LOS ANGELES - Every year since its fracture in 1987, Fleetwood Mac routinely nixed the lucrative reunion proposals dangled by industry moguls.
Until now. It appears the '70s rock supergroup, responsible for hits like Go Your Own Way, decided to go its old way after succumbing to pop music's current epidemic: boomer sentimentality.
"There's something about the 20th anniversary of Rumours that made us all a little nostalgic," says singer Stevie Nicks, 49. "It's a pretty fabulous opportunity. Who would we rather be than us right now?"
The reunion germinated last year after Mick Fleetwood, 55, played drums on Lindsey Buckingham's solo album. Negotiations involving five managers led to a rehearsal, then to a full-tilt comeback.
The big Mac attack starts with Monday night's 90-minute MTV special, Fleetwood Mac: The Dance, airing at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The show, capped by the 85-piece USC Trojan Marching Band on Tusk, was culled from two private performances in May, the first full concerts since 1982 by the popular configuration of Nicks, Fleetwood, Buckingham, 49, and ex-spouses Christine McVie, 54, and John McVie, 51.
Live album The Dance arrives Aug. 19 with four new songs and such hits as The Chain and Rhiannon. A home video is due Aug. 26. VH1 airs Fleetwood Mac: Behind the Music, on Sept. 7. And a 40-date tour starts Sept. 17.
Though they briefly regrouped to play at President Clinton's '92 inauguration (Don't Stop was his campaign theme), no one bet on permanence. Buckingham, the last holdout, finally signed on after recognizing a long-absent harmony.
"We're appreciating each other as musicians and as a fivesome that is greater than the sum of its parts," he says. "The chemistry when we joined was Stevie and I as a couple, John and Chris as a couple and this extra guy. And that chemistry was torn apart by dysfunction and disunity."
Fleetwood Mac, formed as a blues band in 1967, recruited lovers Nicks and Buckingham in 1975. They instantly bolstered the creative core, she as the raspy-voiced poetic gypsy, he as the brilliant studio alchemist. Their relationship ended in flames, as did the McVie marriage, but not before the discord fed the bittersweet romantic pop of 1977's Grammy-winning Rumours. It spent 31 weeks at No. 1 and sold 25 million copies, success that only aggravated the personal turmoil.
"We were all so freaked out and overwhelmed and famous and rich overnight that it was very hard to sit down and be adult about anything," Nicks says. "But there would never have been a Rumours if everything had been fabulous."
Resentments and bruised egos delayed healing for years. On a recent afternoon at Nicks' home overlooking the ocean, she and Buckingham settled at opposite ends of a plush green velvet couch to reminisce warmly. Only once did they engage in playful bickering, as they discussed editing the Dance tapes.
He: "Too much talking, right?"
She: "Too much talking."
He: "What would you take out? There's too much of me, obviously."
She: "Well, I didn't think there was too much of me, because I didn't talk."
He: "No you didn't, so somebody had to. Should we take out my talking bits?"
She: "It doesn't matter to me. Whatever you want is fine."
He: "Well, call me later."
She: "Well, you're here now."
He: "But this isn't interview material."
Such banter constitutes an amazing breakthrough for a sexy rock dyad that devolved into a fuming feud.
"Let's put it this way: We hardly spoke," Nicks says. "We would get on and off the same plane without interacting at all. It's not like that now. Even if Lindsey and I were to totally fall in love again, get married and get divorced, we would never let it go to that negative place again."
Back then, Nicks resisted compromise. Buckingham didn't relish her domination of the spotlight. And as the McVies drifted toward divorce, Nicks and Christine commiserated, splitting the band into camps and accelerating both breakups.
"Without that catalyst, maybe it would have been drawn out longer or maybe we would have worked it out," says Buckingham, who found breaking up less difficult than maintaining a professional bond afterward.
"You break up in '77 and think, 'Hey, get on with it, buddy,' but you see that person every day for the next 10 years. It wasn't until I left (the band) that I could face all the issues with Stevie. None of it was ever resolved, but I don't think we were focused enough to know what needed to be resolved."
Disagreements that cropped up in choreographing The Dance were settled diplomatically, unlike the creative clashes of yore. Then, Nicks recalls, "Lindsey would say, 'I don't want this song on the record,' and I'd say, 'I hate you!' and I'd be out the door and at home making up speeches I wanted to deliver to him the next day. Then it would get worse.
"Now he explains his opinion, and we still might not agree, but we communicate and we don't walk away angry."
Nicks and Buckingham delayed solo albums to rekindle Mac. For Nicks, it was a no-brainer. She had already passed on marriage and motherhood to pursue music with unrelenting fervor. Though she stands as Mac's only solo superstar, she prefers the cohesion of a band.
He shares her pride in Mac's feats but cringes at latter-day incarnations after Nicks and Christine quit touring.
"It was basically a nostalgia package, something you don't like to see the name attached to," he says. "I felt the band got a little too generic. It started to feel like a Platters franchise. I wasn't happy to see what Mick and John did - or had to do."
Namesakes Fleetwood and McVie carried on with hired hands because they had no choice, Nicks says. Without songwriting royalties, they rely largely on touring revenue.
"Those guys have to work," Nicks says. "No matter how much money you have, it's going to dwindle, right? Mick loves money. He has incredibly expensive tastes. You can't blame him for wanting to be the elegant English gentleman."
The lure of big moolah is less tempting, they say, than the chance to reignite the band's legend. Is the Mac back for good?
"We're taking it one step at a time," Buckingham says. "My shrink would say this is the best thing I've ever done. Take those emotional risks! Aside from any career strategy, it's just been a good, positive, healing interaction. If nothing else happens, this is a nice closure. That's enough."
By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
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