In early 1977 I heard the legendary Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac, and I thought it was a bit meh.
You know, it was okay… but it wasn’t about to crack any pots. I thought.
It was a bit American, a bit soft rock for my tastes.
Funny then, that it went on to be one of the biggest, best-selling, most famous, utterly legendary albums of all time, But, hey, you can’t call them all right.
If it makes any difference, I’ve changed my mind. I really like Rumours now. Every song on it thrills me. I don’t know whether it’s because it evokes my lost youth or whether it’s because it’s brilliant. I don’t care, I just love it.
Partly I didn’t like Fleetwood Mac back then because of Stevie Nicks. it wasn’t just the sound of the songs, it was the look of her.
She was too floaty, too hippy, too dippy California girl for tough little me.
Plus, if I’m really telling it like it was, she didn’t look like she had ever had to stand in front of the bathroom mirror for an hour putting concealer on her acne, and that made me quite jealous.
Not like The Jam. Their first big album came along a few months later and set my blood on fire.
They were edgy, jumpy, mean and sharp. They sounded exactly like a British working class teenager felt. They sang our pain. Plus, I could imagine them examining their spots in front of the bathroom mirror. What wasn’t to love?
They’re both still performing, the American soft rockers and the edgy Paul Weller, he who really was The Jam.
I’ve seen them both recently – I watched Paul Weller performing at Glastonbury. It was on the telly though because I have never been to an actual music festival in my life, and I was a bit disappointed.
I mean, he’s not exactly Mr Charisma these days is he? Stylish. I’ll grant you stylish, but somehow Paul Weller’s stage presence over the years has changed from being cool and cutting to grumpy and a bit boring.
And he was wearing a jumper. A jumper! How could he when he looks so good in a suit? It’s as if he’s a … middle-aged man.
Fleetwood Mac, who played at the Arena twice last week, were not like that. They were amazing.
And, in a startling about face, I have to say it is mostly because of Stevie Nicks and her fellow band member Christine McVie. I barely noticed Christine in the old days. She was the plainer one, the sensible-looking one compared with the flamboyant Stevie.
But, boy, I noticed her on Sunday. I had seen Fleetwood Mac before she rejoined the band, and they sound a lot better with her than without her.
But mostly what gladdens my heart is that these two women are now old – and still rocking.
I love that. I love that more than anything. Christine McVie is fully 71 years old, but she is up on stage, still sounding great, looking good – she doesn’t look like the plain sensible one anymore, she looks like she is having fun – and still belting out those brilliant songs, many of which she wrote.
There are loads of old male rockers still performing – now that no one makes money out of recording any more, they have no option really.
Every summer they haul their backsides onto an outdoor stage somewhere and try to remember the words of their old hits, every Christmas they put on a nostalgic seasonal show.
They can be bald, fat, stiff as ironing boards with their creaky old joints – but we accept them.
For women in music, as in every area of life, the standards are different.
We don’t overlook the ageing process in our aging female rockers, we judge it.
But Stevie, 67, and Christine, they are still up there and still out there. There making a pile of money for themselves but they are pushing the barriers for older women everywhere – and that’s no rumour.
ACCORDING to the traditional concert closing remarks of Fleetwood Mac’s resident ringmaster Mick Fleetwood, “the Mac is most definitely back” – and now these MOR giants come with added Christine McVie.
Rating: * * * *
The singer/pianist has rejoined the line-up after a sixteen-year absence and immediately made her leavening presence felt on the close harmony of opening number The Chain.
Her simply stated love songs, such as the sweet, girlish Everywhere and mellifluous Little Lies, made a welcome comeback to the setlist, providing a charming contrast to Stevie Nicks’ more melodramatic, impressionistic numbers – though the absence of Songbird from this show’s setlist was a great shame.
The eternal hippie chick Nicks was in her theatrical element, donning a black feathery shawl for extra gothic ambience on Rhiannon – though it hardly needed an atmospheric boost with Lindsey Buckingham’s burnished guitar and the ethereal harmonies as embellishing features.
Buckingham, meanwhile, was energised throughout, limbering up those fleet fingers to deliver an athletic, acoustic Big Love which climaxed with a primal yelp.
The eccentric tribal Tusk was another cathartic highlight.
The former couple cleverly traded on their volatile chemistry with a joint rendition of Landslide but were given too much hammy latitude on Gold Dust Woman and I’m So Afraid.
The band pulled back from the brink of indulgence with Go Your Own Way and heeded their own advice on Don’t Stop.
Both hits were the product of inter-band break-ups, yet here they are forty years on, still singing that universal rock soap opera.
Fleetwood Mac managed to do the impossible at Isle of Wight: top Blur’s performance from the previous night, says Patrick Smith.
If any act were to top Blur’s glorious Saturday-night set, it would surely be folk-rock behemoths Fleetwood Mac. And so it proved, as the sun went down on what’s been the best Isle of Wight festival in years, overflowing with nostalgia thanks to its affectionate nod to the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s famous performance here.
Weary bodies, battered by rain on the Friday night, hauled themselves to the Main Stage to witness the American-English quintet, who seemed to have shrugged off the illness that forced them to cancel their Birmingham and Manchester gigs earlier in the week.
It was marvellous to behold. Making their first ever appearance at Isle of Wight, this volatile soap opera of a group are now restored to their original configuration, with singer-pianist Christine McVie returning after a 16-year hiatus. That they were here to close proceedings represented a major coup for the festival – especially when you consider Michael Eavis has been trying to sign them up for Glastonbury for ages.
The Mac, now in their 48th year and in the middle of a 130-leg reunion tour, opened with the familiar driving riff of The Chain, which saw thunderous drums, coruscating guitar lines and sweeping melodies collide to devastating effect, while its chorus of, “we will never break the chain,” felt rather apt.
From there the hits kept coming. Vocalists Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and McVie, each dressed in black, all shared the limelight willingly, with the former’s voice, admittedly less honey-toned than it once was, anchoring the beautiful Dreams, taken from their 1977 break-up album Rumours. “Welcome back Mrs Christine McVie,” said a Nicks in one of many heartening showings of camaraderie. Everywhere, their gorgeous, twinkling ode to all-encompassing love, soon followed, with McVie taking centre stage and providing one of the high points of the festival.
Later, Buckingham stressed the importance of change, before a virtuosic performance of 1987’s Big Love. How pleasing that the brilliance of Fleetwood Mac’s music hasn’t changed.
Earlier, in a packed-out Big Top tent, The Lightning Seeds, fresh from their appearance on TFI Friday on Friday night, were by turns wistful and energetic. Spearheaded by their charismatic frontman Ian Broudie, the Liverpudlian alt-rockers, who formed in 1989, began their 50-minute set with Sense. But it wasn’t until a polished rendition of The Life of Riley, a song synonymous with Match of the Day’s Goal of the Month segment in the Nineties, that the audience began to embrace them fully.
Because of the phenomenal success of Three Lions, the football anthem made with comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel for Euro ’96 and rejigged for the 1998 World Cup, it’s easy to forget that, in their pomp, Lightning Seeds were actually pretty inventive, purveyors of catchy, fey pop songs such as their 1990 track Pure which closed their set to grateful applause. Demands for Three Lions, meanwhile, were kept to a minimum – a good thing really, given that it didn’t make the cut.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to be here you know,” said the sunglasses-wearing Broudie before breaking into the jaunty, keyboard-led Lucky You, one of their highlights.
The band are due to release a new album this year, their first since 2009’s Four Winds. I have high hopes for it.
Over on the Main Stage afterwards, 28-year-old Scot Paolo Nutini serenaded a swelling crowd with his brand of Motown-inflected soft rock. Wearing a red-and-black check shirt unbuttoned to his chest, the doe-eye singer-songwriter has a lovely voice: raspy and full of emotion. At times he sounded reminiscent of Kings of Leon’s Caleb Followill; at others of the late Joe Cocker.
Though he can be gratingly earnest and bland, tracks such as Pencil Full of Lead (from his 2009 LP Sunny Side Up) were warmly received. Finishing with a soothing, acoustic version of 2006’s Last Request, Nutini urged the crowd to “enjoy the legends” that are Fleetwood Mac. It was impossible not to.
The band’s secret, only recently returned weapon, Christine McVie dominates the early, Anglo-Californian harmonies.
Fleetwood Mac can actually remember the idealism which spawned 1969’s original Isle of Wight festival. But the catastrophic marriage collapses and cocaine mountains which catalysed the classic Rumours, an album which they no longer try to live down, meant they embodied the Seventies far more.
So while their Sunday headline set taps into this festival’s founding traditions, they play the smoother, harder rock of later, and far more cynical times.
Dr Showbiz has cured the unnamed ailment which cancelled two UK shows in the nervous run-up, letting them at least make it on stage, as they were always somehow going to. A bounding Mick Fleetwood is first, arms aloft in premature triumph. He is the pounding, insistent motor, musically and personally, without which the band he co-founded in 1967 would sputter and die.
Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, by contrast, show steely determination. Buckingham, the band’s Brian Wilson-like songwriting mastermind since 1974, looks faintly above a band he has tried to put behind him many times, as if he’s too old for this foolishness.
But he gruffly leads the charge with “The Chain”, the charge of hearing its great, bass-heavy riff electrifying the huge crowd. Few have headed for the ferries with Fleetwood Mac in town.
The band’s secret, only recently returned weapon, Christine McVie dominates the early, Anglo-Californian harmonies; the English purity of her voice raises the band above the soured innocence which spawned Rumours.
When all their voices join in hippie harmony on that album’s “Dreams”, for a moment the AOR sluggishness and personal battles which have dogged them fade away.
If you want a festival to mean something, though, book Saturday’s headliner Blur. Even more than Fleetwood Mac, Damon Albarn has faith in the human potential of thousands listening to music in a field.
Blur’s Saturday headline show on the island can’t match their 2009 Glastonbury reunion gig for raw communal emotion. But in its questing spirit, grand musical thrills and huge desire to drag people together, it’s close enough.
Ice cream van tunes and pink and white neon cones set the stage with reminders of Blur’s new album The Magic Whip, whose tunes bloom in what follows. “Ong Ong” is a summer miracle of a pop song, while “Thought I Was A Spaceman” offers Albarn the lone, tragic crooner, desolately nostalgic then brutally letting rip as the music explodes.
Albarn had lost his voice the day before, hoarse from chanting at a Glasgow warm-up gig. The careful seriousness which can afflict him outside of Blur falls away when he’s with them, letting him do stupid things. Wearing a Fred Perry shirt and skinhead’s green jacket, he capers across the stage with Phil Daniels during the crowd-bonding “Parklife” and, even on the darkly adult heroin ballad “Beetlebum”, refinds Britpop’s youthful fun.
During a set which digs into deep corners of a quarter-century career many in the crowd barely remember, “Trimm Trabb” leave him lost in the moment, eyes wide. His childhood friend and right-hand man Graham Coxon wrings new, exploratory sounds with his guitar from the most familiar tunes. The Britpop-catalysing orgy of “Girls and Boys” is massively great, “The Universal” a blissful finale.
Friday’s headliner The Prodigy offer equally welcome unruliness. When the brittle snare-drum cracks of “Breathe” announce their arrival, fans run towards the stage, faces lit with the expectation of chaos. Sleaford Mods’ singer Jason Williamson guests on the thuggish “Ibiza”, where the guitars feel like close in, relentless Manny Pacquiao punches.
James are another highlight, singer Tim Booth acting as if they should be headlining. The lyrics of this floppy-limbed, carelessly manic dancer with an actor’s sense of drama are an uptight Northerner’s songs of freedom. Dozens are on the stage dancing by the end, as James insist on a sense of occasion. Pharrell Williams brings dancers too, including a middle-aged woman with strip-club technique. It’s a glorified club personal appearance, with much charisma and itchy beats, but no musical spontaneity.
James Bay, the latest in a generation of British singer-songwriters who sound like they’ve been anaesthetised, could do with the charisma. When such mainstream dullness intrudes, it’s time for the intimate Kharma Cafe’s often local bands, or the blessed, art-punk weirdness of Chicks On Speed.
As Sunday’s sun bakes the last of the mud from Friday night’s sodden downpour, Suzanne Vega gently pierces the just-waking crowd with her cool, pure voice, preparation for Fleetwood Mac’s finale to a strong, diverse weekend.
More than 50,000 people have been enjoying acts across a dozen stages during the past four days at the Isle of Wight Festival with The Black Keys, The Prodigy, Pharrell Williams and Blur all playing the main stage which was being headlined tonight by the blues and 80s legends in the latest stop on their reunion tour.
Doubt had lingered over whether the performance would go ahead after they cancelled gigs in Birmingham and Manchester earlier this week due to illness.
Blur also battled illness to perform at the festival, with frontman Damon Albarn confessing he had been worried he would not make it to the show after losing his voice.
He struggled with a weak voice during the band’s headline set which included a range of songs from their early Britpop tunes to tracks from their new album Magic Whip.
He told the crowd: “I truly didn’t think I would make it here tonight but thank you.”
Fleetwood Mac began their greatest hits show with The Chain, known by many as the Formula 1 theme, to the delight of the crowds who reportedly included F1 driver David Coulthard as well as Halliwell’s newly-wed husband Christian Horner who is the boss of the Red Bull racing team.
The couple flew by helicopter to the festival site at Seaclose Park, Newport, following on from other former Spice Girls Mel C and Emma Bunton who were seen at the festival yesterday.
As well as a photograph of the couple next to the helicopter, Halliwell posted on Twitter: “On way to Isle of Wight festival. Can’t wait to see Fleetwood Mac. The Chain.”
And fans loved the performance, as one wrote: “OMG!! FLEETWOOD MAC are OWNING @IsleOfWightFest.”
Another added: “I wanna be with you everywhere yes Fleetwood Mac #isleofwight #IOW2015 #wightlive #island.”
And one wrote: “Fleetwood Mac sound brilliant!”
And despite reports they were 20 minutes late on stage, another added: “AMAZING long live Fleetwood Mac #iow #fleetwoodmac.”
Keating with girlfriend Storm Uechtritz also arrived on site and were shown around by festival promoter John Giddings.
Other acts who have taken to the stages today included Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, Paolo Nutini, The Courteeners, Ash and Imelda May.
The festival is in its 14th year since it relaunched the legendary events of the late 1960s which saw acts such as Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and famously Jimi Hendrix, who gave his last UK performance on the island.
Thousands of people wore Hendrix masks yesterday afternoon to create a new world record on the main stage, renamed the Electric Church, to mark the 45th anniversary year of his performance and to raise money for the WellChild charity.
Rebecca Pocklington & Ben Mitchell / The Mirror / Sunday, 14th June, 2015
She wrote some of the band’s best known hits but walked away for a quiet life in the country. But now Christine McVie is back with Fleetwood Mac on a tour which is heading to New Zealand. She talks about her return to the fold.
Speaking from London, Christine McVie sounds a bit like a more mellow, less posh Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous.
There’s a lovely, light, warm huskiness, and plenty of character in the voice that’s been missing from the Fleetwood Mac line-up for the past 17 years – the voice (and pen) behind many of their hits, like Don’t Stop, Little Lies, Songbird, and You Make Loving Fun.
But now that voice is back.
Rumours swirled after McVie appeared on stage with the band in Dublin and London during their 2013 tour, and in January 2014 it was announced that she was officially back in the band.
And now, more than halfway through their current world tour – entitled On With The Show – the 71-year-old sounds totally convinced she made the right decision, and is thrilled to be touring again.
“We’re having a ball. Every night, I look across the stage from where I’m playing piano, stage right, and I can see the rest of them, John, Mick, Stevie, and Lindsey, and it awes me every night. I just think, blimey, you guys are fantastic. I think the difference this time is that we’re all smiling.”
Not that she had any dissatisfaction with the band or the music, or even the performing when she left the group in 1998. McVie felt she had to leave for a far more simple reason: she couldn’t deal with aeroplanes anymore.
“It was never the playing or the people, it was just that I’d developed a hideous fear of flying! And I loathed living out of a suitcase forever and I really longed for some roots. I wanted to have a home, where I could go home, and unlock my door, and go in, and be settled. I was tired of being a gypsy. And that was fine really.”
She’d been doing it for nearly 30 years, after all, and as has been well documented, some of those years were pretty rocky – McVie was probably the least naughty of the five.
But the band had its fair share of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll excess. So the appeal of some time out at an old country farmhouse in England was understandable. She wanted a bit of isolation, a bit of quiet, and a different kind of life.
“I restored the house from the roof downwards, and I had fun with that for about five years, imagining I was living this country life with the welly boots and the dogs and the Range Rover. And then I just started to get bored.
“And I hadn’t really sat at a piano very much at all during that time, so I started to play again, and drifted around, writing and so on, and I did make a solo album with my nephew Dan Perfect, called In The Mean Time. But because of my fear of flying, I didn’t promote it. And so it was released and did nothing at all” she laughs.
She pottered about for another few years, but her boredom and isolation got worse, and so she decided to seek help for her fear of flying, and for the various other issues she was grappling with.
“I went to a psychiatrist, and I was looking for help with other problems as well, isolation problems – all sorts of stuff started happening being in the country on my own – so I sought help, and this chap, who has since become a really good friend, he said, ‘Well what are you going to do for the rest of your life? Are you going to sit around, and drive your Range Rover, and put your Hunter boots on, and that’s it?”
That got her thinking. He also asked where she’d most like to go if she could get on a plane, and she knew the answer immediately: Hawaii – where Mick Fleetwood is based on Maui.
“So my psychiatrist said ‘Why don’t you book yourself a ticket? You don’t have to get on the plane, just book the ticket. So I did.”
Serendipitously, Fleetwood happened to be coming to London for promotional duties around the same time, and decided to align his return ticket with McVie’s so she could (hopefully) fly to Maui with him. And she did it.
“It was funny, I stepped on the aeroplane, and I texted my psychiatrist and said, ‘Oooh, I don’t know about this, I’m smelling the jet fumes’, and he replied ‘No, that’s the perfume of freedom’. And I thought, ‘Yeah! That’s cool’.
“So we took off and I didn’t even think about it, and I haven’t since. I’m free! It’s an incredible feeling when you’re grounded and you feel like you can’t really go anywhere, I felt like I was stuck. No chance of coming to Australia and New Zealand. But now it’s fantastic.”
Of course overcoming her fear of flying was one step, but rejoining the band was another.
While she was in Maui, she got up on stage with Fleetwood at his local venue, and really enjoyed jamming along. So then when whole band went to Britain in 2013, she thought she’d try getting up on stage as part of Fleetwood Mac again, as a special guest.
“I was terrified. I had met them in Dublin, and rehearsed with them. But it was a very strange feeling walking on to the stage – I was terrified, because the technology has changed so much since I was in the band originally, now we use these really sophisticated in-ear contraptions, which I wasn’t used to at all, and all those little things took a bit of getting used to.”
But the overwhelmingly positive response to her appearance convinced McVie it was time to ask her bandmates if she could rejoin the band – and they welcomed her with open arms.
Now she’s convinced Fleetwood Mac are the best they’ve ever been.
“I feel more at home on stage than ever, much more confident, and happier.
” I love the way we sound. And, not trying to blow my own trumpet, but we sound better than we’ve ever sounded before I believe. I think we all now have an appreciation of what we were 18 years ago. Because for quite a few years in the middle there they couldn’t play things like Little Lies and Make Loving Fun. And then me rejoining and playing my part on the piano, and the little nuances I contribute, and the backing vocals, it’s making us all realise ‘Gosh, that really is a great song’.”
In fact things are going so well that they’ve already started recording a new album.
Lindsey Buckingham and McVie started writing new songs together in February last year, and the band has recently finished a nearly two-month run in Studio D at the Village Recorder in Los Angeles, where they also made 1979’s Tusk.
“We did about eight songs so far, which are all fantastic. One is about my flying fear, which is called Carnival Begin, which is a really beautiful song.
“Stevie was working on another project so she hasn’t come in yet, but she will. And we’re planning on trying to have an album finished by early next year, and releasing it in the spring.
“It’s exciting, because the songs feel fresh – they’re modern, they’re sexy, they’re great.”
Writing with Buckingham again felt completely natural too – like the proverbial pair of worn slippers.
“We just fell right back into the same slot,” she laughs. “It was as though time had not existed all those years, we just fell into this great songwriting partnership again immediately. It’s chemistry really.”
And the things that inspire her songwriting haven’t changed much either. “I’m still emotionally a 17-year-old, always looking for the right man, you know!”
But even though she professes to still be searching for Mr Right, the tumultuous relationships of her 20s and 30s are well laid to rest, including her 1976 divorce from bandmate, bassist John McVie, and now they feel more like a family than ever.
“When we’re flying between shows, I just often look around our little plane, and look at everybody, and everyone is chatting and laughing or sleeping or eating, and I just feel, this is really a family.
“For all our differences and history and unsettled times in the past, we’ve come out of it, on the other side, and we can celebrate that. Our diversity is still keeping us together somehow. Don’t ask me how, but it’s magic.”
Who: Christine McVie and Fleetwood Mac
What: On With The Show tour Where and when: Performing at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on November 21 and 22.
Still rock and roll but pills and joints now about arthritis
Mick Fleetwood snorted seven MILES of cocaine while Stevie Nicks has a hole bigger than a 5p piece in her septum – but those hellraising days are behind them.
Multi-million dollars of cocaine ordered in bulk, 14 black limousines on tours where pink-painted dressing rooms had to have a white piano installed, and, of course, alcohol. Lots of it.
For years Fleetwood Mac rode a wave of drug-fuelled excess.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood last year revealed how he’d worked out that all the cocaine he’d snorted would make a line seven miles long.
And singer Stevie Nicks took so much she has a hole bigger than a 5p piece in her septum.
They once hired Hitler’s private railway car to travel across Europe, allegedly to avoid drug searches. It even came with the same elderly attendant who served the Fuhrer.
But as we meet it’s clear their days of hell-raising are well and truly over. They’ve swapped cocaine and champagne for, er, ice baths and physio.
Cornwall-born Mick says he has ice wraps in his dressing room to help combat arthritis.
“I’m like an old race horse – it’s not like I’m ancient ancient, but these things are sort of worn out a bit,” says Mick, rubbing his shoulders. He’s has wristbands for his tendonitis too.
“I’ve got a deep-freeze in my room in order to do what I’m doing… you take care of yourself.”
He’s 70 this month but insists: “I’m not letting up any – I’m playing harder than I ever played, apparently.”
Fleetwood Mac descend on the Isle Of Wight Festival next week for 91st performance in current On With The Show tour.
It’s been an epic journey for Mick, Stevie, 67, bassist John McVie, 69, his ex-wife Chrissie, 71, who sings and plays keyboards, and singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, 65. And not without its battle wounds.
“I have a bone spur in my toe from wearing my ballerina platform shoes on stage every night,” explains Arizona-born Stevie.
“And I had a fall in 2013 where I really hurt my left knee. Somehow a couple of weeks ago I reinjured it. I think I stepped down a little too hard on it on stage.
“I have to find new boots. Steel-toe capped boots that do not touch the toe. If anything is lying on that bone spur it’s going to make it bigger and I’m going to have surgery.
“And I am not having somebody cut my toe open. There’s just no way!”
Bandmate Chrissie, meanwhile, is getting used to being back on board. Born in Cumbria and once a solo singer called Christine Perfect, she quit in 1997, quoting exhaustion and fear of flying.
She sold her house in LA and spent 16 years living a reclusive life in a village near Canterbury.
Although she’s loves being back, she has her own medical issues.
As a blues player, she has to spread her fingers for keyboard octaves, which means she now needs a wrist cuff for her tendons and she clutches a squidgy bag in her right hand.
“You have to mobilise your fingers. I’ve had this since before Christmas,” she says of a lump on her hand.
“It takes a long time to heal. If I was 16 it would be better by now.”
She and Stevie go through half an hour of vocal training every night. Does she drink soothing stuff like honey tinctures?
“Spritzers,” she says with a wink. “Wine and soda water.”
Her ex John, meanwhile, was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 during rehearsals for their mammoth tour.
Mick says: “He’s 100% better. It’s super cool. It wasn’t allowed to be devastating ’cause John’s so strong.
“With me it would be more of a drama. With him it was like, ‘Let me get this put right. This is what I’ve got to do. Gonna do it. Done.’ ”
Was Londoner John’s illness why Chrissie decided to return?
“I’ve always loved John. And I always will. But that was not part of why I came back,” she says. “And I always knew he’d beat it.”
Things aren’t too awkward on stage for Chrissie and John. They married in 1969, split in 1976, and John has a daughter in her 20s with his second wife.
For Stevie and Lindsey it’s more complicated.
They were a couple when they joined the band in 1975, split just before 1977’s mega-selling Rumours, album, then Stevie had a secret affair with Mick.
So is having Chrissie back good for Stevie?
“Oh absolutely,” chuckles Mick. “She’s there on stage with two of her ex-boyfriends. One really more than a boyfriend. One really half of her life. So it’s all been a positive thing.”
The “half her life” man is Californian Lindsey. They have what you might call a love-hate relationship.
Asked whether things are now “chill”, Lindsey laughs: “Chill or chilly?” No, things are great.
“It’s odd to think on that on some strange level Stevie and I could still possibly be a work in progress. In a way it’s sort of touching, isn’t it?”
Stevie is less convinced. “He is who he is,” she says. He and I have our rifts. We don’t agree on anything. And that’s just the way it is.
“Has he changed and become this really graciously, charmingly loving guy all of sudden? No. He never will. He’s always gonna be Lindsey.”
But they’ve clearly found a way to make it work. An 18th world tour is an accomplishment only rivalled by the likes of the Rolling Stones.
Mick says: “Mick Jagger literally doing somersaults and running around the stage at 72 is truly astonishing. We’re much more consistent. We’re in good shape. And all the voices are really very, very intact. Which is not always the case.”
One unlikely friend of the band is One Direction’s Harry Styles, who gave Stevie a handmade birthday cake in London last week.
Mick says: “We’re penpals! I took my two 13-year-old daughters and their mates to see One Direction. And that point, the girls are going, ‘Dad, just don’t embarrass us! No dad-dancing!’
“But had the meet-and-greet thing… and what happened in front of my daughters was Dad became a superstar!
“They all wanted to meet me! My ante got upped! All their songwriting team wanted to meet me. That’s when I met Harry and he’s come to three of our shows. He writes to me from weird places.”
Mick is hoping for a new Fleetwood Mac album because they have “a s***load of new songs”.
But Stevie says: “Honestly, I just don’t know about it. This tour has been so hard and so breathtakingly overwhelming.”
She adds: “I have to look great, I have to feel great, I have to sound great. And I cannot be thinking about future albums or poetry or songs right now.
“Now we have Europe to conquer. It’s really important that we are spectacular. And that’s all that I can worry about right now.”
With that we leave the band to their spritzers and deep freeze…
When they spoke, they made little to no sense, but when they sang and played they came close to perfection, says Melissa Kite.
‘I can’t tell you what a thrill it is to get this chance in life,’ said Christine McVie, as the opening jangle to ‘Everywhere’ rang out. Judging by their ecstatic reaction, the audience felt much the same way.
Look, I’ll be honest. I’m not going to give you a dispassionately critical review of Fleetwood Mac, together again in their classic line-up — Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and, for the first time in 16 years, Christine McVie. But then, who would give you that? A puritan arrived on a time machine from the 16th century? A shadow minister for work and pensions? Who could possibly be so joyless as to not enjoy the Mac being well and truly back?
From the minute the fab five wafted on stage and began thumping out ‘The Chain’ in glorious abandon, this was a show that was as near perfection as it is possible to calibrate. It wasn’t just good. It was so good I was jealous of myself for being there.
This was the 82nd gig of Fleetwood Mac’s On With the Show tour, and they delivered an impeccable showcasing of non-stop hits. For such diverse, eccentric talents to come together and gel at all is a miracle. To gel for so long, how does that work? But perhaps that’s the point. The band makes a wonderful sound in the way that only musicians who have been together a long time, gone through fire, and learnt to accommodate each other, can.
I was on my feet a few numbers in, unable to stay seated for the songs fromTango in the Night, the soundtrack of my youth. But no matter which was your own particular favourite era or album, there wasn’t a number in this show that wasn’t a crowd-pleaser. If you’d wanted a drink, or a trip to the loo, you would have been hard pressed. There just wasn’t a second you could allow yourself to miss.
Stevie Nicks, like an exquisite moth in her winged clothes, the mystic muse, ‘our poet’, as Fleetwood called her, was by turns raunchy and raucous, wounded and delicate. On ‘Rhiannon’ she was every inch the old witch of the song, on ‘Gypsy’ she was knowing, yet vulnerable.
Buckingham played unfeasible guitar solos, yelping and howling like a demented coyote in an acoustic version of ‘Big Love’ that was half rock’n’roll, half flamenco. Standing in a spotlight alone, screeching as his fingers plucked lightning fast arpeggios, the effect he produced was as if Jimi Hendrix had swallowed Joaquin Rodrigo. It was unutterably thrilling, and worked on a deep level, by which I mean that as well as making a fantastic noise, it did things to you that you weren’t exactly sure you wanted doing, as they might dislodge something awkward, emotionally speaking. He tried to explain the song before playing it, referring back to his personal struggles with the lifestyle the band led in their heyday.
‘Tango was a very difficult album to complete,’ he told the audience. ‘We were probably living that lifestyle out to its ultimate conclusion. If I look back on how I was then …this is about the power and importance of change.’ Even though he didn’t make total sense, I understood what he meant.
Effusive about McVie’s return, as they all were, he said: ‘We’ve seen our fair share of ups and downs but it’s made us what we are. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We’ve been able to grow and evolve but also to prevail. And in this karmic, circular moment, with the return of the beautiful Christine, we’ve begun a prolific, profound new chapter in the history of this band.’ I’m allowing it, I thought, as he rambled on, because the man is a genius.
In one of several meandering excursions of her own between songs, Nicks gave a Reith-style lecture on the subject of longevity, but I guess she has earned the right. They had honed their craft properly, she said, supporting Hendrix and other giants in big stadiums before they headlined themselves. They had only survived 40 years because they were ‘proper songwriters’. Then she launched into a ‘we may be old but we’re still down with the kids’ type tribute to Adele, who was in the audience. She dedicated ‘Landslide’ to her, and sang it like she was only a slip of a girl herself.
How can Nicks be 67? Is this possible, or has Wikipedia made a mistake? She looked incredible cavorting around the stage, shaking her long blonde hair, dancing with legs planted wide, frenziedly tipping herself upside down and gyrating like a shaman in a trance. Her voice was as strong as ever. ‘Back to the gypsy that I was,’ she sang, in that world-weary drawl, and you believed her. ‘We love you, Stevie!’ people shouted from the back seats.
She possibly didn’t need to come back to the mike at the end of the encore and start telling us the exact details of how Christine had rung up and told them she was coming back to the band, especially after McVie herself had more than adequately brought proceedings to a close with ‘Songbird’, seated alone at a grand piano, landing us in a sweet, serene place.
Still, I sat listening to Stevie chatting about life, and how it had ‘all worked out beautifully’, long after the rest of the band had gone off stage, and with no hope of another song coming, because, well, she was right, wasn’t she? It had all worked out beautifully.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 6 June, 2015.
Those heading for the Isle of Wight festival will see something Mac fans feared they would never see again: Christine McVie’s return after a 16-year absence.
To listen to Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie speak, you’d never guess she was a member of one of the world’s most successful – not to mention debauched and dysfunctional – bands of all time. Level-headed and prone to understatement when I interviewed her for the Guardian in 2013, she described the songwriting gift that enabled her to knock out such hits as Don’t Stop and Little Lies as follows: “I don’t know what it is really … I think I’m just good with hooks.”
During that interview, she went on to discuss the band’s legendarily gargantuan drug intake without a hint of romance – “Well, I’d be lying if I said I was sober as a judge” – and described the crazy routine the band adhered to at the peak of their success in similar terms: “You look at tennis players; it’s the same kind of thing.”
So grounded can McVie appear that it’s almost surprising that the songs she writes take flight so effortlessly: heartfelt and clear, they’re given extra wind beneath their wings by her pure, songbird falsetto. This summer, those heading to the Isle of Wight festival will get to see her perform them, something many Mac fans feared they would never see again: McVie left the group in 1998, succumbing to a fear of flying and longing for a quiet life in the country; she rejoined in 2014.
It’s a testament to Fleetwood Mac’s abundance of talent that they have not just survived without McVie and her many hits during this 16-year absence, but delivered storming three-hour sets packed with classic tracks. Great though those shows were, it wasn’t quite Fleetwood Mac. McVie’s songs don’t just stand out in their own right, but also provide a counterbalance to the other artistic directions in the band. Less mystical than Stevie Nicks’ and less wilfully experimental than some of Lindsey Buckingham’s, McVie’s simple songs of love nonetheless brim with a sense of positivity, not to mention an abundance of melody.
Her musical gifts – let’s not forget she’s a skilled keyboard player with a style schooled in the blues – are not the only reason Mac fans should celebrate her return. In a famously fractured band, whose existence always seems precariously balanced, thanks to decades of broken marriages, flings and rows, McVie’s down-to-earth personality provides a steadying role similar to that of her songs.
She always seemed capable of rising above the tangled love dramas that caused jealously and tantrums among the men, and her enduring friendship with Nicks helped the pair to face the perils of being female artists during the sexist 70s. When McVie first left, Nicks said she was heartbroken; today she talks lovingly about having her musical sister back in the band: “When I finish Silver Springs, Christine waits for me and takes my hand,” she recently told Canadian magazineMaclean’s. “We walk off and we never let go of each other until we get to our tent. In that 30 seconds, it’s like my heart just comes out of my body.”
McVie is too key a figure for Fleetwood Mac to have carried on touring without her, and drummer Mick Fleetwood has admitted that her return to the band makes them “complete” again. Speaking to the Vancouver Sun in March, he added that he “couldn’t think of a better ending, when this does end … we’re all on the same page and writing the same last chapter”.
Comments such as this only add to the sense that their Isle of Wight show will be a magical, uplifting and emotional experience. Or “not a bad gig”, as Christine may well say afterwards.
Fleetwood Mac play the Isle of Wight festival on 14 June.