Miami Herald 1994 Interview
Miami Herald (FL), August 28, 1994
LATEST MUTATION OF FLEETWOOD MAC TAKES TO THE ROAD
HOWARD COHEN Herald Writer
In a summer when the Eagles' reunion concert tour is toppling box office records, when Pink Floyd and the Elton John/Billy Joel team-up is filling major arenas, when Voodoo Lounge -- album and tour -- are proving there's still rock in the Rolling Stones yet, it's little surprise that Mick Fleetwood is putting his show on the road.
There's just one thing . . .
While the Fleetwood Mac tour boasts the rock-legend name that still claims the record for the best-selling group release ever in the United States (Rumours), the collection of musicians who will take the stage Monday at the Carefree Theatre in West Palm Beach bears only fleeting resemblance to that phenom.
There will be none of Stevie Nicks' mystical presence, none of Christine McVie's sweet harmonies, no protean Lindsey Buckingham guitar-playing. There is no album to tout as the next big one. So it sounds like a bit of an overstatement when Fleetwood asserts -- in all seriousness, that "the Mac is back."
But if you consider that, unlike some other groups, Fleetwood Mac never really went away, and if you consider the band's track record for reinventing itself, and if you consider what Fleetwood says next -- that as long as there's Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, there will always be a Mac . . . you might reconsider your first reaction.
"John and I are playing better than ever," a matured Fleetwood says. He's talking by phone from his new Washington blues club/restaurant, Fleetwood's. The Cornwall, England, native sounds relaxed, confident. OK, mellow. "It's like a nice, healthy rebirth."
When it comes to rebirths, Fleetwood is rock's greatest midwife.
This is the band's 12th lineup since it appeared in 1967, part of the British blues movement that pushed the careers of Eric Clapton and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, among others. Sixteen members have shared billing since those days, when founding guitarist Peter Green was the star and the band outsold the Beatles and Rolling Stones throughout Europe.
The latest incarnation features only drummer Fleetwood and bassist McVie from the original. They are joined on tour by Billy Burnette (who replaced Buckingham after he split in 1987), former Traffic guitarist Dave Mason, and throaty blues singer Bekka Bramlett (daughter of '60s rock duo Delaney & Bonnie).
"It's a fairly bold move for us to be out on the road right now without an album," confesses Fleetwood, 47. "We elected to do it because we were getting quite antsy having been in the studio for six months."
The new material -- an album is due out next year -- is "grittier" and "bluesier" than the bright California pop/rock sound of the Buckingham-Nicks era.
And that's some of what you'll see on stage.
"This is a new band, and we're cognizant of that," says Fleetwood. "We're not presuming to play arenas all of a sudden. We're coming on, giving a quick injection and having a lot of fun."
Still, you can expect to hear the new Mac put its spin on the early period -- Rattlesnake Shake and Oh Well -- on classics like The Chain and Go Your Own Way, Traffic's Mr. Fantasy, as well as Bramlett's read of Nicks' Gold Dust Woman.
"Bekka has her mother and father in her," Fleetwood says. "She's growing into a situation where she is . . . taking over from Stevie Nicks. That's quite a gig to handle, but she's ready for it. She's not pretending to be Stevie."
Touring "gives you a shot in the arm," says Fleetwood, as ever a tour devotee. "We're a couple of old gigsters. There's nothing like an audience."
It's not the first time the band has used the road as a proving ground.
Almost 20 years ago, several months before its U.S. breakthrough Fleetwood Mac, a reconstituted group struggling for new life after the blues went on tour with a rock sound that featured the signature three-part harmonies of Nicks, Christine McVie and Buckingham.
"It did the band a lot of good," Fleetwood says. "It put us in the deep end and said: 'OK, let's see where the mettle is.' "
Soon after the tour, Fleetwood Mac hit No. 1. Its follow-up, the confessional Rumours, recorded while members were ending romantic liaisons with one another (the McVies dissolved their marriage, while Buckingham and Nicks ended their live-in relationship) spent 31 weeks at No. 1. Released in 1977, it sold a record-breaking 14 million copies in the United States.
In fact, Fleetwood concedes, Mac might have benefited had it called it quits after Rumours' 1979 followup, Tusk. That's the course their chart rivals, the Eagles, chose.
The Eagles pretty much signed off in 1980, after The Long Run failed to top Hotel California. At the time, the Eagles were often slighted by critics, and the group's record sales were no match for Rumours-era Mac.
But absence makes the heart grow fonder, apparently. A certain mystique grew up around the absent Eagles, something Don Henley and Glenn Frey managed to tap for the smash Hell Freezes Over stadium tour. Sales of several old Eagles albums now outpace Fleetwood Mac's catalog.
Mac's '80s releases, meanwhile -- the well-made Mirage and Tango in the Night -- failed to achieve the passion of Rumours. Staying together cost Fleetwood Mac its magic. You can't miss something that won't go away.
"If we'd done what the Eagles have done, we'd have been every bit as successful," Fleetwood says. "Although Don and Glenn have become icons . . . in the early days . . . we had that mystique that the Eagles never actually had."
True enough. And some of that is still bankable. Fans of Christine McVie's harmonious pop -- songs like You Make Loving Fun, Little Lies, Heart of Stone -- will be cheered that she'll remain a recording member of the band and has contributed four songs to its forthcoming CD, due in 1995.
"Christine's free to come and go within the boundaries of Fleetwood Mac," Fleetwood says. "She's earned that right. She's very involved on . . . the album, but she doesn't want to tour anymore."
And as former group members continue to record solo projects, they are keeping the Fleetwood Mac franchise alive -- Nicks' most recent release, Street Angel, and Buckingham's critically acclaimed Out of the Cradle (1992), in particular.
"The nice thing is when I hear about Stevie and Lindsey . . . One way or another, this funky old Fleetwood Mac family that's definitely had its ins and outs and ups and downs . . . there's a lot of music still being made, and that's a good testimony to what this whole thing is about."
Now the pride in his voice makes sense.
"And next year we'll see whether the Mac is back like I think it is."
Fleetwood Mac performs at 8 p.m. Monday at the Carefree Theatre, 2000 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach. Information, (407) 833-7305. Concert is SOLD OUT. Tickets were $25.
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