A graduate of Birmingham’s blues clubs, her songwriting and harmonic joy helped make Fleetwood Mac one of the biggest acts in the world. Then, she withdrew. “I just shut myself off,” admits a fully returned Christine McVie.
Interview by ANDREW MALE
Portrait by TOM SHEEHAN
June 2017, MOJO Magazine
I’M SORRY,” SHOUTS CHRISTINE McVIE FROM the kitchen, as she rummages for mugs under the I sink, “it’s a rented flat, and everything’s still in storage.” They’re words that conjure up a cheerless one-bedroom studio with wipe-clean beige walls and collapsed sofa bed, but for Christine McVie, 73-year-old singer-songwriter and on-off veteran of Fleetwood Mac, one of the biggest-selling bands of all time, the flat is a penthouse in Belgravia, decorated with antique Turkish carpets, giant African drums and, hanging in the drawing room, Edward Reginald Frampton’s 1898 Pre-Raphaelite masterpiece, – Saint Cecilia With Angels. “It looks like she’s playing a Hammond B3, doesn’t it?” smiles McVie, pointing at the spinet in the painting, a nod to her own early years, when as art student Christine Perfect she played keyboards in late-’60s Brummie blues outfits Sounds Of Blue and Chicken Shack.
Today, McVie’s look is a designer variant on Brumbeat beatnik; grown-out blonde bob, blue jeans, white T-shirt and black leather jacket, and her Smethwick drawl is still audible beneath a warm, measured voice with the same low blue tones that have coloured such soulful Mac belters down the years as Say You Love Me, Don’t Stop and Little Lies.
Indeed, Mac history is all around us, McVie’s walls bedecked with early photos of herself with band founder and drummer Mick Fleetwood, and bassist and one-time husband John McVie. There’s tour posters from the early-’70s Bob Welch years, and a plethora of platinum record updates on the 30-million-plus sales of the band’s 1977 LP Rumours. Recorded with LA conscripts Lindsey Bucking-ham and Stevie Nicks, the album set in motion 20 years of infra-band dance, dalliance and excess, and finally ended for McVie when she walked away from the group in 1998, exhausted and disillusioned, with a dream of living quietly in the Kent countryside.
Today she positively beams when discussing the band, especially her surprise return to the fold at the 02 Arena in September 2013 that led to the On With The Show world tour (“There was nothing bad about that tour. Everything was a joy!”) and the resultant reunion sessions with Buckingham, Fleetwood and McVie that have resulted in a buoyant new “duets” album, Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie, recorded in Studio D at Village Recorders in Los Angeles, the same custom-designed annex the Mac had built, at ludicrous expense, for the recording of Tusk, some 39 years ago. “Lindsey gets me,” says McVie, happily, “and I love working with him. As with everything in Fleetwood Mac, it’s chemistry. I feel like I’ve come home. The prodigal daughter returns.”
So, how did Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie come about?
I’d rejoined the band, after being retired for 16 years, and I had a phone call from Lindsey saying, “If you’re going to do that Chris you gotta commit.” He’s very hardline. I said, “I’m committing!” And I did. I worked out, I started writing songs, I sent Lindsey some demos, and he did his magic on them. It never occurred to us anything would happen in terms of an album. Then we thought it was a good way of getting me back into the swing of things for the upcoming Fleetwood Mac tour. We got some studio time, Lindsey brought in some songs he’d recorded with John and Mick a few years back, and before we knew it we had, like, six or seven songs. We shelved them, because we had to rehearse to go on the road, then we just pulled them back out a few months ago and decided to make it a proper duets album.