Times UK 1987
By MICHAEL WATTS
After drug problems, romantic trauma and five years in the rock wilderness, can Fleetwood Mac find happiness with their new album, Tango in the Night?
In a Mayfair hotel suite a couple in early middle-age patiently recollect the poses demanded of pop stars. As the photographer clicks away, the man, a spectacularly tall figure in morning-suit trousers with maroon-and-gold slippers, strokes his straggling beard in a gesture of lordly abstraction. His blonde companion, in a chic black outfit, frets at the effects of jet-lag, but obligingly snuggles at his feet.
'Rumours, rumours! People will talk, you know,' she announces in a stage whisper, with an irony inescapable to any follower of Fleetwood Mac's gossip-ridden career.
Five years of absence from the pop scene are a severe test of public loyalty - even if you have sold 40 million albums to date. This is why Fleetwood Mac, in the persons of the drummer and founder Mick Fleetwood, and Christine McVie, the singer and pianist, are currently touring Europe promoting their new album Tango in The Night, released on Monday.
Fleetwood had flown in from Hawaii, where Zoo, the informal bar band he leads, had been performing; and McVie from Los Angeles, to which Fleetwood Mac moved in 1974. She is now 43, Fleetwood 44, and it is 20 years since Fleetwood Mac began as pioneers of the British blues boom in the 1960s.
Their stamina and enormous popularity have long since seemed more remarkable than their actual music: a dilution, mostly of blues energy, for the American car-radio audience. Yet the soap opera of their personal lives, an imbroglio of internal romantic strife, addiction, litigation and cult religion, has been more remarkable still.
Their 1977 album Rumours - which sold 20 million copies - made songwriting capital out of the broken liaisons between Christine and her bass-player husband, John McVie, and the two Americans recruited to rejuvenate the band, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks.
Meanwhile, Fleetwood, supposedly the manager and peacemaker, was himself undergoing one of two divorces from the same wife. His increasingly extravagant lifestyle was curtailed in 1984 by bankruptcy: the result, he claims, of unwise property speculations, including a pounds 1.5 million stud farm in Queensland. Others spoke darkly of drugs: in which respect a certain victim was Stevie Nicks, treated recently for cocaine and alcohol problems at the Betty Ford Clinic in America.
Minus yet another wife, but apparently his bad habits as well, Fleetwood now presents the band's most outgoing, mischievous personality, poles apart from Buckingham, their retiring producer and guiding musical spirit.
Fleetwood typically attributes their longevity to social interdependence. For four years before America, they had lived communally in a converted Hampshire parsonage. 'If we had all been apart during our days of chaos, that might have been the end,' he reflects. 'But out of every trauma has come a deeper bonding. '
'I think we're all still quite fascinated by each other,' explains McVie, a kindly, sympathetic woman. 'It was a little tough when me and John got divorced, but Mick would usually make us laugh. I think you have to be a little selfless, a little understanding about other people's needs. '
She required all her compassion during a two-year infatuation with the Beach Boys' gifted but feckless drummer, Dennis Wilson, a womanizer and heavy drug-user who reportedly borrowed large sums of money from her. She agrees he led her a merry dance, but is unrepentant about the affair, which ended some years before his death, by drowning, in 1983.
'Yeah, he was a naughty fellow,' she admits, 'but there was a lot of love in the man, and I'd like to remember him that way. He showed passion in everything; it drove him to his death in the end. I used to spend hours and hours writing with him, and the man's soul just came out of his mouth. Beautiful melodies. '
Now married again, to Eddy Quintela, a Portuguese-born musician, she describes her present life of settled, if luxurious, domesticity. 'I love to by the pool and to cook,' she says, smiling slightly. She has no children, and never intended any. 'By the time I thought about it, I was 33, and right in the middle of touring, and I couldn't see any end to that. I have no regrets, because I'm too selfish. I like my life the way it is. '
It was she who instigated the new album, albeit indirectly, by involving all but Nicks in a Blake Edwards film soundtrack she was recording. Once musically reacquainted, they set to with alacrity: which still meant the LP took 14 months to finish and cost virtually as much as the million-dollar Tusk, a byword for self-indulgence years after its release in 1979.
Fleetwood begs to differ: 'It's our money, which we've earned from previous records. I feel it's money well-spent. Anyway, it seems we can't work any faster. '
He is now writing, with assistance, his autobiography, and to that end has been consulting participants in Fleetwood Mac's six previous line-ups. It has sometimes been a chastening experience.
Peter Green, their original, much-lauded guitarist, conceived a pathological dislike of fame. 'But what screwed him up more than anything,' Fleetwood maintains, 'is that he stopped playing; he got this big obsession that it was sort of evil. '
Another, still-remembered guitarist, Jeremy Spencer, leads an itinerant life with the religious cult the Children of God, whose claim upon him he is allegedly unable to resist.
1987-04-18 Number of views: