As the legendary band hit the UK, Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood tell Jenny Stevens how they got Christine McVie out of retirement — and why the Mac are still relevant as ever.
It’s been 35 years since Fleetwood Mac’s seminal album Rumours was released, setting in amber the band’s place in rock ‘n’ roll history. But as they prepare to play their first gigs in the UK in four years this week, Fleetwood Mac have never been more relevant. It’s impossible not to feel the impact their formula of heart-trodden lyrics swathed in glossy soft rock is still having on the music scene. Last year, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, J Mascis, MGMT, Tame Impala and Lykke Li were all lining up to appear on a Mac tribute album. Haim frequently drop “Oh Well” into their sets, and Mumford & Sons regularly close theirs with “The Chain.”
This week, for the first time since she left in 1998, the group’s former vocalist Christine McVie — who penned Mac classics, including “Don’t Stop” and “Songbird” — will come out of retirement to perform one song with her former band at London’s O2 Arena. It’s the first time the full Rumours line-up have performed together in 15 years, but not for lack of trying on the band’s part. Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood tell NME they had been asking her to appear with them onstage for years, but had hit what felt like a permanent brick wall. Now, she finally feels it’s the right time to come back to the fold, albeit temporarily.
“We would have loved for her to come and appear any time she wanted but she really didn’t want to,” says Nicks. “But now she’s said, ‘I’ll do it, I’m here and you’re here.’ She has an apartment here in London… It’s great. I mean that’s how it was since 1975 — it’s always been me and her, so you know, when she left, it was really a terrible loss. So it’s really wonderful. To have her back is like having your sister come back to you. So even if it’s only for one song it’s still great.”
“Glastonbury? I’d love to do it. 2014 may be the year” —Stevie Nicks
The impetus, says Fleetwood, came back in March when Christine visited his home in Hawaii to jam on some blues tracks with him and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, which ended up with her singing “Don’t Stop” onstage at the island’s Maui Arts & Cultural Center. “I promised Chris I’d never ask her to ever do anything, including joining Fleetwood Mac again, and I’ve honoured that,” Fleetwood says. “She came up to my house and we were just rehearsing some blues stuff with Steven Tyler and having some fun, and the next morning Steven said, ‘Do you wanna come up and sing some blues?’ She said, ‘No, I don’t do that anymore — I’m done.’ The next morning there was phone call and it was Christine. I said, ‘Morning, Chris’ and she said, ‘I’ve been thinking, would you want me to come and sing?’ and I said, ‘Are you kidding sweetheart?!’ And she did. She came and sang three or four songs with my blues band. I like to think [she agreed to the London show] ‘cos she walked on that stage in Maui! The sun got to her!”
Rumours has sold over 40 million records since its release and is one of the top-selling albums of all time. It was recorded in 1976, mostly at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, but the soap opera around the album’s recording is almost as well-played as the 1977 record itself. Drummer Mick Fleetwood had just discovered his wife was having an affair with his best friend; bassist John McVie and Christine broke up after eight years of marriage; and Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s relationship was hitting rock bottom — all played out under a dusting of cocaine addiction. That heartbreak and hurt became the core of the album, padded by languid pop melodies that are still soundtracking house parties three decades later. It’s those raw, timeless emotions that still connect with fans, says Nicks. “Sometimes I’ll just put Rumours on, put on headphones and I’ll listen to it and I’ll go, ‘Wow, boy, if I was 20 years old right now I’d wanna join that band ‘cos it sounds to me really real and really young and really now.’”
Fleetwood agrees, describing the album as a “personal document” of “nightmare to tragedy to love affairs, which in truth is like much of life itself. I think we’ve now come out the other end where people enjoy exploring that and also identify with it. We were vulnerable like a lot of people are.”
With the band readying themselves for three sell-out nights in London this week that started on Tuesday (September 24), followed by dates in Manchester and Birmingham, Fleetwood says that it’s only since he’s got older himself that he realizes how important the band’s legacy really is. “In years gone by everything was so razzmatazz, and you’re young and you don’t give a shit. Now, when you realize that the whole tour has sold out and people your age and younger — and older people — are still loving what you do, it wakes you up. It’s like we did something that was worth a damn and that makes you feel good.”
There’s still one thing Fleetwood Mac have left to check off — and that’s a headline slot at Glastonbury. Whispers are rife that 2014 could be the year they make their debut on the Pyramid Stage, but the band remain coy. “Oh, I’d love to do it,” says Nicks. “But loving to do it and doing it are two different things. I’ve watched Glastonbury on TV so I know what it is and I know it’s a really big festival and it would be really fun to do…”
So is 2014 the year? “Yeah, yeah — maybe!”
Famous Mac fans
What the music world has said about Fleetwood Mac
Bat for Lashes
“I was brought up on a lot of Fleetwood Mac — my mum and I used to sing ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Rhiannon’ in the car. I think without even realizing it I few on those influences. [Stevie Nicks is] a sassy little firecracker. Her vision of femininity is very mystical. She makes me feel good about being a woman.”
Colin Greenwood, Radiohead
“Well, I try to tell everyone I’m a complete fan of Fleetwood Mac. Our manager introduced me to them years ago. I love the Peter Green era — it’s sort of psychedelic folk blues. Just the way it was recorded, with the drums, the dry drums with the percussion in the background.”
Jeremy Warmsley, Summer Camp
“A lot of their songs sound really breezy and poppy but when you actually listen to the words there’s this real core of darkness — especially on Rumours, where Stevie and Lindsey were literally breaking up while recording the album. That idea of smuggling in these evil thoughts under the cover of a happy pop song is something we’re always trying to do.”
Bethany Cosentino, Best Coast
“My mom was a huge, huge Fleetwood Mac fan. She dressed like Stevie Nicks when she was in her twenties. I spend hours on the internet looking at pictures of her, but I don’t necessarily dress up as much as she did. I would lose my mind [if I met her].”
NME interview with Mick Fleetwood & Stevie Nicks[quicktime]https://stevie-nicks.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/2013-0917-nme-interview.mp4[/quicktime]
Jenny Stevens / NME, Upfront / Saturday, September 28, 2013
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