of the song, even though he is only occasionally credited as such.
There are two music video versions.
The first, which was never aired and is referred to as the “Scarlett Version“, was directed by Brian Grant and features Nicks in a very expensive re-creation of aspects of Gone with the Wind. Stevie herself nixed the video—according to Grant, she felt she looked fat. Stevie has been quoted as saying this, at the rejection of the first video:
“It didn’t go with the song at all. It was so bad, it was almost good. I tried to act, which was horrific. We used a house in Beverly Hills that we accidentally set on fire. I almost got killed riding a horse.”
This version can now be found (with Nicks commentary) on the DVD supplement of her 2007 collection Crystal Visions – The Very Best of Stevie Nicks.
The second, or ‘official’, version (see above) was directed by choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday and shows Nicks performing the song in front of a microphone in a dimly lit room surrounded by walls and mirrors made of glass. The emphasis in this version is dance, and interspersed throughout are choreographed sequences of dancers (in a subtle homage to the 1980 film Fame) who join Nicks on the soundstage toward the end.
Editor’s Note: The video to this song (the one seen above) used to play on MTV all the time, and I loved it, and loved Stevie Nicks. I grew up singing Fleetwood Mac songs, my favorites always the ones voiced by Stevie’s dusky and gravelly voice. I used to stand in front of the portable fan in my bedroom, hairbrush microphone in hand, and sing this song, mimicking the video, with my hair blowing back as I sang, too. Sometimes I would use my bedsheet to wear as a makeshift cape, to lift my arms up, the fan blowing it out like wings, while I sang.