Detroit Free Press (06/12/2003), Music the key in Fleetwood Mac reunion
Detroit Free Press, June 12, 2003
Music the key in Fleetwood Mac reunion
by Ben Edmonds, Free Press Special Writer
The name Fleetwood Mac inevitably conjures two things: big, big numbers, and enough emotional turmoil that fans and band members alike describe the rock group's 36-year career as a soap opera.
The numbers are staggering. Fleetwood Mac has sold more than 75 million albums, the majority of them coming after Californians Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the journeyman British blues band in 1974 to create a musical hybrid that became the Godzilla of '70s stadium rock. The band's 1977 album "Rumours" has alone sold 25 million copies, and reigned for several years as recorded music's all-time sales champ. ("The Eagles: Their Greatest Hits" is the current king.)
The songs on "Rumours" resonated because they could be read as a chronicle of the disintegrating relationships of singer Nicks and guitarist Buckingham, and bassist John McVie and his wife, keyboard player Christine McVie. The four put a lid on their individual emotions for the collective good of the band, channeling their true feelings into intense compositions like "Go Your Own Way," "Dreams" and "The Chain."
Drummer Mick Fleetwood's subsequent affair with Nicks, and the high-profile dalliances of Nicks with Eagle Don Henley and Christine with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, ensured the waters were kept roiling under that lid. Staggering amounts of money rolled in, and the siren song of substances was listened to at length.
"We mastered the art of excess, there's no denying that," admits Mick Fleetwood. "But underneath it all, there's something that connects us, a spirit that has survived all the demons, internal and external. There are emotional mine fields we have to step around gingerly to this day, but we recognize the value of what we have. It's what has made all this possible."
By "all this," he's referring to the reunion tour that brings Fleetwood Mac to the Palace of Auburn Hills tonight, and the band's first studio album in 16 years. And the "something" that connects them is music. It's never gotten as much ink as the sales figures, the divorce settlements and the drug rehabs, but music is the No. 1 reason why any of the rest matters at all.
The new record "Say You Will" started out as a Lindsey Buckingham solo album almost seven years ago. When the guitarist called Fleetwood to overdub some drums, it was the first time the two had really interacted since Buckingham's stormy exit from the band in 1987. (The two albums the band recorded after his departure are best regarded as an aberration.)
"Playing together was like our reconciliation," explains Fleetwood. "I can see now that Lindsey was never really comfortable with the whole wild-and-crazy aura around the band. The rest of us, even Christine to some degree, were all having a good time being rock 'n' roll gypsies out there on the road.
"But when we played together again, he understood that things were different. I was no longer the cocaine monster, rampaging the countryside out of my mind, and he finally saw Mick again." When various bassists proved unsatisfactory, the logical step was to bring in John McVie, whom Fleetwood describes as "the only guy I really play with properly."
The project was still a Buckingham solo effort when they took a break to record the 1997 live Fleetwood Mac album "The Dance." The accompanying tour did not immediately result in an ongoing reunion. "It didn't," Mick concedes, "but because it was a really happy tour after all our years of estrangement, it was like a positive blueprint for that possibility."
The possibility eventually attracted Stevie Nicks, but when it didn't come together quickly enough for her taste, she recorded her solo album "Shangri-La." Before Nicks left for her "Shangri-La" tour, however, she gave the guys some material to play with, orphan songs that hadn't fit any previous project. "That tour proved to be traumatic," Fleetwood explains, "because she'd been in New York on 9/11, only blocks from the devastation. But when she got back and saw what we'd done with her songs, she realized the seriousness of what was happening with us." She returned after a month's creative retreat with four new songs, including the title track "Say You Will" and the 9/11-inspired "Illume."
"She came in like a little schoolgirl with her homework done," Fleetwood says. "She told me that she wanted to feel like a genuine part of this, rather than just handing stuff off. That was her recommitment, and it sealed it for the rest of us."
Christine McVie had decided to retire following "The Dance." There was an intriguing rumor that Sheryl Crow would be drafted as her replacement. "It was touched on," Fleetwood acknowledges, "but never went much further than that. She's a great friend of Stevie's, and wound up singing on a couple of tracks on the album."
Fleetwood Mac music has generated reverent covers from the likes of Courtney Love, Smashing Pumpkins and the Dixie Chicks, and the band is name-checked by a host of other contemporary luminaries. But as big as the band has been, and for all the influence it has exerted -- especially in terms of the equal footing Stevie and Christine maintained with the menfolk -- few other bands have attempted to imitate the group.
"I know; isn't that odd," Mick Fleetwood muses. "Whatever it is that we do, we're apparently the only ones that can do it. There's very little sense in the way John and I play together. I never play the same thing twice, ever, which is not what a drummer is supposed to do. Then you have Lindsey, who seems to be playing three melody lines simultaneously, like an internal jam session. And Stevie, who has that childlike thing about songwriting, where she'll happily break all the rules because she doesn't know they're there.
"It somehow all manages to make sense, when in truth it probably shouldn't. In a strange way, it's not unlike the bluesmen we looked up to in the early days of Fleetwood Mac. It's grabbing the moment and cradling it. It's about being able to catch someone if they're falling, and in the fall it becomes something else. It becomes the real thing."
Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge.
2003-06-12 Number of views: