IN A frank interview, the Fleetwood Mac star tells CHARLOTTE HEATHCOTE about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll and how, despite being battered by all three, she's emerged stronger than ever.
Fleetwood Mac are as famed for their in-fighting, feuds and messy, almost incestuous inter-band romances as for Go Your Own Way, Don’t Stop, Everywhere, The Chain and countless other adult-oriented rock songs that have seen them shift more than 100million records.
Stevie Nicks, however, makes absolutely no attempt to put a shiny PR gloss on the legendary tensions.
“We did our first tour and we were p***** off with each other then. We made another record [Rumours] and we were all angry with each other afterwards. We did Tusk and that was 13 months of anger. We did an 18-month tour and by the time that was done everyone was really not speaking...”
She’s half-weary, half-wry. “It’s really nothing new. It’s been happening since time began but if this was a bland, boring band we’d definitely not still be together.”
Stevie and her then-boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham brought a stability of sorts to the shape-shifting line-up of Fleetwood Mac in 1975, joining Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie.
Christine left 11 years ago, ground down by relentless touring, and Stevie misses her ally “every day”.
The other four remain a unit, on the whole, which is especially miraculous when you consider that Stevie and Buckingham’s six-year relationship foundered during the recording of the drug-fuelled Rumours in 1976 (the McVies were splitting at the same time) and, shortly after the Rumours tour, Stevie fell for Fleetwood. They separated for the sake of the band.
By the time of Fleetwood Mac’s last tour, 2003’s Say You Will, Stevie’s relationship with Buckingham had become so fraught that, unless he treated her better this time around, she threatened to walk away “so fast that palm tree tops will fall on his head”.
Now, she says the underlying problem was how much she hated the Say You Will album.
“It was five years ago now so I can say I didn’t like it at all; I didn’t like making it, I didn’t like the songs, so that tour was very hard for me.”
On a Greatest Hits tour, however, there is no new material to quibble over.
“Doing all the very famous material is actually more fun,” insists this born entertainer. “It’s been a breath of fresh air for us to not have to worry about trying to sell [new] songs.”
With five platinum-selling solo records to her name, Stevie is easily the most successful member of Fleetwood Mac. Wasn’t she tempted to walk away during Say You Will?
“Well, I’m a peacemaker and I didn’t want us to break up because the music didn’t go my way. If I’ve learned nothing else in my 61 years it is that four years down the line you’re over it.” She sees the remaining foursome touring for another seven or eight years.
“I’m a performer and an entertainer, that’s what I live for. I would be dancing on tables in bars if I wasn’t in Fleetwood Mac, doing small shows all over the world, driving my van.”
Stevie’s passion for entertaining runs so deep, however, that she admits she has sacrificed all of her romantic relationships for the band but with no regrets.
“My love affair is with my work. I’ve had many wonderful relationships but I could never give up what I do for a relationship; in all of my relationships, at some point, that [prioritising] came up.
“Am I sad about the fact that I don’t have a relationship? No. I’m going to Europe to stay in the best hotels, to play huge shows, playing my music, to meet lots of interesting people. So I really don’t care.”
To Stevie’s amusement, her 81-year-old mother reckons she still hasn’t met Mr Right. She’s all too happy for her mother to be proved right but, to date, the love of her life is a member of the Eagles and not the one you’d expect.
After her split with Buckingham she spent 18 months with Don Henley but, of his bandmate Joe Walsh, she says: “He was the great love of my life. I fell in love with Joe in the same way that Lindsey fell in love with me.”
As their cocaine addiction spiralled out of control in the early Eighties, though, Walsh reluctantly left her for both of their sakes. Now she muses: “Maybe the people you can live best with aren’t the great love of your life; the men you love deeply, the calmer, more loving, more solid people but who you weren’t super passionately crazy in love with. The ones to marry aren’t the ones as crazy as you are.”
Her romance with Walsh was not the only fall-out of her drug addiction. Cocaine has left a hole in her septum, leaving her wishing her generation had not been told that cocaine was “safe, recreational and not a bigger deal than smoking pot or cigarettes”.
A bigger regret is that, after successful treatment for cocaine addiction, her friends persuaded her to see a psychiatrist, hoping this would ensure she avoided a relapse. The doctor prescribed the tranquilliser Klonopin.
“That took eight years out of my life,” she says.
“Those were my prime years, my 40s, when a lot of my heavy, creative activity was really happening. Klonopin grabbed hold of you and made you sit down on your couch and not get up.
“I just watched TV for eight years in a daze. I’m sorry I didn’t have a car crash on the way to seeing that doctor.”
So when Stevie finally got herself back on track, she needed to make up for lost time. “I made a decision a long time ago to follow my artistry. I decided that my mission here on this earth was to write songs for people and make them happy.”
● The UK leg of Fleetwood Mac’s Unleashed tour starts on Thursday and the double CD The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac is out tomorrow.