August 11, 1980
By Andrew Slater
Standing in a backstage room at the Omni, Stevie Nicks stared longingly at a bowl of Cheetos cheese balls. "I love these things," she said as a small group of anxious post-concert party guests waited their turn to talk with Fleetwood Mac's lead singer. "These are great to eat when you're not on a diet."
"However," she added with a sardonic whine, "I am on one, so keep me away from them."
That was not a difficult task for Ted Cohen, the Warner Bros. Press liaison who is travelling with the group and who acted as ringmaster for Fleetwood Mac's Friday night gathering. At this reception, following the band's first Atlanta performance in almost two years, Miss Nicks was the centre of attention, after strolling into the room fashionably later than the other band members.
Manager/drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, and vocalist/keyboardist Christine McVie had been milling about the room, talking with members of local radio stations and Atlanta representatives from Warner Bros. Records. The trio has served as the muscular rhythm section and spinal chord for three incarnations of Fleetwood Mac: the first during the late '60s, when the group was a British blues band with guitarist Peter Green; the second as early '70s melody makers with California guitarist Bob Welch; and now with their most successful aggregation, featuring third-generation Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and Miss Nicks.
But the primary attraction Friday was not the rhythm section trio, who have survived both the '60s and the '70s together. It was the hauntingly attractive Miss Nicks. And the picture seekers, local radio personalities, and autograph hounds all seemed to want her attention more than that of any other band member.
Which is good news if you want to talk with Mick Fleetwood because there isn't much opposition, that is, unless you are a reporter. If you are, and you happen to be hanging around backstage with Fleetwood Mac, the first thing you have to remember is they don't give interviews, or at least that's what their Los Angeles-based publicist says.
This causes Cohen, acting under orders, to react somewhat cautiously toward reporters carrying tape recorders. "Oh, you mean that tape recorder is on?" he asked as he heard Fleetwood discussing the group's recent two-record set 'Tusk'.'
Looking a bit perturbed . . . [illegible phrase] . . . getting the "It's all right" look from Commander Mick. The conversation is on a touchy subject, the lukewarm sales reception 'Tusk' has received in comparison to 'Rumours,' the group's 1977 megabucks album that sold more than 10 million copies.
"I would imagine if we'd done a single album that was similar to 'Rumours,' we would have fared better for obvious reasons," said the lanky 6-foot-6 Fleetwood. "Radio stations are concerned with people listening, you know for their ratings and all that stuff. We put on tracks (songs) that didn't sound like the Fleetwood Mac they were accustomed to."
As a result, stations kept 'Tusk' in regular rotation for only a short time. There weren't enough formula Mac singles on the album to sustain radio airplay throughout the year. By the time the band made it to Atlanta, 11 months after 'Tusk' was released, local stations had long since dropped the album from their current rotation lists.
"For us, 'Tusk' was something that we wanted to do," Fleetwood added. 'And there are no regrets. I think it was a lot for people to swallow. It wasn't a failure. But it wasn't a commercial success, at least not in what most people measure commercial success. 'Layla' is still selling, years after it came out, so who knows how it will do or be looked upon in a few years?"
Their performance Friday night in the Omni featured quite a few numbers from 'Tusk,' and they were well-received, indicating that the album may already be resonating nicely with their demographically diversified audience. On 'Beautiful Thing' [Note: 'Beautiful Child' was not performed, the writer might have meant 'Angel'] and 'Sara,' Miss Nicks, dressed in layers of black and white fringed shawls with a red gown and knee-high black boots, captured the attention of the crowd with her witch-like movements and mid-range vocals.
The title track also called 'Tusk,' an African-flavored tribal stomp, sounded even more fervent and inventive than as a studio track, in which the UCLA [Note: USC, as everyone knows] marching band was used. And Buckingham displayed a recently acquired set of tasty lead breaks on 'What Makes You Think You're the One' and other 'Tusk' contributions.
'If you are waiting for Lindsey to show up,' Miss Nicks said to radio contest winners who asked if he would show up for the party, "then you'll probably wait a long time. Believe me, I know all about waiting for Lindsey.'
She and Lindsey used to live together, as did John and Christine McVie. But both couples have since split up and Christine has reportedly been hanging out with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. Somehow they still manage to work together as a musically harmonious group both on the road and in the studio.
Miss Nicks was the last member of the band to remain at the reception. Everyone else seemed to tire quickly at this post-concert gathering, something that has become a ritual for the last nine months of the 'Tusk' tour. As Christine and John McVie meandered out the back door, Stevie Nicks was left talking to the few radio people still hanging around.
"It meant a lot to us to come back and play Atlanta," she said after
most of the autograph seekers had already gone. "I mean, I remember
on my birthday a few years back when 'Dreams' (her hit single from
'Rumours') went No. 1 in Atlanta. That meant something to me,' she
told a local disc jockey.
The DJ said, "I wanted to tell you that I think 'Sara' is one of the most beautiful songs. I've heard a lot of different things about it. What's the song about?"
"Well, it's a very personal song, but it's just about a friend of mine and all the people in my life," she said, avoiding specifics.
"OK, Stevie, we're ready to leave," said the roadie walking in the front door of the Omni hospitality suite.
Miss Nicks looked at him with those big brown eyes and said sternly, "No, we're not. When I'm ready to leave is when we're ready to leave." The roadie took the command and waited until Miss Nicks finished her discussion with the radio announcer and the station contest winners.
As attractive as she is cordial, Miss Nicks talked to the two winners as if she had been their long-lost cousin.
Article supplied by David Oberman, with thanks