Christine McVie on Mirage, Fleetwood Mac’s future

Christine McVie on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘peculiar’ Mirage Sessions, new LP — as the singer-songwriter looks back on heady days at Château d’Hérouville, discusses band’s future plans

Christine McVie has a confession to make. The 73-year-old singer, songwriter and keyboardist is on the phone with Rolling Stone to discuss the new deluxe reissue of Fleetwood Mac’s 1982 effort, Mirage; but, she admits, she hasn’t actually listened to it yet. “I just now got my copy of the remastered edition in my hands,” McVie says, calling from her home in the U.K. “But I just moved to a flat where I don’t have my DVD or CD player yet. So I’m unable to play it. And there’s all these outtakes and demos and things in there that I certainly haven’t heard since we made them. So I’m most curious to listen.”

Indeed, the new package is a treasure trove for Mac completists (and, apparently, band members). In addition to presenting the original 12-track album – which spent five weeks at Number One and spawned two of the group’s biggest and enduring hits in McVie’s “Hold Me” and Stevie Nicks’ “Gypsy” – in remastered form, the three-CD and DVD set offers up a disc of B sides, titled “Outtakes and Sessions,” as well as a live collection culled from two nights at the L.A. Forum in October 1982 on the Mirage tour. The whole thing is rounded out by a vinyl copy of the album and a DVD in 5.1 surround sound, as well as a booklet with extensive liner notes and photos from the era.

Fleetwood Mac Mirage 1982
(Photo: Neal Preston)

An impressive package, to be sure, and one that is perhaps necessary for an album that, for all its multi-platinum success, never quite gets its due, having been overshadowed in the band’s canon by the career-defining trio of records that preceded it – 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, 1977’s mega-smash Rumours and 1979’s sonically adventurous double album Tusk. In an earlier interview with Rolling Stone, drummer Mick Fleetwood acknowledged that, in such imposing company, Mirage often gets overlooked – a notion that McVie seems to agree with. “It does, and I don’t know why,” she says. But, she adds, “As it stands today, a lot of people know every track on it. Which is quite unbelievable. So I just take it for what it is.”

McVie spent some time reminiscing about the album with RS, from the “unusual” experience of recording at the Château d’Hérouville outside of Paris, to the “nightmare” of filming the video for her song “Hold Me” in the Mojave Desert outside of Palm Springs. But she wasn’t only looking backward. McVie also discussed Fleetwood Mac’s plans for the future, which may include a new album and another world tour. “We’re just gonna keep on doing what we do best,” she said, then laughed. “Which, I’m not really sure what that is!”

What was the state of Fleetwood Mac going into the making of Mirage?

I suppose we all felt in a way that what we were doing was kind of an homage to Rumours, in the sense that, obviously, after Rumours we went completely the opposite way and made a double album of an entirely different nature with Tusk. And for Tusk we had done this hugely long tour. Two world tours, I believe. Then we all disappeared for a few years. But we have a habit of doing that, Fleetwood Mac. Just kind of taking quite long hiatuses. And as we got together again, I think it was Mick who had this idea that perhaps we should enter another bubble-like situation, which was similar to what we had done for the Rumours album, when we recorded in Sausalito. Just taking us away from familiar things, like our families. There was the idea that maybe something would emerge from there that was completely different. Maybe it would make us more creative. And I think it worked, to an extent. It was definitely an unusual experience.

Rather than Sausalito, for Mirage you went to France. Do you recall anything particular about recording at the Château d’Hérouville?

Well, I don’t think any of us remember a huge amount about it! But I don’t remember there being anything bad about it, how about that [laughs]?

That’s a good thing.

Yes. But, I mean, my recollections in general are of thinking, What a peculiar, odd place to be going. …

How so?

It was extremely odd in the sense that it wasn’t really a studio. It really was a rather beaten-up old castle. We were living in it, and then there was another area that was made to be a studio. And there were wine cellars underneath, which I believe we used as echo chambers. So it was unusual, but it also provided a “come-together” sort of moment. Because we really had no options to do anything else. In Sausalito, at least you were close to restaurants, clubs, whatever. But at the chateau, you were just there. We had the table tennis out, we had some radio-controlled helicopters, we had food cooked for us every night on the premises. … I don’t know, it was like some weird, manic kind of resort or something. But I think we got on really well during the making of the record. The actual recording part of it, there were no particular spats I can think of. And some of the tracks are really good.

One of your tracks, “Hold Me,” became the lead single off Mirage, and it was also a big hit. What do you recall about writing it?

I’d co-written it with a friend of mine, Robbie Patton. And when we first recorded it, it was only semi-finished, really. But everybody liked it so we thought, Well, we’ll lay something down on tape and get the bones of it. What we put down was very basic – there were huge chunks that had nothing in them. And then we just built it up in sections.

In the demo version of the song that appears on the second disc of the Mirage deluxe package, you perform the vocal alone. But the final version of “Hold Me” is more of a duet between you and Lindsey [Buckingham]. How did that change come about?

I think some of these things just happen organically. I don’t think it was a plan. But I do know that when I wrote the song with Robbie, he was also a singer, and he was always singing a lower part. And so at some point it became obvious to me that Lindsey would eventually do it.

Do you have a favorite track on the album?

Yes, well, I think “Gypsy” stands out clearly as the best track on the album. Without a doubt.

Why do you feel that way?

I just think the whole song came together in a very cohesive way. It’s very musical. Very melodic. All the parts are right. It’s just a very beautiful record. And, of course, that video – I know the record company spent a lot of money on it.

Reportedly it had the biggest budget of any music video produced up to that point.

Yeah. And it’s one of my favorite videos of all time. And I don’t mean just of Fleetwood Mac’s.

What do you recall of shooting the video for “Hold Me”?

“Hold Me” was a nightmare! It was the middle of the desert in Palm Springs, in the height of summer. I don’t know what possessed us to do that. But we sometimes do crazy things [laughs].

Did it feel unnatural that you were doing it at all? MTV, and the idea of music video being a promotional tool, was a very new concept at the time.

I’m sure we were a bit uneasy with doing it. To some extent, I’ve always felt that the music should be the thing that creates the emotion in you, rather than a video. There are so many songs that have become massive hits merely because the video is great, while the song is pretty rubbish. From that point of view I think I’ve always preferred to listen to a song rather than look at it. So it was a bit difficult.

The directors of both the “Gypsy” and “Hold Me” videos have stated that they encountered some difficulties trying to navigate the thorny romantic relationships between band members at the time. Do you recall as much?

[Laughs] Well, of course! I’m sure it oozes out over the screen when you watch some of the scenes. Yeah, for sure. And I’d be the first one to admit that none of us were stone-cold sober. There was a fair degree of alcohol and drugs going on. But everyone was doing it, so it was kind of the norm.

“I’d be the first one to admit that none of us were stone-cold sober. There was a fair degree of alcohol and drugs going on.”

In contrast to the long tour behind Tusk, the Mirage tour was relatively brief – just two months in the fall of 1982. Was there a reason for such an abbreviated run?

I don’t know why that was. Maybe Stevie was going off to do a tour. I can’t remember if Lindsey had a tour. But it was short, and then we did another vanishing act for another couple years before we came back and did Tango in the Night.

More recently, you took some time away from Fleetwood Mac, before returning in 2014 for a world tour. What is the future of the band at this point?

Well, we cut seven songs in the studio already for the start of a brand-new studio album. Which we did probably nearer two years ago. We shelved that temporarily and then went on the road and did the tour. And now, actually, I think we’re going back in in October to try to finish it off. Stevie hasn’t participated yet, but hope springs eternal. She’s going on a solo tour at the moment. But Lindsey and I, we have plenty of songs. There are tons more in the bag that we have yet to record. And they’re fantastic. So we’re going to carry on and try to finish the record. And then maybe if Stevie doesn’t want to be part of that then we can go out and just do some smaller concerts.

You would consider doing some shows with just you, Lindsey, Mick and John [McVie]?

As a four-piece, yeah. With a view of doing a huge world tour after that, with Stevie.

And would you expect that we’ll see this new album in 2017?

One would hope so, yeah. That’s the plan. And I can’t wait for it to be finished. It’ll be great. And then we’ll hopefully do this world tour with Stevie. And after that, who knows? But we’re all still alive, how about that? So that’s a start.

Richard Bienstock / Rolling Stone / Monday, September 26, 2016

Mick Fleetwood reflects on overlooked Mirage

1982-mirage-album-cover

Mick Fleetwood talks to Rolling Stone about the band’s ‘overlooked’ smash Mirage

Ahead of new reissue, drummer Mick Fleetwood talks “wild and romantic” France sessions, opulent video shoots, and more

“I don’t think it would be wrong to say it sort of got overlooked,” says Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood, reminiscing about his band’s 1982 album, Mirage, which will be reissued in a deluxe package via Warner Bros. on September 23rd. It’s something of an odd statement to make about a record that charted at Number One on the Billboard 200, spawned multiple hit singles and went on to sell more than three million copies. Of course, when you’re in Fleetwood Mac, the definition of what constitutes success is relative.

The album, the band’s 13th studio effort overall and fourth to feature singer Stevie Nicks and singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham alongside longtime members Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and singer/keyboardist Christine McVie, came on the heels of one of the more impressive runs in rock: the lineup’s smash 1975 “debut,” Fleetwood Mac; the now-more-than-40-million-selling follow-up, Rumours; and the sprawling and sonically adventurous Buckingham-helmed double–LP Tusk (a commercial “failure” that still managed to move several million copies). By the time the band reconvened for Mirage in May 1981, they had been off the road for close to a year, during which time three members had recorded – but not yet released – solo albums (Buckingham’s Law and Order, Fleetwood’s The Visitor and Nicks’ eventual chart-topping, multi-platinum Bella Donna). That time apart, combined with the tensions that had been brought on by the experimental nature of the Tusk album, left them ready to recapture a bit of the old Rumours magic, so to speak.

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“There’s no doubt that having come off Tusk there was a conscious effort to make Mirage into more of a band album,” Fleetwood says. “Because Tusk had been very much Lindsey’s vision. And it was a great one – along with [1969’s] Then Play On, it’s probably my favorite Fleetwood Mac album. So it was a highly successful creative moment. But at the time we took some blows for it, and Lindsey in particular, because the album wasn’t as successful as Rumours. How could it be, anyhow? But that being beside the point, I think Lindsey sort of handed back the mantle on Mirage. It was, ‘Let’s just do this as a band.’ That was the vibe going into it.”
The result was an album that, if judged by its two hit singles – Christine McVie’s buoyant “Hold Me” and Stevie Nicks’ somewhat autobiographical “Gypsy” – seemed to represent something of a step back to the concise, sharp-focus pop-rock that had characterized Rumours and Fleetwood Mac. Indeed, says Fleetwood, “If you were a sort of super-intellectual critic, which is maybe not a great place to come from, it would be fair game to say the album kind of went backwards.” But, he adds, “Having said that, the amazing thing is that, looking back on it now, in the present day, so many of those songs are at a very high level in the continuing story of Fleetwood Mac.”

All the more reason, then, to revisit Mirage now. The new three-CD-plus-DVD deluxe package presents the original 12-track album in remastered form, along with one disc of B sides, outtakes and rarities, and another that collects 13 songs from two nights at the Forum in Los Angeles during the band’s 1982 Mirage U.S. tour. Also included is a vinyl copy of the album and a DVD of the original collection in 5.1 surround sound (additionally, there are two-CD, single-disc and digital download versions available). “The fact that we’re talking about it again is actually really cool,” Fleetwood says of Mirage. “Because we ended up making a far better album than we gave ourselves credit for for many years.”

They also made an album that is more varied and quirky than it gets credit for. In addition to the two hit singles, there’s plenty more of the sort of expertly crafted soft rock the band had become known for by that point, such as Christine McVie–penned tracks like “Only Over You” and the propulsive opener (and minor hit) “Love in Store.” But there’s also the brittle electro-pop of Buckingham’s “Empire State” and lilting country-folk of Nicks’ “That’s Alright,” the latter a holdover from the Buckingham Nicks days a decade earlier. Furthermore, unlike the lineup’s three previous efforts, which were recorded mostly in and around California, Fleetwood Mac, along with Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut (who co-produced with Buckingham and the band), tracked Mirage largely in France, at the famed Château d’Hérouville, outside of Paris. Explains Fleetwood of the change of scenery, “My recollect was I asked the band if I could record overseas to help me out with some tax issues. And very kindly they did that. But in truth, knowing me, I think the main purpose of it was to get them the hell out of L.A. so that we could make an album without imploding.”

“I personally had probably too much fun. I used to go into Paris every weekend and misbehave.”

The band’s new environs offered up a different sort of vibe than the Southern California studios they were used to calling home. “We were at the Château, which was an historic place,” Fleetwood recalls. “If you look it up, you’ll see that some incredible shit was done there – [Elton John’s] Honky Chateau and all that. A whole load of people had recorded there. So it was an amazing place. It was wild and romantic. It’s a mansion in the French countryside, with cooks and food and wine, you know?” He laughs. “I personally had probably too much fun. I used to go into Paris every weekend and misbehave and come back for work on Monday morning. But it accomplished what we needed, and, all joking aside, the fact that we were in France and we were in the middle of nowhere, truly I think it had great value.”

The band’s choice of location for recording their music wasn’t the only aspect of Mirage that showed Fleetwood Mac breaking with their past. They also explored new avenues in terms of how they offered up that music for public consumption. Mirage was released in June of 1982, less than a year after the launch of MTV. As a legacy band that had often proved surprisingly adaptable to current trends, Fleetwood Mac embraced the music-video age to great success. So much so, that, rather than merely mimic playing their songs in the clips, as most artists did in the network’s earliest days, Fleetwood Mac opted to take on acting roles. The first single from Mirage, “Hold Me,” came complete with a storyline that showed the band frolicking in the Mojave Desert, with Fleetwood and John McVie playing archeologists who excitedly stumble upon a cache of buried guitars and other musical instruments. The elaborate clip for “Gypsy,” meanwhile, had the distinction of being the most expensive music video ever produced at the time. “I’m really glad we made it,” Fleetwood says, “even though it cost a fortune for us.”

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As for the shoots themselves, the directors of the videos for both “Hold Me” and “Gypsy” have since discussed the fact that the band’s well-publicized and mythologized romantic entanglements led to some uncomfortable moments on the sets. Fleetwood, however, says he doesn’t recall as much. “I don’t have huge memory of any gossipy things happening,” he says. “But the amount of pain we were used to going through, maybe it was noticeable. Although we had an uncanny ability to suck it up. But ‘Gypsy’ especially, it’s interesting because they’re featuring Lindsey and Stevie dancing in it and you’re going, ‘This is quite profound. …’ It was like, ‘Wow, that’s a scene!'”

He continues: “In general, though, we were really professional, and I believe from memory we were all hugely cooperative and into [doing the videos], really. There was no ‘I don’t wanna fucking do that,’ one-shot-and-we’re-out-of-there type stuff. And the directors, they were young filmmakers with big budgets, and they seemed quite conversant with handling lunacy. So they were fun days.” Fleetwood laughs. “I mean, to me everything was fun because I was having a party 24/7. So it didn’t really fucking matter! But I think we were good candidates for that sort of thing.”

It would seem that Fleetwood Mac were in fact very good candidates for that sort of thing, as both “Hold Me” and “Gypsy” became staples on MTV, helping the band to achieve two of the biggest hits of their career. In fact, Fleetwood now acknowledges that “those songs became more memorable than the album as a whole. And that’s sort of an unusual slant.

Mirage is part of our history,” he continues, “and as the band heads no doubt to a wind-down of some description in the next few years ahead, I think these types of cataloging events are important. Because it’s certainly not an album to be discarded. And now this little project is representing it, and giving it measured and investigated amounts of kudos. That’s a good thing.”

Richard Bienstock / Rolling Stone / Tuesday, September 20, 2016

REVIEW: Fleetwood Mac revisits Mirage, inside the studio and out

After Rumours became the biggest pop album of the 1970s, Fleetwood Mac followed it up with 1979’s shockingly different Tusk — a critical success, but a relative commercial flop. Where to go from there? 1982’s Mirage, which leans closer to the Rumours sound while maintaining a distinct identity. The band will Mirage in September with a new deluxe package that showcases the remastered original album, a full disc worth of alternate takes and B-sides, and a third disc of live tracks.

Read the full review at SILive.com

LISTEN: Hold Me (Early Version)

An early version of Fleetwood Mac’s 1982 hit song “Hold Me” is available for purchase on Amazon. The track is the first release from the deluxe edition of Mirage, due out on July 29 (UPDATE: The release has been bumped to September 23.).

Hear the full outtake below:

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LISTEN NOW: ‘Hold Me’ (Early Version)

Hold Me single coverSample an unreleased version of “Hold Me” (Early Version) from the forthcoming deluxe edition of Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage (July 29). The outtake features a completely different chorus and harmony vocals from Stevie Nicks.

The lead single from Mirage, “Hold Me” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1982.

Listen to 90 seconds of “Hold Me” (Early Version) on iTunes or sample 30 seconds of the track below.

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