Jan 17th, 2017
Fleetwood Mac are celebrated as one of the great dysfunctional soap operas of rock and roll, a dynastic saga set to music. They are almost as famous for the bed-hopping, powder sniffing, emotional traumas they have inflicted upon one another over the years as for their era-defining monster hits.
So news that two of its most cherished members are making an album together is a cause for intrigue, a sense that there may still be a twist or two ahead in the long running and increasingly convoluted narrative.
It was revealed this week that guitarist, singer and songwriter Lindsey Buckingham has been working on an album of duets with keyboard player, singer and songwriter Christine McVie. It is tentatively scheduled to be released in May, under the name Buckingham McVie. That in itself represents an inescapable reference to Buckingham Nicks, the pre-Fleetwood duo made up of Lindsey and former lover Stevie Nicks.
To add spice to the rumour mill, the rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist (and Christine’s ex-husband) John McVie appear on the album. So the only one of the famous five missing is the elusive Nicks.
There have been 16 members over Fleetwood Mac’s 50 year career, in a constant shuffling of roles that would leave the scriptwriters for Dallas breathless. Most of the bit part players have been forgotten by now but the five leads who united in the mid-70s to create some of the most glorious pop rock ever heard continue to exert fascination.
Legendary albums such as Rumours and Tusk were created in a whirl of narcotic excess, sexual shenanigans and romantic betrayal that lent an undoubted frisson and emotional subtext to songs of love, longing, loss and reconciliation, in which tough emotions were glossed with glorious melodies and sparkling harmonies.
When the classic line up reunited with Christine McVie in 2015, it was intriguing to note that there were three former couples sharing a stage, taking into account that Mick Fleetwood romanced Nicks behind Buckingham’s back during the making of Tusk. Fleetwood has often described the band’s complicated dynamic as a form of ongoing “group therapy”.
The Buckingham McVie album is probably bad news for Fleetwood Mac fans, however. It is 30 years since Tango In The Night, the last Mac album made by the classic line up (although Say You Will in 2003 did feature Christine’s backing vocals on two tracks). Rumours of recording sessions have been floating for the past few years, gaining heat and traction when Christine McVie rejoined.
But it has been known that Nicks, in particular, has been sceptical about whether she was willing to contribute. The appearance of an album featuring all of her band mates suggests they have tired of waiting for her. This is, in all likelihood, Mac without Nicks. And we’ve heard that before, on the dreary 1995 album Time, which I suspect most fans would prefer to forget even existed.
In fact, Fleetwood Mac have released three albums since their 1970s and 1980s hey-day, none of which even came close to recapturing former glories. Indeed, it is hard to think of many (if any) reunited bands who have really added to their canon with work that matches their best, and impacts upon their audience as meaningfully. All such albums are chasing a mirage, a dream of rekindling magical forces dissipated by age and time.
Yet there is something in the soap opera of Fleetwood Mac that almost demands one last musical act of grace. In this era of rock and roll losses, what a treat it would be if rock’s most dysfunctional family could patch it up, one more time with feeling.
The appearance of a Buckingham McVie album, however, may be an indication that the story is not set for a grand finale but a slow fade out.
But we can dream, can’t we? “Now here you go again, you say you want your freedom …”