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Creem (09/1987), Fleetwood Mac: Return Without Leaving < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

Creem (09/1987), Fleetwood Mac: Return Without Leaving

Creem Magazine, September 1987

Fleetwood Mac: Return Without Leaving
by J. Kordosh

Up in the hills of Bel Air is Lindsey Buckingham’s house, Lindsey Buckingham’s croquet-perfect lawn, Lindsey Buckingham’s pool, Lindsey Buckingham’s radio-controlled toy submarine that’s busted, but could be fun in the pool, Lindsey Buckingham’s home studio, The Slope - where the final work on Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night was done - and indeed, Lindsey Buckingham himself.

Lindsey, like everyone in Fleetwood Mac, will tell us something of this latest record - and something of this immensely popular band. Their times and their troubles, stuff like that.

Fleetwood Mac’s saga has been a strange one: since Lindsey and Stevie joined up in 1975, the band’s made five studio albums, including Tango. The first four have sold something like 33 million copies - about 20 million of those courtesy of 1977’s monstrous Rumours. You can perceive that, despite their relative sluggish output, this band has a lot of fans. As I write this, Tango is safely ensconced in the Top 10, where it may well remain for eternity or the next Fleetwood Mac album, whichever comes first. But, coming almost five years after Mirage, we can correctly assume that there’s a story behind the story, so let’s start here....

Why Would Lindsey Buckingham Want to Make Another Fleetwood Mac Record?

"Well, I don’t know," he says. "OK, I have a very good answer for that, and I think it’s not just a pat answer. You may get something else from John and Mick, or from Christine; I feel that this is going to be the last Fleetwood Mac thing. Stevie and I have been in the group for 12 years and the group has been together since, when? ’68, or something very long. We’re closing in on 20 years and there’s a time to put everything to rest and get on with other things, and I would like to do that.

"I think the Mirage album was not a very positive way to leave Fleetwood Mac. We did the tour, but it was an ambiguous album - it was not an album of vision, it left a lot of things dangling. And, for me, this album took a lot of the emotions or the finances or whatever realm you want to get into, and tied it all up in a nice, strong package.

"I wouldn’t have wanted to leave the Fleetwood Mac situation - none of us would - with the Mirage album. And I may be wrong; I may be talking up my ‘arse’ here. But right now, you’re right - I don’t know why anyone would want to keep going with just one thing the rest of their lives when there’s other things to delve into and to try."

Lindsey is certainly the pivotal member of the group right now - he and Richard Dashut produced the new album, and Lindsey not only stopped working on his own solo LP to get into the Mac project, he brought some of Tango’s best songs - "Family Man," "Big Love," "Caroline" - along with him when he did so.

Where Was Stevie Nicks?

Although not quite missing from Tango In the Night, Stevie Nicks isn’t exactly all over the thing. To be precise, she contributed two songs of her own ("Welcome to the Room…Sara" and "When I See You Again") and a third song by her friend and collaborator, Sandy Stewart ("Seven Wonders").

"In the beginning part (of making Tango) she was touring," Lindsey explains. "She was having her own problems. Without being judgmental about her reasons, she made herself very hard to get ahold of. When her own tour was done she went off to Australia for some reason - felt she had to do that. So it was hard to pin her down.

"Once she settled down" - a small laugh here - "she was fine. She came in towards the end-it really was towards the end of the project that she made herself available, constructively. And so we had to work with a limited amount from her."

Christine McVie, who contributed quite a bit to the album ("My favorite group of her songs on any album," says Lindsey), offers this: "The studio junkies, if you like, are pretty much me and Lindsey and Mick. John spends a lesser amount of time in the studio; he doesn’t like to hang around doing nothing. Neither does Stevie, because she doesn’t actually play any instruments in the band - that drives her crazy when there’s nothing for her to actually do."

Stevie Nicks Speaking

"I was there at the very beginning," she says, "but you plan an album on a cycle kind of thing. What happened is everything took a little longer, so I ended up being on the second single from my album and getting ready to go on the road when Fleetwood Mac really got started on it.

"Lindsey was doing another solo album, too. If he hadn’t been Lindsey - if he’d have been me - then he could’ve gone ahead and done his at the same time Fleetwood Mac was doing theirs. But Lindsey, having to be the boss - and pretty much the head of this particular tribe at this particular moment - he couldn’t do both. I could, because there wasn’t all that much for me to do, in the technical sense, at the beginning of the record. I didn’t feel weird about it because I didn’t have any choice."

Later on, when asked if she doesn’t feel a bit short-changed by the way Tango turned out, she adds: "I could feel short-changed if I wanted to look at it that way. I would prefer to look at it that I had my own thing going, and if I had been there more I would be on it more.

"If I want to blame everyone else for it, I suffer. If I want to blame myself, then I can deal with it."

Some Retrospectives

After Rumours came a crucial period for Fleetwood Mac. Their next record was the rhythmically crushing Tusk, a double album that cost at least $1 million to make and a work that puzzled many. It was an album that saluted Lindsey’s role in the band, at the same time nearly undoing the band.

"I remember Lindsey came up to my house," says Mick Fleetwood, "and he was very preoccupied at that point, compared to me: I would never think as intensely about certain things as I know Lindsey does. Too intensely, where you feel it’d be better for him if he relaxed, but he’s like that by nature.

"Therefore, in regard to coming out of the Rumours album, Lindsey - as a player and an artist - had obviously done a lot of pre-thought before ever talking to any of us about what on earth we were gonna do. He had paid a lot more attention to the subject than myself, certainly, and more power to him.

"The most obvious thing that came out of that album was the expressed wants of Stevie and Lindsey, more so than Christine, of wanting to do something more than just live and breathe Fleetwood Mac, which-to me-sounded like ‘My God, if that happens, it will be the end of Fleetwood Mac.’ I was completely wrong."

"It was like a necessary valve," adds John McVie.

"And it turned out to be an extremely healthy thing," Mick continues. "Without that album, I don’t think the band would be together today, quite honestly. I think it was a very necessary exercise - and to some extent, it was an exercise."

Christine McVie repeats the same story independently, as if by magic: "I think if we hadn’t done that album, then Lindsey might’ve left. We ‘allowed’ him to experiment within the confines of Fleetwood Mac instead of saying, 'We don’t want you doing stuff at your studio and putting it on the Fleetwood Mac album’ - he might’ve said, ‘I’m gonna leave, then.’ We didn’t want him to leave for obvious reasons. Because of that, I believe the band is what it is today. It’s possible that we’d not have been a band."

And what does Lindsey Buckingham say about the whole thing? "A little bit later, Mick said we really went too far with that, or I went too far. You know, there was a lot of that type of thing at the time. There’s been a lot of reappraisal of that album within the group since then, but - at the time - I was the one who was getting the flak for that.

"There’s a great story, which - I doubt if it’s true - we finished the Tusk album about Christmastime, or a little before Christmastime, and someone said that when they played Tusk over at Warner’s all the people saw their Christmas bonuses flying out the window. I’ve always loved that connection," he adds, laughing.

The Origins of Tango

For a group that sees as little of each other as Fleetwood Mac (and a group that takes as much time between records as Fleetwood Mac), one might wonder just what it took to get these people in the studio for Tango.

"I’d been asked to record an Elvis Presley song for a movie Blake Edwards produced," says Christine. The movie was A Fine Mess - we won’t get into the implications of that - and the song was "Can’t Help Falling In Love."

"It’s a wonderful song," she continues, "and, if I do say so, my version was fabulous. But anyway, Lindsey’s a huge Elvis fan" - ‘strue, I saw three Presley posters in a relatively brief walk through The Slope - "and they gave me total freedom as to who I wanted to use. So I called up Lindsey and we got John and Mick to play bass and drums…and the atmosphere in the studio was so instant we jammed for hours and played some of the old songs. At that point we sat down and said let’s get serious about the studio again."

John McVie notes that "we dribbled into it," and Mick Fleetwood says that, "Speaking for myself, I’d been thinking of making an album two years before we did. But we all learned that the only way for this band to continue was to not force anything."

"Richard Dashut and I were about half-way through my solo album and the needs of the many started to outweigh the needs of the few," says Lindsey, quoting Mr. Spock. "And, at this time, it had been so long since we had interacted that lawyers and people like that were sort of getting into it. Their idea of how to get Fleetwood Mac back together to make an album was to bring in a young, hot producer. So Richard and I were going to just sort of waltz through and get my tunes done and go back to work on my solo album, and this guy would finish up Fleetwood Mac. But it just didn’t work out that way: he didn’t know how to handle us salty old guys - and I realized, too, that if we were going to do it all, it just wasn’t our style to go in half-assed and be a part of something that was piecemealed together. So this guy went back to New York and Richard and I sort of took over and went from there."

The rest, of course, being history.

Tango Trivia

Lindsey: "Everyone’s been asking about ‘Big Love’ and who the woman going ‘ahhhh’ is - that’s me. People magazine said it’s my girlfriend, which she wasn’t too happy about (laughter). I don’t know where they get that stuff." Likewise, the low voice on "Family Man" is a sped-up/slowed-down Lindsey.

Stevie: "’Welcome to the Room…Sara’ is very much a secret kind of song. Sara is from Tusk, that’s the same Sara we’re talking about - and she just has some experiences that she’s talking about. I don’t really want anyone to know whether I’m going into her room or she’s coming into mine, or what’s in the room. This room is an ominous room. I’m not Bob Dylan, but every once in a while I’ve gotta say something."

Lindsey: "Most of my solo stuff just went over into the Fleetwood Mac album, the theory being you’re just indicating your own capabilities if you say this has to be for one thing - if you’ve got it and you need it, you should use it. There’s always something better coming along, ultimately.

Stevie: "How do you like my slow song with Lindsey singing at the end (‘When I See You Again’)? That’s one of my favorite things…I made him sing with me; I said, ‘Lindsey, you’re gonna sing on all my songs whether you like it or not-you have to sing this with me.’ So we went out and sang ‘If I see you again, will it be over?’ - we sang it in unison, then I snuck in and took my voice off. Otherwise, I’d have never gotten him to do it - see, Lindsey’s pretty shy and he’s singing differently there than he is on anything else on the record. He wouldn’t think to do that: to sing on my song at the end. He would think to sing with me, but he wouldn’t want to end it. But that’s what I wanted, to leave people feeling they are really talking to each other."

Where’s That Tour?

The last Mac tour was back in ’82. Given their present circumstances-since each member has their own manager, "there’s basically 10 people in the band," as Christine McVie so neatly puts it - a tour might not be the easiest thing in the world to put together, especially for a band that "dribbled" into their album. Like so much of Macdom, it would seem to revolve around Lindsey.

"Inherently, Lindsey’s - I wouldn’t say adverse to playing, because he enjoys that function - but, given the choice, he would be happier sitting in the studio," says Mick. "I have a sneaking suspicion that we will tour…it’s just a question of when."

"I think it’s important that we do," says Christine. "This is my, and only my opinion: we’ve never released an album without backing it up with a tour, and I think this album should be no exception."

Let’s hear from Stevie: "I love to go on tour, whether it’s Fleetwood Mac or me or anything. Tom Petty, Heart, anybody’d who’ll ask me to go, I’m duffle bag packed and on the bus the next day. But it’s up to Lindsey."

When it’s put to him, here’s what Lindsey has to say: "Ooooh. Ooooh (laughter). I don’t know, probably - I know they’re going to start talking about it real soon. It would be lucrative. I…I…don’t know.

"I’ve never toured myself," he continues. "That’s something I’d like to try doing. I’d like to put something somewhere between Laurie Anderson and Frank Sinatra together, as far as a stage show. Get some Sam Shepard plays in there onstage.

"In that light, that’s the kind of touring that interests me now. There are certain aspects of a Fleetwood Mac show that would have to be inherently nostalgic, and going up there and playing ‘Rhiannon,’ quite honestly, doesn’t really appeal to me now. But, hey - if it’s playing ball again, if it’s finishing out what needs to be done for this album - well, then, I’ll do whatever needs to be done."

Is Fleetwood Mac a Viable Group or a Collection of People Who Get Together and Make a Record Every Five Years?

"Well, that’s a good-I don’t know what you call it." - Lindsey Buckingham.

Things That Will Follow

Tour or not - heck, band or not - the various members of Fleetwood Mac have numerous projects to occupy their time. Mick Fleetwood plays with his side group, the Zoo, really unable to keep from performing while the Mac machine moves in its necessarily sluggish fashion. Christine McVie will get to work on her next solo album next year and has already asked Lindsey and Richard Dashut to produce some tracks. John McVie is a sailor, the owner of a 60-some-odd-foot boat that cruises the world. And Stevie is Stevie, so she’ll always have something to do, one supposes.

As for Lindsey, he says this: "I’ve worked a long time to get to the point where a lot of things seem as intact as they are now. As much as I love this album - and I think it’s done well for my, and everyone’s morale - I feel like I’m really on the threshold of a lot of other things that are going to be even more exciting for me. And that’s a nice feeling to feel."

Although not interested in becoming a "production factory," there are people he’d like to work with. Brian Wilson is one.

"He’s been one of my main guys," Lindsey says with enthusiasm. "I like his real experimental period, too. But he seems to want to do a teen/pop album and-to me-if he were to pick up on where ‘Wind Chimes’ left off, think of himself as more a pop Philip Glass . . ." the thought trails off.

"I gave him a tape of Laurie Anderson, Peter Gabriel and some of his old stuff - ‘Wind Chimes’ and some really experimental stuff - I don’t think he ever listened to it. He didn’t seem to get it. He brought this song over and he said, ‘Do this thing like this (begins chunking out a 12-bar rhythm)’, so I tried to make something out of that and make it something other than a 12-bar, which it was. And finally, after about three different tries, I came up with something. It’s not ‘Wind Chimes,’ but it could be more atmospheric, like Phil Spector’s ‘Walking In The Rain," which would certainly be a step in the right direction. But I have yet to call him."

Lindsey says he’d also like to work with Laurie Anderson, and mentions that Stevie was recently asking him on the phone if he’d like to do another Buckingham/Nicks album.

His voice becomes more pensive than usual, which is getting pretty pensive. "You just don’t usually have to do that sort of thing-to break up with someone and then see them for the next 12 years. That’s just not normal…it’s not even very well. It’s sort of an ill thing to have to do, but what the hell.

"I’ve gotta tell you, the last 12 years, I think I’ve probably blocked out some of the more painful aspects. It seems like a big, long dream from which I’m just now awakening. I feel younger now that I have in years. I feel more new than I have in years. It’s a surreal thing, on that mega level.

"It’s gonna be a good year."

Thanks to David Oberman for the photo scans.

Date: 1987-09-01         Number of views: 7536

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