Nicks & Buckingham - A Heart to Heart

This interview first appeared in August 1997 in the recently deceased online e-zine Microsoft Music Central.
Lindsey, this reunion idea sprouted after you enlisted Mick to play drums on your solo album. You were the linchpin. What persuaded you to sign on?

L: I was trying to be as noncommittal as possible. I was in this mindset of trying to finish my record. The chairman of Warners called and said, "Well, are you doing the reunion or not? Everyone else wants to do it." I said, "If you had my album and thought it could be a smash, would you still be telling me this is good advice?" He said yes. And I said, "OK, we'll do it."

Stevie, were you receptive from the start?

I was receptive, yeah. My defining moment came when I was getting ready to start a record. I called Lindsey and said, "Are we going or not? If we are going, then I'm going to stop my record. If we're not, I'm not going to stop." He said, "Yeah, we're going." I couldn't hear it from anybody else but Lindsey. Everybody else could say we're going and till he actually said 'yes', I could never believe it.

Why were you the holdout?

After working on an album for a couple of years, you've got a certain momentum. I was closing in on it. I maybe have another 10 percent to go. You're in this place where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The idea of working for two years and then saying I'm going to put it down is sort of odd. People were telling me to think long-term, that it's going to help the visibility, it's going to help open some political doors. All of that is arguable. There were some reservations in terms of not knowing what to expect. When Mick and I got together (last year), he was a different person and I was adifferent person, and the implication was that everyone had come along since the time that I had left and that hopefully that would be the scenario. And in fact it has been.

Stevie, did you expect the reunion to jell?

S: After the inauguration, it didn't look good for the five of us getting back together. So, if Lindsey wasn't ever going to be in the band again, then why should I be in the band anymore? We went in together. He had already quit six years before, and I hung in there hoping everything might work out again. I quit touring, but it's not like I really ever left. I just didn't want to be a part of it if it didn't include all of us. The passing of 20 years, from 1977 to 1997, I think that has a lot to do with it. Certainly everybody has pitched this to us every year since he left. There is something about the 20th anniversary of Rumours that made us all a little bit more nostalgic.

L: It made the light bulb go off at Warner Bros. When they heard Mick and I were back together, boom.

Were there any concerns that Fleetwood Mac of the Rumours era had an aura and reputation that should be left alone and not gambled with?

After Stevie left, Mick took that last incarnation to a whole different level (with replacement players). So how do I put this? There was nowhere to go but up, was there? I think that's what got him to the point where we all got together. The only real gamble was not so much "Are we going to get along?" - because that had already been implied - but were we going to play well and were we going to jibe musically. That happened pretty much right away.

How nervous were you during the MTV tapings?

S: We know our parts. We were definitely rehearsed. But nerves were incredibly high, absolutely. The last time we played on a stage together was 1983, but nobody stopped playing or singing, so everybody has kept practicing their trade. It's logical that we would be way better now. We are a way better band now because we're better musicians and singers.

L: I think MTV was pleasantly surprised. People were blown away a bit that wewere rocking and playing well. The musicianship aspect, you don't see that as much today. A whole generation of kids that maybe had heard the records - even the Courtney Loves or the Billy Corgans who have come back around and said Fleetwood Mac is not the enemy anymore - probably never saw ourshows. The thing we heard over and over again after those two shows was, "My God, these guys can really rock." Because these shows were a couple steps up from the records.

Rumours was recorded amid so much personal upheaval. What does that album mean to you now, 20 years later?

S: There wouldn't have been a Rumours if everything had been fabulous. We couldn't have changed anything.

L: There has been this cyclical thing where the music again has been re-examined and reappreciated. I see it for the music it was, and I can analyze it a little more and see other reasons it may have caught on, reasons that were not particularly musical, but more theatrical. I can see that now without the baggage. There was so much baggage, at least for the 12 years that I was in the band. You break up in '77 and think, "Hey, get on with it, buddy," but you see that person every day for the next 10 years, pretty much in your face. It wasn't until I left in '87 that I could face all the issues with Stevie. Certain things are very difficult to resolve. None of it was ever resolved, but I don't think we were focused enough to know what needed to be resolved. Things got so convoluted. I had a problem with her being thrust into the limelight. It was tough to deal with being the one constructing it all behind the scenes and yet not being visible. I fought to prove something to her as well as to myself. You wonder what you gave up in order to prove that.

How have things changed personally between you?

L: We're appreciating each other as musicians and as a fivesome that is greater than the sum of its parts. The chemistry when we joined was Stevie and I as a couple, John and Chris as a couple, and this extra guy. And that chemistry was torn apart by dysfunction and disunity.

Was the passage of time the key element in overcoming the personal resentments?
For me specifically, the key was getting away and pulling out of the machinery of it and the pressure of that machinery and the almost predictability of the dynamics within that fivesome. Time and distance helped, and refocusing.

S: I didn't have the same issues as Lindsey had with the band. I had a solo career, but I liked doing both, even though it didn't give me one minute off. For this band to work again for me, everybody had to get along.

Did Mick's autobiography (which revealed his affair with Nicks) rekindle ill will?

S: I didn't even read Mick's book. I have no idea what it said. I thought, "Why read it? I was there."

L: I read parts of it, and I don't think you can take it too seriously.

Given that there are five managers overseeing the five individuals in Fleetwood Mac, how difficult were the reunion negotiations?

L: There was a period of time even before I had left where the phenomenon of the five managers got in the way a lot. And most of the time that was because the band never got together as a fivesome. There was a lot of disunity in the band toward the end of my involvement, and I would assume it was ongoing after that for awhile. It's all down to the fivesome getting together and becoming a unit that transcends any kind of politics or lobbying or particular interests of one member over another. Differences tend to get inflated a lot when you get information secondhand or thirdhand. Since this incarnation got back together, we have dealt with it differently.

We don't wait for somebody else to work it out for us.

What was the atmosphere like when the five of you first regrouped for this reunion?

S: It was good, just like it is now. It really is pretty damn fun. It's a pretty fabulous opportunity. I mean, who would we rather be than us right now? Everybody came in with a way better attitude, totally cool and ready to try and work with each other. Nobody came in being pernickety.

L: I think it helped that Mick and I had worked together cutting the stuff for my album. This may not be exactly right, but it's my take on where Mick was: Even though he was personally in a really good place, that last incarnation of Fleetwood Mac in the studio and on the road, with Dave Mason and Bekka Bramlett, had gone out basically as a nostalgia package. It was with Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon, stuff you don't like to see the name Fleetwood Mac associated with. I think it was very hard on him. The making of that album was hard on Mick, and his confidence as a player had gone down. Something changed when he and I reconnected. He came back into this situation knowing that he was a kick-ass drummer, one of the best in the business.

Were you dismayed to see what Fleetwood Mac had become after you left and after Stevie and Christine stopped touring?
L: I don't want to judge it. All I can say is I felt that when I left it got a little more generic, not that the shows weren't great and the album wasn't good. But later, it was just something I wasn't happy to see Mick and John doing - or having to do, if you want to look at it that way. It started to feel like the Platters franchise.
S: After I left, I was getting calls from everybody when Mick and John were on the road. My dentist would call: "Are you playing?" Friends would call: "When are you coming to town? Can we get tickets?" I'd say, "No no no, I'm not in it now." I got calls from people all over the United States wanting to know what the hell was up.
There's been talk that Mick was in financial straits and that this reunion was formed in part to get him on his feet. True?
S: Well, those guys do have to work. They're not songwriters, so all they really get is touring (revenue). If you're not putting out albums and you're not writing and you're not touring, then no matter how much money you have it's going to start to dwindle, right?
L: Especially if you're Mick.
S: Mick loves money more than anybody. He has incredibly expensive tastes. You can't blame him for wanting to be the elegant English gentleman.

There are four new songs on the record, plus one that a lot of people will think is new. What can you tell me about "Silver Springs"?

S: "Silver Springs" was written in 1976 after we were on tour and driving through Maryland. I saw the name on a freeway sign.

Was there a lot of debate about what should and shouldn't be on The Dance?
S: No, it was pretty obvious in a lot of ways. There are a lot of songs that we just knew to do.

L: There was some debate at the end because we deleted some of the more obvious choices and Warner didn't think that was a very good idea. I had taken off "Go Your Own Way" because I thought people have heard this enough so let's try to do the more interesting or surprising route. We were trying to get a little esoteric. When it came down to doing "Rhiannon" or "Gypsy", we were going to pick "Gypsy", but the label wasn't too happy with that.

Recently, Billy Corgan covered "Landslide" and Courtney Love did a version of "Gold Dust Woman." How do you feel about your songs being picked up by a younger generation of musicians?
S: I feel really honoured. It's nice, because I'm not married, I don't have kids, and music is all I do. For me to have a little link into that generation is totally fascinating. I have new friends who are a lot younger but in a lot of ways love all the same things I do.

In terms of Fleetwood Mac's potential for success in 1997, does age enter the equation?
S: It depends on how good you are. If you're really good on stage, then I think you can be our age. If you're old and tired and you're our age, you can't do it. If it felt old to us, we wouldn't have gotten past the second day of rehearsals.
L: That's true. Musically, there are a lot of Gen-X groups that aren't at this level of sophistication. Age also enters into this in the sense that we've grown up. If you're not comfortable with yourself at this age, then something's wrong. None of us have quite as much to prove as we did 10 years ago, and that makes it a little easier to go out there and be comfortable and not worry.
What is the current chemistry like?

That's really elusive. The thing that's interesting now is that the chemistry is spread out evenly over the five people in the band. Ironically, because of where I'm at and where she's at, it's almost like I'm seeing the Stevie I used to live with.
S: True. We're more similar to the way we were when we first joined Fleetwood Mac.
This renewed harmony is a far cry from the feud that preceded it, isn't it?
S: Let's put it this way, we hardly spoke. We would get on and off the same plane without interacting at all. It's not like that now. Even if Lindsey and I were to totally fall in love again, get married, and get divorced, we would never let it go to that negative place again. We're just too wise now. It got so bad between us that we couldn't even talk. We couldn't communicate. We couldn't work anything out because we couldn't even sit down for five minutes together.

L: We had a lot of problems by the time we joined, as did John and Chris. So it was one of the things that Stevie and Chris had in common. What drew them together was the need to commiserate. Without that catalyst, maybe it would have been drawn out longer. Or maybe we would have worked it out.
S: We were all so freaked out and overwhelmed and famous and rich overnight that it was very hard to sit down and be adult about anything.
Was Stevie's solo success, and your lack of it, a thorn in your side?

Not really. I never had the time or the inclination to put a solo album together until I left. I did that one album, Out Of The Cradle, and put a group together and we toured, playing Wiltern-size places, a town hall in New York, even some clubs. The thorn in my side is how difficult it is to get forces mobilised and get your work seen by a broad audience. I was putting a lot of money into that tour to take an 11-piece band on the road. My accountant wouldn't let me do that again. That was the drag.

Stevie, what was the downside to being the most visible member of the band?

It would have been a worse downside if I had been a big flop, so the upside of it was that it was successful. The only reason I had a solo career was so I could do more songs. You can't do many in Fleetwood Mac, doing an album every few years with three writers, so you get maybe three, four or five songs at the most. I write all the time, and my songs get backlogged so much that I start to feel crummy if I can't record them. I didn't have a solo career to get away from Fleetwood Mac or to prove anything to anybody. I just wanted to be able to be more of a writer. I never wanted to be more famous than anybody else. The downside is that it didn't make everybody else feel that good. So sometimes I didn't get to really enjoy my success very much. I felt that it made other people feel bad, and I hated that.

What about Fleetwood Mac's future?

L: If you would have asked me a year ago if I'd be in this situation, I would have said no. So we're taking it one step at a time.
S: I read something that almost made me cry. Someone wrote, "Will Fleetwood Mac come back with four new songs and then just disappear and leave us again?" I think it's going to depend on this tour. If everybody has a really good time, then probably everybody is going to want to do more. No matter what, we are proud of what we've done.

Could Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham have done this interview together five years ago?
S: No, because he wouldn't have felt this way five years ago, so I wouldn't have even considered trying to figure out how to do this.
L: (to Nicks): You and I could have gotten together, and it could have been prickly or gotten off on a different foot. It used to be bittersweet and now it's just sweet, because there's not this underlying thing. Now it's kinda sweet, these two kids who came here...
S: ...all those years ago.
L: ...all those years ago.

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