By Andy Threlfall
The tangled web that's the story of Fleetwood Mac is easily one of rock and roll's, well, quirkiest. A once-quintessentially English blues band came to be the sound of California dreaming in the mid-70s when, seemingly washed up and on the verge of permanent disbandment, drummer Mick Fleetwood asked L.A. husband and wife singer-songwriting team Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to join the group in one last desperate throw of the musical dice. The rest was multi-platinum history; Rumours still boasts a place in the top-ten selling albums ever. But while the songs have endured, the addictions, the divorces, the petty band politic chipped away at their legacy for 30 years. Here, a reflective Lindsey Buckingham tries to find new meaning in those lost days of summer, and how being lucky enough to survive them has allowed Fleetwood Mac to get on stage one more time for their 2009 World Tour.
So: how’d this reunion come about?
In 2001, I wrote some material with the intention of putting out a solo album that actually ended up being the last Fleetwood Mac album [2003’s Say You Will]. My album got shelved, and a lot of my songs ended up being used on the Fleetwood Mac album. But I still had a few unfinished songs, so on my last solo album (Gift Of Screws), I was lucky enough to get Mick Fleetwood and John McVie to play on a few of the tracks. That was the start of a new discussion about taking Fleetwood Mac back out on the road in 2009.
Had you tried to dutifully maintain daily contact with the other members of Fleetwood Mac over the last few years?
I wouldn’t say daily. Part of what has allowed Fleetwood Mac to prevail over a long period of time is that we don’t actually maintain daily contact [laughs]. We don’t really keep in close contact per se. I think the very thing that keeps the chemistry so alive in the band and the music so good is because we take each other in small doses. Music is a very potent thing. So: I don’t speak to the others that often, but I had been speaking to them a lot because we were initially planning to do a lot of stuff together. Possibly an album, but definitely a world tour in 2009.
Surely modern methods of communication meant that you were never far from each other’s thoughts?
Of course from time to time I would email Stevie or Mick especially pictures from the kids’ summer holidays. We’re always interested in how our families are growing up. It’s good to just reconnect as human beings. Christine (McVie) wasn’t involved in any shape or form, as she pretty much took permanent leave of the performing world. I don’t want to say that she burned her bridges, [but[ she certainly closed her book on her contact with all of us over here on the west coast, including selling her house in Los Angeles. Shemoved back to England and lives somewhere out in the country, I believe. From what I hear, she’s completely changed her life, and to be honest, she never really enjoyed touring anyway. I think she feels like she had said what she wanted to say within the confines of Fleetwood Mac, whereas the other four of us feel that our artistic lives are still evolving.
Is is a coincidence that it’s usually Fleetwood putting the band back together?
Yes. Mick has a habit of ringing me just when I’m about to put an album out, don’t you think? [laughs] But the politics of Fleetwood Mac have always been a very convoluted thing. On some level, our sensibilities are so vastly different, you could probably even make a case that we should never have actually ended up being in the same band (even though it was that precise synergy that made it work). The politics have got increasingly difficult over the last ten years though. The mantra we need to remember is: we are making our own strides to just be adults, and grow up a little. I think we were all in various forms of arrested development, particularly back in the 70s and 80s, when there was a huge amount of (drugs) in the band.
How intense did the partying get?
I don’t recall one particular dark moment, I think there was just a particular time when I saw a lot of my friends doing what they thought they had to do, particularly in relation to alcohol and drugs. I needed to experience a really solitary existence for a while, and concentrate on my music. The time right before meeting my wife was potentially the time that I would now look back as the darkest, and then I met this woman, and suddenly: I turned a corner. Hopefully, I experienced some good karma there, or something. Fleetwood Mac really did exist within its own little bubble.
Can you recall the scene in it’s most vivid incarnation?
I feel fortunate that we were getting away with all that kind of behavior in an age when there were no such things as camera phones to record the excesses which would then be immediately propelled onto YouTube the next day. I definitely think after Rumours, the success detached itself from the music and it was more about people buying into our personal lives, and that involved bringing out the voyeur in everybody. Had that been today, I think we would have had a much more difficult time coping with the blurred possibilities of drug taking.
How has all that changed this time around?
The only challenge I have now regarding a world tour is that I have three kids, and I don’t want to come home after nine months on the road, and find that my boy’s voice has broken or changed. I want to be there for all of those things now.
You seem content.
I think the main reason we still wanted to go back on the road as Fleetwood Mac is because we still needed to put some kind of closure to the music we made. It really has been so lovely reconnecting with John and Mick in particular, as we’ve known each other a long time, and we’ve all been through things that are too long and too weird to discuss. We have a very special bond, and it’s like getting together with your family again.
Finally Lindsey, can I ask you where, in your many years on the road have you enjoyed visiting the most?
The heritage of the band is, of course, British. So I have immense and deep fondness for the UK. I was recently reminded that when Stevie Nicks and I were asked to join the band, we were also asked—in some sense—to become honorary Brits. I don’t mean this in any derogatory way, but I firmly believe that Christine McVie’s very British blues sensibilities kept us from sounding like just another version of The Eagles. When I joined, they would take me to the public houses of SoHo, and show me places like the 100 Club on Oxford Street where my heroes The Rolling Stones and The Sex Pistols played. Then back again to the famous Soho pubs like the Coach And Horses on Greek Street where I was ‘converted’ by a time-honoured tradition of of drinking many, many pints of Guinness in the name of the British Empire! When I visit these places again today, the memories are overwhelming. I love that everyone calls it Tin Pan Alley. Even Bill Clinton’s favourite pub—The Portobello Star—brings it all back, especially as seems like only yesterday when we played at his inauguration. I find touring in Europe so rewarding.