THE SAGA CONTINUES...
Four decades of excess have taken a toll but rock's
first family are together again, Mick Fleetwood tells
Gavin Martin - and may even give Peter Green a call
When Mick Fleetwood takes his place behind the drums
at Newcastle's Telewest Arena onNovember 22 for the start of
Fleetwood Mac's UK tour, it will mark the homecoming of one of the
most determined survivors of British rock 'n' roll.
Fleetwood and his bass playing partner John McVie gave their names
36 years ago to the group fronted by guitarist extraordinaire Peter
Green. Since then Fleetwood Mac have spanned musical epochs -- the
British blues boom, psychedelia, FM rock and the post punk
experiments of Tusk -- with 100 million album sales.
But Fleetwood and McVie are the only members to have lived through
12 line-up changes and so, with McVie preferring a low profile,
Fleetwood has been the spokesman, sometime manager and driving force
throughout the band's turbulent
history. He has seen the group survive drugs, divorce, mental
illness, infidelity, a religious cult, managerial strife, more drugs
and financial ruin. "The history of this band has always been: We're
the rhythm section and if someone leaves, just get someone else in.
If something goes wrong, fix it," says Fleetwood, relaxing in a
Boston hotel on a day off from the band's US tour. 'At least, that's
the light-hearted way of looking at it -- in truth it wasn't always
It is 27 years since Fleetwood Mac's most successful album, Rumours,
documented the collapsing relationships between McVie and his
keyboard playing wife Christine, and estranged Californian couple
Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. The spoils of success fuelled
the band's appetite for drugs, drink and expensive lifestyles
and the love wars continued to rage. Fleetwood himself went through
a painful divorce and cultivated a massive cocaine and alcohol
habit. "I really was the raver of ravers -- a complete maniac. I was
the next Keith Moon waiting to happen. You'd go round to my house
and there was always a party and stuff available," he says. A few
people who had made the move sooner than I had were concerned that I
wasn't going to make it and, bless their hearts, took me to some
meetings. I did that a few times but I could count the meetings I
went to on one hand, it just wasn't for me."
In the midst of his "raving", Fleetwood embarked on a short,
ill-fated romance with Nicks. "We fell in love gradually. It was a
magical mystery between two souls that maybe shouldn't have gone
into that area but did," he reflects. "There's no doubt I react to
emotion and drama, and Stevie's life even to this day is controlled
and influenced by that. I find that attractive. She does things
because she feels them spontaneously. I'm like that as well."
His drug habit and disastrous real estate investments left Fleetwood
bankrupt in 1984. One by one, the Rumours line up deserted the band
and he and McVie were left to pick up the pieces. And then he
suffered a very public humiliation co presenting the much ridiculed
1989 Brit Awards with Sam Fox. He sighs: "The whole production broke
down and we were left floundering, hung out to dry." But Fleetwood
has come out the other side and, at 56, appears every inch the
slightly caddish rock aristocrat. It's an image enhanced by his
dress sense -- trainers, dapper waistcoat and tailored striped
shirt. "Turnbull & Asser as worn by the Duke of Edinburgh," he
It is 12 years since he touched cocaine and he drinks in moderation
now. And he is a devoted dad to his 18 month old twin daughters with
wife Lynn. Mick has been married four times including twice to Jenny
Boyd, the former model and author he first met when she was a 15
year old schoolgirl. She is the mother of his two grown up daughters
and he remains on good terms with her. In fact, Fleetwood recently
holidayed with her, Stevie Nicks and the twins in Hawaii. "I'm
naturally that way inclined in terms of having everybody get on with
each other it's how I was brought up," he says. "I don't think I've
ever strayed too far from it."
The thought of being a father in his 60s to young children doesn't
bother him. "This time round I'm more responsible. I'm not so
self-centred," he says. "When I was young and working, the attitude
was the kids have to fit in round that. Now I approach it in a more
mature way. What parent worth a damn wouldn't? Kids are a fantastic
reflection on anything from the passing of time to realising that
there's a little mite that wants your guidance. I'm certainly better
equipped to deal with it now than I was 25 years ago."
The extravagance of the post Rumours period has not completely
disappeared. In an attempt to woo Christine McVie out of domestic
retirement in Canterbury, the band offered to build her a kitchen to
take on the road. McVie refused but Fleetwood's charm undoubtedly
helped Buckingham and Nicks put aside their deep seated differences
to work on Say You Will, the first Mac album for 16 years.
Fleetwood's ability to bridge the gap could be inherited from his
father Mike, an RAF Wing Commander recalled with much tenderness in
Fleetwood's 1990 autobiography My Life And Adventures In Fleetwood
Mac. Am I the wing commander of the band?" asks Mick. "I've no idea.
But my dad whether he'd been in the Air Force or not was
always a good 'people person'. I'm happy with that background --
it's been very useful being at the centre of a band where there are
often major differences of opinion. There have certainly been times
when it wouldn't have helped if I had been a highly volatile person,
put it that way."
Born in Redruth, Cornwall, Fleetwood spent much of his early life
living abroad with his family. An undiagnosed learning disability
made him a target for boarding school bullies at Windlesham House,
Sussex. With his parents' blessing, he left in early 1963 and went
to his older sister's Notting Hill basement flat, determined to be a
drummer. "From the age of 12 onwards, that's what I dreamt of. My
sister was an art student at polytechnic and we'd go to cafes and
I'd soak up the vibe. I'd just see album covers of blues and jazz
artists and know this is what I wanted to do." And by the end of the
Sixties, Fleetwood Mac had become chart regulars thanks to
songwriter and guitarist Peter Green, who had come up with classics
such as Man Of The World and Albatross. Mick was engaged to girl
about-town Jenny Boyd, despite Donovan's attempt to woo her with the
song Jennifer Juniper. And Jenny's sister Patti was dating George
Harrison. Fleetwood remembers the late Beatles guitarist fondly.
"The sweetest guy, totally consistent, always friendly, not just
because I used to go out with Patti Boyd's sister," Mick says. 'he
was always gracious about our family affiliations."
On an early American tour, San Francisco acid entrepreneur Owsley
Stanley an associate of The Grateful Dead met Fleetwood Mac and they
sampled his potent, mind altering wares. The experience left Peter
Green badly damaged. The guitarist developed a Messianic complex,
began to give away all his money and left the band to work as a
gravedigger and hospital attendant. When accountant Clifford Adams
tried to present him with a �30,000 royalty cheque, he chased him
away with an air rifle. Soon afterwards, Green was committed to a
mental institution. "I wish I had been more aware what Peter was
going through," Mick says now. "I don't know what I would have been
able to do but if it happened now I think I'd be better equipped to
see it and help. "To us. it seemed simple -- he was writing great
songs and we were off to the races because Peter was off to the
races with us. We were all affected by the experiences we had back
then, but for Peter it was obviously more profound. "He was fed up
with band and didn't like the business. I thought the cries for help
in this music were observations, not problems which were deeply felt
With Green gone, the spotlight fell on the group's second guitarist,
Jeremy Spencer, who delighted in hanging condoms filled with milk on
his guitar. And a giant dildo called Harold, mounted on Fleetwood's
bass drum, wobbled throughout their stage performances. Fleetwood
shrugs. "We were young, wild and crazy and we had a lot of fun. It
was punk, shock-rock stuff, playing blues and being immature." On an
American tour, the increasingly religious Spencer disappeared, only
to re-emerge a few days later as a member of the Children Of God
The following year, tensions reached breaking point between
Spencer's replacement American Bob Welch and British guitarist Danny
Kirwan. When, before a show, Kirwan smashed his guitar to pieces and
banged his head against a dressing room wall until the blood flowed,
Fleetwood had no option but to sack him. Later, Kirwan too was
committed to a psychiatric ward.
Christine McVie, who joined her new
husband John in the group in 1970,
described her early years in Mac as "like
being beaten over the head with a giant
club". Fleetwood sacked Kirwan's
replacement, Bob Weston, after the
newcomer embarked on an affair with
Jenny Boyd. A legal dispute with the
band's former manager over the
ownership of their name left them
financially crippled. And only the
intervention of a US senator allowed the
group to relocate to Los Angeles.
It was there that Fleetwood's knack for
spotting hit the jackpot, with the
discovery of Buckingham and Nicks.
With the money rolling in, the band
decided to live in a style to which they had
not previously been accustomed. They
paid for the finest hotel suites to be
redecorated to suit Christine and Stevie's
colour preferences. On a European tour, a
train which once belonged to Adolf Hitler
was hired, to the delight of Nazi
memorabilia collector John McVie. And
while Lindsey Buckingham's home was
being renovated, he lived in Hollywood's
plush Four Seasons hotel
for two years.
And then there were the untold amounts
spent on cocaine. At first it was just social, no reason
other than, 'Oh, it's available'," Fleetwood
insists. "It became a problem many years
before I realised, because I was in the
thick of it. I was blessed because it got to a
point where my emotional and personal
life was waning and I knew it.
"The window of enjoyment was so small
that I had to look for it with a microscope.
It was like, 'Oh, I feel good now. Why's
that, Mick? Well I've had five brandies and
one pep pill and a whole lot of lines.' It was
a really sick way to be.
"So I went to Hawaii and went on a
proverbial binge and then just cured
myself. I was very lucky
in the world of
rehab they call it divine intervention. You
just get damn lucky. Your body and your
emotions say you have to give up."
In the years since, he has tried acting
and various business ventures, divorced
model Sara Recor and married Lynn.
The band's Don't Stop was adopted by Bill
Clinton for the 1992 US election campaign
and the group reunited for the President's inauguration ceremony. They were
inducted into the Rock 'n" Roll Hall Of
Fame, and honoured with an outstanding
contribution award at the Brits in 1998,
during The Dance reunion tour. Fleetwood admits that he now finds touring
demanding but insists: "It's what I've been
programmed to do."
This summer, the Say You Will tour was one of the biggest draws on
the American circuit even though the album's sales have not exactly
signalled a return to their glory days. ,I don't think any of us are
expecting it to sell 12 million copies - by the time we finish on
the road, I think it will have sold about two million. The business
is so different now, you can be a really successful band and not
sell millions of albums. Look at the Stones, look at Paul McCartney.
"You have to realise that you've had an incredible run and people
have bought millions and millions of your albums. Maybe they just
don't want to buy any more. But whatever way you look at it, this
band's history has been unique. I feel thrilled just to have been a
part of the journey."
journey may yet come full circle. Jeremy Spencer and Peter Green are
both performing live again. And the prospect of the original line-up
getting together has Fleetwood excited. "It is possible - we're all
here and intact and Jeremy is playing great. It's definitely
something I'd like to see happen before my rocking days are done. We
don't have to write anything - just get the four of us in a room and
play some old blues. It really would be quite a profound thing."
How Fleetwood Mac went their own way
June 1966: Eric Clapton quits John
Mayall's Bluesbreakers and 19
Peter Greenbaum (known as Peter
Green) takes his place on guitar next to
bassist John McVie.
April 1967: Mick Fleetwood joins the
Bluesbreekers but is sacked for hell raising three weeks later. But he,
McVie and Green have recorded an
instrumental titled Fleetwood Mac and
form a band of the same name. Second
guitarist Jeremy Spencer is added before
the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival.
John McVie marries Christine
Perfect. Danny Kirwan joins on guitar.
Instrumental single Albatross hits No 1.
Green suddenly leaves the group,
already suffering from the mental illness
that will dog his life. Christine McVie
joins and other band members come
and go. The band relocates to LA.
|December 1974: Fleetwood recalls a
talented guitarist he saw while recording
at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles.
Lindsey Buckingham agrees to join if his
girlfriend Stevie Nicks can too.
|July 1975: The Fleetwood Mac album
is released and tops the US charts. It
includes the classic single Rhiannon.
|1976: A gruelling tour causes break-ups
for Nicks and Buckingham, the McVies
and Fleetwood and his wife Jenny Boyd.
Sessions begin for the Rumours album. In September, the Fleetwood
Mac album reaches No1 in the US charts.
Rumours is released and goes on to sell 15 million
copies. Nicks and Fleetwood have a brief affair.
November 1979: Tusk is released.
November 1980: Tusk tour ends with the band hardly
able to look at each other.
August 1982: Mirage album released without
enthusiasm. Fleetwood begins nine years of drug abuse
and Nicks becomes addicted to cocaine.
Fleetwood files for bankruptcy.
Nicks checks into Betty Ford Clinic and kicks her habit.
1987: Fleetwood Mac album Tango In The Night is
released. Buckingham storms out. The band take on
guitarists Rick Vito and Billy Burnette.
Behind The Mask album released. Nicks and Christine
McVie leave the band. Fleetwood and McVie soldier on.
Bill Clinton adopts Don't Stop as theme tune to his
presidential campaign, Buckingham, Nicks and McVie
Rumours line-up celebrates its 20th anniversary.
With Christine McVie officially retired, Fleetwood, John
McVie, Buckingham and Nicks record Say You Will and set
off on a world tour.
This article appeared originally in the The Sunday Express
Magazine on the 19th Oct 2003