Not Fade Away 1979: Sara, Fleetwood Mac.

Wait a minute baby

Stay with me awhile

This is where things get seriously biographical. In 1979 I turn 16. I'm obsessed by Marvel comics, Michael Moorcock fantasy books and Jenny Agutter. My musical tastes are .. umm indiscriminate. I like almost everything. But then there's so much to like.

Even in retrospect 1979 shapes up as one of the truly great years in pop history. The length of the list of other contenders below this isn't only down to nostalgia (although I'll accept it might be a factor - one that's likely to continue over the next few weeks/years). In 1979 we've got American punk, British post-punk, high-end disco, lovers' rock, the best of what was known as new wave, the last truly great single by Motown's greatest artist and the first great single by the star who would become the brightest talent of the decade to come (no, it's not Michael). We've got Bowie and Kate Bush, Chrissie Hynde (one of my favourite voices in pop) and Debbie Harry, weird synthy one-hit wonders from M and Flying Lizards and itchy electronica from Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League.

We are beyond punk by now. Suddenly all the rules and restrictions - necessary as they may have felt at the time - are gone. It feels like anything is possible.

And yet here I am choosing chiffon-draped, cocaine-fuelled soft rock. What gives?

Blame the 16-year-old me. The boy whose favourite comic was Master of Kung Fu. The writer of said comic, Doug Moench, was obsessed by Fleetwood Mac. He seemed to have his characters listen to Rumours every month. And I was soon indoctrinated. So much so that I rushed out to buy the Tusk double album as soon it came out and played it again and again and again and ...

I still like a lot of the album. There are tracks like Save Me A Place where the (undoubtedly expensively produced) DIY feel of the music and the lachrymose luminosity of the harmonies gets me every time. (On the basis of absolutely no evidence whatsoever I always want to say alt-country starts here).

But, really, what I tuned in to were the Stevie Nicks songs. And Sara more than the rest. I've written before in this place about how Nicks should be the antithesis of everything I like in pop. But I just can't help myself. I am drawn back again and again to the woozy narcotic of her sound, what the music critic Simon Reynolds once called her "grain-of-the-voice viscosity".

There has been something of a reconsideration of Tusk in recent years, though no one has caught it's shimmering, off-key qualities as well as Reynolds as long ago as 1995. Writing in the Melody Maker's Unknown Pleasures supplement that year he also made the case for Nicks too.

"Those who supervise admission to the Canon of Rock do not take Ms Nicks seriously, to put it mildly: "mooncalf", "space cadet", "hippy-chick" are the sort of pejorative hurled her way," he wrote. "And it's sort of understandable: how seriously can you take someone who named her publishing company Welsh Witch Music? Who -for her last interview with a UK rockmag - had her personal affects transported, at her own expense, to the photographer's studio, where her boudoir was painstakingly recreated? In mitigation, I might propose her as the American Kate Bush (the same fascination for mythopoeic fancy, Celtic lore and old Albion). Actually, I'd rather up the stakes and make the case for Stevie as a pre-punk Liz Fraser, blessed with a voice so language-liquidising, so milk-and-honeyed, it's almost edible, definitely pre-Oedipal."

Of course it helps that Lindsey Buckingham gives that voice the most sumptuous, liquid soundbed to sink into, a wash of sound all locked in (Oh God, those backing harmonies - so obvious, so beautiful).

Fleetwood Mac's story is always told in terms of its splits and fractures. Maybe all that angst gave the music an edge and energy, but what always strikes me is how well all the elements fuse. If this was a band falling apart it's not obvious in the music.

Still, if I remember rightly, Sara was another summary of the band's tendency towards emotional clusterbombing. Stevie and Lindsey had split, Stevie got it together with Mick Fleetwood. Mick then went off with Stevie's best friend Sara. You can probably decipher some of that in the obliquely romantic (with a capital R) lyrics; lyrics that speak of heartbreak and desire (maybe only a hippychick like Stevie Nicks could use the words "undoing the laces" as an erotic image).

But in truth at 16 I wasn't really interested in Sara as the soundtrack to Nicks's own life. I wanted it to be the soundtrack of mine. In 1979 I had never been in love, but listening to Sara was what I imagined it would feel like - an oceanic swell rising and rising and never ebbing away ...

Drowning in the sea of love

Where everyone would love to drown

Isn't that what everyone wanted?

Every Tuesday afternoon in 1979 I'd run home from school to hear Paul Burnett on Radio 1 reveal the charts. Sara peaked at number 37.

Other Contenders (in rough order of preference)

Kid, The Pretenders

London Calling, The Clash

Transmission, Joy Division

Cruisin', Smokey Robinson

Oh Lucinda (Love Becomes a Habit), The Only Ones

Boys Keep Swinging, David Bowie

Making Plans for Nigel, XTC

Wow, Kate Bush

I Wanna Be Your Lover, Prince

Dancing Barefoot, Patti Smith

Heart of Glass, Blondie

Good Times, Chic

Lost in Music, Sister Sledge

Heaven, Talking Heads

Silly Games, Janet Kay

Beat the Clock, Sparks

Tusk, Fleetwood Mac

Stop Your Sobbing, The Pretenders

Atomic, Blondie

We Don't Talk Any More, Cliff Richard

Cars, Gary Numan

Bela Lugosi's Dead, Bauhaus

Gangsters, The Specials

Pop Muzik, M

Boogie Wonderland, Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions

Nag Nag Nag, Cabaret Voltaire

Money, The Flying Lizards

Empire State Human, The Human League

Oliver's Army, Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Accidents Will Happen, Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Green Shirt, Elvis Costello and the Attractions

My Girl, Madness

Lovers of Today, The Pretenders

Girls Talk, Dave Edmunds

California Uber Alles, The Dead Kennedys

Cruel to Be Kind, Nick Lowe

Chuck E's in Love, Ricky Lee Jones

On Saturday Afternoons in 1963, Ricky Lee Jones

Rock'n'Roll High School, The Ramones

It's Different For Girls, Joe Jackson

Is She Really Going Out with Him?, Joe Jackson

Don't Stop Til You Get Enough, Michael Jackson

The NME Single of 1979: Eton Rifles, The Jam

And the best-selling single of 1979; Bright Eyes, Art Garfunkel