The life I love is making music with my friends, and I can’t wait to get on the road again – Willie Nelson, On The Road Again.All of us are familiar with my friend and comrade Willie Nelson’s lyrics. As far as I am concerned, there’s never been a truer sentiment written, since I love all those old feelings of excitement that ramp up before any tour starts.My first real tour started with the release of our hit record, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. We toured throughout Europe. Lugging equipment, setting up stages, taking small planes, ferries and buses, we had an itinerary of crummy, shared motel rooms, often sneaking five to a room and using overcoats for blankets. We travelled on no sleep and bad food, in broken-down vans, sometimes even hitchhiking to gigs. I loved every minute of it.
I adapted to the rhythm and the chaos of travelling so well because it was in my blood, having been raised in the Air Force. For me, it was the birth of the “Road Dog” – the bloke who is happier and more comfortable on the road than at home. I developed my skills as a ringmaster, organising and taking control of getting that circus out on the road.
I was in my element, channelling the spirit of the troubadour as we adhered to rigorous touring schedules. By the early 1970s Fleetwood Mac had started touring America. We were still driving ourselves to our gigs, sometimes through rain and snow storms.
Everything was low budget. We stayed at Holiday Inns. We did all our travelling in three large station wagons, now with a baby and wife in tow! Even as we hit the “Big Time” with the release of the album Fleetwood Mac.
I remember the last time we drove those station wagons, in Texas, on our way to play a huge festival. We were fighting our way through terrible traffic. Everyone on the highway seemed to be headed to that same location, and the traffic was getting worse. That’s when our friend and road manager, John Courage, took control and said: “Whatever you do, Mick, don’t stop following me!” Our cavalcade went rogue. We broke every law in the book as we climbed up on the kerb, leaving a 15-mile sea of solid traffic in the dust.
We arrived in time, panicked and breathless. I walked into The Eagles’ dressing room; they had been convinced we weren’t going to show up. Imagine Glenn Frey’s surprise when I told him how we got there in our three station wagons! (The Eagles were at that time enjoying the same level of success as Fleetwood Mac). The penny dropped, it was time to upgrade! The Eagles had all arrived in helicopters!
After that, all hell broke loose; we were like kids in a candy store, limos, private jets and all the rock ‘n’ roll excesses imaginable. Long gone were the innocent days.
The truth is, what I do is simple.
I play the drums. It’s the only thing I am trained to do in life. The second I set foot on stage, sit down and play my drums, everything else melts away.
Today, to walk out on that stage takes a little more support than it used to in those sparse, early days. Now we have all the modern comforts; luxury hotels, first class travel, a team of amazing costumiers, make-up artists, assistants, lighting and sound engineers, techs, etc.
But I know it’s our years of commitment and training, combined with all the lessons we learned in our time on the road, that have taught us that no matter what trials and tribulations that went before, we really know how to get “on with the show”.