Fleetwood Mac's John Mcvie Faces Cancer As Band Cancels Shows
I would say there's no more a chance of that happening than an asteroid hitting the earth. She is done. You know when you look in somebody's face and you can just tell? She doesn't want to do it anymore. She doesn't want to fly. She doesn't want to come back to America. When she left, she left. She sold her house, her piano, her car. She went to England and she has never been back since 1998, so it's not really feasible, as much as we would all like to think that she'll just change her mind one day. I don't think it'll happen. We love her, so we had to let her go.
In 2010 I made a record, and I toured all that year. Then I decided to take this year and give this record that I'm really proud of one more year. I thought it deserved it, and now I'm done and I'm letting it go. I'm ready to go into Fleetwood Mac. In my opinion, whenever we work we should be off the road for three years. It feels special when you haven't seen us for three years. You didn't just see us a year and a half ago. That's why I make an effort to not do it every two years.
Well, we don't have a lot of time. We go into rehearsal on February 15th. We do actually have two new songs. I went into Lindsey's house two weeks ago and spent four days there. We also recorded a very old Buckingham Nicks song that we loved and couldn't figure out why it didn't go on the album. It got brushed under the carpet somehow. We recorded it, so that's a third song.
Do you think the set list is going to be very different than the last tour?
What we do is go through our entire catalog and everybody makes a list of the songs they want to do. There's about 10 songs we have to do no matter what. You have to go "Go Your Own Way" and "Landslide" and "Dreams." You can't get out of that, but when you're Fleetwood Mac you do a two-hour-and-20-minute set. It means you have eight or nine other songs you can pick from your catalog. That's what we do. We put them all up on a board, like in school. We play all of them and see what works.
Well, no. But we do a lot of songs from Rumours. If we did that, we would really be left with only a certain amount of time to do the hit songs that people want from all the other records. So that would be a very different tour. That's not to say we couldn't do it, but that's not the tour we're doing this year. It might be fun at some point though. It might even be a good idea to film that. Then we could talk about each song and all the experiencers that went along with them.
It is the 40th anniversary, because it was released in 1973. We have this new version of an old demo. So, we should put the album back out, and if we can make that happen then Buckingham-Nicks should go out on the road next year. It would be great to do it in the 40th anniversary year. This might not just be the year of Fleetwood Mac, but we might throw in the Buckingham Nicks album for a special, sparkly, extra present.
There's always a possibility. That is a situation where we would actually go onstage and do the complete Buckingham Nicks album. It would be a trip to bring it back with Waddy Watchtel and some other people from San Francisco. It would be trippy for Lindsey and I to revisit those songs.
We did record two songs when I was at Lindsey's house those four days. He and the boys recorded in the beginning of the year. I didn't go because my mom had just died and I wasn't in the frame of mind to go into the studio or write songs. They recorded some songs, which turned out great. So I chose one and Lindsey chose one and I put my vocals on them. They came out great. I'm really proud of them. They tried hard to pretend I was there recording with them.
Well, don't seriously fall for that. We're a dramatic bunch, but a lot of the anger is at least tempered now. There was a lot of anger and resentment and crazy things that went on for a long time. It's always going to show up here and there, but we're not focusing on it right now. We're going to try and never focus on it again. But that does not mean we aren't full of drama.
You might see a little of it onstage. That's who we are. We're dramatic. Lindsey and I will always be dramatic. When you were almost married for seven years, and then you've been in a band for 30 years, it's never not going to be dramatic. We are who are are and we were dramatic kids going together. That never really goes away.
There might be a little bit of rationalization to that. We had actually planned to tour last year. We hadn't done any routing yet, but there had been a commitment from everyone, and then it got put off. Stevie had done her album and I had done mine as well. Hers came out a bit later and, to be fair, someone is always causing trouble in the band. She would look at me doing these small, solo things where I nurtured myself and brought that back into the band. I don't think she had one of those experiences, whether it was an album or touring behind an album for a while. She needed to have that experience.
We're still doing what we're doing, but we're not this year's model, per se. We're in the fabric and people want to see what we're doing and we can do business. But we're not in the public eye. Can you imagine if we'd done Rumours in today's media climate? Oh my lord. But the thing about that album is that we were laying bare out personal lives through the subject matter of the music. It became detached from the music and became more about the success and the tabloid-ism. That's fine, but it's not something you want to do everyday.
That's not a bad idea. That would be pretty cool. I'll bring that up, see where it goes. It could cause problems in terms of how you make the arc of a set that works and isn't too long. You'd have to frame it somehow and it would potentially disruptive to the bigger picture of what we're trying to do. But, hey other people do it. Why can't we? What do they do? Do they come out and play the album and that's their set? Do they do other things too?
Well, let me think about that. The only problem I can see with that, and I'm just shooting the shit with you here, is that it was vinyl. Side A builds to a crescendo with "Go Your Own Way." Then it sat back down with the piano song by Christine. Side Two starts off strong and then tapers off into a . . . it doesn't have a . . . unless we mixed up the running order. I suppose we could do that, but that really isn't in the spirit of what you're talking about here. It'd be problematic, unless you followed it up with some other stuff. Ending the set with "Oh Daddy" and "Gold Dust Woman" doesn't sound right to me.
Stevie didn't think it would work for this tour.
Of course she didn't. [Laughs] Well, that may be not be a fight I want to fight then! I gotta pick my battles here.
Good question. Good question. It's kind of a mystery. You have to understand you do come to a point where people aren't . . . where it isn't a prerequisite to go out and do things people haven't heard before. In a way, they don't want to hear anything new. They are coming to hear a body of work. When you come to terms with that, it's kind of freeing.
[Laughs] What did she say about it?
Oh, the old band with Waddy Watchtel. Wow. Well, listen, I would love to do a tour with Stevie. I think that would be very appropriate. She was talking about doing it in between legs of a Fleetwood Mac tour, which is not going to happen. It's logistically impossible. It's economically suicidal because you can't do enough touring it make it worthwhile.
Here's what happened. She was on the road. I was aspiring to do a new Fleetwood Mac album, because that would have been really nice, wouldn't it?
Yeah. It's been almost a decade.
It would have been really appropriate at this point. Stevie wasn't really into doing it. She wasn't into it at all. But I went ahead and got John and Mick over from Hawaii and we cut eight new songs of mine. All of them were done in the proper key for Stevie's voice, if she were to sing the songs. I had no ideas for what she could sing.
It kind of languished there. I think she was very defensive against the idea of making an album. When she came over here with this song that she's talking about for Buckingham Nicks, she really had initially brought it in as one of her contributions for a Fleetwood Mac bit of material. Now, originally someone had said, "Let's just put out two tracks, one of yours, one of Lindsey's, and it'll be downloadable at time of ticket sales." And I said, "Well let's at least do an EP. If Stevie doesn't want to do an album, let's at least do an EP. It's got more credibility. It is something of substance."
I got her to sing on two of my songs. We had a great time, by the way; we had a really fun time hanging out. It was just so much fun, which was just really reassuring and we hadn't had that much fun together in a long time. But, in the meantime, she decided to take this track that was supposed to be for Fleetwood Mac, and put it on the Buckingham Nicks album. At that point I sort of glazed over. In my mind, she still needs to come with a few things for Fleetwood Mac. She's vacationing in wherever she is, Key West or wherever. Is that where she is?
I don't know where she was calling from.
Somewhere in Florida . . . In theory, she is going to come back with a couple of tracks to balance it out. We've got these two great things that she's singing and she likes very much. They should be something we do in the set. If we decide to put out an EP, maybe around the time we hit the road, we have a lot of time. That's in April. I'm hoping that will happen. We'll see.
How could it? Let's look at the logistics. We've got about 40 dates right now on the books for America, starting April 3rd. We're running into the middle of the summer, and they may add more dates. We're going to take a break, maybe a month, I'm going to go vacate with my family in July probably. I'm thinking probably then, obviously if things are going well we're going to go play in the U.K. There are a ton of places we've never played that we could play, but let's just say we play only the places we have played, which is Germany, Scandinavia, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand. Let's just leave it at that. I mean . . . now we're into . . . Obviously you do maybe Australia last, because the weather's going to be better down there in the fall. So how do you even contemplate doing a Buckingham Nicks tour anytime in 2013?
Well, she's all big on that and I don't have a problem with that. I mean, I don't know how many people actually care that it's the 40th anniversary. If it were up to me, and it may be to some degree . . . this is just something that was an idea off the top of Stevie's head, in the same way she brought in a song for Fleetwood Mac and turned it into a Buckingham Nicks song in a couple of days. You can't follow this stuff because it's a moving target. It complicates a set of preconceptions you already have about Fleetwood Mac, which is really the message we're on now. But, okay, if it were just you and me I would say it doesn't matter it's the 40th anniversary.
And what are you accomplishing by doing that?
Now that you've talked to the two of us, are you starting to feel like a shrink?
I've been saying to Stevie for years that we should revisit Buckingham Nicks. I know there's a market for it. I'm not saying . . . I know we're not going to go out and play arenas . . . I think something elevated happens with the two of us and there's an interest in that . . . It's a bit of an intangible. But I've been saying that for years. To me, if you're going to do it, do it properly. I just feel like a lot of what she's talking about is kind of skimming and isn't necessarily well thought out. She does things from the heart, but you have to do things that have logic, too. And make some sort of sense on any number of levels. I don't know what she's thinking even. She's going to take Waddy and all these people out? We can't do that. We have to reinvent that whole thing.
You can make it long. I have nothing else to do today . . . Is this article going to get me in trouble?
[Laughs] Oh, it's funny. You know what's really funny is that for so long we've had to keep all this stuff under wraps. Then the two of us start talking on the phone, and she's talking about it . . . everything just comes out. It's almost like the old days where we were talking to each other through songs, and now we're having conversations through you. It's very strange, isn't it?
[Laughs] That's very funny. Well, you're doing a good job then.
"Under the Skin" is a locket portrait of the pop star at midlife, trying to honor but also escape a weighty reputation. "Cast Away Dreams" and "Not Too Late" confront the conflict between domesticity and the artist's way. "Hearts will break with the choices we must make," Buckingham sings, sadly noting the rift that often arises in a family (including that other kind of family, the band) and the individualism that inspires enduring art. On this quiet, intense album, Buckingham's guitar lines form delicate knots around incantatory melodies, and the echo of heavy delay helps his quavering tenor capture the full-court press of time. Buckingham finds the cadence of one of life's most difficult passages- the journey into unequivocal adulthood. Artists have a particularly hard time with that transition; Buckingham's personality, friends say, is quintessentially artistic. That may be why his music so vividly captures the tension between imagination and real life. "His driven sensibility — it's almost childlike," Fleetwood said in a separate interview. "Lindsey protects his own innocence. You think he realizes something, and then you see he really doesn't. He's in his studio, focused, and that's that." Having children blew open Buckingham's well-guarded self-absorption. "As a parent, there is a push-pull," he said. "When I was trying to finish, and one of my kids would say, 'Dad, you wanna ... ?' I had to make a choice, and not a very good one. I was either shaming myself as a father, or shaming the idea of following through on something that's been in motion for many years."
Buckingham has been tormented by conflicting loyalties before. After the record-breaking success of Mac's 1977 album "Rumours," he felt coerced into generating hits. "Tusk," the double album that came next, was Buckingham's act of resistance. It's a benchmark of experimental rock. "Tusk was an impulse," he said. "Over time, everyone in the band got drawn in. And then, because it didn't sell 16 million albums — it sold four or five — there was a backlash. There was a meeting. The band said, 'Lindsey, we're not going to do that anymore.' That's the only reason I started making solo records." Buckingham made three fantastically odd solo albums. He also stayed in Fleetwood Mac for one more decade, then left the band, returned and repeated the cycle. It was a Fleetwood Mac song, "Big Love," that set the template for "Under the Skin." It became his spotlight number during Mac shows, a whorl of guitar picking and swooning vocals.
(By Adam Higginbotham, Blender Magazine, 2005)
Legendary (and legendarily nutty) British blues guitarist Peter Green formed the band in 1967 around drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. “None of us would be here without Peter Green,” Fleetwood says.
2. Green, the band’s first guitarist, left after taking too much LSD.
After a 1970 show in Munich, Green went to an acid party thrown by a group of rich German hippies. “I just sat around thinking and thought about everything,” he said. “I was thinking so fast; I couldn’t believe how fast I was thinking! And I ran out of thoughts. I must have been thinking solid for about an hour.” Afterward, Green announced that he wanted to join a commune, and insisted that the band donate all of its earnings to charity.
3. The star of early Fleetwood Mac shows was a dildo.
A pink, 16-inch rubber dildo named Harold. “Our roadie would bring out Harold on a big platter, as if he were the butler delivering tea,” Fleetwood says. “Harold would be attached to my bass drum by way of a suction cup at his base and would spend the evening quivering and vibrating in an erect position at the ladies in our audience.”
4. Mick Fleetwood never plays without his balls.
Two wooden balls hanging from his belt. “My drum solo consisted of me stepping out in front of the kit and dancing while clacking my balls together. I still have these wooden balls, and I never play without them. If I didn’t have them, I’d be very loath to play at all.”
5. John McVie is fascinated by penguins.
When he lived near the London zoo, he spent hours watching the flightless birds. On the Mac’s 1972 album, Future Games, there’s a photograph of a penguin where McVie should be. The following year, the band named an album Penguin. Fleetwood Mac’s publishing company was named after a species of penguin, as was McVie’s yacht. Finally, McVie went out one night, got extremely drunk and had a penguin tattooed on one of his forearms.
6. They lost their second guitarist to a freakish Christian sect.
The day before a gig in Los Angeles in 1971, Jeremy Spencer said he was going out to a bookstore and never returned. Road managers combed the streets for him; the FBI, Interpol and a renowned psychic were involved in a lengthy search. Eventually, the band’s manager found Spencer in a warehouse with the Children of God. He had shaved his head, renounced his possessions and taken the name Jonathan.
7. Their third lead guitarist left because nobody would talk to him.
In 1972, the band was touring America in a pair of station wagons, but everyone had stopped speaking to Danny Kirwan. Five minutes before one show, he went into the bathroom and repeatedly smashed his head against the wall, spattering blood everywhere. He then destroyed his guitar and refused to go onstage. Instead, he watched from the audience as the band struggled to play without him. He gave Mick Fleetwood a critique of the performance afterward. Then Fleetwood fired him.
8. And the fourth guitarist was fired for having an affair with Mick Fleetwood’s wife. On tour.
“I couldn’t take it,” Fleetwood says, “mentally.”
9. Next up: the Phony Fleetwood Mac.
After yet another tour disaster, their manager, Clifford Davis, announced he was fed up: “I fucking own Fleetwood Mac,” he explained, and with the real band scattered around the world, he promptly assembled his own version to tour the U.S.: the New Fleetwood Mac. Nobody was fooled. “At a few gigs,” recalls road manager John Courage, “people threw shit at the musicians.”
10. Peter Green told the manager to stop sending him royalty checks - or he’d shoot him.
The manager reported the threat. British police arrested Green, who was committed. “I don’t think it was a real gun,” Fleetwood says. “But he made quite a bold statement.”
11. Before they joined the band, L.A. folkies Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks released an album of their own.
They were both topless on the cover. Nicks bought a new blouse for the shoot, but Buckingham didn’t like it, so he made her pose with nothing on. “I spent my last $111 on that blouse,” Nicks says. “I didn’t eat for days. I was crying when we took that picture.”
12. Success did not make them happy.
The 1975 album Fleetwood Mac made them millionaires. But by the time they began to record Rumours, the couples — John and Christine McVie, Nicks and Buckingham — had split up. Fleetwood, too, was getting divorced. The band spent 18 hours a day in the studio but didn’t speak. “Making Rumours was an exercise in denial,” Buckingham says. “Trying to get the music done, minimizing the distress of having to produce songs for Stevie when I didn’t even want to see her.”
13. Drugs made recording Rumours a rather painstaking process.
For instance: The band required four days, nine pianos and three tuners to find Christine McVie a keyboard that “sounded right.” They enlisted the help of a blind man and someone known only as the “Looner Tuner.” “We felt that the piano was not holding tune,” Fleetwood says. “Whether the piano was wrong, or whether we had lost our marbles — ” Buckingham cuts in: “That’s what it was.”
14. They can’t remember how or why they started taking cocaine.
“Everybody across the board was indulging in cocaine at that time,” Buckingham says. Notes Fleetwood: “I wandered into it — and then I turned around and I was in the middle of a train wreck. It was in my life for a long, long, long time. About 25 years.”
15. Fleetwood wanted to give his coke dealer a credit on the album.
“Unfortunately,” he says, “he got snuffed — executed! — before the thing came out.”
16. “The Chain” is the only song ever written by all five members of the band.
“John does not write,” Buckingham says of McVie. “His contribution to that was so fundamental: The riff that starts the whole tag — boom da-dad-doo-da-da-doo-doo-doo — was so thematic and dramatic.”
17. Without all the relationship drama, Rumours would not have been nearly so successful.
Buckingham: “A great deal of the appeal was that people could look at the whole soap-opera aspect. It’s like being a voyeur and looking into people’s bedrooms.”
18. And it made Fleetwood Mac the “soap-opera band.”
“We were pigeonholed into a clichéd way of being looked at,” Buckingham recalls. “Two couples: two chicks, two guys, breaking up, writing songs to one another.”
19. But it also made them very powerful.
Mick Fleetwood was even able to broker a record deal for Peter Green. The deal was set until Green sat down with record-company executives. “And then, in the office,” Fleetwood says, “he suddenly said, ‘I can’t do this. It’s the work of the devil.’ ”
20. In 1977, the whole penguin thing got really out of hand.
The band designed a giant dirigible version of the flightless bird, 70 feet tall, intended to rise up from the back of the stage at the climax of stadium shows and then float out over the audience. “It would never fully inflate — it must have had leaks or something,” Buckingham says. “This thing was limping and floundering at the back of the stage. It never flew.” Adds Fleetwood: “It was a disaster.”
21. Not all of the band embraced Buckingham’s “new direction” on the 1979 album Tusk.
He discovered punk and New Wave. He recorded vocal parts on his knees in a bathroom. The rest of Fleetwood Mac, however, did not become fans of Talking Heads or the Clash. “You could say that,” Buckingham says. “Nobody did. Nor are they now. But what are you gonna do?”
22. They built an entirely new studio to make Tusk.
Everything was built to the band’s specs: echo chambers developed to Buckingham’s requirements (including a special tiled room because of his fondness for recording in bathrooms) and English lager on tap in the lounge. When the meter stopped running, their bill for studio time was $1.4 million. “By the time we got out of that studio,” Fleetwood recalls, “we could have bought it.”
23. But that still wasn’t enough for them.
Fleetwood wanted the song “Tusk” to feature a brass band as accompaniment. He hired the 112-piece Trojan Marching Band from the University of Southern California and recorded them outdoors at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. He still plays with the USC band from time to time. “Even Lindsey’s done it with me,” he says. “I’ve done it quite a few times. They still play ‘Tusk.’ And now they play ‘Don’t Stop’ as well.”
24. They practically invented prerelease album bootlegging.
In 1979, before the release of Tusk, Fleetwood Mac staged a landmark event: The entire double album was broadcast on the radio network Westwood One. “They played it from top to bottom,” Fleetwood says, “without interruption.” From all across California came the click of tape recorders being switched on. Who thought up the idea? “That would be our record company. It wasn’t a very good idea at all, actually,” Fleetwood notes. “They,” Buckingham points out, “were doing cocaine, too.”
25. On a European leg of the Tusk tour, they spent three weeks traveling in Adolf Hitler’s old train.
“It was beautiful,” Fleetwood says. “Like those train trips you get around Europe now, all velvet and walnut.” Says Buckingham: “We didn’t ask for Hitler’s train.”
26. The Tusk tour proved to be very, very expensive.
There were limousines for everyone — even the lighting guys. Hotel rooms were redecorated in advance to make the color schemes suitable for Nicks and Christine McVie. Nicks had to have a piano in every suite she stayed in. Fleetwood: “We were all crazy. I remember a piano winched up- ” Buckingham: “Nine floors up.”
27. Buckingham finally succumbed to the curse of Fleetwood Mac guitarists.
At one show in New Zealand, as Nicks sang “Rhiannon,” he pulled his jacket over his head and began performing a grotesque imitation of her. Christine McVie slapped him. “I might have chucked a glass of wine over him, too,” she says. “I didn’t think that was the way to treat a paying audience.”
28. Eventually, Fleetwood Mac had to introduce drug rationing.
Their road manager handed out one Heineken bottle cap full of cocaine to each member of the band before they went onstage. “Even in the lunatic days,” Fleetwood says, “there was a sense of responsibility. We would rein ourselves in. I would not want to walk onstage completely coked out to the point where it was … not acceptable.”
29. In 1984, Mick Fleetwood went bankrupt.
“People were saying that I’d put $8 million up my nose, but if I’d done all the things they said, I’d have been dead long ago.”
30. Buckingham has never attended the “Night of a Thousand Stevies.”
Nor will he be turning up for the annual New York gathering of drag queens and Nicks look-alikes anytime soon. “She gets a lot of people at her shows who dress like her. I don’t know if I could handle that, though.”
31. Even the President had a hard time getting Buckingham back into Fleetwood Mac.
When asked to rejoin the band to perform “Don’t Stop” for Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, Buckingham couldn’t make up his mind. “I called Lindsey,” Nicks says, “and said, ‘If you cheat me out of this moment, I’ll never speak to you again.’ So he did it.”
32. But Clinton didn’t join them on sax.
“No. I’m a little surprised,” Fleetwood says. Adds Buckingham, “He probably wanted to.”
33. Making their first new studio CD in 16 years, Say You Will, was not at all like Rumours or Tusk.
“Mick and I both have little children now, so we can’t live, nor would we want to live, the kind of lives we did,” Buckingham says. “It’s more meticulous. And the hours are better.”