Thursday, April 4, 2013 6:00 am
As Fleetwood Mac embark on a world tour, we look at the renewed love for a band that defined the 1970s.
I’m as overawed to meet Mick Fleetwood, the towering drummer from legendary Anglo-American rock act Fleetwood Mac, as a hobbit greeting Gandalf – though this wizard sports a batik waistcoat and bright pink socks.
‘We had no concept of the enormity of what we were making with Rumours,’ he says, speaking of their legendary 1977 album. ‘But we did know it was something special and that helped us focus when we were all so desperately unhappy. I can’t think of any other band where all this s*** has happened.’
Earlier this year, an extended edition of Rumours, which had already sold more than 40 million copies, went straight back into the British charts at No.3. An epic world tour starts tonight and will hit Britain on September 24, with 2013 shaping up to be a triumphant reunion year. But it’s not just a nostalgia trip: people far too young to remember Rumours the first time around seem obsessed with the music and the story behind it.
Indeed, it now seems unbelievable that Fleetwood Mac’s 11th album, recorded amid the crossfire of three relationship breakdowns, was ever finished at all. The marriage between bassist John McVie and singer/keyboardist Christine was crumbling, while singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist/singer Lindsey Buckingham were going through their own messy split. Even Fleetwood was in the middle of divorce proceedings.
Everyone was strung out on veritable snowdrifts of paranoia-inducing cocaine, working in a room from which all the clocks had been removed, but it somehow resulted in one of the most flawless rock-pop records of all time.
‘The music was the biggest reason we became successful,’ admits Fleetwood, the only constant member of the group since it started as a blues outfit back in 1967. ‘But we’re fully aware that there’s a duality to it. You couldn’t have devised a PR campaign so clever but we were really pretty naive.’
The resurgence of Mac love has taken many forms in recent years: clubland reworks; a Rumours T-shirt in Topshop; and a covers album featuring the likes of Tame Impala and Haim (the BBC Sound Of 2013 winners, whose music has been compared to Fleetwood Mac’s melodic soft rock). The NME even dubbed Stevie Nicks ‘the ultimate rock goddess’. When talking about Rumours recently, Nicks said: ‘I think if I was 20 years old, I would definitely want to be in that band.’
Fleetwood is likewise thrilled and inspired by this continued popularity. ‘A lot of bands, including us, never know when the audience is going to finally disappear,’ he says.
‘But we have a whole influx of new fans, young people who’ve been brought up on us by their parents or picked us up on the internet. There’ll be people on this tour in their seventies and others seeing us for the first time, and that’s really cool.’
A major part of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours-era magic involved the complementary contrast between the two female vocalists – Christine McVie’s cool and smoky tone set against Nicks’s utterly distinctive voice, which could be a Californian twang or a Janis Joplin-style deep belter by turns. But Christine retired from showbiz in 1998.
‘If they wanted me to, I might pop back on stage when they’re in London,’ she says, gracing me with a rare interview, ‘just to do a little duet or something like that.’
That news is likely to set fans whirling like a batwing-sleeved Nicks during a performance of “Rhiannon.” And almost as exciting is the prospect of the first new music since 2003.
Buckingham, Fleetwood and John McVie went into the studio last year to record tracks that Nicks, who was mourning the death of her mother at the time, later laid down vocals on. Fleetwood hints there might be an EP in the pipeline and very possibly an album later this year.
‘I think people will let us know if they want an album,’ he says. ‘It could definitely happen, we’ve got the goods. We really want to shove some new s*** out there – it may not sell zillions but it’s an important thing to do artistically, we think.’
Whether or not they produce new music, the band who, against all odds, are still friends will always have a work of bittersweet perfection in Rumours. As Christine explains: ‘There was no bulls*** on that record – it was completely real and truthful. And that lasts.’
Fleetwood Mac’s world tour starts tonight. Their British tour begins at London’s O2 arena on September 24. www.fleetwoodmac.com
Rumours? All true – 10 things you might not know about Fleetwood Mac
1.) Founding member Peter Green, who alongside Clapton is often hailed as one of the greatest blues guitarists of all time, was suffering from mental troubles before he left the band in 1970 – he also tried to persuade the rest of the band to give away all their profits to charity. A bad acid trip in Munich sent him over the edge.
2.) Much has been made of the ‘curse’ on Fleetwood Mac guitarists. Following Peter Green’s departure, Jeremy Spencer went awol in LA in 1971 – he was eventually located with the Children of God cult. Another guitarist, Danny Kirwan, was fired in 1972 after a drink-fueled episode which saw him bashing his head against a bathroom wall and smashing up his guitar.
3.) And the curse struck again – Mick Fleetwood’s wife Jenny Boyd (whose sister Pattie married both George Harrison and Eric Clapton) had an affair with Mac guitarist Bob Weston. He was also fired, in 1973. Mick and Jenny would divorce, remarry and divorce again.
4.) Following this stream of misfortunes, manager Clifford Davis actually put a fake Fleetwood Mac out on the road to fulfill the real band’s tour obligations. The remaining members of the true group took lengthy legal action against him when they found out.
5.) The classic Rumours lineup was the 10th incarnation of the band – Fleetwood heard a Buckingham Nicks demo at Sound City and wanted to get Lindsay on board as a new guitarist, but he said he wasn’t going anywhere without Stevie. Both were hired, without an audition.
6.) Christine McVie wrote Rumours’ “You Make Loving Fun” about the band’s lighting director, Curry Grant. She was still technically married to John McVie at the time, but they were separated and both seeing other people.
7.) “The Chain” is the only song credited to all five members of this classic Rumours lineup – and it was created by the merging of three different songs. It’s also been the soundtrack to the for BBC’s Grand Prix coverage since 1978.
8.) Rumours only ever managed a single week in the UK hot spot – before being overtaken by Abba’s The Album. it has spent 31 weeks at Number One in America, overall.
9.) The Stevie Nicks penned “Landslide,” one of Fleetwood Mac’s most beautiful and beloved songs, was never actually released as a single. A lot of its popularity today is down to covers by The Smashing Pumpkins and the Glee cast featuring Gwneth Paltrow–otherwise unlikely bedfellows.
10.) The pair of balls which can be seen dangling from Fleetwood’s belt on the Rumours front cover are of the same kind he always wears when drumming – originally they were toilet chain-balls, snatched from a club the band played in the early days as a good luck token.