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The Washington Post (09/27/1997), Fleetwood Mac, Good as Old < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

The Washington Post (09/27/1997), Fleetwood Mac, Good as Old

Fleetwood Mac, Good as Old

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 27, 1997; Page B01
The Washington Post

Yesterday's back.

"It's quite astonishing," John McVie said from New York earlier this week after Fleetwood Mac's second reunion concert. "Everybody's getting along, the gigs are good and they sound good. Why didn't we do this earlier? Why did we ever stop?"

A better question might be: How did Fleetwood Mac last as long as it did? After all, "Rumours" had nothing on the facts of its making: As the album was being written and recorded in 1977, John and Christine McVie were divorcing, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were splitting up, with Nicks entering into affairs with Don Henley of the Eagles and Mick Fleetwood, whose wife had run off with his best friend.

Temper all the romantic and professional turmoil with rampant drug use, and you had an unsettling meld of rock and soap opera, "Tommy" meets "Days of Our Lives." Had Jerry Springer or Jenny Jones had a show in 1977, Fleetwood Mac would have provided a week's worth of guests.

The detritus of these splintered relationships was an album with a pop-glossy sound on the outside and bitter emotions at its core, expressed through hits like "Go Your Own Way" (Buckingham's dismissive counsel to Nicks), "Gold Dust Woman" (Nicks's journal of heartbreak and drug abuse), and "Don't Stop (Thinkin' About Tomorrow)" and "You Make Loving Fun," Christine McVie's counsel to John and her new lover, respectively.

"I think it stands pretty good," says John McVie of "Rumours," which spent 134 weeks on the charts -- 31 of those at No. 1 -- and has sold 25 million copies worldwide. It also won a Grammy for album of the year.

"I don't think there's much on there we would have done differently. It really is what it is -- the story of a bunch of people going through not very pleasant times."

"All of the turmoil was, I suppose, necessary to get to the point where `Rumours' was made," admits Buckingham, whose departure in 1987 finally broke the chain. "But it's a lot more fun now, not having all that turmoil."

For a band whose first single was titled "I Believe My Time Ain't Long," Fleetwood Mac has proved remarkably durable. After all, that single was released 30 years ago.

The Mac has also proved remarkably malleable. Evolving from British blues revivalists to Anglo-American pop avatars, Fleetwood Mac has featured 15 different lineups, with drummer Fleetwood and bassist McVie the only constants (appropriate, then, that the band's name is derived from theirs).

Of those lineups, one has been deemed "Classic Fleetwood Mac" -- Fleetwood, Nicks, Buckingham and the McVies -- -- and that's the one that comes to Nissan Pavilion tonight, celebrating the 20th anniversary of "Rumours," the third-biggest-selling album of all time.

"They can't get rid of us," John McVie says with a chortle. "They're going to have to put us up against the wall! Mick and I are just players. That's all we've done since we were 15 and we've been fortunate enough to be with some great people."

"It's always been one day at a time," McVie adds. "You don't really plan ahead, especially in this business. Take it as it comes. I certainly didn't think it would be the mountains and valleys, as it were."

By the mid-'70s, the mountains were ready to be scaled. Christine Perfect, who'd been named England's best female rock singer in 1968 and 1969, had married John McVie in 1970 and brought a new energy to the band, which had by then moved to Los Angeles. The final pieces fell in place in 1975 with the arrival of Buckingham and Nicks, whose debut album as a duo had recently been released to no acclaim. Buckingham was working in L.A. as a studio session musician, Nicks as a waitress at Bob's Big Boy.

There was the Anglo-American angle, the gender mix, the meeting of a blues-rooted band and musicians coming from an unabashedly pop aesthetic shaped by Buckingham's studio savvy.

"That is a lot of what `Rumours' is," Buckingham points out. "The taking of many of the basic forms -- blues and rock -- and making them clean and sunny and bright. And yet the underpinning was always very dark underneath.

"I don't know what to say about all the emotional turmoil. Obviously, it was fuel for the music, and in many ways that was an element which made the success of `Rumours' slightly less enjoyable for me personally. I'm one who likes to think it's about the music -- not to say it can't be about other elements, the theater of it, or whatever -- but it seemed to me that the phenomenon of the sales and the whole musical soap opera vibe took over from the music at some point."

Buckingham's response was to make the ambitious, sprawling "Tusk" and the more mainstream "Mirage" before the stagnant creative atmosphere evident in 1987's "Tango in the Night" suggested it was time to leave. Nicks, battling cocaine addiction, was mostly absent, and there was little genuine interaction in the studio. When Buckingham declined to tour behind the album, Fleetwood Mac began its slow disintegration. Nicks and Christine McVie went their own ways in 1990.

John McVie concedes the group that toured in the '90s was not the idealized Fleetwood Mac "and it showed in the attendance, like when we played the Beacon [in New York] for 300 people. It was like starting over again, but at least we were playing."

That was crucial to Fleetwood and McVie, who, absent songwriting royalties, had to tour to make money (only Nicks has had a successful solo career). Fleetwood opened a restaurant-club in Alexandria in 1994 (it went bankrupt last year), and for a while McVie retired to St. Thomas, where he ran a charter boat business.

"But I was still waiting on the phone call," McVie says. "I didn't feel like I'd closed the book yet."

Fleetwood actually wrote the book, "My Twenty-Five Years in Fleetwood Mac," and it was his work last year on Buckingham's upcoming solo album that kept it from being closed. The band members actually reunited for a one-time performance at the 1993 inauguration of Bill Clinton (he'd used Mac's "Don't Stop" as his campaign song), but they weren't quite ready to stop thinking about yesterdays.

Yet when Buckingham called Fleetwood to drum on a track for his new album, Mick came. And soon after, John McVie. "They needed a bass player, so they gave me a call. Then it was, `Maybe Stevie would sound good on this. . . . And how about Christine for some piano parts here?' We sort of fell into it, as it were."

Buckingham laughs: "I'm sure when Warner Brothers heard we were working together, some light bulbs went off over their heads." More likely, it was cash registers ringing in corporate memories. After a month of rehearsals, they did their first concert since 1982 for MTV. "The Dance," a live album taken from that show, debuted at No. 1 a month ago and is currently No. 4 on the Billboard charts.

The pieces seem to have fit back together, as if time has smoothed out rough edges that would have made that improbable even a few years ago. And when Fleetwood Mac revisits the songs that chronicled the band's tempestuous relationships, it's with a certain amount of distance and overview. As a result, they're able to trace old scars without opening old wounds.

"Everyone's grown up, and to be quite blunt, they're straight now," says John McVie.

For now, the future extends to the end of this 40-date road show.

"I don't see anybody thinking further than this tour, maybe Europe," he says. "I'd like to see a studio album, but that's me. I know Mick would, too, because he's the one most driven by Fleetwood Mac."

Buckingham, whose almost-finished solo album is on hold for now, insists that "the response has been greater than anyone really expected. And because a lot of business is being done, and because the CD has legs, there's going to be pressure to do more touring overseas. But I'm taking this whole thing one step at a time. As long as the five people involved are not damaged, as long as each one of them is carrying their weight in the way they should, those things just happen on their own.

"We're having a great time. We'll see what happens."

Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

Thanks to 'Billy' for posting about this to the Ledge.

Date: 1997-09-27         Number of views: 1201

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