I love this song, but it's a serious one. I believe the "Battle of the Dragon" is the battle against despair and loneliness, the hardships and losses of life. Sometimes that despair and loneliness get so bad you want to get away, "go to the other side of the world." She feels alone because "she remains when all of you are gone." Perhaps here she's referring to Robin and the fact that she outlived her friend, and all she has are recordings and paintings to remind her of the past.
The battle over despair is such a fierce one that "no one walks away" unscathed. Sometimes the despair gets so intense, "so strong, like a fury" - a fury that you just "wish it to end". Often, when people are in a lot of pain, they feel like their friends don't understand - her friends want to know why she's so sad, but they're not listening to her, not really. Again, perhaps she felt this way when she was grieving for Robin to the extent that she married Robin's widower. Her friends were asking her "Why?" They thought she was going too far in her grief. She doesn't respond to them - they don't understand why she feels the way she does. Indeed it was a mistake, but she can't see that at the time.
In the second verse, she talks about how she is getting used to living without someone - in the context of Robin, she can live without her, but she can't live happily without that spirit there, keeping her company with her figurative "songs." I think when she wonders "who have you been with" she is wondering about the afterlife - when Robin died, did she go to friends? Or... was there more? Stevie's afraid and hopeful at the same time. Now that Stevie's so upset, it's harder to write...but she has to survive, has to "go on." She has to win the battle over despair, the Battle of the Dragon, in order to survive.
As much as I hate to sound like so many Fleetwood Mac fanatics (I am, for the record, NOT a Lindsey/Stevie romantic), I truly believe that this song, and the "dragon", refers to Lindsey. There is a magazine article (I forget what magazine and when it was printed) where, as she is looking at a photo of her and Lindsey she says "the pale shadow of dragon boy, always behind me."
As for the lyrics, I don't know when this song was actually written, but it seems to me to perhaps speak of the mixed emotions following Lindsey's departure from the band. ("No one walks away from this battle") Or perhaps to one of his many walkouts prior to his final good-bye.
"I see myself remaining when all of you are gone" - Perhaps a response to the idea that her becoming a member of the band was just a result of the "package deal" and to the fact that her solo efforts were far more successful than those of ANY of the other band members.
"The beautiful and the sensitive and the oh, so very young, We are adapting to your silence" - Let's face it, Lindsey is a very beautiful man. (He also comes across to me as being a very sensitive one.) It has been said that during the Tango sessions, as Lindsey's departure grew nearer, he and Stevie saw little of each other. Lindsey has been described as an introvert, and so as he contemplated leaving, he may have become more withdrawn and silent. Or maybe the "silence" they are adapting to is simply his absence in the band.
"I can live here without you, At least I'm learning, But I cannot live without your songs" Stevie has said that she never considered her and Lindsey to be truly broken up until he left the band. However, as they saw less and less of each other (with the long break between mirage and tango, and the various solo projects of each member) she would have already had to learn to be without him to some extent, but was perhaps a bit afraid to be without his musical guidance within the context of Fleetwood Mac.
"Who have you been with? Have you been with friends...or is there more? (You're not listening to me)" - again going back to her belief that they were not yet truly broken up. She may have been feeling a bit of jealousy over his involvement with other women.
"Well, I got the message: stay among the living" Perhaps, an expression of anger over his leaving. He was going off to pursue his solo career, (a career that although garnered critical acclaim, did not achieve commercial success) while she remained in the already established and popular Fleetwood Mac, as well as her own already successful solo career.
"Well, I can and I will go on" An assertion to him that (despite her fears) she will make it without him (emotionally and professionally). Or perhaps this statement is an attempt to reassure herself that she doesn't really need him after all.
I have always found this lost gem to be one of the most haunting, harrowing, tortuous songs Stevie has ever written, so I was surprised to read the speculations posted about this song. I am not saying those speculations are invalid, but I've had such a fixed concept in my mind all of these years.
The "Dragon" is her addiction to drugs.
I do recall that the song was released on the "American Anthem" Soundtrack in the summer of 1986 during the drug-addled "Rock a Little" tour. So obviously she was still in the thick of her problem
when she wrote and recorded this song. But I suspect she must have had some kind of a shock or reality check that made her confront her "dragon" with brutal honesty on this song. She seems to have written this song in the future-tense, with the voice of someone who has found some degree of closure with the "dragon."
"No one walks away from this battle... the power... so strong... keep that fury deep inside and wish it to end... and when your friends start asking you why, you just say nothing." Here she paints drug addiction as an extremely difficult, extremely personal battle that, despite all the best intentions of friends (or so-called friends??), she must kick alone, even if it means plastering on a smile despite the turmoil beneath the surface.
In kicking (or hoping to kick) her drug addiction, she has taken on an angry, yet somber, but bitter tone against her musical idols. She makes veiled references to her predecessors- Jimi, Jim, Janis- who all succumbed to the "Dragon" in lines like "The beautiful and the sensitive and the oh so very young... We are adapting to your silence, I can live
here without you... but I cannot live without your songs." She is strong in her resolve to not become yet another rock-n-roll statistic in brazen lines like "I see myself remaining when all of you are gone." and "When this battle is over... I will survive."
At the emotional peak of the song she asks the rhetorical question "Have you been writing?" To which she answers "...it's harder now." Many songwriters have acknowledged that it is easier to write good songs when you are on drugs. Sadly enough, this is probably true for a lot of musicians. Here Stevie poses the question of whether one can write good songs without drugs, to which she gives the most chilling, unflinchingly honest answer: "Well, I got the message: stay among the living." She concludes that it may be more difficult to write songs without drugs, but at least she will be alive to do it.
But despite her bravado, she is only human. And the fundamental rule about recovery from drug addiction is that you are never really "cured." The state of being drug-free is a constant effort, a battle if you will:
"No one walks away from this battle... from the power, it's so strong... oh, you wish it to end."
It's almost tempting to assume that this is yet ANOTHER song about Lindsey, but the message here is so harrowing and painful- it just knocked the wind out of me when I finally realized what this song was about.
I have to admit, my first instinct was to go with the Robin or Lindsey reading of the sense of loss in this song, but after having read Ed's explanation, I totally agree with his assessment of drug addiction as the main theme here.
This excerpt from an interview with Stevie and her dad Jess, not too many years after she finished rehab, was what really convinced me of this explanation:
"Career pressures have been hard on Jess Nick's daughter, who four years ago was addicted to prescription drugs, he said. At the time, Jess and Barbara Nicks feared their superstar daughter would either die from her chemical dependency or commit suicide. After repeated attempts to help her, they flew to Los Angeles one night and convinced her to enter the Betty Ford Center in California.
"She resisted it when we confronted her with it," he said. "She was concerned...that it would be publicized and be detrimental to her career. We spentmost of the night with her and convinced her though, that it was for her health. Finally, she said, 'OK, Daddy, I'll do it.'
"It's tough. It's really tough," he said, shaking his head. "Christ, the career means nothing ot the parents when it comes to the health of your children."
Stevie Nicks remembered her parents' lifesaving intervention from a different perspective.
"He basically said to me, 'How could you possibly even consider putting me through not having you for the rest of my life?' " she recalled quietly. "He said, 'Do you have any idea what it would do to me if you weren't around? You may be rock 'n' roll star to the rest of the world, but you still my daughter, and if you were to die...' "
Overcome with emotion, she could not continue the sentence.
After 28 days at the Betty Ford Center, Stevie was determined to turn her life around. And she has.
"It is scary. It is frightening, " she explained. "But I walked out of those doors saying to myself, 'I'm gonna win this. I'm not gonna disappoint my dad. I'm not going to break his heart.' "
This article speaks to the line, "This was not pre-planned" - She had not been contemplating therapy for her addiction, it was her father's intervention that sent her to "the other side of the world" (the Betty Ford Clinic.)
I also agree that her references to "staying" when "all of you are gone" seems to speak to other famous rock stars who have died from drug addiction - this explains her use of the plural in the line, "And the reasons I record the sounds of your voices," rather than the singular which she would use if she was just talking about Robin or Lindsey.
At the same time, the line, "When your friends start asking you why, you just say nothing" echoes her concerns in the above interview that her addiction would be widely publicized and reflect badly on her career.
"The beautiful and the sensitive and the oh, so very young
We are adapting to your silence
I can live here without you
At least I'm learning
But I cannot live without your songs."
I agree with everything Ed had to say about these lines. (Although it is interesting how these lines taken out of context could so easily apply to her feelings toward Lindsey at the time.)
"I got the message: stay among the living" very clearly references her father's message to her.
The final lines make me think this song may even have been written while she was in rehab:
"Oh, you wish it to end, wish it to end, wish it to end..."
I think that this song might have something to do with Chris and Lindsey and their supposed fling. It fits in with her images of feeling lost to see a love of hers and a friend doing that and they were on the other side of the world.
Who have you been with?
Have you been with friends...or is there more?
Also the timing does seem right.