Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Fleetwood Mac's story is more than Rumours

I CAN’T speak for what showbiz reporting was like in the 1970s and 80s but Fleetwood Mac must have been a gift to entertainment hacks the world over.

These days it’s all about whether Cheryl Cole is wearing her wedding ring or not or the latest adventures of Katie Price and her cross-dressing cage-fighting boyfriend.

Crashingly dull, in fact.

If you want real drama, real catfights, real chaos, then do some reading up on Fleetwood Mac. Better still, watch the documentary that’s floating about on the BBC’s iPlayer.

Like me, you might have thought of the band as plodding pop-rock dinosaurs. Which they undoubtedly are – the footage of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie in their sunshine villas sporting flat caps has them banged to rights on that front – but you can’t deny their “backstory” is incredible. Sensational. Almost unbelievable.

You might think it’s strange that a band is named after its drummer and bass player, or find it intriguing that the blues-rock of Albatross and the shiny pop sheen of Everywhere are actually by the same group. But that’s nothing, believe me.

For those who aren’t familiar with the tales and the travails of the Anglo-American rock giants, here’s my top 10 highlights of the Fleetwood Mac story:

1. Lead guitarist, singer and songwriter Peter Green – responsible for bringing the band to prominence and its early hits – struggles with mental illness and “never comes back” after first trying acid. He quits the band in 1970 after they don’t agree with his plans to give all their money away to charity.

2. Rhythm guitarist Jeremy Spencer goes missing in 1971 after popping out “to get a magazine”. When they find him after several days searching, he has joined a religious cult.

3. After slide guitarist Danny Kirwan is fired after developing an alcohol problem and some increasingly erratic behaviour, his replacement Bob Weston embarks on an affair with Fleetwood’s then wife, Jenny Boyd. He’s fired as well.

4. In the wake of Kirwan’s departure, the band cancel their tour. However, their manager, Clifford Davis, claiming he owns the rights to the name Fleetwood Mac, takes a fake version of the band out on the road instead, sparking a legal battle.

5. The band hire new guitarist Lyndsey Buckingham who insists his girlfriend and musical partner, the singer Stevie Nicks, joins as well. (In fact, this might be the answer to keeping Oasis going post-Noel. Has anyone got Roxette’s number?).

6. Buckingham and Nicks’ relationship hits the rocks, leading them to write vicious and accusatory songs about each other, notably Nicks’ Dreams and Buckingham’s Go Your Own Way. Incredibly, they dutifully perform backing vocals on each others’ tunes.

7. They eventually split up – as do McVie and his wife Christine, the keyboard player – but the band rumbles on.

8. Nicks has an illicit affair with Fleetwood, who then shacks up with Nicks’ best friend. The band still goes on.

9. During the making of Tusk, the follow-up to their biggest selling album, Rumours, Buckingham wants to go in an experimental direction: the rest of the band recall him lying on the floor, his cheek to the ground, wailing into a microphone.

10. After the band hit the paydirt again with 1987’s pop behemoth Tango In The Night, Buckingham refuses to go out on tour and quits. When he announces his decision, Nicks physically attacks him.

What else? Well.., alcoholism, drug addition, rehab, bankruptcy, half a dozen extra members, splits, reunions. I probably could go on.

It puts a handful of Sugababes line-up changes into perspective, doesn’t it? I really do wonder how much of this stuff actually got reported back in the newspapers the day. Hardly any of it, I would guess.

And the most incredible thing? Fleetwood Mac are still going; and the classic line-up too, minus Christine McVie, who retired from performing a few years ago. They played a run of dates in the UK earlier this month, in fact. They’re in their 60s now, all still alive, still performing those old songs from Albatross to Everywhere, still sitting on a tour bus together.

Whatever do they find to talk about?

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