At one time, they were the biggest band in the world. They totally dominated the charts, and much like the Beatles, releases of their new albums were heralded as “events.” They have crafted a thick catalogue of timeless, chart-topping songs that spans four decades. After all this time competing in the world of pop music where youth is worshipped, and growing old is an unpardonable crime, there still remains an allure and lasting mystique to the iconic British-American band, Fleetwood Mac.
Looking at them through the reality lens, their longevity and eternal star power have been built and nurtured as much on the long-running soap opera that has always been the sordid private lives of the band members as it has been on their enormous musical talents.
Back in the day, virtually all of them drifted in and out of disastrous affairs with each other that ended in bitter breakups and very public battles in divorce court. All along their journey, members have left the band, only to return again. Living in this swirling maelstrom of sex, drugs and confusion, their careers soared into the pop music stratosphere. The trials and tribulations of their personal lives always seemed to add a rather compelling barbed edge to their music that fans found irresistible.
What chronicled the depth of this dysfunctional music family with the most accuracy has to be their collective songwriting contributions that went into their classic 1977 album Rumours. Nearly every song on that monster-selling collection illuminated an intimate part of their personal stories. Fleetwood Mac is a legendary pop-rock band of warring lovers, spouses and friends, who reigned supreme among the hip and the cool set of the L.A. scene during the ’70s and ’80s.
There are those rare moments when I’m free to kick back, shift my mind into neutral, let the here and now slip through my fingers for a little while, and drift back to yesterday, where I can rekindle some of the long-ago memories that reside in the deep shadows of my mind. When I pull those memories up again, what comes back is my feeling that there were three incredible bands that seemed to define that decade: The Eagles, Queen and Fleetwood Mac.
With Mac, the talent of rock’s senior citizens is still off the charts today. Their current world tour, “On with the Show,” is selling out across the globe and garnering rave reviews. This tour also whistles in on the gentle winds of nostalgia, to be sure. Be that as it may, their talent can’t be denied. I have always felt that Christine McVie – who up and walked away, leaving the band 16 years ago, only to return to the fold late last year – is, without question, one of the most talented women in music. Her songwriting is pristine, and at 71, her voice has not lost any of its original range and vocal quality.
Likewise, Lindsey Buckingham, 65, is perhaps the most underappreciated and underrated guitarists in the music industry. His intricate guitar playing has always anchored the band and remains an essential element in their success. At 67, Mick Fleetwood remains a robust and steady drummer. Surviving a recent bout with cancer, 69-year-old bass guitarist and founding member, John McVie, is still playing with a practiced proficiency that looks effortless.
Perhaps the one casualty of the passing years is 66-year-old Stevie Nicks. Once the charismatic “Gold Dust Woman,” her good looks have faded, and her sexy allure now belongs to a time that has long passed by. Her once smooth and silky voice has been replaced by a rough and husky tone that can’t quite hit the high notes as easily as she once did, and yet she still remains as much a mystical presence as she did so many years ago, when she captivated young guys like me.
Four decades have come and gone, and I have to tell you that, even today, each time I take out my time-worn copy of Rumours and give it just one more listen, I still get lost in it. The songs drift and float through my head like shadows in the dark, parting the curtain to past and lifting the mists that hang over yesterday. Each time I rediscover this album, my appreciation for how they all bared their souls in the process of making Rumours comes back to me again. For in these amazing songs, the vivid and indelible images of their breakups, their storybook-like romantic entanglements with each other, their drug-induced lifestyles, and their estrangements from one another are captured forever in such a unique and compelling way.
What stands head and shoulders above all of these things in my mind, is the enormous and lasting artistic talent of Fleetwood Mac. After four decades, they are still an extraordinary and iconic pop-rock band. Yes, they are now growing older, but the musical gifts they have given to us remain eternally young. To me, they are still as fresh and new as the first flowers of spring.
Paul Collins is a Freelance Writer from Southborough, Mass.
Paul Collins / The Telegraph / Wednesday, June 24, 2015