The Bergen County Record (05/23/2003), To the Edge and Back
The Bergen County Record, Friday, May 23, 2003
To the edge and back
By JOHN PETRICK
Leave it to Mick Fleetwood to talk in drum-speak.
"We're about seven gigs into the tour, and we've just now started to get a road rhythm going," says the namesake of one of the world's most successful rock-and-roll groups.
Rhythm is something Fleetwood knows a lot about. His intense, almost primal drum playing has been the very heart that beats inside this band, which hit it big in the Seventies when their album "Rumours" went on to sell 15 million copies worldwide.
Getting into the rhythm of playing together onstage is something you'd think Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and John McVie would instantly fall into from the first night out, at this point. They are known for being road warriors of sorts, touring incessantly during their heyday and reconvening in 1997 for their reunion album, "The Dance."
But the band must once again recalibrate with the release of a new album, "Say You Will." Buckingham, who left the group in 1987, has returned. But now, keyboard player and singer-songwriter Christine McVie has retired to live a quiet life in England. How does it feel to tour without her?
"We rose to all of the creative opportunities we could, in her absence," Fleetwood says. "The band has become more, like, three guys. There's something more male flying around. A slightly harder-edged thing came out of it ... So it feels good."
There may be three guys, but there's still one woman singer in the band with enough flamboyant femininity to make up the difference. Nicks, known for her lacy black capes and her propensity to clutch a rose to her chest during a song or two, is still very much a focal point of the band's live shows.
For those who don't already know the soap operatic story of Fleetwood Mac, Nicks and Buckingham entered the band as a couple but broke up when they became famous. Bass player John McVie and Christine McVie, a married couple, divorced at the same time. All continued to work together, despite the painful circumstances.
Fleetwood and Nicks then added another chapter to the saga when they briefly became romantically involved in the late Seventies. Today, says Fleetwood, they remain the best of friends. After all, they've been through just about everything together - from obscurity to fame, from substance abuse to sobriety.
"Stevie's had her battles. And she's survived them, as I have," he says of their excessive use of cocaine and alcohol in the Seventies and Eighties. "There's no doubt that if you were selecting two people out of this band that really pushed the envelope, in terms of lifestyle and things we partook in, it's us.
"I think we both have a great sort of relief that we're out the other side of that," he says. "That's something we have in common that is part of this fabric that is our respect for each other."
Nicks has become like an aunt to his children, he says, and is very close to his wife. She will always be a soul mate.
"In many ways, my relationship with Stevie is so much now how it was way, way, way back in the beginning," Fleetwood says. "We immediately hit it off as people. ... She's a fun person. She laughs a lot. She has a great humor about her life, as I do about mine."
Sure, the rigors of performing are harder to withstand, now that they're all getting up there in years. Vocal cords need to be nursed more carefully, and energy needs to be conserved. But more of it is being expended on the music, now that it isn't being sapped by all the extracurricular activities.
"The socializing, the partying, the 'Do I crawl out of bed today, or do I see a museum or go play golf?' is very different," Fleetwood says. "In truth, I couldn't do this and be the Mick of the Seventies, where I was drinking like a fish and substance abuse was fairly rampant. I wouldn't be able to do it, and the thought of doing it is revolting."
So golf or the museum it is, instead of sleeping off a hangover. And gearing up for the next concert.
"We ended up with an album we're very happy with," he says. "And we're still walking onstage and doing what we did since we were 16 years old."
All of them were playing in bands at that age, years before they would know each other and hit it big.
"This is what we did," he says. "And this is what we do."
* * *
1967 - The original, less-famous incarnation of Fleetwood Mac is born in London, with Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer.
1970 - The golden-throated singer-keyboardist Christine McVie joins her husband, John, in the band. Peter Green leaves after nearly overdosing on drugs.
1973 - Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, a cute but unknown couple living together in California, release their folk album "Buckingham/Nicks." The album goes nowhere.
1974 - The Mac of today is born. Fleetwood hears some demos from the "Buckingham/Nicks" album while shopping for a recording studio in California. He asks Buckingham to join the band; Buckingham says: Not without my girlfriend. Fleetwood grudgingly agrees.
1975 - The "Fleetwood Mac" white album is released. Ironically, Nicks' "Rhiannon" is among the hits. Her tale of a seductive witch will become the signature of her ultra-feminine style and onstage persona.
1976 - Rising fame and fortune split up Nicks and Buckingham. Christine and John McVie, simultaneously, get divorced. The "Fleetwood Mac" white album, meanwhile, makes it to No. 1.
1977 - "Rumours" is released. The album is a rock-and-roll soap opera about the breakups of the band's two couples and will go on to sell a record-breaking 15 million copies.
1978 - Nicks now hooks up romantically with Fleetwood, much to Buckingham's irritation. The relationship is short-lived.
1979 - The band's double album "Tusk" is released. Though praised for its more experimental musical style, it sells far fewer copies than the more radio-friendly "Rumours."
1981 - Nicks launches her solo career with "Bella Donna," reaching No. 1 with such singles as "Leather and Lace" with Eagles singer-drummer Don Henley. Did we mentioned she dated and broke up with Henley, too?
1982 - Buckingham takes a stab at a solo career with the release of his album "Law and Order." It reaches only No. 32 on the charts, though.
1982 - Ever loyal to the band that made her famous, Nicks returns to Fleetwood Mac. Its next album, "Mirage," reaches No. 1 before quickly disappearing from the charts. Singles included "Gypsy."
1984 - Christine McVie takes her own stab at a solo career. She, like Buckingham, pales in the Gold Dust Woman's shadow. Her album, "Christine McVie," reaches No. 26.
1985 - Nicks releases her third album, "Rock a Little," which reaches No. 12 on the U.S. charts. High as a kite onstage for much of this tour, Nicks slips and falls on several occasions.
1985 - Nicks enters the Betty Ford clinic, but fires her management company for coercing her into it. She comes out sober, but more addictions await.
1987 - Fleetwood Mac reunites to record "Tango in the Night." The album reaches No. 7 in America, but trouble again looms when Buckingham refuses to tour to support the album. They go without him.
1990 - Yet a new configuration of the Mac is unveiled with "Behind the Mask." Singer-guitarists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito replace Buckingham. The album reaches a lackluster No. 18.
1993 - President Bill Clinton, a big fan, invites the Mac to perform at his Inaugural Ball. They perform the "Rumours" single "Don't Stop," his campaign theme song.
1997 - The lineup that made the band famous reunites - Buckingham, Nicks, the McVies, and Fleetwood - for "The Dance," a recorded concert of their greatest hits. It reaches No. 1. The Mac is back.
2003 - "Say You Will," the Mac's first studio album since 1987, is released. But this time without Christine McVie, who says she's tired of touring and has retired to her home in England. The album debuts at No. 3.
- John Petrick
Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge.
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