One of the highlights of The Defiant Ones—HBO’s four-part documentary about music magnate Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, and the music and culture that launched their careers—is the trove of studio footage the filmmakers were able to access.
In retrospect, it’s astonishing that someone had the wherewithal, in 1980, to film Stevie Nicks in the studio recording her first solo album, or to capture J.J. Fad cutting their first one with Dr. Dre in 1998. Of course documentation for posterity’s sake was important, but some of this stuff was caught in the Beta era, when cell phones were still just a funny idea somebody put on The Jetsons. You wonder, watching Eazy E record his vocals for “Boyz In Da Hood,” did these groups intuit they were destined for greatness? It’s all very astonishing, and while I normally find studio footage somewhat boring and extraneous, I have been utterly glued to every clip from The Defiant Ones as both a time capsule and a tangible, thrilling bit of pop music history.
That’s where this clip comes in. “Edge of Seventeen,” from Stevie Nicks’s first post-Fleetwood album Bella Donna, is one of the greatest documents of her voice that exists, an iconic example of her range and emotion. And so watching her actually cut the vocal part, as her then-boyfriend Jimmy Iovine bopped around alongside her, is totally illuminating: the sheer force with which she delivered her vocal made her entire body quiver, and the feeling beneath it seems to tremble too, manifested fully in her vibrato rasp.
Perhaps it’s the lifelong witch mythology around Nicks—I just rewatched American Horror Story: Coven, so please forgive—but visually it could be interpreted as a conjuring, and I have newfound admiration for a song that is already burned into the cultural fabric as one of the greatest rock singles ever cut. Watch it above, and blessed be.