BY HEATH MCCOY, CANWEST NEWS SERVICE
After all these years Fleetwood Mac, legendarily the ultimate in dysfunctional rock bands, still seems to be a rather awkward unit.
At least that's the way it felt during a recent interview in advance of the classic rock group's current Greatest Hits Unleashed tour.
Despite the rather restrictive formal nature of the teleconference -- with several journalists on the line at once from all over North America, each limited to one or two questions -- the band's inner dynamic seemed to shine through in the interview. And, much of the time, that dynamic was bloody well goofy.
On the one hand you had the band's old guard:Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, the English blues rockers who have been around since the group's formation in 1967.
Fleetwood, 61, answered many questions with rambling long-winded answers that ultimately weren't all that revealing. McVie, 63, on the other hand, seemed like he'd rather be anywhere else on the planet, saying as little as possible even as his bandmates urged him to take a question or two.
Then you had American singer-songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham who joined Fleetwood Mac in the mid-70s, their perfect radio rock tunes making the band one of the biggest of the decade.
Nicks, 60, was a fine, imminently quotable interview subject, despite her diva-like snippiness when pressed about the band's relationship with singer Sheryl Crow -- who nearly wound up joining Fleetwood Mac last year.
As for Buckingham, 59, well, he shuffled in late. When exactly he joined the teleconference is unclear but things were well underway when we first heard from him.
"Lindsey is not here." answered Nicks when one reporter directed a question at the Mac's resident studio wiz and guitar star.
"No, I am here," blurted Buckingham, speaking for the first time. "Have you guys been on the phone for awhile?"
"We have," said Nicks, congratulating her bandmate for his sudden appearance.
Nicks and Buckingham both admitted that their famously tempestuous relationship remains a work in progress.
According to Nicks, that's even what instigated the idea of inviting Crow to join the band, something that ultimately fell through when she opted not to join Fleetwood Mac in the studio last year, due, at least in part, to her new commitments as a mother, (Crow adopted a baby boy in 2007).
Mind you, those problems have been a key ingredient in Fleetwood Mac's artistic chemistry over the years.
A musical duo, as well as young lovers when they joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975, it was the angry end of their love affair that inspired many of the songs on Rumours, the 1977 album that went on to sell 30 million copies world wide.
"That's, in fact, what makes Fleetwood Mac what it is," said Buckingham. "It's the kind of energy... created from that contrast of personalities."
That's something that applies to the whole band.
"We are a group of great contradictions... the members don't necessarily have any business being in a band together because the range of sensibilities is (so) disparate," Buckingham noted.
The greatest hits tour is ideal in that it puts minimal pressure on an often strained band, he added. Rather than having to deal with the stress of recording a new album together and then promoting it on the road, Fleetwood Mac is instead able to settle into the job of playing the same tried and true songs that they've played for decades. "The stakes (are)... a little bit lower and it just allows you to relax into the situation," Buckingham said.
But despite the delicate business of interpersonal relationships within Fleetwood Mac, Nicks felt every one was in a good place in the lead-up to the tour. "Lindsey has been in incredibly good humour since we started rehearsals. . . . When he's happy, everybody is happy," she said.
Even so, Nicks said she still misses singer Christine McVie, who made up the third part of Fleetwood Mac's songwriting trio before departing in 1998.