Two Sticks And A Drum
AT THE END OF A YEAR WHICH SAW (MOST OF) FLEETWOOD MAC REUNITED, ON
CD AND STAGE, DRUMMER MICK FLEETWOOD RECOUNTS THE STORY OF A
LEGENDARY BAND AND THE MAKING OF A CLASSIC ALBUM - RUMOURS.
Hot Press Annual
INTERVIEW: Andy Darlington
It starts with the Shadows. Playing along to records of drummer Tony
Meehan. It leads to one of the biggest-selling rock albums of all
time � Rumours - with more than a little 'glitzy rock 'n' roll
stories of blood and guts, booze and drugs' along the way. There are
a million stories in Fleetwood Mac. This is just one of them.
Did you ever want to go back? Back to those moments that changed
your life forever. And have the opportunity of asking that question
- 'how did I get here, from there'? Mick Fleetwood did.
On my TV screen he's at Gloucester Station, long coat drifting as he
paces the length of Platform 4, long scarf pulled in against the
wind, his once-long shaggy hair now scratched back into a pony-tail.
It's a platform full of ghosts. In his eyes there's 'a boy with a
dream to conquer the world with two sticks and a drum'. Then it was
a 'wet and dreary' 1963, his parents last goodbye, 'the umbilical
broken' as the train pulls away, and he sets off for a new life in
�Yes. Putting that film (The Mick Fleetwood Story) together was
great to do,� he admits to me now. �We spent the better part of two
years doing it. And it was very therapeutic once we started. Because
it's setting down stuff you don't normally get a chance to do, in
terms of reflecting 'how did I get to what I'm doing?' It's an
attempt to capture an over-view of my journey from childhood,
through my dreams and aspirations of becoming a musician, with all
the ups and downs, the faults, the good things and the bad ... so,
going back and doing it was actually therapeutic in many ways.�
But it's also an opportunity to take stock and ask, what would that
young Mick Fleetwood think of the international megastar he was to
become? �I think, generally, he'd be pretty pleased.� A moment's
careful consideration. �Yes. He started out with such a desire, just
to be around music and to be in music. And all the trappings,
pitfalls, distractions, and the ups and downs that came with it,
they didn't destroy any part of that original dream. My first love
is my music, and to be around music. Luckily, I was able to do that,
and I'm still doing that. So I think he'd be happy. I have no real
And this year, there's been new product to promote. A new album and
a revitalised tour-schedule to boot. Forget the line-up changes and
solo ventures that filled the intervening years. This is the real
deal - Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham
- but alas, no Christine 'Perfect' McVie.
�Yes, it's an album we'd been working on for over a year,� he
resumes. "And we're all really excited about it. It's everything
that we like about playing our music, and we've done it together.
Lindsey produced the album, and engineered a lot of it too, so it's
been very much a home 'in-house' no-outside-interference album. It's
all about what we want to do, and what we feel creatively is
exciting. And we are really excited about making new music
But no Christine McVie?
"No. Correct. She's living in England. And she's retired from
showbiz, in this context. Y'know - we miss her, but she didn't want
to tour, and she didn't want to be part of the whole thing. We
talked to her a lot. She's actually been writing some music and
doing some recording which is exciting for her. But I don't think
she'll ever get out on the road and really do anything. Because she
doesn't want to travel anymore. She's had it with touring. So sadly,
we parted company. We go on, and she's doing what she needs to do,
and hopefully enjoying her life. That's part and parcel of her
choice. And we're comfortable with it. We know that she's happy. And
there's nothing much one can do about it.�
CHEYNES, BO-STREET RUNNERS AND STEAM PACKET�
When you think Mick Fleetwood - if you think of him at all, you
might think of the unfeasibly tall guy beside the diminutive
Samantha Fox at the Brits, or perhaps the incredibly lanky guy with
the ludicrously dangling balls positioned between his splayed legs,
beside the petite Stevie Nicks on the iconic cover of Rumours - the
biggest selling album of all time, until Thriller came along.
But right now he's looking at his life with strange amazement.
Saying that to stay "in the trenches" for as long as he has - as
part of an on-going 'showbizzy and glitzy rock'n'roll story of blood
and guts, booze and drugs', is to be �incredibly blessed.�
His voice is smoothly accentless. He spent his first twenty years in
England. Then America. But there's no trace of either. Not even
mid-Atlantic. And he�s well-used to this interview situation. He
does the false-modesty thing to perfection. It comes easy. He's
practised in the art of technique so there's few awkward silences,
and no unplanned gaffes. Just the correct spice of excess and
rock'n'roll weirdness as required. Stories full of sex, glamour,
drugs, ambition - and all of them true.
He was born on June 24, l942, to an RAF service family. So just how
does a gangly guy from Redruth, Cornwall come to be an integral part
of the US West Coast�s most defining Soft-Rock Mega-Band? The
autobiographical DVD/film follows Mick through his nomadic childhood
- following his father's postings to Egypt and Norway, to a spell at
King's School Sherbourne, 'the first of two boarding schools, a
gorgeous place', from which he persistently ran away. Through to his
move to London at the age of sixteen - 'a spunky thing to do', and
into his early career in the Blues Clubs of the Mod R&B underground,
and thence into superstardom with Fleetwood Mac playing to gross-out
audiences across the world, while traveling in a self-contained
'bubble' of narcotic and life-style excess.
But first, both the DVD, and his autobiographical book Two Sticks
And A Drum, emphasise the point that he's a self-taught drummer.
�Absolutely,� he confirms. �I was self-taught. I just taught myself
in my attic, playing along to records (on the radiogram). I can't
always remember the names of the drummers I used to listen to,
because I'm not great at remembering names. But they must have been
the people who played with Buddy Holly, and the Everly Brothers.
While the first drummer I really listened to a hell of a lot, and
learned from, was the English drummer who used to play with the
Shadows - Tony Meehan. He would basically be the first guy that I
listened to, the stuff he did. And the Shadows were such a great
band. Later on, I found that I enjoyed listening to a drummer called
Sonny Freeman who played with B.B. King. 'Blues Shuffles' is
something that I'm seemingly fairly good at. And I get that from
him. That's his influence.�
Shadows-influenced guitarists may have been ten-a-penny in 1963, but
good sticksmen were a more rare breed, vexingly few-and-far-between.
So the mere ownership of a kit proved sufficient to attract
overtures for your services. So much so that on his arrival in
London, with a copy of Playboy under his arm and his precious drums
stashed in the Guards' Van - to stay with older sister Sally in
bohemian Notting Hill Gate - Fleetwood was almost immediately
recruited by Peter 'B' Bardens, a keyboardist in an Italian-style
mohair suit, for the upwardly-mobile Cheynes.
Their most visible moment will come with their cover of Bill Wyman's
song Stop Running Around, but in the meantime they play the sleazy
West End Mandrake Club, frequented by prostitutes and Gl's, despite
And fab it is to be young and alive, with London rapidly tripping
and Swinging into its 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion' phase as
centre of the style-world. Sister Sally was making silk ties for
David Hockney. Mick was meeting, and wooing, fashion-model Jenny
Boyd-Levitt - sister to Patti Boyd who just happens to be married to
Beatle George. �I was around all that, and yet I hadn't made it
myself, but I was able to see what it was like to make it,� he
After the demise of The Cheynes Mick stuck with Bardens for its
successor group, the Peter B's, long enough to record one further
single (with a young Peter Green guesting on guitar).
So he was moving in the right circles, albeit stuck at 45rpm. There
was 'a very brief year's tenure' playing alongside John McVie and
Peter Green with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers - 'the beginning of a
relationship that later on would become Fleetwood Mac'. For John
McVie would become the other essential ingredient in the Fleetwood
Mac equation. Its only other constant point.
�Me and John have always been there, the 'nuts-and-bolts' through
all of that history" enthuses Mick. "And he's every bit as great a
bass-player as he always was. In fact, he's a better bass player now
- and a dear dear friend. We've been playing together for so long
we've developed this amazing unspoken thing, we don't have to speak
about it. You don't have to think about it. It just exists. It's
But the rock-steady toms on Albatross come from Mick Fleetwood, as
does the sharp drum-snaps of Go Your Own Way.
THEN PLAY ON�
The heavily TV-advertised compilation The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac
went Top Three in the immediate run-up-to Christmas 2002, and it
tells the most complete story so far. Starting with hits from the
Peter Green era, most obviously the shimmering Albatross, moving
through the big American breakthrough with Rhiannon from Fleetwood
Mac into Dreams and Don't Stop from Rumours - into the controversial
aftermath with the Tusk double-set, plus tracks from their massive
re-emergence in 1987 with the Tango In The Night tracks Seven
Wonders and Big Love.
But right from the start - from the spine-tingling authenticity of
the Blues soloing at their live debut on the 13th August 1967 at the
Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival - Fleetwood Mac were a surprisingly
strange band. They consisted of nominal leader Peter Green (guitar),
John McVie (drums), Jeremy Spencer (guitar), and Mick on drums.
Danny Kirwan was later recruited on additional guitar. Spencer was
'totally outrageous', but Peter Green's instabilities - brought to
breaking point by bad encounters with LSD - were even more extreme.
His song Man Of The World is 'like saying 'please help me' recalls
Mick, and his leaving the band was 'the most threatening thing that
I can relate to in the ranks of Fleetwood Mac'. Inevitably, with the
onslaught of the 1970s, a 'very disorganised survival period'
followed, with Spencer also abruptly disappearing (to join the
religious cult The Children of God), Christine, by then married to
John, joined on keyboards in time for the Kiln House album, and then
came the addition of ex-jazzer Bob Welch which helped carve them out
a niche on the US touring circuit. Almost by default, but with a
ruthlessly single-visioned focus on ensuring the group's survival,
Mick became even more of a motivating force. Until the break-up of
his marriage to Jenny - who had been alienated by his total
dedication to keeping Mac touring - resulted in a more full-time
shift to America, with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham coming
into the band just as Bob Welch was phased out.
This was the band behind the phenomenal Rumours, a record notorious
for coming out of a period of personal stress and group disruptions,
recorded 'through various forms of emotional hell' according to
Mick. A soap-opera drama involving relationship make-ups and
break-ups, with those ups-and-downs, those chaotic periods he talks
about, presumably fuelling its edgy creativity. So were the
downer-periods an essential part of the process that made the highs
�I think they have been known to do that,� he reflects. �There's no
doubt that that sick equation can exist, from my own memories of -
'oh my god, I've been up for five days' - yeah! I don't feel
horribly comfortable applauding the fact. But it would be less than
honest if I said that we - or I, didn't, er... have moments of what
I think were fairly creative moments, that came out of some lunatic
situation that I was in.�
But then there's also the element of happy accident. For example The
Chain, Mick explains, �Basically came out of a jam. That song was
'put together' as distinct from someone literally sitting down and
writing 'a song'. It was very much collectively a band composition.
The riff is John McVie's contribution - a major contribution.
Because that bassline is still being played on British TV in the
car-racing series to this day. The Grand Prix thing. But it was
really something that just came out of us playing in the studio.
�Originally we had no words to it. And it really only became a song
when Stevie wrote some. She walked in one day and said 'I've written
some words that might be good for that thing you were doing in the
studio the other day'. So it was 'put together'. Lindsey arranged
and made a song out of all the bits and pieces that we were putting
down onto tape. And then once it was arranged and we knew what we
were doing, we went in and recorded it. But it ultimately becomes a
'band' thing anyway, because we all have so much of our own
individual style, our own stamp that makes the sound of Fleetwood
Mac. So it's not like you feel disconnected from the fact that maybe
you haven't written one of the songs. Because what you do, and what
you feel when we're all making music together, is what Fleetwood Mac
ends up being, and that's the stuff you hear on the albums. Whether
one likes it or not, this is, after all, a combined effort from
different people playing music together.�
Listen to Rumours now, and it hardly sounds like one of the Top Five
biggest-selling albums of all time. On vinyl or CD.
Thirty-million-plus copies so far, and counting. You know the
tracks. They're all familiar, of course. It couldn't really be any
other way. They've been wall-to-wall on daytime radio ever since
their first release, playlisted relentlessly between phone-ins,
traffic reports and polite banter.
Here be pleasant folky non-intrusive guitar riffs and cleanly urgent
harmonies, usually from Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie. But none of
the characteristics we associate with Rock Greatness. No bombastic
ambition. No searing angsty solos. That's not what it's about. This
is where AOR begins. This is music for grown-ups. For expensive
sound-systems and settled double-income young partners. It was
Rumours which first defined this lucrative market, this demographic.
And it sounds so effortless. It demands only to be listened to. But
that's Mick's drumming on the original of Stevie Nicks' Dreams ('I
keep my visions to myself) and Lindsey Buckingham's Second-Hand
News, and those are his Ticket To Ride-snap-drums on Buckingham's Go
Your Own Way. You know these songs. You grew up listening to them,
consciously or not...
Stupid questions sometimes have to be asked. Impossible, sure, but
did Mick have any premonitions when it was first released (in August
1975) of just how big Rumours would be?
�No. I thought it would do well. Cos we'd just had Fleetwood Mac:
Fleetwood Mac which was the first album that sold, like, about
four-million copies in the United States alone. So, unless we really
fucked it up, we knew we had a shot of at least doing fairly well
with the next album. But no, we had no clue that that album was
going to blow up, and - it's like Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The
Moon, it still keeps going. To this day it's still one of those
classic albums. So no, we could have no concept of what was about to
happen to us��
MAN OF THE WORLD
Did you ever want to go back? Back to those moments that changed
your life forever. Mick Fleetwood did. The film closes with him
today, sitting on the beach, staring into the Hawaiian sunset.
�Now, it's just a different time, a different space,� he tells me.
�We all take care of ourselves, and we wanna be healthy and well
when we're 75 years old. And there's only one way of doing that. You
have to take notice of your body and respect it, and do the right
thing. And certainly, in my opinion, the music we're playing now
proves that the creative juices are still present and still very
It wasn't always so. There are life-changing moments. One occurred
as he stood on Platform Four of Gloucester Station, on a 'wet and
dreary' 1963, as the train pulled away, and he set off for a new
life in London� and another happened in 1989, in Maui, with his
third wife, Lynn.
�My life was increasingly controlled - as years went on, by my use
of cocaine, and I was a heavy drinker,� Mick admits.
Sometimes stress and creative chaos can be a stimulant, I say.
�But it happens the other way too,� he replies. �Cos sometimes
people can lose confidence and say 'well, if I'm not drunk I don't
think that I can play' - or 'I don't think that I can have a good
time on stage etc., etc., etc.'. It's a bit of everything.� Finally,
�in a wretched condition from alcohol abuse, drug abuse, a wretched
lifestyle, and not a happy one, it was no longer a laugh, it was no
longer funny, it was sad.�
And so he turned his life around� �If that young Mick Fleetwood knew
what the 'Mick-Fleetwood-now' had gone through, I think he'd say
'you're pretty lucky to have survived. And I'm glad you've
survived!'� he reflects. �But my first love is my music, and to be
around music. Luckily, I was able to do that, and I'm still doing
that. So more than anything else it would be - 'I'm really happy
that you took my dream of being a musician, and you stayed true to
that original dream. You didn't waver.' I never have - and I don't
think I ever will.�
On my TV screen Mick Fleetwood is sitting on a beach full of ghosts.
And in his eyes there's 'a boy with a dream and eyes full of fun,
ready to conquer the world with two sticks and a drum'. And he's
asking that question - 'how did I get here, from there'?
thanks to trackaghost for transcribing this