'Say You Will'
By Edna Gundersen,
Pop's longest-running soap opera has been renewed for
another season. Harmonious negotiations,
a revised cast and a fusion of two scripts yielded Fleetwood Mac's long-awaited
studio reunion, Say You Will, which enters Billboard at
No. 3 after selling 218,000 copies its first week.
Singer/songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, former lovers whose Rumours-era split left a bitter wake, each contribute nine songs, some originally destined for their solo albums. Drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, founding members of the storied band, returned to the fold, while keyboardist Christine McVie opted to retire. (Related item: "We're back together for the right reasons," says Nicks.)
Sturdy musical roots and fragile emotional ties make Mac both a reliable and unpredictable commodity in rock. Fans embraced the band's lucrative comeback in 1997, yet the players retreated into uncertainty. Buckingham resumed work on a solo album, but when a Warner Bros. executive disparaged it, he shelved it in anticipation of a leadership change at the label.
"It was a lame-duck situation, so I played a waiting game," he says. "I said to Mick, 'Let's cut some tracks with Stevie.' If there was no interest in my solo album from the new regime, I figured it could morph into something else."
Incoming chief Tom Whalley did fancy Buckingham's songs, but it was a moot point, since a Mac homecoming was in full swing. Before Nicks left on a solo tour in July 2001, she handed Buckingham a 17-track demo containing songs dating back to 1976. On New Year's Eve, she listened to the tracks Buckingham had polished while producing the record.
"I realized I needed to add new material," Nicks says. "I told Lindsey, 'I know you've already been waiting for me for six months, but I need 30 days.' I told my brother, 'Fire up the 12-track Akai,' I got all my journals and went to work."
She delivered four songs in four weeks. Smooth sailing? Not quite. Sparks flew when Buckingham's desire for a two-CD set was overruled, despite his willingness to absorb any financial loss entailed in a configuration that yields less profit per track than a single disc.
"Some things conspired to force me to rethink that: politics in the band, certain things that were said," Buckingham says. "Then we had a confrontational experience in getting a running order everyone was all right with."
Now he's fretting over the set list for a tour starting May 7 in Columbus, Ohio, and heading east. The tour swings to the South and Midwest in June and hits the West Coast in July.
"It's more daunting than ever," he says. "The new album needs to be dignified, but people with a bottom-line mentality say you can't do too many new songs. How do you do a show that's not too much of one thing? I'm losing sleep."
Nicks says creative tension and her uneasy dance with Buckingham are the least of her worries.
"Mick and John could fire us and start over," she says.
Interviewed separately, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks discuss a variety of musical and personal topics.
THE CURRENT CHEMISTRY
Buckingham: "I would say it's elusive some of the time. Stevie and I have had many moments where we were able to acknowledge some things and get closer to closure than before."
Nicks: "The chemistry is good, and we're back together for the right reasons. We don't need the money. Our royalties will take care of us like a pension. What's really important now is to share this magical year."
CHRISTINE McVIE'S EXIT
Buckingham: "We did get her blessing. We asked her to come back, knowing she would say no. She was working through her own issues, and I think she had to burn a lot of bridges. She got a divorce, sold her house in L.A. and moved to the country in England."
Nicks: "We weren't sure we could do this without Chris. She told us to go ahead and have fun. We did let two or three years go by. We didn't want to make a wrong move. We finally decided she doesn't care what we do. Under those circumstances, we can continue. Fleetwood Mac always continues."
EFFECT OF LINEUP CHANGE
Buckingham: "I saw it as a challenge and an opportunity. In the past, there was never quite enough space for me to do what I wanted. Now there was 33% more room. Stevie and I were forced back into this mirror image, something closer to what we did before joining the band. My best guitar playing is on this record. Mick will tell you the best drumming he's done is on this record."
Nicks: "It pushed Lindsey, John and Mick back into a power trio. It made us focus more on guitar. We thought about bringing someone else in, but we can't replace Chris, and we're not going to try."
Buckingham, on his Murrow Turning Over in His Grave: "I started this song when the O.J. Simpson trial was on. Before he retired, (pioneering journalist) Ed Murrow made a speech about how TV is used to delude and distract, and that people controlling TV needed to be more responsible. He must be turning over in his grave. Corporations own the media, and much of what passes for news these days is propaganda or fluff."
Nicks, on her Silver Girl: "It's an ode to the girl rock star inspired by Sheryl Crow, though it could be turned around and be about Avril Lavigne. I really feel Sheryl would have been much happier to be in my generation. She's not a coward, and she says what she feels."
Buckingham: "I've built a studio in my new house, and I'd love for Stevie and myself to sit down and do some stuff from the ground up with two-part harmonies. If we had one complaint about this album, it's that we used a lot of older material, and a lot of mine was set in stone. Co-writing would be interesting. We've never done that."
Nicks: "Since 1969 in San Francisco, Lindsey and I have always written separately. And we've always been respectful to each other. He'd never say, 'I think you need to change this line.' I'd never say, 'I don't like the chorus.' We both understand that once a song is written down and presented, it can't be changed."
WAR, 9/11 AND POLITICS
Buckingham: "We're not a political band, and we never will be. Some songs seem to make a specific political comment only because certain events occurred. It's a strange coincidence. On What's the World Coming To, I tried to address insensitivity to the individual. Peacekeeper is a peace song that looks at this increasingly desensitized world. It asks what is peace. You can't expect to have a static condition called peace. You can only work toward that as an ideal. It may have certain reference points that apply to events of the last couple of years. Attaching a narrow interpretation is not necessarily bad, but it probably robs those songs of a richer interpretation. Lyrics need ambiguity to be rich enough to be a Rorschach."
Nicks: "I was in New York on 9/11 during my tour. I've never been a political person, but suddenly I felt like I was in the middle of history. We were at the Waldorf with all these foreign diplomats. It was very scary. I watched people jumping (from the twin towers) on a Mexican TV channel. We put wet towels in the windows to keep out the burning iron smell. Illume is a poem about 9/11 and about getting through it and getting back home. Part of me wanted to pack my bags and cancel the tour. But my parents and friends like Tom Petty and Don Henley kept saying, 'People paid to see your show, and if they're willing to go out in this frightening world, don't you dare come home.' It was hard to walk on stage and not burst into tears. I was almost hysterical. All my songs suddenly seemed to be about 9/11."
Buckingham: "When I was little, I spent a lot of time in my room playing guitar. Later on, music certainly was a sanctuary, especially when I wasn't feeling very safe in the band and feeling maybe not appreciated, certainly not understood. I did a lot of work on my own. When I did that with Tusk, it was not with the sanction of the band. The result was a little more radical by virtue of being a knee-jerk reaction to (Rumours). It's tiring to stake out a space for myself and experiment, but I love it."
Nicks: "Writing songs is the love of my life. I didn't come here to be a mom. I'm here to write songs. I knew that at 15, when I wrote my first song. I flat-out stated, 'I will never be a secretary. I'm never going to get up at 8 to go to the office.' I can be very content alone with my journals."
Buckingham (married father of two): "Having kids changed my view of myself. There's an irony there in terms of my world and how obsessive I had been for so long, even after leaving the band. Working on albums was my whole life. I had something to prove, and maybe the reasons were not particularly noble to begin with, but they were the seeds for developing some incredible work habits much to the exclusion of everything else. It was not good for relationships or anything. There's a reason to strike a balance now. Having children gave me a new mantra. I'm settling down, taking everything down a few pegs."
Nicks (unattached but looking): "I had two really nice relationships (since The Dance). Relationships seldom work for people like me. I'm simply too busy. Very few men are strong and secure enough to wave bye-bye when the limo pulls up to take me away. For it to work, someone would have to be incredibly secure, richer and more powerful than me and not bothered by my fame. I love to be in a relationship and be a caretaker, but it's frustrating when I don't have the time. Then I'm a half-assed girlfriend and a half-assed rock star."
MAC'S LEGACY AND CURRENCY
Buckingham: "It's not like we have to conform to what might be considered current. We have a base audience that's been around a long time. At the same time, it's hard to predict how sales will go. This is not a band resting on its laurels in any way. I can't think of anyone who's been around this long who's come up with some of the best stuff they've ever done. We're up against the pervasive clich� of a rocker burning out at 40, but look at writers and composers in other art forms who didn't hit their stride until 50."
Nicks: "We are very blessed. Our music has been the tapestry of so many people's lives. People in their 50s will hear this music and go, 'I want to go back and live in that time.' We are like the Pied Piper. We'll draw them in and lift them up with these songs. I don't care if we don't sell 20 million copies. If we sell 2 million and add a couple of songs to the repertoire people love, that's more important to us."
Buckingham: "I could probably write three or four more songs (to add to a backlog) and put out a solo record. And I will do that if there's no interest in continuing the band. The current circumstance is a lot easier and certainly more profound potentially. It seems so fitting that we've found each other after all this time. It seems a little bit sacred and worth nurturing. I've known Stevie since I was 16 and the others since I was 24. I don't see any reason to put out a solo album at this point."
Nicks: "Fleetwood Mac comes first. But I also want to do an animated movie of Rhiannon. And I want to finish a children's opera I started at 17 called The Ladybug and the Goldfish. In a dream I had when I was 14 or 15, I saw myself winning an Academy Award. I never figured out what for, but it would never be for acting. I'm not a good actress, and I'd never let people say, 'Oh, that Stevie, a songstress, writer extraordinaire and the worst actress we've ever seen!' I'll stick to writing."
THE BAND'S FUTURE
Buckingham: "I can't speak for Stevie. I can't predict how she'll feel in a year. All I can do is try to cultivate the right feeling and the right atmosphere for us to go on. We had some disagreements toward the end of the album, but we found common ground. Can we survive the land mines that may exist down the road? I hope so, because I would love to do another album. There's so much promise if we hang in there."
Nicks: "I'm used to going back and forth between Fleetwood Mac and my solo career. It seems right to me. I try to make sure my solo career doesn't ever take anything away from the band. Fleetwood Mac is more important. We should continue as long as we're having fun. It's a great band with so much history."
THE LAST WORDS
Buckingham: Say Goodbye, track No. 17:
"Saw your face yesterday
thinking on the days of old
And the price that we paid for a love we couldn't hold
Oh I let you slip away, there was nothing I could do
That was so long ago, still I often think of you."
Nicks: Goodbye Baby, closing track:
"Goodbye baby, I hope
your heart's not broken
Don't forget me, yes, I was outspoken
You were with me all the time
I'll be with you one day."
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Last Updated - 15 February 2004
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