Friday, June 13, 2008

Mick Fleetwood uncorks passion for wine

Rock legend and winemaker advocates a more accessible wine experience
The Aspen Times

ASPEN — Some decades ago, Mick Fleetwood had little interest in wine. And who could blame him? Several times a year, on his early visits to the U.S. — he says the experience was very different in Europe — the British-born Fleetwood would subject himself to the discomfort and degradation of ordering wine to go with dinner. No matter how good the bottle may have been, the process left him with a bad taste in his mouth.

“It was people sitting in a restaurant, quivering in their boots, thinking, ‘What are we going to order?’” said Fleetwood. “In truth, they were just told what to like. And I remember sitting there drinking, and thinking, ‘Oh, I’m supposed to like this — and not necessarily liking it.’”

Fleetwood turned his attention away from oenology, and focused instead on music. It proved to be a wise decision; he has never seemed to need outside prodding to know what sounded good to his ears. In his earliest days, it was blues-rock — first with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, then, beginning in the late ’60s, with the earliest incarnation of Fleetwood Mac. In the mid-’70s, with the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, the band’s sound took a sharp turn, toward radio-friendly pop-rock. It was an assured stylistic change, however, as Fleetwood Mac turned out such essential ’70s works as 1975’s eponymous album and 1977’s “Rumours.”

A decade and a half ago, Fleetwood had another abrupt about-face, this time in his offstage life. It was almost certainly a good thing; Fleetwood Mac was one of the primary symbols of rock ’n’ roll excess, mid-’70s-style, and Fleetwood himself was never known to exclude himself from the party. His 1990 memoir, “Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures with Fleetwood Mac,” recounts his cocaine addiction and bankruptcy. And in looking to switch things up, Fleetwood decided on a new beverage to go with his new ways: wine.

“Probably about 16 years ago or so,” said Fleetwood, by phone from his home on Maui. “That was a journey that started really from a change in lifestyle. My crazy rock ’n’ roll lineage wound down a bit; my home life changed. I started entertaining at home, not going out so much.”

(An aside: The life change apparently did not include going any easier on his drum kit. Not long after this adjustment, Fleetwood played a New Year’s Eve gig at the old Double Diamond in Aspen, on a bill with rockabilly singer Billy Burnette, a member of the latter-day Fleetwood Mac, and then little-known singer, Sheryl Crow. I happened to be backstage in the company of Fleetwood, and we had a pleasant drink and conversation. He was then called to his drum set, and started playing the show while we were still sharing our moment together. Standing a few feet from the six-foot, six-inch Fleetwood as he played, I was shaken by the force of his drumming, and his near-manic energy.)

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