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Fleetwood Mac Writing 'New Chapter' in History

Band reignites musical 'passion' that made them famous 30 years ago

By Earl Horlyk
8th July 2004

Drug fueled decadence and debauchery? Check. Infighting, backbiting, and egos run amok? Check. And enough sexual intrigue to make even Jackie Collins blush? Check. A trashy new beach read? Nah. It's Fleetwood Mac, writing a new chapter in what has been called "Rock and Roll's longest running soap opera."

Imagine it's 1975. Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, the band's namesakes, having anchored Fleetwood Mac through numerous personnel changes, finally find the winning combination of singers/songwriters who will take the group to the top of the pop charts and to the top of the gossip columns for years to come.

This latest incarnation of Fleetwood Mac has a lush, supple sound that managed to merge the 'Kools menthol and Chardonnay' smoky blues favored by Christine McVie with the San Francisco hippy-trippy song stylings of vulnerable rock stud Lindsay Buckingham, and witchy waif, Stevie Nicks. The group's unique chemistry and distinctive sound gelled immediately and together, they provided a perfect soundtrack to the blow-dried, blow-snorted, blow-jobbed excess of the 1970s.

Their best selling '78 "Rumours" is fueled by an avalanche of cocaine and driven by the fact that two different couples, comprising four-fifths of the group, are going through one hellava breakup. Lindsay and Stevie, long considered the glam, folkie world equivalent of Dick and Liz, decides to break off their personal relationship. Stevie immediately hooks up with Mick, unbeknowst to either of their fellow bandmates or Mick's first wife. The McVie marriage also ends when Christine has an affair with a man with the most unfortunate name in the annals of rock and roll, sound engineer Curry Grant.

"Rumours" is jam packed with exquisite melodies and none-too-subtle messages from the songwriters to their former or current lovers. Listening to songs such as "Landslide," "Go Your Own Way," and "Don't Stop" is like delving into somebody's personal diary. Never before has 'real life' been laid so bare on vinyl and never before has navel gazing been so danceable.

The hits kept on coming, only at a slower pace. Reports of drug abuse, personal problems, and long running feuds took their toll. Lindsay Buckingham's dramatic decision to leave the group in the mid-'80s caused many to speculate that it was, indeed, the end of the road for Fleetwood Mac.

Well, it's hard to keep a good band down. After several successful comeback engagements, Fleetwood Mac is back, a bit more mellow, but creating new material and introducing another generation to its classic sound. The band, now consists of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Lindsay Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks. Christine McVie is pursuing other music interests.

In a telephone interview, I asked Mick Fleetwood how the group dynamic has changed with Christine McVie's decision not to return.

"Chris is happy in England and I'm happy for her," Fleetwood says diplomatically. "Once it became clear that she wasn't coming back, I could see some good coming from it.""Not to take anything away from Chris but I truly believe the band has a completely new vigor, a really refreshing sensibility now," he explains. "Stevie's surrounded by three men, two of whom she's had relationships with. Everything she sings takes on a greater poignancy because of it."

Lindsay Buckingham has been quoted as saying he doesn't want Fleetwood Mac to turn into a nostalgia act and that the group must walk a fine line between staying fresh and contemporary without alienating their old fans. So does Fleetwood agree? "Most definitely. There's a real value in new music. And Lindsay remains a master at pushing the envelope and writing the kind of material that'll move the band forward musically. But we know our audiences also want to hear their favorites, the songs that they have an emotional attachment to. So we try to balance the new stuff with the classics."

"I think because we were so brutally honest in some of our older songs, they still resonate with people. There were times when there wasn't a whole lot of communication going on in the band and thus, no way of healing. So we poured all of that emotion into our music and the public responded. It also helps us put everything we do today in proper perspective."

Fleetwood is especially proud of the fact that his group has stood the test of time. "When we started touring again, I'd looked out at the audience, expecting to see people who grew up with our music," he says. "They turned out, but they also brought their kids. So we're seeing a second generation of Fleetwood Mac fans. Sometimes even a third generation. That's pretty cool."

Sadly, it's a sight Fleetwood fears may be disappearing. "The music industry has changed so dramatically that I think the days of bands or artists with that kind of multigenerational appeal may be over. The music industry has become an entertainment business with a 'here today/gone tomorrow' type of mentality. The talent base is still there but new artists aren't given the time to grow and mature or to build a catalog of material or an audience that'll have lasting power."

Fleetwood believes the unique chemistry forged during "Rumours" has never really dissipated over the years. "There's an incredible amount of emotion invested with this band outside of the music. The vibration of what's happening isn't theater, it's real. John is my oldest and dearest friend. My absolute love and friendship with Stevie is stronger than ever. Lindsay and Stevie have long gone their own way and they're still working out some old war wounds. But on stage, all you can see is their passion."

And for fans, that should be all that matters. "I truly believe this is a new chapter in the life of Fleetwood Mac."

Thanks to Michelle for sending in this article

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Last Updated - 09 July 2004

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