Arizona Republic (07/20/2003), Never Break the Chain
Arizona Republic, July 20, 2003
Never Break the Chain
Reunited Fleetwood Mac finds new direction
by Larry Rodgers
Singer Stevie Nicks likens Fleetwood Mac to "a psychological encounter group times a million."
Guitarist Lindsey Buckingham calls it a "musical soap opera."
Bassist John McVie's marriage fell apart, and drummer Mick Fleetwood says he became a "cocaine monster" as Mac traveled the globe en route to selling 70 million albums.
McVie's ex, pianist Christine McVie, finally had enough of the circus and quit in 1998.
Call them crazy - a number of people have during the past three decades - but Nicks, Buckingham, Fleetwood and John McVie have thrown themselves into the latest incarnation of the band, the accompanying Say You Will album and a national tour that will keep them in airports and hotels well into the fall. The band performs in Phoenix on Monday in a benefit for the Arizona Heart Foundation.
Reinventing its sound - as it has so many times since the band began in 1967, from the early blues of Black Magic Woman to the upbeat pop-rock of Don't Stop - Fleetwood Mac's 2003 edition sounds heavier and more adventurous after the departure of the easygoing Christine McVie.
And with the spotlight thrown fully on former lovers Nicks and Buckingham, whose romance also became a Mac-related casualty in the mid-'70s, the onstage tension between the two is more pronounced than ever.
But beneath the egos and drama that Buckingham acknowledges the band has been only too willing to share with its voyeuristic followers, it's clear that Mac co-founders Fleetwood and John McVie as well as Nicks and Buckingham, who joined in 1974, have rediscovered the treasure they've shared as an extended musical family.
"Everyone, in theory, has grown a lot, and everyone has worked out their issues to a certain degree," says Buckingham, who quit the band for a decade starting in 1987 to pursue a solo career.
"You come back and you see that this chemistry and these friendships still exist. . . . It all takes on a more tender aspect, and I think we're able to really appreciate what we had before."
Beyond that reconnection, both Buckingham and Phoenix-born Nicks say they're proud that the band is creating new music rather than simply playing its hits.
"I think this is some of the best writing that I've ever done," says Nicks, 55, describing the four songs that she penned at her Paradise Valley home in January 2002.
That's no small claim coming from a woman who has written such rock classics as Gold Dust Woman, Dreams, Gypsy, Rhiannon, Stand Back and Landslide - which recently became a huge hit for the Dixie Chicks.
Buckingham, 55, says he's glad the band, which has had at least 15 members since its birth as a blues group in London, has opted to be "not just touring and resting on our laurels but striving to redefine ourselves and break down the cliché about rock-and-rollers burning out by the time they're 40."
It's a well-known fact that the members of Fleetwood Mac came close to crashing and burning during their '70s heyday, when their Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums brought them fame, wealth and all the accompanying temptations.
"We were living the kind of lives that we all thought we should be living, and the subculture was all doing that, too, in terms of (abusing) substances . . . and then you tack on the musical soap opera," Buckingham recalls.
"The whole 12 years that I was in the band (before later reunions), I can't say that it was the happiest time of my life. It was certainly complicated, at best."
But Fleetwood Mac's members had cleaned up their acts by the mid-'90s when the seeds of this year's Say You Will album were sown by Buckingham.
Working on a solo album, the guitarist asked Fleetwood to lay down some percussion on a few tracks.
"Then we got John (McVie) in, and at some point, the fact that the members of Fleetwood Mac were in the studio became the catalyst for . . . putting that project down for me and turning it into an opportunity to get the band back together for The Dance."
After the '97-'98 reunion for that live album and tour, Buckingham completed his solo songs, but a new regime at Warner Bros. Records balked at releasing a solo album. So the guitarist and Fleetwood instead asked Nicks to contribute songs that would be mixed with Buckingham tunes for Fleetwood Mac's first studio album in more than a decade.
The new disc would have a different sound because Christine McVie, now 60, had retired to her English estate.
"We all miss Chris, but we do see it as an opportunity to once again embrace the re-invention of the band," Buckingham says.
The result is a more aggressive style on several tracks, including a booming attack on the media called Murrow Turning Over in His Grave and the sexually charged Come, which both feature soaring guitar work by Buckingham.
The guitarist says he's unleashed his instrument to compensate for the absence of Christine McVie's keyboards, adding, "You could say that John and Mick's playing is (also) more aggressive and in line with our live shows."
Nicks matches Buckingham's contributions with nine songs, including the dramatic Illume (9-11), written after she spent Sept. 11, 2001, in New York as terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center.
"My world was forever changed," she says in explaining her inspiration for writing the song in the Paradise Valley home she has owned for 20 years.
Nicks also delivered the hummable title song, which remains on two of Billboard's adult pop charts.
Nicks and Buckingham also unveiled bittersweet album-closing love songs, Goodbye Baby and Say Goodbye, respectively, that were written years ago, after the two broke up.
Nicks, who has never married, says her mind drifts back to that time when she and her former lover perform songs such as Landslide and Silver Springs:
"The great thing for the audience is that the passion and that incredible chemistry that we have always had is still totally there."
Buckingham, a married father of two, agrees, to a point:
"I think what you're seeing now as intensity is certainly there, but it's almost as a reflection, and it's certainly based on friendship."
Those are just the kind of quotes that keep the wheels on the Fleetwood Mac saga turning.
Thanks to strandinthewind for posting this to the Ledge.
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