By Gary Graff / The Oakland Press
Monday, June 10, 2013
After 45 years, 16 members, more than 100 million albums sold and tabloid-filling interband dynamics, Fleetwood Mac sits in a place of relative — and uncharacteristic — calm and confidence these days.
“We never break up,” says singer Stevie Nicks, “We just take a break and do our own things, and when it’s time (to work as Fleetwood Mac) everybody’s ready.
“That makes it really special and something everybody looks forward to. It’s like a big, fantastic Halloween party when you haven’t been to a Halloween party in three years.”
The group is, in fact, all dressed up for its first tour in three years, accompanied by four new songs released digitally as “Extended Play this spring. And singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham — who joined Fleetwood Mac with then-girlfriend Nicks in 1975, ushering in a prolonged era of multiplatinum success with hit albums such as “Fleetwood Mac,” “Rumours” and “Tusk” — gushes that the group “is playing better or as well as we’ve ever played.”
“It’s funny how in the whole arc of Fleetwood Mac the perception seems to change,” notes Buckingham, 63, whose subsequent breakup with Nicks is partly chronicled on the “Rumours” album. “There’s something cyclical or generational that goes on. I’m not sure what it is but this time there seems to be real enhanced appreciation for the body of work we have, not just the hits. And there seem to be a lot of young people at the shows — not that there haven’t been before, but there seem to be more this time.
“It’s kind of a lovefest between Stevie and me out there, too, which is very sweet, so I’m having a great time out there, and we’re just killing it as far as I’m concerned.”
Certainly breathing some enthusiasm into Mac world this year is the presence of new music — the group’s first since 2002’s “Say You Will” album. “Extended Play” started in Fleetwood Mac’s latest hiatus, during which both Buckingham and Nicks released and promoted solo albums. Nicks made a documentary about hers, titled “In Your Dreams.” She was also part of Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players, promoting his film “Sound City: Real to Reel” — all of which kept her busy enough to shoot down initial plans for a Fleetwood Mac tour in 2012.
“A band like Fleetwood Mac needs to be out of the spotlight for three years, at least,” Nicks explains. “That way when we come back, it’s an event. I think that’s very important. You didn’t just see us a year and a half ago, so when there’s a lot of famous bands out and a lot of important people out, you’re going to make a choice of which ticket to buy, and if you’ve not seen one of the bands in three years, that’s gonna be the top of the list.”
Buckingham, meanwhile, decided to fill that time by bringing drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie — who formed Fleetwood Mac in England during 1968 as a blues-rock band — from Hawaii, where they live, to his home studio in Los Angeles.
“I had a lot of (ideas) sitting around that I thought would be great to do,” Buckingham recalls. “So John and Mick came over and, without any particular idea of what we were going to do with it, we just cut tracks.”
Working with co-producer Mitchell Froom, the trio laid down eight songs, three of which — “Sad Angel,” “It Takes Time” and “Miss Fantasy” — were finished. Then, just before the group started tour rehearsals in February, Buckingham says, “the idea of having these new songs came to light again. I brought the idea up to Stevie, and she wanted to bring in this one song that she had.”
That turned out to be “Without You,” which Nicks describes as “an old Buckingham Nicks song that, really, we can’t figure out why it didn’t go on the (‘Buckingham Nicks’) record because we have the most amazing demo of it.
“I was considering it for ‘In Your Dreams,’ but I thought, ‘This needs to wait for whenever the next Buckingham Nicks record comes out’ or something like that.’”
So in short order, Buckingham continues, “we went from just dropping a couple tracks on iTunes to suddenly having three and then four songs, so we decided to make it an EP, and that’s the way it went.”
“Nobody really cares about albums anymore, anyway,” adds Nicks, 65 — even though she herself doesn’t have a computer or spend time with iTunes. “It’s just nice to have a little bit of product so that people can at least hear how we sound today. And it’s exciting. These songs sound like we’re 30. It’s really wild to me. We’ve never stopped, you know, and so everything we do sounds extremely young to me.”
And the fact that at least five more songs remain from the initial Buckingham-Fleetwood-McVie sessions mean that more Fleetwood Mac music may surface soon.
“It’s safe to say there is more than these four songs that you’re going to hear from Fleetwood Mac — it’s just a question of how and when, y’know?” Buckingham predicts. “I have no preconceptions one way or the other in terms of what Fleetwood Mac will do or even what Fleetwood Mac SHOULD do. You just do what you can do and what makes sense logically — and politically.
“The whole thing is just kind of wide open now, and it really is tantalizing to be able to put together just a few things, three or four songs on an EP. There is something quite effective about that, for sure.