It’s been a turbulent ride, but the band is back on the road — and even getting along
It’s been 39 years since Lindsey Buckingham and his then-girlfriend, Stevie Nicks, joined Mick Fleetwood and John and Christine McVie in Fleetwood Mac.
Faster than you can say “Landslide,” the 8-year-old English blues-rock band and its two new American members shifted gears, changed musical styles and soared to international pop stardom. The 1975 album Fleetwood Mac was the group’s first release to top the U.S. charts, while its 1977 masterpiece Rumours has now sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and yielded such enduring hits as “Don’t Stop” and “Go Your Own Way.”
Did Buckingham ever imagine then that the band would still be active in 2013 and embark on a world tour, which includes a Friday stop here at San Diego State University’s Viejas Arena?
“Well, time kind of slips by and it doesn’t seem that long,” said the veteran guitarist and singer-songwriter, speaking from a recent tour stop in Boston. “You know, when you’re in your 20s and contemplating that (long an) amount of time, you think: ‘Gee, will I even still be alive by then?’ So, it’s all kind of relative to your perspective. And it certainly is a surprise, although there are bands that have managed to stick around that long.
“The one thing that probably would have disabused me from thinking then that we’d still be around now is that the chemistry was always so volatile. Not just because there were two couples in Fleetwood Mac who had broken up (before Rumours was completed), and that whole subtext, but from the point of view that we are the kind of people who don’t all belong in the same band together.”
Those two couples were, of course, Buckingham and Nicks, who split up while making Rumours, and the McVies, who separated before recording sessions for Rumours began and soon divorced. For any other band, such upheaval would spell the end. For Fleetwood Mac, it was the launchpad to fame, fortune and more upheaval, including drugs, Fleetwood’s bankruptcy, his on-tour affair with Nicks and enough other ups and downs to fuel a rock ’n’ roll soap opera.
“The conception is the volatility would eventually become a divisive force,” Buckingham said. “But I guess it went the other way; that same dynamic has a musical synergy, and we’re still working through things on a personal level.”
Of course, Fleetwood Mac has hardly remained constant since its Rumours heyday.
Buckingham, always the most musically adventurous of the band, quit in 1987. He was replaced by Billy Burnette and Rick Vito. Nicks and Christine McVie left the group in 1990, followed by Vito a year later, at which point Fleetwood Mac ground to a halt.
In 1993, Buckingham, Nicks, Fleetwood and the McVies reunited to perform at newly elected President Bill Clinton’s inaugural ball (“Don’t Stop” was his campaign theme song). Burnette quit the same year, leaving Fleetwood and the McVies to soldier on. They were soon joined by singer Bekka Bramlett and, briefly, ex-Traffic singer-guitarist Dave Mason. Burnette returned in 1994 and Christine McVie left.
In 1998, a year after the band’s Rumours lineup reunited — perhaps as much for financial reasons as artistic ones — Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Christine McVie quit the band, for good, the same year.
“The Fleetwood Mac world certainly can be dysfunctional at times,” drummer Fleetwood said in a 2003 U-T San Diego interview.
Ironically, that very dysfunction seems to have sparked some of the band’s best work.
“Yeah, it’s very difficult to separate one from the other,” Buckingham agreed.
So, how are he and Nicks getting along now?
“In 2003 and 2004, there was a tangible polarity between Stevie and me,” he replied. “By our 2009 tour, that polarity had neutralized. … Now, on this tour, it seems to have swung the other way, to where Stevie and I are sort of playing out these (star-crossed lovers) roles, although it isn’t the reality of our lives! But it was, once, and slowly evolved into these roles. I mean, my God, I have three children and a beautiful wife, and that’s my reality. But the dynamic between Stevie and myself onstage this time is more of a love fest. And, for whatever reason, we are able to acknowledge that offstage and manifest it a little on stage. It seems to be playing out like we’re taking stock of that ‘What’s it all about, Alfie?’ moment. And that’s really very touching, and quite intriguing, to do with someone I’ve known since high school.”
George Varga / U-T San Diego / Thursday, July 4, 2013