Sunday Express (06/27/2004), Christine McVie: Life After Fleetwood Mac
Sunday Express, June 27, 2004
Christine McVie: Life After Fleetwood Mac
She was the icy beauty in rock banc Fleetwood Mac. Now Christine McVie has found happiness tending the gardens at her 17th century mansion in Kent
by Robin Eggar
Retirement agrees with Christine McVie. In 1998 she finally called time on her 28-year stint in Fleetwood Mac, one of the most successful rock bands of all time.
To make sure there could be no going back she sold her LA mansion and her car, waved goodbye to her friends and flew to England.
"The moment I landed at Heathrow airport I knew I was home, " she says. "It was as though this massive weight had lifted off me.
"I never really wanted to leave England in the first place. When we left to try to hack out a career in the States they assured me it would only be for six months. We never came back. I'm 60 now and for the first time in my life I feel really at ease with myself, dare I say it, happy."
Her face is lined but healthy, there is a vivacity and sparkle in her blue eyes. She's taller and rangier than I expected, in designer jeans and a tailored jacket over a white T-shirt.
Chris says that after she left the band she never intended to make another record. But she has and a fine piece of work it is too. She made the album In the Meantime in a barn at her Kent home with nephew Dan.
"I didn't start off with the intention of making a record. I was doing these songs for cathartic reasons. I had been through a bad relationship that had broken down so some of the songs were working the demon out."
Chris was always an unlikely rock star. She was born on July 12, 1943, just outside Birmingham into an educated if impoverished family. Her father Cyril was a college professor and her mother Tee (Beatrice) a school secretary and part time psychic healer.
"I am one of the people she healed. I had this huge wart under my nose, she put her fingers on it and the next morning it was gone. She healed some very sick people. She was an extraordinary woman."
She was a plump child, fervently studying classical piano. "At 13 I weighed 13 stone but when I went to art college I suddenly realised how cute guys were and I wanted one so I stopped eating chocolate and started on salad." When she was 15 her older brother left some Fats Domino sheet music in her piano stool. It was a revelation and she "started to learn to try to play the blues".
In her first band, Chicken Shack, she seldom sang, just played keyboards, but her ice blonde beauty made Christine Perfect, as she then was, a blues boom icon.
"I was never a sex goddess, " she laughs. "The band always treated me as one of the guys, but with respect like a sister. I was never excluded from the boy jokes. I had to get used to that so I now have a mouth like a sewer."
She quit Chicken Shack to marry John McVie, Fleetwood Mac's bass player. "I wanted to become a housewife, " she says unconvincingly. The band were preparing to tour America. "They weren't happy with the sound. I knew all the songs because I was listening to the rehearsals so they said, 'What do you think about joining?' I said, 'You must be mad but yes.' A lifetime later I managed to leave."
What changed Fleetwood Mac from a hard-working blues band into global superstars was the recruitment of an American couple, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks.
"It was a bizarre bunch of people. Stevie and I are so different. She was this siren, a magic creature on the stage while I was content to be behind the keyboards. Lindsey was a Californian boy, John had been a civil servant in Ealing, while Mick Fleetwood was a wing commander's son, all jolly hockey sticks with a dark humour. And underneath it all was this musical soap opera."
Fleetwood Mac, the first album with the new line-up, was a No1 in America. But by the time they prepared to record the follow-up, Rumours, the band's personal relationships were in tatters. Both couples had split up and drummer Fleetwood was getting divorced.
"The music was all we lived for. That was what tied us together while everything else was falling apart. We were all living in this dream world, doing too many drugs and drinking too much, all busy getting divorced and fighting among ourselves."
Rumours sold 25million copies and is still one of the biggest selling albums of all time. But with success came legendary excess.
Buckingham lived for a year in the Four Season hotel in Los Angeles, Fleetwood embarked on a series of property deals that ended up bankrupting him, McVie drank while Stevie dabbled in magic, took too many drugs, and bounced from boyfriend to boyfriend.
"I did a little bit of everything, " says Chris. "A perfect balance. I have had my moments of insanity but I am fairly level-headed. The most excessive thing I did was staying up for three days with the white powder, liberally washed down by Dom Perignon. I almost had a heart attack."
Chris quit drugs 20 years ago, drink three years ago, but hasn't yet conquered smoking. "I did quit for five years once, then my second marriage broke down so I started again. I've been very unlucky in love, it's been a real drag."
She had a doomed relationship with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and her second marriage to keyboard player and songwriter Eddie Quintela, 12 years her junior, broke up before she returned to England.
"Both Stevie and I used to moan about how we were married to Fleetwood Mac, " she says. "There was no time for relationships of our own. Sometimes I regret not having children. There was a time 20 or so years ago when it would have been nice, it just didn't happen."
When the band played in London last year Chris went to see them.
"They sounded great, " she says.
"But I didn't even feel a pang. I was looking at them on stage thinking 'Thank God I'm not there'.
"When I went backstage they all looked so tired, I knew I didn't make the wrong move. I won't ever play live again.
"I came out of Fleetwood Mac fairly unscathed, in good health both physically and emotionally.
Financially I'm fine. I am not Elton John but who the hell needs that much money? I'm quite content and solvent." She spends most of her time in her 17th century house near Canterbury, supervising the gardeners, hanging out with her Lhasa Apso dogs, Dougal and George, and cooking roasts for her friends and family. She bought the house in 1990 after her father died and it needed a lot of restoration.
"I love living in Kent, I love being around the people I am around, life is pretty damn good. Tomorrow I am going to switch on the telly and watch some Wimbledon. It sounds trivial but it's blissful after the chaotic life I've led for the past 40 years. I live a very simple life, but it is the one I chose."
Thanks to blinker12 for posting this to the Ledge.
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