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Birmingham Post (11/24/2003), Return of Fleetwood Mac < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

Birmingham Post (11/24/2003), Return of Fleetwood Mac

Birmingham Post, November 24, 2003

Culture: Return of Fleetwood Mac
by Charlie Melvin

Just when you're tempted to write them off as a spent force, Fleetwood Mac, rock's so-called longest running soap opera, go and produce a brilliant new album and reunite for a rigorous world tour that brings the band back to the UK for the first time inmore than a decade.

The album in question, Say You Will, is guitarist Lindsey Buckingham's first studio record with Fleetwood Mac since 1987's Tango In The Night, while his former paramour Stevie Nicks had been absent since 1990's Behind The Mask - aside from climbing on board for the band's performance at Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993 and 1997's reunion tour by the recordbreaking Rumours line-up.

As ever, behind these two volatile personalities, stands the rock-steady foundation of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, who've been playing together for 36 years.

The towering 61-year-old drummer is justly proud of his band's dramatic rebirth and is happy to talk about the latest developments in the long-running Fleetwood Mac saga.

"I'm a little jet-lagged," he says, after enquiries to his health.

The band's comeback has been well received in the States. When the 18-track Say You Will was released in April, the album entered US trade bible Billboard Magazine's album chart at number three.

"We've definitely had success with it, and in truth the journey isn't over," Fleetwood smiles.

"Say You Will continues to sell pretty well every month. Warner Brothers have been great, they're hanging in there with the album and in the meantime we just keep working. Peacekeeper, the new single, is on Radio 2's playlist over here, which we're very happy to hear. In this day and age, I wonder where the interest is, you know - do you really want us to put out a single? It's certainly very gratifying, we haven't been here for so long."

Fleetwood Mac return to the NEC Arena for two nights, tomorrow and Wednesday, for their first appearance there since the band included Behind The Mask's guitarists Rick Vito and Billy Burnett. But this time out there is a familiar face missing from the line-up.

Birmingham's Christine McVie, a member of Fleetwood Mac since 1970, is no longer behind the keyboards, although she does play on two of the new album's tracks, Murrow Turning Over In His Grave and Bleed To Love Her. After taking part in the reunion tour of 1997, which produced the six-million-selling live album The Dance, the 60-year-old pianist retired to her Canterbury home with husband Eddy Quintela.

"First of all, Christine's legacy is a given, her input and what she left with this band, not only personally but musically," Fleetwood states emphatically.

"She's an important part of the Fleetwood Mac story, Christine was always a great influence on the band. When it came to her decision to leave, we realised this was something she really didn't want to do any more.

"For someone who'd always been such a team player, we knew she had her reasons and they need not be questioned, you know. She had more than earned the right to quit. None of us at all felt, 'how could you, please, what are you doing?' It just wasn't that type of dynamic.

"In truth, when we went in to make this album, there were moments when Christine would talk to Lindsey and I'd be thinking, 'is she going to make this album with us?' I think some part of it was hard for her to let go. I knew, deep down she didn't enjoy it any more.

"Christine enjoyed the making of the music, but what went with it she'd had enough of, the travelling, the flying - she increasingly wasn't enjoying that. That was really what made her mind up. You can't be half in and half out. Once we knew the writing was more than etched in stone, that Christine truly wasn't part of Fleetwood Mac any more - we were intent on making a new album, and certainly going out and doing a lot of road work - it really spurred us on.

"Not to make light of the fact that Christine has left the band, but we were certainly pretty damn happy to realise that the four of us still had a hell of a lot of stuff left in us creatively as well as personally. With Christine leaving, it ironically almost made that more profound, where the album we ended up with became musically more different than maybe it would have been if she'd been involved, which turned out to be a positive thing for us. We all miss her, Stevie especially misses her, out on the road having a lady friend, but it was so much Christine's decision.

"The door was open, but when we realised she wasn't walking through it, we charged forward and I think it became a positive. In terms of the very nature of Christine not being there, it sort of benefited the change.

"We are happy with where we ended up."

For a while there were, ahem, rumours that singer Sheryl Crow would be taking Christine McVie's place in Fleetwood Mac, fuelled by the recent release of Crow's A&M career retrospective, usually a sure sign that the artist is moving on. After all, the 41-year-old Missouri-born musician is heard on two of Say You Will's tracks, the title song and Silver Girl, both Stevie Nicks compositions.

"It was never a reality," Fleetwood sighs. "We've all got to know Sheryl through Stevie, who's a great friend of hers. Sheryl produced the lion's share of Stevie's last album Trouble In Shangri-La, so, betwixt you, me and the lamppost, it was alluded to and joked about a couple of times down at a recording session with Stevie and Sheryl, who's a huge Fleetwood Mac fan.

"I have to say, had there been someone to replace Christine, Sheryl would have been about the best person I could think of, but we were never, ever, really contemplating it. And then it got out of hand, because when you see it on paper, that would be a very good choice. People got carried away with it and things got out of control. Sheryl had to go on record and say, 'I'm not going to be in Fleetwood Mac'. It ain't gonna happen."

Coincidentally, Wednesday, the second night of the band's NEC run, is bass guitarist John McVie's 58th birthday. He was born November 26, 1945.

"I get to introduce the band members and all the people playing with us during the show, so I'll have to remember it's John's birthday, because he won't tell us," Fleetwood laughs, before recalling his old friend's recent crisis back home.

"The fires in California got pretty close to John's house. He had to ship out his bass guitars and his vinyl record collection for safe keeping, that's how serious it got. He was all packed up, but mercifully it didn't get to his house. The fire was less than a mile away, and when fires run as fast as they do, a mile is not very far. It had one more ridge to come over and his whole canyon would have gone up. It's scary stuff."

With most of their troubles behind them, the revitalised four-piece are facing a bright future. "We're all in this together," Fleetwood says.

"It's all about the music now. We're all really in the here and now, and this is cool. We're going to be touring until the end of next summer, and if everyone's feeling as good as they are now, we're already discussing making another new album. "We want to represent the band, we can see through the mist now. What you have here is a bunch of people who've all been in and out of love with each other. We're not just business partners, we really know each other. We've cried and laughed together and torn each other's heads off and God knows what.

"If things weren't right, we couldn't be doing this. Now, whatever problems we have, we're able to talk about them. The bottom line is that we're so connected and you can't disconnect this thing anyhow. Stevie and Lindsey were in love with each other for a huge part of their lives. I was the world's worst, I was a nut case for years. I had a great time but it turned into a nightmare and Stevie was probably a close second, in terms of crazy behaviour.

"Coming out the end of this wild and crazy journey, we're not drugged out of our minds, thank God we're pretty much intact as people. It's sort of extraordinary."

Fleetwood Mac come to the NEC Arena on Tuesday 25 (returns only) & Wednesday 26 November, Tickets priced pounds 60.00 (limited premium), pounds 45.00 and pounds 30.00 plus booking fee. Box Office 0870 909 4133. Say You Will is released by Reprise Records through Warner Brothers.

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge.

Date: 2003-11-24         Number of views: 1786

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