What can you say about a song whose lyrics are enveloped by the intense fire that burns between two star-crossed lovers whose true love created so much passion, followed by abandonment, that it exploded beyond their personal life and into the beginnings of their careers as songwriters and musicians, first as a duo and then as part of Fleetwood Mac.
"Long Distance Winner," by Stevie Nicks appeared first on the 1973 creation, Buckingham Nicks, an album that preceded both Lindsey Buckingham's and Stevie Nick's careers with Fleetwood Mac. It was later released on Stevie Nicks' boxed set, "Enchanted" in 1998. The song, like most of the songs on Buckingham Nicks is a true reflection of the building frustration, pain and hurt that revolved around the much publicized and very delicate relationship of Lindsey and Stevie. Stevie has always said that Lindsey's first love is music, and "Long Distance Winner" is very much about the battle for Lindsey's soul between Stevie and his music.
Stevie Nicks had this to say about the song in a recent Billboard 1998 interview: "Back then "Long Distance Winner" was very much about dealing with Lindsey, how else can I say it....what the song is really about is a difficult artist, saying "I adore you, but you're difficult" and the line "Sunflowers and your face fascinate me," means your beauty fascinates me, but I still have trouble dealing with you - and I still stay. So it's really an age old story you know?"
"Sunflowers and your face fascinate me
You love only the tallest trees
I come running down the hill
But you're fast
You're the winner
Long distance winner"
Stevie is in awe with Lindsey's beauty - beauty that she finds in Lindsey in many ways, not just physical. Looking at him is like looking at a flower and wondering how nature could have created something so perfect. Sunflowers are large, beautiful, vibrant flowers that only bloom in the heat of the summer. The flowers, along with Lindsey's "beauty," represent something that fascinates and intrigues Stevie. According to Stevie in her statement from the preceding paragraph, Lindsey's beauty does fascinate her, yet she still has trouble dealing with him and the possible expectations he places on her and their relationship.
"You love only the tallest trees" sets up the dilemma of the song, stating that Lindsey only values the highest standards for himself, and therefore, most likely for Stevie. His goals may be almost superhuman, at least in Stevie's eyes.
The line "long distance winner" suggests two people in a race, and, of course, in a race, only one person wins, so the other person has to be the loser. Stevie feels she is in some sort of competition with Lindsey - always trying to reach his expectations - and she's trying to catch up with him, but he's faster. Stevie sees this especially in his ability to arrange her songs, in him being her "soul mate" in that way. The way he makes his music is something that she can never have because she doesn't play music. She admits it when she says ,"I come running down the hill, but you're fast, you're the winner, long distance winner." They both know that it takes stamina and drive to win, both in their careers and succeeding in love. Interestingly, this winning is almost always seen as a contest between the two of them, where one has to win and the other lose, not a situation where they can win together.
Additionally, the aspect of winning is very symbolic to both Stevie and Lindsey and has been used as imagery in many of their songs. "Will you/They ever win?" (both "Rhiannon" and "The Highwayman"); "Two kinds of people in this world, winners, losers," ("Go Insane"); "You don't know what it means to win," ("Never Going Back Again"); and "Long distance winners, will we survive," ("Fireflies").
"Not unlike the blue white fire
You burn brightly in spite of yourself
I bring the water down to you
But you're too hot to touch
You're too hot to touch."
Stevie's flowery language and mysticism are very evident in this verse. It's possible she is saying that Lindsey shines because he is a star, "a winner," even though he has doubts about himself. Or maybe he has the capacity to explode, to burn brightly in spite of his nature. She compares Lindsey to the "blue white fire," which is the hottest kind of flame.
Water is always seen as a cleansing element in Stevie's lyrics ("when the rain washes you clean you'll know" from "Dreams") and she is trying to reach Lindsey and stop the fire from destroying him and their relationship by putting the fire out, but he's "too hot to touch," and she feels burned. There is a lot of double meaning here. Partly sexual - their passion is a big part of what kept Stevie and Lindsey together (Lindsey has stated that although they were not always great friends, they were always great lovers). Also, it's partly about Lindsey's dedication to his work and his high expectations, which are things that Stevie finds "untouchable" about him. Stevie knows how music is the most important thing to Lindsey, and she feels she cannot compete. In her eyes she is losing. And to Stevie and Lindsey, there can only be one winner.
Save their soul
Tie them to your heaven
Erase their hell
Save their lifestyle if you feel it
Don't try to change them
You never will"
Stevie would move heaven and earth for Lindsey. She would do anything to make him happy and erase any pain (hell) in his life. Because theirs is such a powerful love, she surrenders to the pain and heartbreak that comes with it. She does everything she can to make him happy and try to take his pain away, even though she's left with her own pain and possible feelings of inadequacy. She has to accept things the way they are and not try to change him.
"Sunflowers and your face fascinate me
You go into the dusty pink day
I come calling unto you
But you run
You're the winner
Long distance winner."
Once again, as seen in the very first verse, Stevie is trying to catch up with Lindsey, and once again, she cannot. In a way, this song is similar to Stevie's solo song on Bella Donna, "The Highwayman," in that the man in the song is "unreachable" and rides off ahead of her. But she's not giving up and seems to accept the situation, hoping that she can still "save his soul." Additionally, this theme is echoed in another Buckingham Nicks song, "Frozen Love," ("I may not be as strong as you, you may not be as strong as me, I may not care to teach you, it may be hard to keep up with me").
The ending "oh...you're the winner" seems to echo Stevie's aching need to make this love work. While Stevie admires Lindsey's dedication and love of his music, she was not ready to be second. As Stevie repeats "you're the winner, long distance winner..." over and over in the last verse, Lindsey transcends into a passionate guitar solo, almost as if he's running down the hill as fast as he can, until the sun sets on their relationship, leaving Stevie too far behind.
(The interpretations to these lyrics were compiled through discussions on the message boards of the Penguin, The Ledge. It is entirely possible that the artists had something completely different in mind.)