Blender Magazine, Number 16 (05/2003), 33 Things You Should Know About Fleetwood Mac
Blender Magazine, #16 Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge.
33 Things You Should Know About Fleetwood Mac
They used to travel on Hitler's train. They toured with a 70-foot inflatable penguin. But first, dizzied by sex and drugs, they had to make one of rock's landmark albums. "We were," Mick Fleetwood admits, "crazy..."
By Adam Higginbotham
1. Fleetwood Mac were named for their rhythm section. Lengendary (and legendarily nutty) British blues guitarist Peter Green formed the band in 1967 around drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. "None of us would be here without Peter Green," Fleetwood says.
2. Green, the band's first guitarist, left after taking too much LSD. After a 1970 show in Munich, Green went to an acid party thrown by a group of rich German hippies. "I just sat around thinking and thought about everything," he said. "I was thinking so fast; I couldn't believe how fast I was thinking! And I ran out of thoughts. I must have been thinking solid for about an hour." After, Green announced that he wanted to join a commune, and insisted that the band donate all of its earnings to charity.
3.The star of early Fleetwood Mac shows was a dildo. A pink, 16-inch rubber dildo named Harold. "Our roadie would bring out Harold on a big platter, as if he were the butler delivering tea," Fleetwood says. "Harold would be attached to my bass drum by way of a suction cup at his base and would spend the evening quivering and vibrating in an erect position at the ladies in our audience."
4. Mick Fleetwood never plays without his balls. Two wooden balls hanging from his belt. "My drum solo consisted of me stepping out in front of the kit and dancing while clacking my balls together. I still have these wooden balls, and I never play without them. If I didn't have them, I'd be very loath to play at all."
5. John McVie is fascinated by penguins. When he lived near the London zoo, he spent hours watching the flightless birds. On the Mac's 1972 album, Future Games, there's a photograph of a penguin where McVie should be. The following year, the band named an album Penguin. Fleetwood Mac's publishing company was named after a species of penguin, as was McVie's yacht. Finally, McVie went out one night, got extremely drunk and had a penguin tatooed on one of his forearms.
6. They lost their second guitarist to a freakish Christian sect. The day before a gig in Los Angeles in 1971, Jeremy Spencer said he was going out to a bookstore and never returned. Road managers combed the streets for him; the FBI, Interpol and a renowned psychic were involved in a lengthy search. Eventually, the band's manager found Spencer in a warehouse with the Children of God. He had shaved his head, renounced his possessions and taken the name Jonathan.
7. Their third lead guitarist left because nobody would talk to him. In 1972, the band was touring America in a pair of station wagons, but everyone had stopped speaking to Danny Kirwan. Five minutes before one show, he went into the bathroom and repeatedly smashed his head againt the wall, spattering blood everywhere. He then destroyed his guitar and refused to go onstage. Instead, he watched from the audience as the band struggled to play without him. He gave Mick Fleetwood a critique of the performance afterward. Then Fleetwood fired him.
8. And the fourth guitarist was fired for having an affair with Mick Fleetwood's wife. On tour, "I couldn't take it," Fleetwood says, "mentally."
9. Next up: The phony Fleetwood Mac. After yet another tour disaster, their manager, Clifford Davis, announced he was fed up: "I fucking own Fleetwood Mac," he explained, and with the real band scattered around the world, he promptly assembled his own version to tour the U.S.: the New Fleetwood Mac. Nobody was fooled. "At a few gigs," recalls road manager John Courage, "people threw shit at the musicians."
10. Meanwhile, Peter Green told the manager to stop sending him royalty checks--or he'd shoot him. The manager reported the threat. British police arrested Green, who was committed. "I don't think it was a real gun," Fleetwood says. "But he made quite a bold statement."
11. Before they joined the band, L.A. folkies Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks released an album of their own. They were both topless on the cover. Nicks bought a new blouse for the shoot, but Buckingham didn't like it, so he made her pose with nothing on. "I spent my last $111 on that blouse," Nicks says. "I didn't eat for days. I was crying when we took that picture."
12. Success did not make them happy. The 1975 album Fleetwood Mac made them millionaires. But by the time they began to record Rumours, the couples - John and Christine McVie, Nicks and Buckingham - had to split up. Fleetwood, too, was getting divorced. The band spent 18 hours a day in the studio but didn't speak. "Making Rumours was an exercise in denial," Buckingham says. "Trying to get the music done, minimizing the distress of having to produce songs for Stevie when I didn't even want to see her."
13. Drugs made recording Rumours a rather painstaking process. For instance, the band required four days, nine pianos and three tuners to find Christine McVie a keyboard that "sounded right." They enlisted the help of a blind man and someone known only as the "Looner Tuner." We felt that the piano was not holding tune," Fleetwood says. "Whether the piano was wrong, or whether we had lost our marbles-- " Buckingham cuts in: "That's what it was."
14. They can't remember how or why they started taking cocaine. "Everbody across the board was indulging in cocaine at that time," Buckingham says. Notes Fleetwood: "I wandered into it - and then I turned around and I was in the middle of a train wreck. It was in my life for a long, long, long time. About 25 years."
15. Fleetwood wanted to give his coke dealer a credit on the album. "Unfortunately," he says, "he got snuffed - executed! - before the thing came out."
16. "The Chain" is the only song ever written by all five members of the band. "John does not write," Buckingham says of McVie. "His contribution to that was so fundamental: The riff that starts the whole tag - boom da-dad-doo-da-da-doo-doo-doo - was so thematic and dramatic."
17. Without all the relationship drama, Rumours would not have been nearly so successful. Buckingham: "A great deal of the appeal was that people could look at the whole soap-opera aspect. It's like being a voyeur and looking into people's bedrooms."
18. And it made Fleetwood Mac the "Soap-Opera Band." "We were pigeonholed into a cliched way of being looked at," Buckingham recalls. "Two couples: two chicks, two guys, breaking up, writing songs to one another."
19. But it also made them very powerful. Mick Fleetwood was even able to broker a record deal for Peter Green. The deal was set until Green sat down with record-company executives. "And then, in the office," Fleetwood says, "he suddenly said, 'I can't do this. It's the work of the devil.'"
20. In 1977, the whole penguin thing got really out of hand. The band designed a giant dirigible version of the flightless bird, 70 feet tall, intended to rise up from the back of the stage at the climax of stadium shows and then float out over the audience. "It would never fully inflate - it must have had leaks or something," Buckingham says. "This thing was limping and floundering at the back of the stage. It never flew." Adds Fleetwood: "It was a disaster."
21. Not all of the band embraced Buckingham's "new direction" on the 1979 album Tusk. He discovered punk and New Wave. He recorded vocal parts on his knees in a bathroom. The rest of Fleetwood Mac, however, did not become fans of Talking Heads or the Clash. "You could say that," Buckingham says. "Nobody did. Nor are they now. But what are you gonna do?"
22. They built an entirely new studio to make Tusk. Everything was built to the band's specs: echo chambers developed to Buckingham's requirements (including a special tiled room because of his fondness for recording in bathrooms) and English lager on tap in the lounge. When the meter stopped running, their bill for studio time was $1.4 million. "By the time we got out of that studio," Fleetwood recalls, "we could have bought it."
23. But that still wasn't enough for them. Fleetwood wanted the song "Tusk" to feature a brass band as accompaniment. He hired the 112-piece Trojan Marching Band from the University of Southern California and recorded them outdoors at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. He still plays with the USC band from time to time. "Even Lindsey's done it with me," he says. "I've done it quite a few times. They still play 'Tusk.' And now they play 'Don't Stop' as well."
24. They practially invented prerelease album bootlegging. In 1979, before the release of Tusk, Fleetwood Mac staged a landmark event: The entire double album was broadcast on the radio network Westwood One. "They played it from top to bottom," Fleetwood says, "without interruption." From all across California came the click of the tape recorders being switched on. Who thought up that idea? "That would be our record company. It wasn't a very good idea at all, actually," Fleetwood notes. "They," Buckingham points out, "were doing cocaine, too."
25. On a European leg of the Tusk tour, they spent three weeks traveling in Adolf Hitler's old train. "It was beautiful," Fleetwood says. "Like those train trips you get around Europe now, all velvet and walnut." Says Buckingham: "We didn't ask for Hitler's train."
26. The Tusk tour proved to be very, very expensive. There were limousines for everyone - even the lighting guys. Hotel rooms were redecorated in advance to make the color schemes suitable for Nicks and Christine McVie. Nicks had to have a piano in every suite she stayed in. Fleetwood: "We were all crazy. I remember a piano winched up -" Buckingham: "Nine floors up."
27. Buckingham finally succumbed to the curse of Fleetwood Mac guitarists. At one show in New Zealand, as Nicks sang "Rhiannon," he pulled his jacket over his head and began performing a grotesque imitation of her. Christine McVie slapped him. "I might have chucked a glass of wine over him, too," she says. "I didn't think that was the way to treat a paying audience."
28. Eventually, Fleetwood Mac had to introduce drug rationing. Their road manager handed out one Heineken bottle cap full of cocaine to each member of the band before they went onstage. "Even in the lunatic days," Fleetwood says, "there was a sense of responsibility. We would rein ourselves in. I would not want to walk onstage completely coked out to the point where it was...not acceptable."
29. In 1984, Mick Fleetwood went bankrupt. "People were saying that I'd put $8 million up my nose, but if I'd done all the things they said, I'd have been dead long ago."
30. Buckingham has never attended the "Night of a Thousand Stevies." Nor will he be turning up for the annual New York gathering of drag queens and Nicks look-alikes anytime soon. "She gets a lot of people at her shows who dress like her. I don't know if I could handle that, though."
31. Even the President of the United States had a hard time getting Buckingham back into Fleetwood Mac. When asked to rejoin the band to perform "Don't Stop" for Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993, Buckingham couldn't make up his mind. "I called Lindsey," Nicks says, "and said, 'If you cheat me out of this moment, I'll never speak to you again.' So he did it."
32. But Clinton didn't join them on sax. "No. I'm a little surprised," Fleetwood says. Adds Buckingham, "He probably wanted to."
33. Making their first new studio CD in 16 years, Say You Will, was not at all like Rumours or Tusk. "Mick and I both have little children now, so we can't live, nor would we want to live, the kind of lives we did." Buckingham says. "It's more meticulous. And the hours are better."
Blender Magazine, #16
Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge.
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