Mick Fleetwood talks about his
long and tumultuous career
Readers under a certain age could
be forgiven for thinking of Fleetwood Mac as a band which really began in the
mid 70s. The drummer, bassist and keyboard player from the Rumours period,
however, have roots which reach way back into the 60s blues boom a good decade
earlier - and these roots are explored on a new video, The Mick Fleetwood Story
(NBD), which coincides with the release of a best of compilations.
It's an extraordinary story. After a existence as the son of an air force
officer Fleetwood moved to London at an age when he was barely old enough to
work and began playing drums in beat combos. In 1963 (before Swinging London had
even started twitching) Mick was already playing drums in the Senders with the young
Peter Bardens, later of Camel. A succession of R&B groups followed,
including a year or so accompanying Rod Stewart in Shotgun Express. This took
Mick up to April 1967, at which point he joined that venerable British
institution John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Like so many before him, Fleetwood was
eventually dismissed for intemperance, along with his bandmates Peter Green
(guitar) and John McVie (bass) - the last possibly Mayall's most sacked and
rehired player ever. The three young men then formed Fleetwood Mac Mk. 1. It's
1968 and the story's only just getting into gear.
Now in his mid 50s, cheery, candid and keen to get back to work, Fleetwood is
clearing his desk and working on a new album for release in 2003, which he hopes
will do as well as the 30 million selling Rumours of 1977. A self confessed
'road dog', he can't wait to take the Mac back out on tour again. The line up?
The classic one: only minus Christine McVie this time. RC caught up with him and
taxed his memory. Severely...
Was there much agonising about the track listing for the Very Best Of . . .
Yes, there was. But it was a good problem to have. It took a long time, but all
in all it really wasn't much different from any album that the Mac makes.
The track conspicuous by its absence is 'Green Manalishi'.
That may be true, but this package - in the States at least is only
supposed to be the Rumours incarnation of the band. But in England, Warners
asked us if we could put three of Peter Green's songs on. And of course, we
happily did that, because it's relevant, but in most parts of the world, it
doesn't have Peter's stuff on there.
Prior to that final choice, was there a point where you sat down to listen to
the album in its entirety and suddenly had the whole of your life roll over you,
like a cavalcade of ghosts from the past?
(laughs) Always! But it turned out to be a really good time to do it. We're busy
making a new album and we were asked by the record company if we wanted to do
it. So we thought it would be a really good time to clear the decks of some of
the old stuff, because in the new year we have something coming out with
Christine's not on board any more. Is that irrevocable?
I believe so. We miss her in her absence. She just had enough of the showbiz
part of it. She's actually doing something on her own now, which we're all
really pleased to hear - playing music and writing great songs again. She just
wanted out of the business. We talk a lot: it's just - if she was a road dog and
fancied all the stuff that we're gonna do for the next two years . .
.Christine's thing is "I'd love to make an album, but I don't wanna be in a
band". There's a point where everyone makes a decision. None of us are spring chickens.
And you think, "What's the quality of life that I want?" It was time for her to
do what she wanted to do. About a year ago there was a 'maybe' thing, but it
just never happened - and we've made a fantastic album and it's a new dawn. The
four of us are very happy doing what we're doing.
What's the story regarding Sheryl
I know there were all sorts of rumours going round that she was joining. She's a
very close friend of Stevie's and we've got to know her. I think Sheryl will
probably do some touring with her band on some of the shows we do next year, but
we've been together too long as we are, and we didn't need to do that.
Christine joined you unofficially much earlier than most people realise, when
she played uncredited keyboards on "Need Your Love So Bad'.
Christine has her roots well and truly entrenched in the blues, as well as being
a great pop songwriter.
How did your peripatetic air force upbringing affect you?
I went to three different boarding schools and - not that they knew it - I had
dyslexia, which I still have to this day, a learning disability. I'd be hard
pushed to tell you the alphabet in straight order. Yes, I was shoved all over
the place, and the family never stayed anywhere more than about two and a half
Do you think that shaped you in
Well, I love meeting people and I'm very comfortable in new surroundings. I
consider that a blessing because I can't think of anything more boring than just
staying put in one place the world's so big. It never occurred to me that
I needed to curb my travelling. It's changed from all that craziness of 25 years ago, but I'm really looking forward to getting back out on
You went straight from school to
London at the beginning of the 60s, and suddenly you were playing in bands and
going out with Jenny Boyd, Patti's sister. Did you cross paths with the Beatles
much during that time?
A lot. Though I was a struggling, aspiring blues musician and they were at the
top of their trade in what was known as Swinging London - which it really was! It was brilliant. The clubs were great. It's the sort of thing
you hear about from the Roaring Twenties where you go: "Did that really happen?"
All that stuff in Paris, with poets and artists and people just being wild
London was truly an incredible place. I have to say that London is majorly
back on it's feet, after it went through an awful time when everyone was being
taxed up to the eyeballs and no one could do anything. So it's gone full circle,
but back then, it truly was fantastic.
You and Rod Stewart played together in Shotgun Express back in the mid 60s.
Do you ever see him nowadays?
I saw him about three months ago in a restaurant in Hollywood, we had a little
chat about the old days, He's doing great as always.
What do you remember about
We played together for about 15 months, something like that. We trod the boards
all the way up and down the M1 motorway. They were the very early days, playing
venues like the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, and Rod was singing with a fine
singer from Liverpool, Beryl Marsden - a Brenda Lee type singer. A tiny girl
with an incredibly huge voice. She's still singing up in Liverpool and is a
great girl. Peter Bardens, of course, passed away about ten months ago.
What happened to Danny Kirwin? He
must have about 18 when he joined Fleetwood Mac, which is awfully young to have
pop thrust on you. Did not withstand it very well?
I don't think he was very suited. Danny came in about a year after Fleetwood Mac
was formed: we were a four piece - Peter Green, John Jeremy Spencer and myself - and Danny came in was put under Peter's wing. Very
talented, an incredibly talented young man, and he did some fantastic recordings
with this band. His heroes were people like Django Relnhardt and Nilsson and
lots of strange, good stuff. No, he wasn't suited as it turned but who's to know
when you're just a bunch of lads? He did two or three solo albums after he left
and then drifted off into obscurity, really.
No one knows what happened to
No, he lives in London. I think he's had some problems here and there - some
personal problems - so I don't know how he's doing.
Let's talk about something close to your heart: drums. Who was your favourite
drummer? Who made you want the job?
I have to pick a drummer who played with BB King for many years: Sonny Freeman.
If you ever get to hear BB King Live At The Regal - which is a theatre in
New York - that's Sonny Freeman, the King of the Shuffles.
Which drummer did you most admire among your contemporaries back then?
Wow. I probably don't even know most of their names. But I loved Bo Diddley's
drummer and Buddy Holly's drummer. At the real start of it was Tony Meehan, who
I used to listen to when I was very young. And I'd listen to a lot of American
drummers. I liked John Bonham too, because he had this ability to play in
strange time signatures. Actually, I couldn't go near some of them, but he
always made it sound so incredibly easy. Most of all, if you listen to some of
those old Zeppelin tracks, he understood the whole meaning of laying a big fat off beat down, and his bass drum work was incredible.
A great drummer should do three
things: keep the beat, work with the bass player as the engine room of the band
and, as Ginger Baker once said, "Hit the things". Do you agree?
I do. I consider that the rhythm section is all about complementing what is
going on around you and in front of you. I feel very strongly about that, and so
does my partner John. We're very lucky. Can I play with other people Absolutely. But it's never the same as with John, who anticipates everything,
and vice versa. And that's really a big part of the sound of the Mac. It's also
allowed us to make some of these musical transitions and not completely upset
What was it like playing a Bill Clinton's farewell part. in 2001?
We all liked Bill Clinton In terms of being a bright politician, he was far more
informed than a lot of other people who've been in his position. We loved it. It
was a privilege of sorts to do it. Some people say that was what made the band come back together. It actual
wasn't. We did it and Lindsey played with us for the first time in many years,
but nothing happened for another load of years until Lindsey decided he'd had
enough of being out on his own and wanted to start working with me again. It
just made a lot of sense for us.
You've gone from being the skinny naked madcap on the sleeve of the Mr
Wonderful album (1968) to being patriarch of this great, if occasionally
troubled family. How much of that boy is left in you?
A lot. I'm still a dreamer. I've had my ups and downs, that's no secret to
We had heard that Jeremy Spencer
disappeared. Is this true?
No. He's in the States. He actually lives in New Mexico. I don't think (the
group he joined) is called the Children Of God now, but he's a Christian and he
has very strong beliefs. He's totally intact with great humour. He's remarried.
Altogether, I think he's got eight children. In fact, about three months ago Jeremy came down and we actually sat in the
studio and recorded a couple of songs, just for fun, you know, to see if the old
blues formula was still intact - and he's playing great.
You took a calculated risk inviting Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to
join the band in 1974. That could have gone pear shaped, but it didn't.
When was the moment that you realised that it really worked?
Well, they never auditioned for Fleetwood Mac. I listened to their album which
was called Buckingham Nicks, which was the one album they'd made before
they joined Fleetwood Mac. They were actually in the process of doing demos for
what would have been their next album, I assume. We needed a guitar player after
Bob Welch left, and I asked Lindsey. I remember hearing about two or three songs in the studio where I was just
hanging out. The engineer played one as an example of something that was
recorded in that room, It's an old story but it was literally that. My lights
went on! And about two months later, Bob left the band, so I immediately phoned
the engineer up and said "You know that stuff you played me? Who are they? Who's
that guitar player?" And that's how Stevie and Lindsey came, because they were
joined they were joined at the hip. We knew it was definitely working when were rehearsing to make the album. Stevie
was always a star. She was a star when she was working tables in restaurants, I
should think. Peter Green was the same way. Peter was a star. And I mean that not in a flashy
way. There are people in all walks of life who just have a presence about them.
But when Lindsey and Stevie sang together...
Like so many of your contemporaries, you and Peter Green were in John
Mayall's Bluesbreakers together. Is it true you got sacked? And what for?
Well John McVie actually made five or six exits and re-entries, but he was such
a damn great bass player, John Mayall always asked him back. It was the bottle.
We drank a lot! You know, we drank like fish in those days.
But isn't that what blues musicians are supposed to do?
Of course! But anyway, I was only with John Mayall for about five or six weeks
and Peter Green and John McVie were both playing in the band. I took over from
Aynsley Dunbar, who was a great drummer but who was getting a little too flashy,
I guess, for Mayall's and Peter's sensibilities. I was going "Why the hell do
you want me in the band?" I can't do the big drum solos that Aynsley does. I prefer to say I was 'let go'. Because I remember I passed John a little note
in the back of the van. John used to give us a calendar with the gig dates
written in it, and as I looked through the calendar I put "1 think I'll be gone
by now". And I handed it to John in humour. But it was only like two weeks later, and I was gone. Me and John McVie were
getting too drunk and Mayall couldn't control both of us. And hey, we weren't
doing our jobs properly.
Is it true that the story of the making of the Rumours album might be made
into a West End musical?
We didn't know anything about it at first, but now it may be about to come true.
There's a young chap who works in Guy Ritchie's office, and his partner was
talking in a restaurant, saying "Wouldn't it be great?", just pitching an idea
around, you know, and that was overheard, I think. But he has now actually
brought the proposition: the beginning of an idea of doing that. But truly, it
was one of those ideas that just happened in a restaurant and someone from the
press brigade overheard him. Or that's what he told us...
Do you ever feel that you and John could just go out and do a straight blues
project again, just to get back to where you started - or even just for fun?
I do. And we will. But not just yet. Probably about a year from now, when we
have some spare time. I've actually approached John and said "Wouldn't it be
cool just to sit and do what we used to do? Maybe do some stuff with Jeremy.
Maybe do some stuff with BB King. Just playing the blues. Make a real simple
straight ahead album". And it does appeal to me. So maybe when all the huff and
puff of touring with the new album quietens down, I'd love to do it.
Article Credits printed in
Thanks to www.fleetwoodmac-uk.com,
where you can find full details on the Fleetwood Mac Fan Convention on 28th
and Chrome Oxide at www.chromeoxide.com
|FIVE OLD MAC
||FIVE NEW MAC
MANALISHI (With The Two Prong Crown)
A 666 of a single and the last of the Mac's chart biggies, although how this
slab of voodoo ever got airplay it did in the early days of Radio 1 is
anybody's guess. A genuinely spooky single and very possibly an early
indicator of poor Peter's approaching breakdown,
A Rumours offcut. The second half of this, used as a theme for a
certain motor-sport TV show, has to be included. It's Fleetwood and McVie
showing why they're one of the best engine rooms in rock. From that first
riff ton the climax, an example to rhythm sections everywhere.
Partially eclipsed by Santana's own version, this mid-song switch from
bastardised beguine to Brit boogie is an acquired taste but once you've got
it, it never leaves you. Not least in this cut'n'shut blues is some of Peter
Green's tastiest playing ever.
They couldn't have picked every Rumours track for the Best Of compilation, but this song, with it's equestrian rhythm and maddeningly
catchy chorus, must have been the cause of some series soul-searching when
the selection board votes for it's omission.
GONNA GET THEIR HEAD KICKED IN TONIGHT
A rock'n'roll pastiche as good as anyhing the Bonzos came up with in that
area. Credited to Earl Vince and the Valiants, this 'Man Of The World"
B-side became a pre-rumble, party favourite with certain irony-starved biker
gangs of the time. Righteous.
|SAY YOU LOVE
When a small-time brummie bassist, Christine Perfect, was persuaded to
take up blues piano in 1967, who would have guessed that within 10 years she
would become - by a short head at least - the Mac's best songwriter? Here is
a great example of her talent.
|OH WELL (PART
A quieter affair than its A side, this number showed off the young Danny
Kirwan's talents on the acoustic guitar, counterpointed by pleasantly
unsqueaky recorder playing, A leftfield teen jukebox choice for the more
pensive pop picker of the period.
One of the three singles in 1987's Tango In The Night album which went
Top 10. Despite a slightly embossed-sounding production - very 80s, in fact
- this song, with it's solid composition and airy vocals, still makes for
impressive pop radio.
LOVE SO BAD
Along with Clapton's 'Bell Bottom Blues', one of the great homespun Brut
blues tracks ever. Mac fanatics will also tell you that Christine McVie
added her elegant keyboards to it, Still played by rheumy eyed old rockers
in run down provincial tap rooms everywhere.
A last-minute entry. Played with astonishing verve, this version of
1987's 'Big Love' is mostly Lindsey Buckingham solo. It demonstrates
precisely that a great song - no matter how grandiose its final cut - will
stand up live with just one instrument and one voice.
Five Mick Fleetwood-featuring rarities
Feel The Whole World Turn Round / Curtains
(7", by Shotgun Express, Columbia DB 80255, 1966) '55.00
|I Believe My Time Ain't Long
/ Rambling Pony
(7", Blue Horizon 57-3051, intially with p/s, 1967) '75.00 /
|Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
(LP, Blue Horizon 57-63200 1968, mono / stereo) '45.00 / '35.00
|Black Magic Woman / The Sun
(7", Blue Horizon 57-3138, 1968) '15.00
|The Green Manalishl (With The
Two-Prong Crown)/ World In Harmony
(7" Reprise RS 27007, some with p/s, 1970) '25.00 / '7.00
Newly released Album Reviews
The Best Of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac Columbia 510155 2 (77:58)
The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac Warners 8122 73635 2 (77:11)
A tale of two Macs, indeed A mere
eight years is all that separates the two most readily-identifiable-incarnations
of Fleetwood Mac, complied here in their respective best of formats They
were siblings nurtured by different sub cultures either side of the Atlantic -
and yet it's the earlier and more wayward of these two that can seem more
strikingly American, al least in its root influences. Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac was a product of the mid 60s British blues boom - a
huge uniting factor in the underground music scene of the time. Even so there
was conflict within the genre. Jeremy Spencer's seeming obsession with Elmore
James was constantly battling it out with Greens rather more catholic taste in the blues not to mention Green's
own creditable blues concoctions. This is not to write off Spencer, however.
He may have been a one trick pony, but he's an engaging one. as numbers like
'Shake Your Moneymaker" and My Heart Beat Like A Hammer demonstrate.
For those youngsters who think that
a blues band is five geography teachers making a racket in a pub on a Sunday
lunchtime, have a listen to Fleetwood Mac Mk 1 and see what true blues scholars
could do. Mike Vernon legendary producer and Blue Horizon supremo, has done a
more than faithful job pulling this album together. Blues band they may
have been. but Mac 1 singles tended to be stranger, prog-cum-psychedelic
affairs. All told. this is an extremely surprising album. For a start, two Danny Kirwan
penned numbers are included One of these. Dragonfly" with chinoise feel is one
of the loveliest psychedelic obscurities you've never heard, There are many
other gems on this odd. eclectic arid utterly cherishable compilation
The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac is a
horse of a different colour and yet no less impressive for it. The songwriting
is sleek, crafted and considered and as history attests effortlessly took the
world by storm With the 70s underway, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie relocated to
the US and constructed a rather more stylish vehicle around the reliable engine
that they'd built With the unassailable dual songwriting talents of Buckingham
and Nicks on one side, and the faultless pop sensibility of Christine McVie on
the other. Fleetwood and McVie were ready to roll and that's precisely
what they did. When you're only up to your second album and it's Rumours, you're doing
something right. The Very Best Of is basically Rumours plus salient tracks
and mega-selling singles falling either side of it. The biggest surprise comes
from Lindsey Buckingham, with an acoustic guitar driven version of Big Love', which is spell-binding The UK pressing also
includes a handful of tracks from Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and whats
really weird is that the older Mac stuff seems to sit quite comfortably the
Both albums, with 21 tracks apiece are good value and fair assessments of what
Macs I and II were capable of. Proof, if nothing else. that an old Mac will
never let you down.