She did it in a rush. She was trembling, her fingers shaking as she undid various buttons and unhooked clips. Me? I was gobsmacked. Off came her clothes. All of them. She had barely followed me in the door of my hotel room and there she was, completely bare with arms spread wide. I’d hoped that something akin to what suddenly occurred may have happened down the track that night. For me there was no rush. She obviously noticed me looking at her like a stunned mullet. ‘Well,’ she ventured, ‘I am forty-two. This body has very much seen better days. Had I waited till later on, I might have lost my nerve and then where would I be? So, mister, here I am, warts and all. If you don’t like what you see, I’ll put them all back on and call a taxi for home. Just say the word.’
Stevie looked at me defiantly. After I didn’t utter anything – I was speechless – she came across to where I was, put her arms around me, pressed herself against me and whispered, ‘I will go, you know, if you don’t want me.’
She had her answer soon enough. I may have been initially taken aback. But at forty two she still looked pretty darn good to me that surprising evening, all those years ago, in 2004. She still does, where we are now, in 2017. But Stevie and me, well we go way, way back – back to the mists of time. I first laid eyes on her in 1977 – aeons ago. It was at school – Camberwell High in Melbourne, to be exact. That’s forty years ago now. My Stevie, gifted back to me by a chance meeting on a tram and a mutual love of a song. I hope you’ll enjoy our story.
Of course Stevie isn’t my love’s real name. She’d kill me if she discovered I was blogging this. Well that’s my intention anyway. We’ll see how it turns out. Perhaps, like her fear that auspicious night, I’ll lose my nerve. It’s our story and I know I have to be careful with it, but I want to write it down. I’m not getting any younger. If I lose my marbles one day, well, I’ll have it at my fingertips to remind me of my remarkable Stevie, the woman I am now blessed to live with; to share my life with. So here is how we came to be.
Let’s return to that wonderful reconnecting we engaged in back in ’04, to that night of surprises. After the concert we headed to Hardware Street for some late night tucker. Most of the restaurants were still going and we just ordered some mains and a wine in the first likely establishment we came to. At some stage I was going to pop the question – something to the effect about whether she’d like to share a cab with me back to Southbank, where my room was, in one of the high rises there. In fact, we had barely started when she broached the subject with me, ‘Just let me get this clear. You are expecting me to come back to your room after this, aren’t you?’
‘Well yes, the thought did occur to me.’
‘Thank heavens. I didn’t want to start eating all nervous about your intentions. Now I can relax and enjoy the meal. And just for your information, mister, yes I would love for you to invite me back for a coffee. The sooner the better.’
The disrobing on her part, once back there, was brave, I later thought. I know it must have taken some doing given how nervous she was, although she was a tad lubricated by a tasty wine at our repast earlier, as I was. I was due to fly back to Sydney the following day and Stevie spent it all with me – more about that anon – until I was due to leave for Tullamarine. I promised to return to her as soon as I could see my way clear. She replied that she wasn’t going anywhere and she had my details to keep in touch. I was back down the following weekend.
We’re excited, Stevie and I. They’ve just announced when the tickets go on sale They’re touring. It may well be their last hurrah with the line-up that once took the world by storm. For old time’s sake we’ve decided to go to Melbourne to see them – and stay in the same hotel as that night. I wonder if we can get the same room? And, even better, there will be none of this on-line nonsense to get said tickets. I have my connections. Boy do I have my connections. And to think, without those guys, who will again be up on stage in 2018, I may never have reconnected with Stevie.
That following weekend, the one back last decade, rushed as it was, sealed the deal. That chance meeting the previous year, towards the end of ’03, caused us to make a pact to see the band when they toured in the new year. And then, and then, ….no, lets start where the story begins before we get to that. As I said, Stevie and I first encountered each other in our high school days.
Back in ’77 I was 17, she 15. I played guitar, lead guitar. She had a voice, a very fine voice. And for a brief six months or so our paths crossed for the first time – they weren’t to do so, if I have my maths right, for another twenty-six years.
Mr Shaw was my music teacher. He started teaching me the guitar when he discovered my infatuation with Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. I took to it like a duck takes to water and for a while there it totally dominated my life. Every spare minute was given over to practice. Old Mr Shaw reckoned I was a natural, but a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears went into attaining that aptitude, let me tell you. The music teacher soon formed a band around my eventual prowess and we belted out covers for school socials and various student parties around Camberwell. By the time we were in Year 11 we were a fairly tight unit and making a little dosh around the local scene as well. Danny was on bass, Kev on rhythm with Charlie on drums. The latter doubled as our vocalist as he had the strongest set of pipes, but found keeping the beat going and screeching out the lyrics meant he sometimes got himself into a tangle, but generally it worked. He was fine when a song really rocked, but when something slower was called for he was pretty hopeless. Charlie was also making a bit of a name for himself around the traps for being wild. He was into booze and possibly drugs –I wasn’t into either, but as long as he turned up ready to play I didn’t care. He always did. Why am I telling you so much about Charlie? You’ll see soon enough. He, as it turned out, was the only one from the band who did make a bit of a name for himself musically down through the decades. He was regarded as being reliable and not too shabby behind the drum kit, being a go to man, for a while there, for people such as James Reyne, and Darryl Braithwaite whenever they went on tour. He still drums, off and on, around Melbourne these days even though he’s getting on a bit. Aren’t we all? To be fair, as well as with the utmost humility, I was the one most likely to make a real name for myself out of us group of Camberwell lads, but life took me in another direction.
When it became a hit, the song, so unlike what I usually gravitated towards, stuck – I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to add it to the band’s repertoire, but patently none of us had the voice to do it justice. We knew, though, it was the perfect song when it came time for something slower, when those on the floor required a little body on body with their dance partners. In short, we needed a female voice. And Mr Shaw came up trumps with this too once he knew of my rapture with the tune. And the song has lasted down the decades to become it’s author’s signature show-stopper, whenever she tours solo or with the group. By now I suspect you are putting two and two together given dates, the name I’ve allocated to she who should not be named and other clues. Yes, of course, it’s ‘Rhiannon ‘.
And the girl the music teacher found for us – yep, she became my Stevie. But back then, well let’s just say it took more than a while in coming. And if I was born to play guitar, the Year 9 girl was born to sing. Stevie Nicks had a celestial quality that her namesake lacked, but my Stevie had a powerful voice for more ballady stuff and, it turned out, loved backing up Charlie with the rockier tunes. It was evident that she was a good fit for us, although initially she could only perform at school events, being somewhat younger than the rest of the band. Despite this, it was fair to say I was smitten not only with her voice, but also by the girl herself, from the get-go.
As hard as it might seem for you now who know me, back then I was a quiet, reserved chap who only really felt alive when on stage. I had a long standing battle with acne that took until well into my twenties to get on top of. And it took until the same stage of my life to have any sort of girlfriend at all. Despite my high profile in the place, I wasn’t amongst the cool set at Camberwell – unlike Charlie. And guess what? The younger version of Stevie wasn’t backward in making her feelings known for Charlie. She seemed to relish the fact he was a bit of a lad – and pretty soon they were an item, one of the school’s golden couples. The only time I got to spend with her alone was when, on occasions, we caught the same tram trundling down the hill into the centre of Camberwell. Occasionally I’d invite her to have a coffee with me and occasionally she’d accept, allowing me to buy her a milkshake. But all she ever wanted to talk about was Charlie. So really I stood no chance – even more so with what my parents had in store for me.
And the relationship between Charlie and Stevie stood the test of time, as later I was to discover. Turns out they eventually married, but again I’m getting ahead of myself.
For the months that I knew her, in my dreams and even in my waking hours, I plotted and plotted, trying to figure out how I could convince Stevie I was the better catch. But like me with her, she was completely gone over him – and in his own way, it was reciprocated, even if at times I thought he treated her badly.
As for the song, well ‘Rhiannon’ soon became our most requested number, thanks to Stevie making it her own. We’d often perform it several times a night. Sometimes, just sometimes, it sounded almost as good as when the Mac did it. Couples out on the dance floor would entwine their bodies around each other to the tune – the teachers present having a hard time keeping a lid on it all so they didn’t become too heated. It saddened me we couldn’t perform it when we attained an engagement outside of school. I do look back on those times fondly, despite my lack of success wooing Stevie. But, at the end of the year, came the bombshell. My dear Dad received a promotion in the public service. He was being transferred to Canberra and I would complete my schooling in that city. My future lay, not with music, or so I thought, but with a law degree at ANU. So my farewell to the band was at the Year 12 leavers dinner – a gig without Stevie. I was not to see any more of her for decades.
Yes, it is starting to drag out, our saga, isn’t it? Well, to cut a long story short, a chance meeting in a pub with Michael Gudsinski caused me to throw in my dreary job in a Canberra legal practice and join him at Mushroom. He wanted someone with legal expertise on his team, so I was back with music in a way. For a time I was based down in Melbourne. I was still single so I did ask around my few remaining contacts from those school days as to what became of Stevie. I discovered that she and Charlie were hitched with a child – so that’s as far as I took it. By this stage my love life had improved, but nothing long-term came of any of my relationships. Perhaps I chose the wrong type of women – usually they were as career obsessed as I was and none were prepared to put me above their ambitions. It was very early on that Michael G offered me a position in his Sydney office, with an improved salary, so I could enjoy the harbour city’s lifestyle – which I did so in spades. I admit a few years up there saw me succumb to what I had disdained with Charlie all those years ago, but by the time Stevie and I re-discovered each other I had sorted myself out and despite my advancing years, I was rather a good catch, if I say so myself. Still, I couldn’t get a relationship to stick. On the other hand, business-wise, eventually I was confident enough and had enough connections to strike out on my own. I became a booking agent too, concentrating on tours to regional centres by domestic acts. Occasionally I’d come across Charlie and he seemed more settled. When ever I inquired after Stevie the refrain was always ‘She’s fine.’ As it turns out – she wasn’t.
But still, with me there was a hole to fill. I had friends a-plenty and my social life was hectic. I wanted to slow down, but coming home to an empty apartment night after night was getting to me. Try as I might, mostly I existed on a fodder of one night stands as mostly the women I was attracted to were married and unavailable. Those that consented to some fun and games with me never displayed any intention of choosing me for the long term over their hubbies. I’d left my run too late to ever attain for myself a life partner, or so I figured.
Business often took me to Melbourne and on that fateful day in 2003, at a loose end, just for the hell of it, I decided to take the No.72 out to my old stomping ground around Camberwell and Canterbury Hill. I had in mind a wander around my former school just to see how the years had treated it – but I never made it. I wasn’t very far into the journey – my conveyance was just starting to slowly lurch along Swan Street – when I noticed a woman, who looked familiar, hop on board, loaded up with shopping. She was accompanied by a younger lass. Then it dawned on me – I soon became sure it was her. She sported almost the same blonde bob, was a little fuller in the face and, as would be natural, carried a little more weight (which suited her) – but I needed to be closer to really tell. The eyes – her doe-like brown eyes would be the giveaway. I manoeuvred myself along the tram to a closer proximity just as she turned to look back down towards me. Our eyes met, but she displayed no signs of recognition, but I knew. I knew – and I also knew I couldn’t leave it at that. There was a spare seat in front of where they were. I moved myself to it. Then I turned and faced her.
She looked at me blankly. It was definitely her, but she turned back to her younger friend and continued conversing with her. Rude, I know, but I continued staring. She revolved around and asked, ‘Is there a problem?’ I just smiled and said, ‘I think we know each other.’ She looked at me – and then she smiled. ‘Bill. Well I never.’
It was stilted at first, partially due to another person being present as the tram rattled along. But I soon discovered that the younger one was her daughter – the daughter of Stevie and Charlie. Now it would have been magic if her name had of been Rhiannon. It wasn’t, but we’ll call her that.
All too soon we were at her stop and Stevie started to gather up her shopping gear. She said her farewells to Rhiannon who was obviously continuing on – I later discovered she lived further out along the line. Then she turned to me and asked ‘Are you coming? Have you time for a coffee?’ I didn’t need much convincing, I knew it was now or never. I was up like a flash following her off the No.72.
We found a cafe nearby and took a table. There was the question I was dying to ask so I got it out of the way early. No they weren’t. She and Charlie were no longer married; hadn’t been for a while. Seemed the drummer was on the road as often as he was home – and we all know about the temptations of that road. He had grown up a lot, she said, being off the booze and the drugs. But she came to suspect, after a while, that all wasn’t well with their relationship. He was restless. Then, by accident, she found out about a mysterious woman in Sydney and when push came to shove, he wanted to start anew with her. She grimaced as she told me that woman later moved south and it is all very amicable – but I sensed it wasn’t that simple. The next question – was there anyone else in her life? She shook her head to that, with a quizzical smile on her lips. We chatted away for an hour or more before she informed me that she should make a move. I asked if we could keep in touch. Then my insider knowledge kicked in. The Mac were coming early in the new year. Would she like to accompany me if I could arrange tickets. I thought they wouldn’t be a problem. I was owed a few favours. We agreed to meet in Melbourne on the day of the event.
Over the time I spent with her that day and subsequent emails and telephone calls I was able to fill in some of her back story. She obviously still lived in Camberwell, she hadn’t strayed far from her roots. Her singing, like my guitaring, had floundered, but she had her other charms so it seemed. She was outgoing, attractive and never left you wondering – as I was to find out. Soon, after leaving school, she realised she had a talent for selling. First she was in real estate, then she got into car dealership.. Back then she was floor manager for one of those fancy outlets for expensive European cars you see at the city end of Swan Street. She still saw a bit of Charlie in the interests of Rhiannon, but increasingly less so as their daughter formed a life of her own. He was contentedly married to his Sydney lady, semi-retired from the drum kit.
Fast forward to the following year and I jetted down to Melbourne the day before the concert and Stevie cooked a meal for me in her home that night. With a few reds imbibed it started to feel as if we were clicking. On entry she had pecked me on the cheek. On departure, the lips. That was progress, I thought.
It was a hybrid Mac we saw that next night. They were missing Christine McVie and it showed on a few songs. ‘Rhiannon’ featured quite early on and as the real Stevie’s ethereal voice rang out, my Stevie reached for my hand. She held it throughout the rest of the performance. In the back of the taxi from our Hardware Street meal to my hotel we again kissed, but this time she wasn’t so chaste. I had a feeling I was in for a lovely night. And then once in my room, with the skyline of the city shining in…well, you know what happened.
We kept the curtains open so her body was bathed in a diffused glow as we made love for the first time. We petted and caressed until it was time for her to guide me into another site that made me glow in turn. I felt I had found a place I wanted to be forever. I was soon to discover it was reciprocated. After check out time the following morning we taxied back to her place and spent most of the day in bed, getting to know each other intimately, until all too soon it was flight time. For the first time I thought I had someone in my arms who wouldn’t place me second to a career – and so it has turned out.
We commuted between the two cities for another twelve months or so until Stevie made the decision to move permanently up to Sydney. These days I’ve wound down the business and she’s no longer involved with flashy cars. We enjoy the lifestyle a city that never sleeps has to offer and Rhiannon is a frequent guest. And next year, in 2018, Stevie N will sing that song one more time in Oz, in Melbourne. We will feel, no doubt sitting there, that she’ll be singing it just for us.
Author’s note – the nub of this story came to me on a recent trip to Melbourne. On late night commercial radio the host asked his audience to ring in with any unusual tales about how they came to be with their partners. One guy told the story of how he and his wife had been friends at school, but drifted apart afterwards, wedded and raised children before each one’s marriage went sour. They reconnected on a tram taking them both into the city to see Fleetwood Mac. I took it from there.