Go Your Own Way
Fleetwood Mac should be preparing for their farewell tour but, true to form, their epic saga has taken on another complicated turn. Introducing, then, the dynamic duo of Buckingham McVie – “a nice splinter off the main artery of Fleetwood Mac.” In this exclusive interview, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie reveal all to Stephen Deusner about their unexpected side project, and about how it fits into the storied past, present and future of Fleetwood Mac. “It’s that umbilical cord that can’t be broken,” says Christine. “It just pulls you back.”
“THERE WAS SOMETHING COSMIC about it.” says Lindsey Buckingham. He’s sitting at the head of a long table in the brightly lit conference room of an anonymous office building in the Westwood neighbourhood of L.A, talking about Buckingham McVie, the new album he wrote and recorded with his Fleetwood Mac bandmate Christine McVie. Even as they are preparing for a Fleetwood Mac farewell tour in 2018, these two members have emerged as intimate collaborators proving there’s still a lot of life left in the band. “She and I kept saying to each other, ‘Why did it take us so long to think that it would be cool to do a duets album?’ I guess it was logistics – just getting to the point where the stars all aligned.” It’s a record with a lot of history behind it: more than 40 years of hook-ups and break-ups, marriages and divorces, drug abuse and recovery, departures and returns, hits and misses. It’s a story that begins with pub gigs in the late 1960s and a fateful Tex-Mex dinner meeting in the early 1975 and ends with a final arena tour in the late 2010s, spanning nearly every continent (even Antarctica, if you count the band’s penguin mascot) and almost every style of rock, including Buckingham’s early acid-rock and McVie’s beloved blues. And yet, these two musicians, both so embroiled in their own dramas, never really had any drama between them.
“The idea of us working together wasn’t about what kind of album we were making, at least not initially. It was just about getting together and finding some common ground. The fact that she had stuff she wanted to work on was really intriguing, and as soon as we got in the studio – maybe a week in – we looked at each other and were like, Holy shit, this feels like… something… I don’t want to say a ‘duets album’, but it felt like something substantial. It had never occurred to us to pursue anything like that.” As he speaks, Buckingham glances out the window, which offers a perverse panorama of L.A swallowed up by low clouds. “It’s been raining for a while,” he says, “but we need it.” That might be an understatement. The city with which he and Fleetwood Mac have long been associated is under siege: it’s been pouring for hours, with a strong wind coming in off the ocean. Meteorologists call it a bombogenesis, or a weather bomb. Streets are flooding all over town. Traffic lights are going out. Fallen trees are blocking roads. There are reports of sinkholes opening up and swallowing cars whole. The scene is apocalyptic – if California is ever going to sink into the Pacific, today might be the day.
“I’ve grown up since I last worked with her”
Buckingham, by contrast, looks the model of a gracefully ageing Golden State rock star, tanned and animated, his grey-green eyes still lively and his salt-and-pepper hair still standing on end. He’s sporting a black leather jacket over a plunging black V-neck and blue jeans: something of a uniform for the singer-songwriter-guitarist, producer. His hands fidget at the table, as though he’d much rather be playing guitar than talking to a journalist. Who wouldn’t?
Buckingham is Fleetwood Mac’s resident pop genius, a sharp songwriter and a remarkable guitar player, but also a wildly imaginative producer responsible for the group’s shimmery, sharp around the edges sound. McVie is a bit harder to pin down, however, and she might just be the band’s unheralded star: a singer with a distinctively dusky voice and a lyricist with an ear for songs that are simple and complex at the same time. Often overshadowed by the other woman in the band Stevie Nicks, who can upstage almost anyone, McVie is responsible for some of their biggest hits both before and after the arrival of Buckingham and Nicks in 1974, including “You Make Loving Fun”, “Say You Love Me” and “Over My Head”. For further proof of her indispensability, just scan the credits of 1988’s best-selling Greatest Hits: half of the compilation’s 16 tracks were either written or co-written by McVie. Not had for a band with three dynamic songwriters. “I can’t say Lindsey and I go out to dinner often,” she says, “because obviously I live five thousand miles away. But we are good friends and we have a serendipitous relationship musically. It’s chemistry, I suppose.”
The atypically rainy weather is fitting, somehow. It’s an unmissable metaphor for the kind of music Buckingham and McVie make together, both as members of Fleetwood Mac and as part of this new splinter-group duo. Their songs are taut and melodic, often bright and bouncy and catchy, but with a rainy-day melancholy that sounds even more pronounced now they have reached their sixties and seventies, respectively. Age gives them a different perspective, an appreciation for the cosmic. “I’ve grown up a lot since the last time I really worked with her,” says Buckingham. “I realised: ‘Oh, here I am, a completely different person. I’m a father of three children. I’ve been married almost 20 years. I’ve had my journey, and Christine has had her own journey.”‘ Those journeys are ongoing, even if Fleetwood Mac is winding down. “The 2018 tour is supposed to be a farewell tour,” says McVie, “but you take farewell tours one at a time. Somehow we always come together, this unit. We can feel it ourselves.”
One thing is for sure – this is not a Fleetwood Mac album. Sure, it has both Buckingham and McVie singing and writing. It even has bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood backing them up, not just an incredibly versatile rhythm section but the namesakes of the band. Still, Buckingham McVie is something different – not unprecedented, not unusual, not even that i much of a departure musically, but still its I own entity in the band’s sprawling catalogue. For one thing, Stevie Nicks doesn’t play on the record – which is perhaps a minor quibble considering at least one member of the classic ’70s lineup has been missing from the group’s last three albums. Says Buckingham, “There was logic enough for having [John and Mick] participate in the studio, and the idea of it being a Fleetwood Mac album I’m sure got voiced, in an idle way, without there being an agenda for it. And Stevie knew what we were doing. Early on we weren’t calling it a duets album, so it wasn’t like we were telling her, ‘You can’t come down.’ Stevie was just involved in what she was doing.”
Fleetwood Mac released their Extended Play EP in April, 2013; their first new music in a decade. Meanwhile, Buckingham had already cut a few tracks with the rhythm section when McVie rejoined the band after 16 years of retirement. She famously left the group in 1998, shortly after their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, preferring the stability of country life to the transience of touring. She bought a house and spent years restoring it. She made a solo album, but her fear of flying prevented her from touring or promoting it. Eventually she ran out of things to do with herself and, she admits. “I started to crave playing and writing and being in a band again. Not just any band, either. I wanted to be back with them.
In 2014, she rejoined Fleetwood Mac as a full-time member and immediately began sharing demos with Buckingham in what turned out to be a transatlantic songwriting collaboration “She had some very rough ideas, and she sent them over to me and I did a lot of work on them,” says Buckingham, noting that the exchange went both ways.
“This was just for me to get familiarised with playing and performing again,” McVie continues. “We were getting ready to rehearse for a tour, and I flew over from England with the idea of locking a couple of these songs down in the studio just to see what they sounded like. One thing led to another, and by the time we knew what was happening, we had six basic tracks in the bag, which we shelved while we went on the road.”
Between tours the duo would pick up where they left off, tinkering with songs like Christine’s lovelorn “The Way I Feel and Buckingham’s surprisingly sweet “Sleeping Aroond the Corner” until they got them just right. “I think it was sort rite of passage for her – to feel like she wasn’t just coming in to play the old hits, like there was a more profound sense of reconnecting.”
Of course, it’s hard to climb out from under the crushing weight of one of the most storied bands in rock’n’roll which in 2017 has exactly 50 years of sordid history behind it. Both McVie and Buckingham have quit the band and rejoined, have struck out on solo careers that led them right back to Fleetwood Mac. Both have shone more brightly within the group than they have by themselves, but that only makes Buckingham McVie all the more revelatory: it extracts them from the context of that best-selling band and puts them in conversation with each other, highlighting what they bring out in each other.
It also puts their differences in sharp relief, as songwriters and as instrumentalists. As a piano player, McVie is rarely showy; instead, she creates a bed of chords over which Buckingham can play guitar. “Sometimes,” he says, “you want to show off, but most of the time what’s really important is to come up with things that, if you do them right, people won’t notice them. That’s the kind of guitar player I’ve always wanted to be – playing something that’s in service of the song, not in service of the guitar player. You have to be melodic. You have to be thematic. You’re not going to be Eddie Van Halen. You’re going to be Chet Atkins.”
“We have a serendipitous relationship musically. It’s chemistry”
Like her playing, McVie’s songwriting is direct and to the point, plain spoken and seemingly confessional. She doesn’t mince words and while she occasionally lapses into cliched phrases expresses, the sentiments she expresses can be startingly bittersweet and open-ended. Over the big drum beat of the new song “Red Sun” she sings “I wonder where you are as I fall upon my bed” then worries about “so much left unsaid”. Buckingham’s production lends the song a”Beach Boys buoyancy, especially when “the red sun kisses the sea” on the chorus. It’s a dreamy reverie, as though she’s letting her mind wander during a drunk stroll among the waves, yet the yearning she describes may be as big as the ocean itself. “That was that Lindsey gave me the chords for,” she says. “He had already written the chords on guitar, and I came up with the words and the melodies. It’s a hooky kind of song, and I wrote it about when I was in Africa on a desert island. As usual, it’s a love song. I have notebooks full of lyrics that don’t end up going anywhere. Sometimes they’re just lines that somebody might have said and I think, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. I wouldn’t have put it that way.’ When I do fancy getting to the piano, I take those notebooks with me. If I write a chord change or a rhythm, I’ll see if I’ve got lyrics that go with it. I knit bits together.”
That approach allows McVie to get out of her own head. “‘The Way I Feel’,” she explains, “is more of a make-pretend love situation. It doesn’t really exist. A lot of my songs are like that. I step into other people’s shoes. That was one of the demos I sent to Lindsey and he reworked it. I trust him completely. He’s one of the finest musicians you could ever hope to work with. He likes my ideas and we just get on really well.”
Buckingham’s lyrical style has traditionally been, by his own admission, “a little more obscure”. On songs like “Big Love” and nearly everything he contributed to 1979’s Tusk, the details are slightly less concrete, the meaning a bit more evasive. “Her stuff is a little more literal and easy to read, and mine’s maybe a little more obscure or open to whatever Rorschach test you’re gonna put on there. It’s a different kind of deep.”
Perhaps influenced by his partner, his songs on the new album are more straightforward, albeit still emotionally tangled. “In My World” opens with an immediately recognisable Buckingham riff, compact and dissonant, a reminder, if you needed one, that he remains both a technically gifted player and a resourceful stylist. The sound is familiar and dense, instruments entwined like lovers, and the chorus rushes forth, either out of desperation or excitement: “In my world everybody stays,” Buckingham sings. “Nobody wishes on the words they couldn’t say.” It’s a hook worthy of Tango In The Night, and it’s impossible not to hear those words as commentary on the band itself, as a reminder that this guy – who has been painted as the villain and bully, the mad genius and paranoid visionary – is still trying to figure out things for himself. He’s retreating into his imagination, into this perfect world where everything is OK and no heartache invades. “I used to think that if you want to be an artist, you have to subvert certain things,” he says, “but this time I was interesting in not doing that. I thought, I want to make something that’s more accessible.”
That might be the most subversive thing Buckingham could do at this stage in his career, but both artists are careful to explain that Buckingham McVie is, at least for now, a one-off thing. “It really is a finite project,” says Christine. “It’s not a career move. It’s just a nice splinter off the main artery of Fleetwood Mac.”
When McVie composes on the piano, she leads with her left hand. She often starts with a rolling low-end rhythm, which tends to animate her melodies. “The left hand usually comes in first, and it has a boogie element to it,” she explains. “And then the chords might change on the right hand. But somehow I’m always grounded in a blues education.”
She and the blues go way, way back to when she was Christine Perfect. As a child growing up outside Birmingham, she started playing the piano at four years old, and by the time she was a teenager she was besotted with rock’n’roll and the blues – no mere fan screaming on the sidelines, but one of the few female belters in the country. “There was ream me and Julie Driscoll around that time.” she says, “and possibly Janis Joplin.” The same scene that birthed Fleetwood Mac, which was a splinter group from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, inspired her to perform with a short-lived band called Sounds Of Blue, with Stan Webb and Andy Sylvester. “We weren’t overground,” she recalls. We were underground. We were followed by university students aro people who would come to pubs. They’d get their pints and pay half a pound to watch these bands sweat it out in upstairs rooms. It was a phenomenal era, a fantastic time. I was in art college during that time, and I was seeing Spencer Davis. He and I were very friendly.”
Out of college, she moved to London and worked as a window dresser at Dickins & Jones department store. What happened next is still highly debated: when Webb and Sylvester formed a new band called Chicken Shack, either McVie asked to join or they pursued her. According to Webb, who still makes music under the Chicken Shack name, it was definitely the latter. “We got hold of her but she didn’t want to do it,” he says now. “I don’t think she fancied the idea of going on the road. I heard some other piano players, but we decided we needed to give her one more try. I think just to shut us up, she said, `Yeah, OK, I’ll try it for a while.’ And if you think about it, if it hadn’t been for Andy and me being so patient and giving her one more chance, she wouldn’t have been in the band and she wouldn’t have ended up being in Fleetwood Mac and she wouldn’t have become a musical icon.”
However it happened, the band clicked immediately and enjoyed a string of minor blues-rock hits in the late 196os, including “It’s Okay With Me Baby” and “I’d Rather Go Blind”. It was nothing close to the success Fleetwood Mac were enjoying under visionary guitarist Peter Green plus one of rock’s great rhythm sections, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. The two bands shared stages and often crashed together around England. “We were falling all over each other because would be sharing a bill on every show going on in the south of England,” says Webb. “We were all good mates and, of course, Chris got on with John and you know what happened.”
Despite having designs on Green, Perfect hooked up John McVie, the stoic bass player who invited her to play piano on his band’s 1968 album Mr Wonderful and encouraged her to record her self-titled solo debut in 1970. She didn’t like the album, but she liked him. She married McVie and retired from the music business… for two full months and over the next few years she and her husband and Fleetwood would weather almost constant lineup changes and repeated declarations that the band had run its course. With each release Christine assumed more prominence in the band, even as she moved away from blues. “I got a bit fed up with 12 bars,” she says. “I did write a few. ‘Don’t Stop’ is a 12-bar, basically. I started stretching out a bit and doing something a bit more poppy when Bob Welch was in the band. I co-wrote with him a few times and developed a style that got me away from the blues. I did more chord selections and different tempos, which I guess is what happens when you learn the craft of writing a commercial song. But my left hand always stayed with the boogie.’
“When Stevie and I joined Fleetwood Mac,” says Buckingham, “it was immediately apparent to me when we went down to rehearse in that basement, this was a couple of weeks before we went into the studio, that there was a role I could play with Christine. I had that with Stevie, too, but you don’t know what someone else needs or what needs to be covered.” Buckingham and McVie hit it off almost immediately, in what would become one of the most successful band mergers in rock history.
Buckingham took a circuitous route into Fleetwood Mac. Originally from Palo Alto, he’d been a jock in high school but eventually became obsessed with music, first learning bass before graduating to lead guitar. He had spent the late 1960s playing in a San Francisco acid-rock group called Fritz, one of three guys fronted by a charismatic young woman from Arizona named Stevie Nicks. The band’s one rule: don’t sleep with the frontwoman. Buckingham broke that rule… or she broke it for him. Either way, the two split to form a duo, recorded an LP under the name Buckingham Nicks. It was not a hit; inexplicably, it was big in Birmingham, Alabama, and nowhere else.
The duo might have given up had Buckingham Nicks not fallen into the hands of Mick Fleetwood, who invited them to join Fleetwood Mac in December 1974. Their audition was casual, to say the least. As Christine recalls, “We didn’t even rehearse them. We just said, `Join us.’ Mick had set up a meeting for us all to meet at a Mexican restaurant called El Carmen. We met there and had dinner and talked. Mick said to me, ‘If you don’t like the girl, obviously that’s going to be a problem.’ Because I was used to being on my own – the only girl in the band – it would have been a stretch for me to have another girl up on stage with me. Everybody wanted to be sure I got on well with Stevie. And I did. I instantly liked her.”
“Lindsey was a god back then. What’s not to like about him”
What about Buckingham? “Of course, Lindsey was a god back then. What’s not to like about him? He’s quite a good-looking man who played fantastic guitar. It was a no-brainer. I had a song called ‘Say You Love Me’, and when I played it for them, they piped in and sang perfect harmonies straight away. I had goose bumps. I couldn’t believe how great we all sounded. That became one of the first songs we recorded together.”
It was a perfect marriage of UK blues rock with California folk pop. “She had that background in blues,” says Buckingham. “So did John and Mick. But Christine had gotten away from that. It was an occasional reference point for her, but she was already writing pop songs like ‘Say You Love Me’ and ‘Over My Head’. Those weren’t blues songs – not by a long shot. It took John awhile, when we joined, to come around. I think he saw Stevie and me coming into the band and thought, ‘Oh my God, they’re turning us into the Eagles!’ I remember him saying, halfway through cutting that first album, `This is a long way from the blues.”
As Mick Fleetwood writes in his 2014 memoir, Play On: “We worked on all of those songs as a group for a few weeks until they became fully realised. Each day the energy built and the excitement grew because it was like being in a boot camp where everyone was so focused that results happened quickly. Lindsey and Christine were two musicians who fell in with each other immediately; it was a departure for him, as he’d been used to working only with a poet. Whereas a lot of what Lindsey did for Stevie was interpretation, building musical soundscapes for the stories she told so beautifully in her lyrics, Chris’s songw riling came from the blues and got right to the point. Lindsey took that and ran.”
Released in July 1975, that first album, of course, was a word-of-mouth blockbuster that spent months on the American album charts and hit number one a year after its release. Fleetwood Mac, so named to signal a rebirth or perhaps the debut of an entirely new band with an old name, tanked in the UK, where the band was still associated with a blues scene that by the mid-1970s was already long dead.
As the band enjoyed unprecedented success, very quickly becoming the most popular and profitable band in the US, their troubles grew in parallel with their sales. It was a period of extremely heavy drug use: lines of cocaine stretching toward the horizon, mountains of liquor bottles crowding them out of the studio. Their intake is the stuff of legends; some of those legends are true, some certainly not. It may have facilitated long hours in the studio, but it didn’t help their personal lives. Strife erupted between the McVies, who in 1976 divorced after eight years of marriage. Buckingham and Nicks had a more protracted split, their relationship deteriorating over long, painful months. In some ways it is still deteriorating. Did Lindsey really kick Nicks onstage? Did McVie really throw wine in his face? To this day reports vary and tall tales proliferate.
All that pain bore musical fruit, of course. Their 1977 follow-up, Rumours, was somehow even bigger than Fleetwood Mac, anchored by hits like Buckingham’s bitter send-off “Go Your Own Way” (guess who that’s about) and McVie’s guardedly optimistic “Don’t Stop”. The LP was Warner’s best-selling and the music industry’s quickest-selling at the time, rapidly shooting up the album charts, going octuple platinum, and compounding the band’s personal problems. “It’s true that my songs all are intensely personal, but from my point of view; they’re not directly from me to someone else,” says Christine. “I think people have come to look at the rest of our songs that way, and I’m sure people sometimes read things into them. But sometimes they just evoke an emotion that somebody can relate to. If they were all about me personally, I’d have killed myself by now. I’m always writing about unrequited love. I don’t write about politics or the weather, although I do include the sun and the sea quite a lot. But they’re songs from someone else’s point of view. I find that refreshing to think along #. those lines. It gives me a different track to go down.
“If you take ‘Songbird’ [from Rumours] as an example, that was written in about half an hour. If I could write a few more like that, I’d be a happy girl. It doesn’t really relate to anybody in particular; it relates to everybody. A lot of people play it at their weddings or at bar mitzvahs or at their dog’s funeral. It’s universal. It’s about you and nobody else. It’s about you and everybody else. That’s how I like to write songs.”
“If my songs were all about me, I’d have killed myself by now”
During this stormy period in the band’s history, Christine emerged as a formidable commercial songwriter, in parallel with Buckingham’s rise as a mad-scientist producer. Both are pop visionaries in their own way: she helped to translate the teenage love songs of the 1960s into a world of adult concerns and real-life situations: the first blush of romantic excitement giving way to the joys of sex (“You Make Loving Fun”) but also to confusion, heartache and disappointment (“Never Make Me Cry”). Buckingham made sure they always sounded good, his brainy, exacting production reinforcing the universal sentiments while making room for the musicians’ eccentricities. These are the roles they would play throughout the rest of the bard’s career, and even today, after millions in sales and uncountable spins on classic-rock radio, these songs still sound slightly weird, endearingly askew.
Slightly weird and endearingly askew doesn’t even begin to describe Tusk, the double album that closed out the ’70s. At the time it was the most expensive LP ever made, ringing up at a cool $1 million. Obsessed with maintaining the band’s relevance as punk was growing more and more popular, Lindsey oversaw almost every aspect of its creation, experimenting in the studio and deconstructing the sound Fleetwood Mac had made so popular. For “What Makes You Think You’re The One”, he recorded Fleetwood’s drums through a boombox which give the beats a prickly distortion that bolsters Buckingham’s braying vocals. “That was just me had boomboxes, and we had an old cassette player with these really crappy mics. But you could record on it, and the system had built-in compressors, and we took the output. We put that right in front of the drums, and I think we put another one overhead, too, as opposed to mic’ing the whole thing as you usually do. And we ran cassette player into the console and it just made this really explosive, trashy sound. Mick was getting of on that drum sound so much. I was playing the piano and he was playing the drums, and we cut that song late one night, just the two of us.
Tusk was folly, of course, and for a time considered a huge flop next to Rumours’ success, initially selling only four million copies. Today. when that makes you an era-defining superstar, Tusk is considered something of a masterpiece, the LP most hardcore fans swear by, possibly as these songs haven’t been played to death on the radio and don’t show up on soundtracks, so there’s till some sense of discovery. You can still feel ownership of them. ‘I hear that a lots, ” says Christine. “To me that’s a fantastic honour and a great legacy. Its wonderful to think those songs mean so much to people.”
If the ’70s had been one long soap opera for Fleetwood Mac, the the 80s would be even more sordid -without the reassurance of world-conquering sales. Rumours abounded that the band was breaking up, and a string of solo LPs did little to quell such suspicions. Everyone. including Buckingham and McVie, was establishing himself or herself as and individual artist apart from then band. But Fleetwood Mac soldiered through the decade with two strong albums: 1982’s Mirage and 1987’s Tango In The Night (both re-released as part of the band’s reissue programme.) “Tango In The Night was the must difficult album, in terms of getting it done, as that was when everyone’s level of crazy hit the wall. ‘ says Buckingham. “People think of Rumours as being the turmoil time, and it was. But in terms of people living crazy lives: Tango.”
“Lindsey left the band soon after that LP.” McVie recalls. “It was a strange time, as Steve was away for a while and was not often there for the sessions. She was doing her songs by remote, as it were. He said he didn’t want to tour the record, so that when we all unleashed a bit of anger.” It tool two musicians to replace Buckingham – Billy Burnett and Rick Vito, both of whom toured behind Tango and contributed to 1990’s Behind The Mask. “we’re all guilty of parting company in the band for a while.” say McVie. “It just seems to happen. But it’s that umbilical cord that can’t be broken. It just pulls you back.”
For the next decade Fleetwood Mac was an on-again/mostly off-again affair. The reunited to play President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, but wouldn’t play again until 1997, when they did a reunion tour, release a live LP, and were inducted into the Rock & Rill Haps of Fame. Just as they were proving their relevance to a new generation not even born when Fleetwood Mac hit shelves, movie retired to the UK countryside. ‘There was a number of reasons. ” she says with sigh. “I was tired of living out of a suitcase. My father was sick. I’d reached a point when I felt that I needed to get back to my roots.” There was also her fear of flying which limited her travel and touring options. “It was clear-cut decision to move back to England. I relinquished my green card and moved local. stock and barrel back to England, they tried to persuade me not to leave but my mind was made up.”
It appeared that Fleetwood Mac – the classic lineup, at least – had finally run its course. While the remaining quartet set to work recording 2003’s Say You Will, McV le busied herself in rural Kent, where she bought and restored a home, recorded an LP in her garage, and cared for her dogs. It was everything she wanted, and t hen it wasn’t. “Once I’d finished the house, istat ted to get bored. Then I got very reclusive and retreated into my shell again, and it was not right what wash appening to me. I had to get rid of my fear of flying, at least so I could travel again and go see places. I didn’t want to be stuck having to get on a train or a boat. I got psychiatric help, which revealed that I had more problems than just this fear of flying.”
She began to miss the band more and more – not -justher bandmates or even her fans. but the songs themselves. But first, she had to ease herself back into performing in front al an audience, hoping she could recapture the chemistry of playing with other musicians. In 2013 McVie made her live debut not with Fleetwood Mac, but with the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band Featuring Rick Vito. “She was very, very nervous about perfornting,” says Vito, who played guitar in *Fleetwood Mac from 1987 until1991. “She came out to Maui to see us play at Mick’s club one night, and she asked if we would come up to her hotel room and just jam a little. We had another gig coming up, and I knew what she was thinking. She was thinking she was going to give it try.”
Playing with Fleetwood and Vito in a casual setting calmed her nerves and boosted her confidence. “She did wind up sitting in with us for a show at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center,” says Vito. “That was her return to performing. Soon alter that, she rejoined the band. I like to think I played a very small part in her return.” “I realised I’m not a solo career person,” says McVie. “I belong in a band. I’ve got nothing to lose if I call Mick and just see what the reaction would be if came back to Fleetwood Mac.” Most of the band were excited, although Buckingham was initially hesitant. He wanted stability within the band, some sense of permanence, “He said quite clearly, If you do come back, you have to commit, You can’t just get up and leave again. And I remember being on that conference call and going, `I commit! I commit! I commit!'”
“She wanted to work,” says Buckingham. “She wanted to tap into that thing she hadn’t done for so long, and I was happy to welcome her back. We were getting ready to rehearse for a new tour when she asked if she could rejoin the band. ‘Well, if you don’t leave again!'”
McVie made her live debut – not quite an audition, but not really a full return – during a five-night stand in London during September 2013. “When they came over for the European tour, it was spread around London that I would be performing one of those five nights, although no-one would say which one. Of course, tickets went through the roof I played on the last night, and the audience went wild, It wasn’t about me. I think it was more the fact that the circle was complete. The five of us were back onstage together. That’s a powerful thing. We felt it onstage, too.”
Her three years as the newest old member of the Mac I have been productive. She moved out of the country and into the city. “I felt a bit isolated down there, so I came back to London. I’m really happy here now. The only problem is you’ve got no sea.” She flies to California often, enjoying the sun and the sea as a visitor rather than a resident. And she has already toured the world, her old friends. relearning many of the old songs by “You don’t get tired on a Fleetwood Mac tour, because it’s so refreshing to do somebody else’s songs. It’s not just me, me, me. You get to dig deep and do something dark of Lindsey’s, then you get to do ‘Rhiannon’ with Stevie, and then you get to sing ‘Little Lies’. And you’ve got the pulse of the rhythm section binding evenithirkg together. It’s a joyous thing for me, especially after way. _ being gone for so long. It’s goose bumps all the
Before the band goes back on the road for another will world tour in 2018, she and Buckingham will take their duets album out on the road for a short run of dates, playing more intimate venues than they do with the band. “You’ve got this big machine of Fleetwood Mac and then you’ve got this small machine of solo and duet stuff,” says Buckingham. “The two would not exist without each other. It’s a fine line how you play that. You can try to make it art, which pits it against the commerce of Fleetwood Mac.”
Even he recognises the beguiling alchemy that binds the five of them, despite their differences. “Why are we even still together as a band? It’s crazy. This group of people didn’t belong in the same band together in the first place, but here we are, 40 years later! There have been all of the breakups and all that stuff, but there’s a lot of love underneath. Christine and I were tapping into that with the duets album, which made it after all that distance to pick up like it was yesteday.
Perhaps because she realises she nearly lost Fleetwood Mac forever, McVie is less concerned with the why and how of the band’s longevity. Instead she seems happy to be along for the ride once again “It’s that invisible chain. It’s that alchemy. I love every minute of it. This is what I want to do. It’s what I want to invest my time and my future in from now on, so I won’t leave again.”
What next for the duo?
BUCKiNGHAM McVIE is a one–off project, and Fleetwood Mac has no plans to record in the near future, which means the next music from these two musicians may be solo albums. Lindsey Buckingham has been working on a new LP between tours and other sessions, which he hopes will be out by the end of the year, along with a compilation of songs from his previous solo projects, including 1981’s Law And Order and 2008’s Gift Of Screws. “I started going through those albums and l thought, ‘Wow. there’s some pretty cool stuff on here,- McVie’s plans aren’t qiiite so for along, but she knows what she’d like to do next. If I do another solo album. it’ll be a blues record. Not necessarily my own songs, either, I would like to dig deep into the really unknown blues records and get some great blues musicians on it. I’d probably have John and Mick on it as well, since they come from that English blues era it’s something l would love to do if I have the time and if don t die first. Vert pretty healthy, so I should be fine,”
BuckinghamMcVie is released in June by Warners; Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night is reissued on March 30