RUMOURS IS FLYING
By Roger Catlin (Courant Rock Critic)
Stevie Nicks often spoke of witches, fairies and the supernatural in her songs over the years. But one thing she never believed in was reuniting with Fleetwood Mac.
"I don't think anybody had much faith in getting back together, to be perfectly honest," Nicks says over the phone from Los Angeles, in "deep rehearsal" for a tour that begins in Hartford Wednesday at the Meadows Music Theatre.
Fleetwood Mac had been around since 1967 in some form, origianlly as a British blues band. But when the duo of Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and McVie's then-wife Christine McVie in 1974, they became one of the most popular rock bands ever, with the 5-million selling "Fleetwood Mac" album followed by the 17-million selling "Rumours." Buckingham left the touring group in 1983; Nicks and Christine McVie quit in 1990, and another form of the Mac were barely noticed as they were booked on nostalgia bills with Styx and Pat Benetar.
There had been demand for a reunion of the best-selling 1977 version of the band, says Nicks, now 49, "We were offered a chance to do this every year since 1983."
"I think what happened at the beginning of this year was the fact that it was the 20th anniversary of 'Rumours'," she says. "That was kind of cool, you know. I guess you could be married for 18 years and never really notice it, but when the 20th anniversary comes, that's like a big deal. So it seemed that it was more important this year than in any other years."
And the mind that had to change was Buckingham's, the guitarist who first left the platinum lineup in 1983, "Lindsey has always been the hold out," says Nicks.
But it was while working on his solo album that Buckingham first enlisted Fleetwood to sit on drums. Before long John McVie joined on bass, Christine McVie on harmonies, and this "organic" reunion brought in Nicks as well.
The results were much better than the one-shot reunion of the line-up during the 1992 inaugural of President Clinton, singing a song that had become his campaign theme, "Don't Stop." ("It made you kind of aware of how much bigger politics is than rock 'n' roll," Nicks recalls.) But there was no talk of staying together then.
Buckingham also may have become more interested in a reunion this year because MTV expressed so much interest in the project, Nicks says, "That, of course, is very exciting to a band that is old as we are."
Once the prospect of a reunion looked possible, Nicks says, "It seemed like the whole world got excited. It was starting to roll before anybody had ever really said yes or no."
The excitement continued at the marketplace, as the Mac followed a reunion game plan perfected by the Eagles a few years back. Huge audiences greeted Fleetwood Mac's concert reunion show on MTV last month; the album from the event, "The Dance," debuted at #1; and concerts have been selling out across the country, despite ticket prices, that (also like the Eagles), are quite high.
It meant that all other solo projects had to be put on hold. Nicks had been in Phoenix writing and recording her sixth solo album. A week before the band convened on April Fool's Day, she wrote her new contribution for the project .
"Sweet Girl" was written absolutely for the band," she says. "It really was written about all of us spending our lives touring the world, as opposed to staying home and having a family or doing that kind of thing."
Does she regret forgoing a traditional home and family for her rock career? "You know, I have asked myself that a lot lately," she says, "And I think if I had to go through it again, I think the choices would have been the same. It's the way that my life was supposed to be . I knew from the beginning I didn't want to be a half-assed mom and a half-assed rock performer. I felt that's what would happen if I tried to do both; I would not be very good at either. I would have really hated to have two or three or four very disturbed children right now. So I'm glad. For me, it was the best thing."
She has no regrets about another aspect of her rock lifestyle: drugs. "If there's money and high powered people around, it's pretty easy to do drugs," she says. It wasn't just the tenor of the times. "It was just: Everybody did cocaine. Everybody." Nobody ever told us how dangerous it was. If somebody ever sat me down and really told me the repercussions of doing too much cocaine over 10 years, I know I would have been more careful. But nobody ever did. I absolutely remember people saying: It's recreational, it's not addictive, it's excessive. It's the rich man's drug. It's something you do once in a while and have a good time. Nobody ever said anything about that it could remove your brain from your head. It was OK.
"And then, of course, it wasn't OK. But it was too late."
Nicks checked herself into the Betty Ford rehabilition clinic in 1986 and has been clean ever since. Still she wouldn't have changed the way things went.
"Yes, the drugs were bad and they got everybody sick and made a lot of problems. However, the there's the tragic artist drug syndrome that sometimes makes for great art. "So I would go back and change any of it? No I wouldn't. I think it all happened for a reason. "I'm alive today and I'm fine and I'm in fairly good health. So I got through it. I wouldn't go back and change anything. I'm not disappointed with it and I'm not sorry about it. It is the way it was. And I'm OK now. "If I was dead now, we wouldn't be doing this interview, and I would say, maybe I wish it had changed. But I got through it, so I was lucky." But unlike other rehabbed rock stars, she won't preach about it. "I would never lecture anybody because I don't think that's the way to get to people. It certainly wasn't the way to get to me. "I decided to go to Betty Ford. Nobody came and threw me in a van and took me. That was my decision. I booked the room. I paid for it. So I really think when it comes down to that stuff, it's really all up to you."
The topic of drugs does come up, though, between Nicks and her friend Courtney Love, who can be seen in the audience of the MTV special.
"Courtney doesn't live very far from me, so she comes over and we hang. We have a good time. She's wonderful." says Nicks. Of the drug use Love "wants to know about it all. So I have told her a lot of it. Maybe I that mightsave her some difficult times down the road. And I think she knows that and it makes us both kind of feel good. "I have a great amount of recpect for Courtney, because she went further into it, than I did." Nicks says, regarding Love's dabblings in heroin. "And it's not going to take her 10 years or 15 years to be fine, do you know what I mean? "We all got so crazy and it just kept going for a long time. She's still really young and she's going to be able to have a great career and have a great life now." Love is one of many younger artists who have begun to look up to Nicks and sing her classics. Love recorded Nicks' "Gold Dust Woman"; Smashing Pumpkins recorded "Landslide." "That's incredible, huh?," Nicks says softly. "I guess you couldn't really ask for anything more. As a songwriter it makes me feel like I've actually done something."
A ROCK ROLE MODEL
Nicks has been a role model for a rock world that has only recently celebrated the contributions of women with the Lilith Fair. "It was really a man's world then," Nicks says of the days when she and Christine McVie first fronted Fleetwood Mac. "Chris and I were two women in a big band, so we had a lot more clout tha most people would usally have. Chris and I would laughingly say, 'What are you guys going to do, fire us?'
"We got to do a lot more stuff than people would have thought, because we were two of the integral musicians in that band. We weren't just backup singers. And we weren't just stupid girls." Now that the Mac is back together, it's unclear how long it will last. "We have 40 concerts. I think when we get to our 35th concert we'll have a really good idea whether or not we want to continue to tour, or do another record, " Nicks says She's been surprised at how easy it's been so far - and how well the songs hold up, two decades later.
"Coming through last 20 years, they definitely have sort of a premonition feeling. They really told a story of what was coming."
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