Houston Chronicle (11/11/1987) Fleetwood Mac Soap Opera Isn't Washed Up
Houston Chronicle, November 11, 1987
Fleetwood Mac soap opera isn't washed up
WITH A TWO-DECADE run, Fleetwood Mac is the greatest soap opera in pop music.
Some of the characters come and go, but the plot remains basically the same: Disappear for a few years, record an album, tour, disappear, disappear some more, issue some solo records, squabble in the rock press, record an album, tour...
Since every good soap needs a divorce, throw one of those in, too.
Now, you'd figure that penetrating the plot would not be easy. You're right. In attempting to set up a phone interview prior to the band's concert Thursday at the Summit, I had discussions with various strata of the music biz: the record label, a PR firm, Pace Concerts and, finally, the band's road manager. Keyboardist/singer/songwriter Christine McVie was to have called on several occasions, and we almost hooked up last Friday.
"They're out sailing (in Tampa Bay) right now," the road manager explained. "Soon as they're back I'll see if she can call."
A couple of hours pass.
"The girls (McVie and Stevie Nicks) are back, but they're doing their hair and nails now," the roadie said. "I'll see if Christine feels like talking afterward. Otherwise, let's do it in the morning."
Ah, girls will be girls. But we did talk the following morning, and McVie, like other press-cautious superstars who ultimately accede to an interview, was agreeable and talkative.
But first, the burning question: What color were you doing your nails last night?
"Well, my nails can't be seen by anybody anyway, because I'm behind the piano," she answered. "So I keep mine short and natural. I have them filed every day.
"Stevie has very, very long nails, so she can show them off. For me it's not practical."
How long, then, does McVie take to get ready for a show?
"I usually start about 6:30 (for a 9:15 p.m. curtain call) with my makeup and all that kind of thing," she explained in her British accent, still crisp after all these years in Los Angeles. "Stevie starts about 7:30. We have a makeup artist and hair people. It usually takes me from 6:30 to about a quarter to 9 to be fit to entertain, because I like to take a half-hour of quiet time." McVie also likes to warm up before the show.
"I always play a little piano beforehand. We have one set up in the dressing room. We like to get together with the guys a bit beforehand and do a little singing - some harmonies. That's really about it. Mick (Fleetwood, founder and drummer) paces up and down the corridor about 90 times. We all have our funny ways."
The current tour in support of their new "Tango in the Night" album almost didn't come off. Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who along with Nicks joined Mac in 1975 when guitarist Bob Welch departed, decided at the last moment to leave the band. (Buckingham and Nicks, former lovers, also were a musical partnership of their own.) Buckingham was replaced by two guitarists - longtime band friend Billy Burnette, son of '50s rockabilly cat Dorsey Burnette; and Rick Vito, a veteran who's played with Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and others.
Buckingham's departure is all the more confounding since he appears on "Tango in the Night". In fact, some of the album was made in his Bel-Air, Calif., studio.
To ascertain why Buckingham left, I asked McVie for a chronology of "Tango in the Night".
"We decided to make it a little more than two years prior to the release of it," she explained. "Lindsey and I got together to do a soundtrack for a Blake Edwards movie (A Fine Mess). They wanted me to record "Can't Help Falling in Love With You." I asked (Lindsey) if he could produce it. And we got John (McVie, Christine's former husband and still Fleetwood Mac's bassist) and Mick to play on it.
"So it was really the first time the band had been together in a playing situation in the studio in almost five years (since the " Mirage" LP). It came off really well, and it was at that point that we decided to work on a few tracks - which turned into the album. We felt the musical connection returning once again. It felt right.
"During the recording we did not discuss touring, because Lindsey is not real crazy about touring. So we said we'd make the record and see what happens. There was a point where we all (Christine and John McVie, Nicks, Buckingham and Fleetwood) agreed to tour. After the album was finished and released, we committed to 10 weeks of touring. But in the last week, just before we made our commitments to the halls (arenas), he pulled out, said he couldn't handle it.
"It worked out best for everyone, because the rest of us wanted to tour. What choice did we have but to either roll over and die or replace him?
New blood is often rejuvenating for a band.
"No question about it, and the new players are slightly different stylists. Rick Vito is very, very blues-based, an excellent player. He sounds somewhat like Peter Green (the group's original guitarist in 1967, a bluesman who simply walked away from professional music and is now, from all reports, a complete burnout/recluse, sadly). He's been a fan of Fleetwood Mac for years. Billy Burnette sings most of Lindsey's parts, and his voice blends really well with mine and Stevie's. He's been a friend for years. In fact, I've written with him before. He played in Mick's band (Mick Fleetwood's Zoo). He's a great all-around sweetheart."
The changeover is nothing new to Fleetwood Mac, whose remaining original members are Fleetwood and John McVie. The band started as a blues-rock outfit in England in 1967 propelled by the powerful, ringing leads of Green and second guitarist Jeremy Spencer. Green was replaced in 1969 by Danny Kirwan, who was replaced by Robert Weston. Weston was fired in '74. In 1969 one "Christine Perfect" came in on keyboards. After her marriage to John McVie, she became known as Christine McVie.
Spencer left in '71, replaced by Bob Welch, who was succeeded four years later by Buckingham. Nicks also came aboard in '75.
Got that? Through all the changes, it was with the Buckingham-Nicks addition in '75 when Fleetwood Mac, having gone from blues to hard rock to pop rock, enjoyed its greatest commercial success. "Fleetwood Mac", self-titled due to the new lineup, became the band's first No. 1 LP in the United States. That was followed by " Rumours" ('77), still one of the three biggest-selling rock albums in history, with 20 million sold.
The band departed musically with "Tusk", an adventurous double album that sold 4 million but which paled in comparison to "Rumours". Dissension - personal and professional - set in, and the band's next two albums before "Tango in the Night" sold relatively little - a live double set at 1.5 million copies and "Mirage" ('82) at 3.5 million.
With "Tango in the Night", however, the band seems to have found itself again. The soap opera continues.
"We've had a lot of personal problems," McVie stated. "Oh, you know, there's never been a dull moment in this band. At any given moment, there's some new melodrama. But I guess that's what keeps us going."
Contributed by Mary Anne
1987-11-11 Number of views: