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News & Observer (05/21/2004), Fleetwood Mac's music endures < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

News & Observer (05/21/2004), Fleetwood Mac's music endures

The News & Observer, Friday, May 21, 2004

Fleetwood Mac's music endures

By David Menconi

Fleetwood Mac's latest album, "Say You Will" (Reprise Records), will probably be remembered as a minor entry in the group's catalog. It's more than pleasant, shimmering with good hooks and good taste. But it feels like exactly what it is -- two separate records that never quite mesh.

Lindsey Buckingham brought in some of his eccentric pop, Stevie Nicks brought in some of her slicker folk-rock and they put the songs on tape with the rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. (Singer/keyboardist Christine McVie stayed home.)

Since this is Fleetwood Mac, one of the great long-running soap operas of the rock era, the proceedings had plenty of behind-the-scenes drama. And the group, which plays Saturday at Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek, has been kind enough to share that aspect of the process.

The most interesting thing about "Say You Will" is the accompanying making-of documentary, "Destiny Rules," which aired on VH1 in March. Filmed as Fleetwood Mac made the album in a Los Angeles house, "Destiny Rules" gives a fascinating look at how band dynamics play out -- a series of complaints, betrayals and resurfacing old tensions. While there are no plans for a DVD release, it will eventually come out "in some weird long-form version," according to Fleetwood.

"At first, we wanted to wire the entire house to make it like a 'Fleetwood Mac House' reality show," Fleetwood says, laughing. "Stevie was not very keen on doing this. But much to her credit, she said OK, she was game if it was what we wanted. None of it was set up. We were not all on perfect behavior at all times, obviously. But we didn't just want it to be peek-a-booing ourselves. We could have done different cuts of the film, on the upsides and downsides of functional and dysfunctional behavior. What's interesting is that it shows a band reconvening from different components that don't always see eye to eye."

One of those recurring arguments involved how big a statement the band wanted to make with "Say You Will," Buckingham's first studio album with Fleetwood Mac since 1987's "Tango in the Night." Initially, Buckingham wanted to make it an ambitious double-disc album, which none of the other principles thought was a good idea.

In many ways, this was just like old times. Twenty-five years ago, Fleetwood Mac endured similar internal trauma while trying to follow up its signature album, 1977's mega-selling "Rumours." Against the advice of almost everyone, Fleetwood made a daring and adventurous double album, 1979's "Tusk."

This time, considerations of commerce won out. The group confined itself to a single disc on "Say You Will" -- albeit a long one with 18 songs and 76 minutes of music.

"Everyone thought we were insane," Fleetwood recalls, speaking of "Tusk." "The record business was in a real slump then, double albums are more expensive. But that one is probably my favorite album of ours, even though there were a lot of conversations where the heebie jeebies were put up: 'Do we need to be taking that sort of commercial risk? Can we make the music we want and not have 26 tracks?' Just like this time. Some of it was nonsensical, some of it was just, 'Hey, if we're doing this, let's try and make it successful so more people will hear it.' That's certainly the point of making an album -- having people listen. I think we ended up with a really healthy compromise."

Magic mix
Although the Buckingham/Nicks permutation of Fleetwood Mac is regarded as definitive, neither is actually an original member. Fleetwood Mac had been around for nearly a decade as a blues band when Buckingham and Nicks joined in 1975. The newcomers added a West Coast pop sensibility to the bluesier leanings of Fleetwood and the McVies, an unlikely combination that proved to be magic.

Buckingham and Nicks were a couple at the time, as were John and Christine McVie. That made for a volatile situation when everyone's relationships disintegrated, even as Fleetwood Mac was becoming the biggest band on Earth. "Rumours" eventually sold 19 million copies in the United States, becoming the rare album that is iconic enough to have inspired multiple tribute versions (including 2000's "Rumours: The String Quartet Tribute to Fleetwood Mac").

Meanwhile, those interpersonal tensions turned up in "Dreams," "The Chain," "Go Your Own Way," "Silver Springs" and other songs.

Decades later, they still do. On "Destiny Rules," Buckingham talks about how strange it feels to sing with Nicks on her "Say You Will" song "Thrown Down," which he feels is about him: "Maybe now he could prove to her/That he could be good for her/That they should be together."

"I don't think it has the teeth-baring part anymore," Fleetwood says of Buckingham and Nicks' post-breakup relationship. "But in many ways, I perceive it to be a deeper reflection of two people's very separate journeys that can somehow never not be connected. Life goes on. Lindsey's third child is being born, he's gloriously happy, Stevie loves his children. But all these years later, there's still this private world they have, an umbilical creative thing. Making this album and doing nearly two years of roadwork together, it's testimony to what they still have after all the bits and pieces are gone. Some of it is good and a lot of it is bad. But they have a real respect for what they ended with.

"I hope we make another album where they would write and execute songs together," Fleetwood adds. "That would be very cool, because they sing together in a way no one else can. They have this ... whatever it is they have. It's the same sort of thing people think of with the Everly Brothers, a magical vocal sound. They've got that joined-at-the-hip tonality, which they got away from for years. But they're drifting back into it now."

If Fleetwood Mac does make another album, there will no doubt be an audience for it even though "Say You Will" has been only moderately successful by the group's lofty commercial standards, falling short of a million copies sold in the United States. But time has not diminished Fleetwood Mac's reputation, or made its music any less in demand. Fleetwood Mac songs have been covered by everyone from rapper Kid Rock (in sample form on his 1998 song "Wasting Time") to country superstars the Dixie Chicks.

Some of Fleetwood Mac's more devoted fans can be found on the message board of Fleetwood's Web site,, trying to top each other's devotion. In one especially odd recent thread, fans recounted various dreams and nightmares they'd had that involved the group.

"Sometimes it does get strange," Fleetwood says. "There's one girl who was convinced I was gonna marry her, and that was pretty heavy. But all in all, the folks out there who like this band are pretty good. Generally, we like the process of being liked. Some people don't give a [expletive], and to all their own. But we do realize that making people happy is a good thing.

"We sometimes forget how many people we do make happy," Fleetwood concludes, "people who name their kids Rhiannon or Sara. If it all stopped tomorrow, we'd be happy we had something that brought a lot of pleasure to people. It's something nice to take home as one gets older."

Thanks to Carolina Girl for posting this to the Ledge.

Date: 2004-05-21         Number of views: 1668

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