by Elizabeth Chorney-Booth -CHARTattack-
Mick Fleetwood didn't plan on being the drummer for one of the most popular and ubiquitous rock bands of all time.
In his heart of hearts, Fleetwood is a bluesman and as hardcore fans of Fleetwood Mac already know, when he started the band way back in the late '60s, that's exactly what he originally set out to be.
A quick primer for anyone who thinks Fleetwood Mac begin and end with their massive hits of the '70s like "Go Your Own Way" and "Don't Stop": Mick Fleetwood (the only member of the band who has survived every single incarnation of the group) began Fleetwood Mac in 1967 with guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer. John McVie, who still plays bass in the band, joined shortly after their first gig.
They were pretty much straight-up blues band, who became fairly popular. Things fell apart when Green, the driving force in the band, started taking LSD, which unlocked a latent mental illness. Green was diagnosed with schizophrenia, left the band in 1970 and has spent much of his life in institutions. Spencer left the band a year later after being recruited by religious group The Children Of God.
Fleetwood and McVie kept the band alive, eventually recruited singer-songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham (as well as McVie's wife, Christine), and morphed into the the mega-group we all know today.
But Fleetwood always kept a piece of the blues in his heart. A few years ago, he and guitarist/vocalist Rick Vito (who, to complicate things even further, was briefly a member of Fleetwood Mac when Lindsey Buckingham took hiatus from the group in the late '80s) started playing together and formed The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band. That band have just released an album called Blue Again!, which is largely comprised of songs that were part of the Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac's repertoire.
Speaking to a group of Canadian journalists, Fleetwood says that for him, the project has been about focusing on the excitement of the early days of Fleetwood Mac rather than the sadness of losing Green and Spencer.
"They are all unbelievably great memories," he says. "This is where I learnt to be the player that I turned out to be.
"Peter was, specifically, an incredibly important part of mentoring me in those days. And we became great friends. The sad part is only that I have somewhat lost that connective as a friend. The music entirely inspires me and makes me really aware of these four little English guys. We had such an incredible journey in a very short space of time."
While Fleetwood is still obviously proud of his work with the contemporary Fleetwood Mac line-up, his affection for the original Fleetwood Mac, and by extension, his blues band, is unmistakable. While he's clearly just happy to be playing this kind of music again, he's also proud of the fact that his old friends who haven't been as successful in the later parts of their lives are still getting their props.
"I don't know where it all came from sometimes, but I know there's a regard for how we played music," he says. "We were pretty hardcore and elevated ourselves in our interpretation, which was as loyal as could be to the [American blues artists] that we loved. And looking back on it, I have to say, in a positive way, listening to what we did, it does really hold up.
"The only thing that baffles me is why I didn't do it many years ago. I don't know. But now that I'm doing it, it makes me extremely happy."
Mick Fleetwood's "Blue Again" cd is in stores today March 17th.