DID you know that in the 17th and 18th centuries, “nostalgia” was deemed a mental disorder?
Actually, I have friends who would agree because when it comes to me and my cars, my nostalgia knows no bounds. It is an important link between my past and present self.
Each car I’ve owned has a story attached. My first was a London taxi that I bought for £12 from a neighbour in Notting Hill Gate.
The perfect vehicle to carry my equipment and take me from gig to gig, I loved that cab, with its solid doors and the familiar diesel rattle and hum. I’ve never had another car that could match the turning radius.
After the cab, vanity got the better of me and I bought a Jaguar XJ-120 sports car for about £60. It was a wreck, leaked as much oil as it used petrol. I couldn’t afford to buy the hard-top roof for the winter so, rain or shine (mostly rain), I drove it with no top at all.
I had a system to weather the storms; a leather cape, one of my dad’s Air Force flying helmets, goggles and enormous Air Forceissue gloves. I’d bomb down the motorways like a mad speed racer, arriving at my destination (no heater) frozen half to death, frost-bitten and soaked to the bone.
That’s what vanity does to you when it’s the car that counts. That car almost killed me when the entire transmission fell out on the road at a roundabout. I retired it soon after that.
In an out-of-character moment, the next car I bought with the novel intention of owning something that I could afford to run. It corresponded to the only time I thought I’d give up being a musician. I bought a little Deux Chevaux.
My pal, percussionist Dave de Silva, was also out of work. Our next possible career move was a choice between being window cleaners or painters and decorators.
Painting won the toss. Our first job? Painting a fresco. I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to paint an entire wall of intestines! And that dear little Deux Chevaux dutifully carried the paint. By far my favourite car of all time, though, was a little Austin 7, that we named Lettuce Leaf (it was racing green!). I’d see this car parked on my daily walk to visit with Andy Sylvester, who was playing with Chicken Shack with Christine McVie at that time. I had no money but I wrote a note and left it on the little car’s windscreen, saying: “I’m in love with your car, if it ever needs a good home please call me.”
The owner saved the note and two years later, when he called, I had enough to purchase the car because I was playing in the Bo Street Runners. It was the car that drove me to my wedding with Jenny Boyd, the car that made me feel things were on the up.
After that I was unstoppable; I saved every dime to purchase more old classic cars, including a 1961 Bristol 401 and a beautiful 1955 MG TF. When we first moved to Los Angeles I bought a gold Cadillac convertible to console me when my other beauties could not make the transatlantic journey.
Poor Lettuce Leaf! When I went to seek my fame and fortune, I left it with my then brother-in-law, Eric Clapton. About 14 years later I got a call from his manager, asking if I wanted the car back! For the past 10 years it had been sitting, uncovered, in an apple orchard. Birds were nesting inside. But that little car was so well built it was very much intact.
I resurrected it and had it shipped to Maui to come live with me again. Now I take my 97-year-old mother to lunch in it every Sunday.
I’m not the only one who enjoys a good car story. Look at the millions of people who love watching Top Gear, a show that illustrates the many ways people become enamoured of their vehicles.
It’s my nature to wax nostalgic over my cars. I can’t bear to let go of even one of them. They represent my life and, in a strange way, they represent the different stages with Fleetwood Mac.
People’s lives become entangled with the lives of their cars; they hold memories and symbolise so much!
I’m obsessed with keeping mine going, no matter what ails them. It’s sort of like all the times Fleetwood Mac was as good as written off. I just kept tinkering, resurrecting, all to keep that motor running.