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Bassist (02/02/1998), John McVie < Peter Green < Main Page

Bassist (02/02/1998), John McVie
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Bassist, February 1998

JOHN MCVIE

With a new/old album, The Dance, doing brisk business, have the Macsters buried their respective hatchets? Tanya Almor Gambale met the man who put the Mac in Fleetwood:

He's just a bass player--that's what John McVie will tell you. In fact, what he'll actually say is, "I'm just a boring old fart bass player...". But being a founder member of Fleetwood Mac, for over 30 years he has supplied some of the most recognisable bass lines anywhere--in the longest-running rock soap of modern times. He's survived numerous line-up changes, upheavals and breakdowns; riding the highs and lows of a group which boasts album sales of more than 70 million. But John McVie's story begins long before such success...

Blues breaker

In 1963, John McVie joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, a band widely credited as being responsible for the birth of electric British blues. Many Bluesbreakers went on to become blues stalwarts, people like: Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Jack Bruce, and Andy Fraser. Fleetwood Mac was formed in 1967 with former Bluesbreakers' guitarist Peter Green and drummer Mick Fleetwood--McVie didn't join until later, despite the band's name. Later he married Christine Perfect, at that time singing and playing keyboards with fellow Brit bluesers, Chicken Shack. Some time after retiring to concentrate on being a housewife, Christine was drafted into the ranks Fleetwood Mac and went on to write many of the band's biggest hits. In 1974, the band moved to the US where they were eventually joined by two Americans--guitarist Lindsay Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks--after a succession of replacement guitarists for the departed Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan tri-axis. Mega AOR success, years spent on the road and heavy recording schedules eventually took their toll. John and Christine were divorced; Mick and his wife divorced (and later re-married), and Stevie and Lindsay broke up. But somehow the band kept together. Traumatic though it was, this period spawned the legendary Rumours, an album that still holds the number three spot in the best-selling albums of all time. It has sold over 25 million copies and continues to sell in its 20th year.

Tango'd!

Following the recording of 1987's Tango In The Night, Lindsay Buckingham vowed he would never tour with Fleetwood Mac again. With this fundamental creative force gone, the band could only limp through more personnel changes until they finally disbanded. A one-off 're-union' gig for President Clinton's inauguration in 1992, saw the Mac perform Clinton's adopted campaign song: 'Don't Stop', but after a recent group collaboration for a solo project of Lindsay Buckingham's, the magic was deemed to still be there, and before long the original members of the Big Mac were back. Following a TV special in the summer of 1997, The Dance--a collection of re-worked classics and new songs--was released, along with a video of the show. Before long, the band were back on the road with a coast-to-coast sell-out tour of the US. It was during this tour, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in his hotel room in Southern California, high above the spectacular coastline of Dana Point, with wife Julie and daughter Molly joining him between shows, that John McVie talked to Bassist about his life and career. He is a man of genuine humility, honesty and warmth. No big ego, no big pretence and no big attitude. In fact, it's not difficult to imagine that he really hasn't changed much since he was playing London clubs all those years ago.

Ealing blues

"A band called the Krewsaders, made up of kids on the block, from Ealing, West London," was John's earliest bass gig. "We had the jacket, the badge, the whole thing. We were doing weddings, show stuff etc." he adds. "A guy called Cliff Barton, the bass player for Cyril Davis, (harmonica player with Alexis Corner and Chris Barber), was offered a job with John Mayall, and he said, "No I don't want the job 'cause I'm playing with Cyril Davis, but I know this young kid who's 15--give him a shot".John was given 'a shot', and in January 1963, aged 17, he began an impressive five-year-run in the Bluesbreakers, backing the great guitar names and surviving several drink-related firings and subsequent re-hirings. "The first gig I ever did was in Acton--I got paid 10 shillings--it was at a pub on the Uxbridge Road." What was the music scene like then? "Very exciting. In those days you could walk into clubs and sit in. The early Mac played the original Marquee Club in Oxford Street. We were pretty crazy then. Jeremy (Spencer) had a huge dildo called Harold which he used to wind audiences up with!" Do you miss all that? "No, I don't miss Harold at all! Yes, I miss the old club days very much. Now it's very controlled. We've got accountants, individual managers and lawyers, disc and DAT, but basically it's a five-piece band, and you go on stage and play, and we deliver music. But what's behind that is so much more than when we started off. Mayall and I were carrying our gear into the clubs and stuff--Eric and Peter mucked in. Now it's limos, private jets, but, hopefully, that bottom line isn't lost. I was talking to John Lee Hooker the other night, up at Shoreline--he slept on my Dad's floor, when I was with Mayall, during a Brit tour backing him up. I said, "John Lee, remember me?" and he said, "Yeah--I slept on your daddy's floor!"

This is from the February 1998 issue of Bassist magazine:

JOHN MCVIE

With a new/old album, The Dance, doing brisk business, have the Macsters buried their respective hatchets? Tanya Almor Gambale met the man who put the Mac in Fleetwood:

He's just a bass player--that's what John McVie will tell you. In fact, what he'll actually say is, "I'm just a boring old fart bass player...". But being a founder member of Fleetwood Mac, for over 30 years he has supplied some of the most recognisable bass lines anywhere--in the longest-running rock soap of modern times. He's survived numerous line-up changes, upheavals and breakdowns; riding the highs and lows of a group which boasts album sales of more than 70 million. But John McVie's story begins long before such success...

Blues breaker

In 1963, John McVie joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, a band widely credited as being responsible for the birth of electric British blues. Many Bluesbreakers went on to become blues stalwarts, people like: Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Jack Bruce, and Andy Fraser. Fleetwood Mac was formed in 1967 with former Bluesbreakers' guitarist Peter Green and drummer Mick Fleetwood--McVie didn't join until later, despite the band's name. Later he married Christine Perfect, at that time singing and playing keyboards with fellow Brit bluesers, Chicken Shack. Some time after retiring to concentrate on being a housewife, Christine was drafted into the ranks Fleetwood Mac and went on to write many of the band's biggest hits. In 1974, the band moved to the US where they were eventually joined by two Americans--guitarist Lindsay Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks--after a succession of replacement guitarists for the departed Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan tri-axis. Mega AOR success, years spent on the road and heavy recording schedules eventually took their toll. John and Christine were divorced; Mick and his wife divorced (and later re-married), and Stevie and Lindsay broke up. But somehow the band kept together. Traumatic though it was, this period spawned the legendary Rumours, an album that still holds the number three spot in the best-selling albums of all time. It has sold over 25 million copies and continues to sell in its 20th year.

Tango'd!

Following the recording of 1987's Tango In The Night, Lindsay Buckingham vowed he would never tour with Fleetwood Mac again. With this fundamental creative force gone, the band could only limp through more personnel changes until they finally disbanded. A one-off 're-union' gig for President Clinton's inauguration in 1992, saw the Mac perform Clinton's adopted campaign song: 'Don't Stop', but after a recent group collaboration for a solo project of Lindsay Buckingham's, the magic was deemed to still be there, and before long the original members of the Big Mac were back. Following a TV special in the summer of 1997, The Dance--a collection of re-worked classics and new songs--was released, along with a video of the show. Before long, the band were back on the road with a coast-to-coast sell-out tour of the US. It was during this tour, on a sunny Saturday afternoon in his hotel room in Southern California, high above the spectacular coastline of Dana Point, with wife Julie and daughter Molly joining him between shows, that John McVie talked to Bassist about his life and career. He is a man of genuine humility, honesty and warmth. No big ego, no big pretence and no big attitude. In fact, it's not difficult to imagine that he really hasn't changed much since he was playing London clubs all those years ago.

Ealing blues

"A band called the Krewsaders, made up of kids on the block, from Ealing, West London," was John's earliest bass gig. "We had the jacket, the badge, the whole thing. We were doing weddings, show stuff etc." he adds. "A guy called Cliff Barton, the bass player for Cyril Davis, (harmonica player with Alexis Corner and Chris Barber), was offered a job with John Mayall, and he said, "No I don't want the job 'cause I'm playing with Cyril Davis, but I know this young kid who's 15--give him a shot".John was given 'a shot', and in January 1963, aged 17, he began an impressive five-year-run in the Bluesbreakers, backing the great guitar names and surviving several drink-related firings and subsequent re-hirings. "The first gig I ever did was in Acton--I got paid 10 shillings--it was at a pub on the Uxbridge Road." What was the music scene like then? "Very exciting. In those days you could walk into clubs and sit in. The early Mac played the original Marquee Club in Oxford Street. We were pretty crazy then. Jeremy (Spencer) had a huge dildo called Harold which he used to wind audiences up with!" Do you miss all that? "No, I don't miss Harold at all! Yes, I miss the old club days very much. Now it's very controlled. We've got accountants, individual managers and lawyers, disc and DAT, but basically it's a five-piece band, and you go on stage and play, and we deliver music. But what's behind that is so much more than when we started off. Mayall and I were carrying our gear into the clubs and stuff--Eric and Peter mucked in. Now it's limos, private jets, but, hopefully, that bottom line isn't lost. I was talking to John Lee Hooker the other night, up at Shoreline--he slept on my Dad's floor, when I was with Mayall, during a Brit tour backing him up. I said, "John Lee, remember me?" and he said, "Yeah--I slept on your daddy's floor!"

Formal music education

"None--only John Mayall. He gave me some records by Willie Dixon, B B King and said, 'Go and listen to this', and that was it. This was around 1961-62. John put me on the path. Willie Dixon, Charles Mingus and, later on, Paul McCartney; they're all melodicists, you know, lines within lines. And Bach." Who inspires you now?"No one." Do you listen to music much? " I do. But mostly stuff that I've listened to for years: Jimmy Buffet; y'know, just good-time music. I'm not into slap playing--if anyone's wondering--I find that offensive. I don't like people doing stuff in my face, threatening me with a four-stringed instrument, showing how good they are. Technically it's clever. I could never do it, but they're missing the point. I have a traditional role, sitting behind the singers--the front line. I love sitting right in there with Mick's kick."When playing live, do you play off Mick's kick? "No, I play off Christine's keyboard--left-hand line. I lock into Mick's kick, which is an experience! Mick isn't a technical drummer: he's a feel drummer. It's interesting to try and sit with his foot because sometimes it's whatever's going on in the front line--every song's different--it's never the same. He's slightly ahead of the beat and I'm slightly behind it, which gives a sort of 'torn' rhythm effect! Am I making any sense? What I'm saying is: we meet somewhere. We catch up with each other. It's not like a perfect one-and-two, one-and-two; it's not symphonic."

New Mac

How did you, Mick and Christine feel when you first jammed with Stevie and Lindsay? "Amazing!--right from the first five minutes. Absolutely! The three of them just sang. The blend was right there. Did you know it would take Fleetwood Mac to a completely new place? "They did. I'm just the bass player, for goodness' sake!"When someone brings in a new song, how do you come up with your bass part? "Whatever the melody is--and the kick. It just happens. In 'Dreams', for example, the bass notes F and G were all it needed. The main point was in what Stevie was saying; there was no need to elaborate. I listen for the least that'll support. Stevie's not a player, she does a bit on the keyboard. We'd sit around and say, "Oh, we'll do this..."Stevie's lyrics are a bit like, er, 'space cadet' sometimes, but in 'Rhiannon' Stevie had this line, "Rhiannon sings...doo da doo doo doo...etc." and it was in the minor key, Am, and I'm just stepping around the minors".

Fresh Mac

A few older bands doing reunions and tours are sounding incredibly fresh. How have the Mac achieved this? "We're incredibly straight! Especially during the gigs. Everyone's been through the numbers, whether it's booze or drugs, and come out the other side doing what we do. We're all players--not fashion models--that have turned into musicians. We were musicians from day one and we've found our way back."

Peter Green

"Mick is still in touch with Peter. I've stayed away because I prefer to remember him just as he was. But he's the player."And blues is still your real love? "That's it! You can't get better than those guys: Eric Clapton, B B King, Peter Green. Who else is there?"

Defining the groove

"Feel. Soul. You've either got it or you ain't. If you haven't got it, you can't get it--and you can't buy it! I'm not sure we have a groove so much as a feel. Groove, I would say...Sly Stone-- that's a groove, and James Brown...first band we ever saw. Mick and I have a feel, sometimes we lock into the groove, but full-on groove is Sly, bless his heart, I always thought he was magic."

Retired

Did you ever assume that the members of Fleetwood Mac would be in permanent retirement? "No. It was just a 2 year or so gap! I knew that we'd be back together some time. It's what I do! I'm just a player, for good, bad or indifferent. I'm just a boring old fart that plays bass."

Thanks to Karen for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.


Date: 1998-02-01         Number of views: 42857

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