SUNDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2013
Fiona Sturges hails the legacy of the Mac, a band who have weathered more storms than the Atlantic
Fleetwood Mac may have had their ups and downs but they sure know a thing or two about timing. Last year singer Stevie Nicks told Rolling Stone that 2013 would be “the year of Fleetwood Mac”. And so it has proved. Thirty-six years on from their 40 million-selling album Rumours, a languid, harmony-laden work about heartbreak which now resides in one in six US households, the Mac are back on top.
Since their Seventies heyday the band have been as famous for broken marriages and drug addictions as their music, and only recently has their back catalogue been deemed ripe for reappraisal. Following a series of re-issued LPs, next week their comeback tour rolls into the UK. Meanwhile, a new generation of artists are making known their appreciation. Below some of them explain the band’s appeal and pick their favourite LP from the back catalogue.
Tom McRae, solo artist
Favourite album: Rumours
“I first heard Fleetwood Mac via my older sister’s record collection, at a time when I had no concept of what was cool and what wasn’t. Fleetwood Mac didn’t connect with this country as they did in America. When I was living in LA I would turn the dial on the radio and they would come on five times.
When [1977’s] Rumours came out it was dismissed as AOR, but I think it was cooler than that. It chimed with the demographic and the technology. Where a lot of their contemporaries were playing rough-around-the-edges folk-rock, Fleetwood Mac came up with this pristine sound coupled with incredible songwriting.
Rumours is the Seventies equivalent of Thriller – every song is a potential single. What was going on privately [between warring couples Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, and Christine and John McVie] made it that much more potent. Dylan might have got the poetry of Blood on the Tracks out of divorce, but Fleetwood Mac got all the hits.”
Caitlin Rose, solo artist
Favourite album: Mirage
“If you live in the US songs like ‘Go Your Own Way’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ pop up with regularity. But I really got into Fleetwood Mac when I was 18 or 19. There have been so many eras for the band, from the early years with Peter Green steering the ship through to Rumours and then the dark horse that was Tusk. [1982’s] Mirage is my favourite though, because it’s got ‘That’s Alright’ on it, which I cover at my shows. I know Stevie Nicks’s grandfather was a country guy and this is a straight-up country song performed with real passion. What I love about the band is that all the writers are so different – Christine writes these perfect pop songs, Lindsey does this baroque, cerebral pop, and Stevie has this inward, reflective writing style. On Mirage that all came together.”
Fleetwood Mac taking part in a US interview broadcast in 1975
Lee Ranaldo, Sonic Youth guitarist and singer in Lee Ranaldo and the Dust
Favourite album: English Rose
Fleetwood Mac are essentially five bands rolled into one. Their songs are so undeniable. There was the Peter Green period, then the pop years and then the experimental period. [1979’s] Tusk was unpopular at the time but I knew a lot of indie bands who were really into it. That album was a bold move for Fleetwood Mac and they deserved a lot of respect for that.
I only saw them play once. It was during the Rumours era, which was the best incarnation to see live, and the show was in upstate New York. The chemistry between the band members was incredible and everyone knew the songs. It was just hit after hit after hit.
Last year my band covered “Albatross” [from their 1969 compilation English Rose], for a Mac tribute album. We chose it partly to avoid Rumours, which obviously everyone was going to go for, and also because it was from their Peter Green era – long before Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie – which seems to have passed a lot of people by, but was an important part of the British blues boom. The music was very challenging to play. It’s incredibly soulful and slow and complex and gave us an amazing appreciation for the talent and musicianship in the band at that early period.”
Jeremy Warmsley, multi-instrumentalist, Summer Camp
Favourite album: Tango In The Night
“When I was younger I went through a phase of buying records in charity shops and I picked up a copy of Mirage and fell in love with both it and them. It was the record after Tusk, which was a bit of a disaster, so the band had a lot to prove. I think they felt like they were washed up but Mirage is every bit as good as Rumours.
I also really love Tango in the Night. “Everywhere” was one of the first Mac songs I ever heard and then a friend played it at our wedding, so it has a real emotional resonance. Christine McVie is my favourite of the songwriters. She has an amazing way with melodies. As with Paul McCartney, there’s a real simplicity to what she does. She shows what can be done with a few simple notes. A lot of people used to think Fleetwood Mac were naff, but perhaps that’s the price you pay for making truly universal pop music. I like the fact that the Mac can be cheesy. It’s a sign of a band with its heart on its sleeve.”
Nina Nesbitt, solo artist
Favourite album: Rumours
“I love the passion in Rumours. Every one of those songs was written about other people in the band, which just makes the music so real. I find it hard enough writing about personal stuff and singing it alone on stage. To be up there singing these hugely emotional songs about partners and ex-partners who are there performing alongside you, that’s just crazy. I recently covered ‘Don’t Stop’ for a John Lewis advert. I was determined not to stray too far from the original. Recording it was nerve-racking. All the time I was thinking: ‘Oh God, this is Fleetwood Mac’.”
Fleetwood Mac’s UK and Ireland tour begins on 24 September at the O2, London. Nina Nesbitt’s cover of “Don’t Stop” is released on 30 September. Lee Ranaldo and The Dust’s LP ‘Last Night on Earth’ is released on 8 October. Summer Camp’s self-titled album is out now.