Twenty years after Rumours made them superstars, the band's most famous lineup has reunited, and Mick Fleetwood couldn't be happier. By Alan Niester, Special to the Globe and Mail, Toronto
Over its 30 year history, Fleetwood Mac has employed 15 different musicians, a half a dozen distinct band lineups, and recorded more than two dozen albums.
Yet for most music fans, it was the mid-seventies lineup of Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham, along with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie that will forever represent Fleetwood Mac. This was the lineup responsible for albums such as Fleetwood Mac, Tusk, Tango in the Night, and most especially, Rumours, which sold 20 million copies worldwide and provided such hits as Dreams, You Make Loving Fun, Don't Stop and Go Your Own Way.
Few expected, however, that this lineup would ever work together again. As good as the band's music was, the lives of its members were not: John and Christine McVie's marriage broke up during the recording of Rumours; so did the relationship between Nicks and Buckingham, a trauma not made any easier by the fact that Nicks was reputed to have found solace in the arms of Fleetwood. The band managed to transcend the personal problems to make fine recordings. Still, when Buckingham finally broke away, in the late eighties, it seemed unlikely that the quintet would ever reform.
Mick Fleetwood wasn't one of these doubters, however. "I don't really think that some of the wounds were as pronounced as some of the people, especially in the media, seemed to think," he said during a recent visit to Toronto. The drummer - all 6 foot 6 of him - is 55 now, and his once gawky, angular frame has filled out to the point where he physically dominates the room. Attired in trademark brocade vest and with his grey hair tied in a tight little pony tail at the back, he is the epitome of the successful, larger than life veteran rock star.
"When Lindsey left the band, he did so because he was at the end of his tether with being a rock star. It just wasn't doing it for him creatively any more. He needed to retreat to his studio and do the kind of work that he wanted to do, outside of the spotlight of being in Fleetwood Mac. It was Lindsey who became the outcast, because the four of us [who remained] continued to work together.
And now, the Fleetwood Mac that so many loved and observed in the late seventies and eighties is indeed back. The band recently reunited for a live special (which aired on Muchmusic), which included 13 songs from that era, plus four new songs - all of which have just been released on a new CD titled The Dance.
While a cynic might suggest that the reunion was a calculated attempt to revive flagging careers a la Eagles reformation of a couple of years ago, Fleetwood said that this grouping came about by happenstance, not design. "It's not like some two-years-in-the- making thing" he said. "It literally all came together very quickly."
The seeds of the reunion were sewn, not at Fleetwood Mac's performance of Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow) at the Clinton inauguration ceremonies of 1992 ("Weird, a one off," Fleetwood recalled), but at a chance collaboration between Buckingham and himself over the past 15 months. "We'd met occasionally over the years," Fleetwood said "and we'd say how we'd get together and play, but nothing would ever come of it. But finally he asked me to come in and help him with some solo things he was doing in his studio. I figured it might take a couple of weeks. I ended up staying for a year, as we redid some of the great stuff he'd been doing on his own."
Eventually, the duo felt the time was right to add the bass. "I just cheekily said, 'Let's call John,'" Fleetwood said with a laugh. "I thought John would be reticent to do it because he was cutting his own album, and I didn't know how Lindsey would react. But he just said 'Let's try it,' and it worked.
"Soon after, he invited Christine down, and at that point it was still Lindsey's project. But then the jokes started happening, you know, like, 'What are we doing here?' and "Is this a Fleetwood Mac album or am I doing my own album or what's happening?'" And because Buckingham had recently been in touch with Nicks (the pair had collaborated on a song for the soundtrack to Twister), it wasn't long before she, too, found herself in Buckingham's studio with the old gang. "Lindsey was very much the focus of how it all got back together," he said. "He had left and become the outcast, and irony was that he'd brought us all back together."
Fleetwood Mac originally came together as a blues band, in England in 1967. And while members such as Peter Green, Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer and Bob Welch came and went, the band itself continued to operate under the direction of Fleetwood and McVie. It wasn't until 1995 that Fleetwood and McVie finally decided to dissolve the partnership, an act that Fleetwood now regards in a very positive light. "It was a very hard thing for me when John and I broke up Fleetwood Mac. It really went against the grain for me."
"If you'd ever ask me why I kept the band going all these years, I'd have just said it was because that's what I do. But at the end, it was starting to be too much hard work. We'd made an album - 1995's Time - that was a total failure, and I just couldn't see myself slogging around clubs again starting all over. So we stopped. And at that point it was like letting go of a whole lifetime for me, but it really did me good. It was necessary. And again, the irony is that it ended up making all this possible.
Fleetwood considers the Rumours - era lineup to be one of the two highpoints of his career. The other occured when he was playing behind guitarist Peter Green. Green was a brilliant stylist who quit the band in 1970 to join a religious commune. Later diagnosed as a schizophrenic, Green literally dropped from sight, only to periodically resurface, then disappear again. Over 20 years he became something of a legendary figure in England around whom rumours and sighting stories swirled like Elvis.
But Green is relearning to play after years of treatment for his mental illness, and is, according to Fleetwood, performing and recording.
"He's getting better by the month," Fleetwood reports. "And it would be my pleasure and my dream to play with Peter again. He's the reason I'm here. He's the reason Fleetwood Mac is here. One forgets that sometimes."
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