Music’s most hip are lining up to pay tribute to Fleetwood Mac, says Ed Power
02 July 2013
Their greatest album was recorded in a blizzard of cocaine, champagne and heartache.
Thirty five years later, Fleetwood Mac are suddenly the name to drop in fashionable music circles. Tickets for this September’s brace of O2 dates sold out in a heartbeat; a ‘lavish’ – i.e. super-expensive – re-issue of their 1977 blockbuster record Rumours is basking in five-star reviews (you get the impression certain journalists would award six stars were that allowed).
So what, you cry. Fleetwood Mac have always been popular. Until Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Rumours was the biggest-selling LP of all time, some 40 million copies residing in record collections around the world. Well, yes. The difference is that today it isn’t merely nostalgia-happy oldies flocking to the band. ‘The group’s fastest growing fanbase is among the under 30s.
In trend-conscious alternative pop, in particular, people can’t get enough of Fleetwood Mac. Natasha Khan of Mercury-nominated outfit Bat For Lashes says her biggest hit, ‘Daniel’, was inspired by their 1987 soft-rock classic ‘Tango in the Night’.
Last year, cooler-than-thou names such as MGMT, Best Coast and Lykki Li lined up to pay tribute to ‘the Mac’ on a covers album.
Forget about the Sex Pistols or Nirvana – Fleetwood Mac are the group every hungry up-and-comer is seeking to emulate.
Reviled by music snobs first time around, Rumours, especially, has become one of the most influential records of the present day, its super-saturated ’70s California vibes and undercurrent of heartbreak chiming with a generation too young to have any memories of Fleetwood Mac first time around.
The Rumours recording sessions began in February 1976 in a small studio outside San Francisco. By then, lovers Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, a songwriting partnership who had joined the line-up in 1974, were in the midst of a tortuous break-up.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood had discovered his wife was having an affair with his best friend; the eight-year marriage of singer Christine McVie and her bass playing husband John was over. Add drugs and free-flowing booze to the mix and you had an emotional powder keg.
“The atmosphere in the studio was . . . charged,” Mick Fleetwood said recently.
‘Here were people who loved each other but couldn’t be together, and it translated into a mutant form of fear and loathing. It was awkward, because you don’t normally spend time with someone at the beginning of a break-up.
“Recording the album was like divorced parents trying to do the right thing for their children, and our child was Fleetwood Mac.”
“We were very hedonistic,” said Christine McVie. “If you got too high you had a drink, and if you got too drunk you had another line of coke. We did that every night until three or four in the morning. ”
Along with ingesting eye-popping quantities of chemicals, they poured their sexual tension into the music.
On hit single ‘Dreams’, Nicks sang a tearful goodbye to Buckingham, an angst-ridden soul she could no longer stand to be near.
In return, he wrote the uber-bitchy kiss-off ‘Go Your Own Way’. In concert footage from the period you can see the ex-lovers snarling the lyrics across the stage.
“Part of me wonders if people want to see Fleetwood Mac because it’s possibly the last time they will be touring,” says Greg Gaughran, music director at Dublin rock station Radio Nova. “These are timeless tunes. For instance, we can play ‘Second Hand News’, the opening track on Rumours, which wasn’t even a single, and everyone turns up the radio. They’re a staple for us. Demographically, they cover all the marks.
“They’re just fantastic,” adds Gaughran.
“Especially considering what’s going on in the music business now. There’s too much reality crap being peddled. People are looking back to when music was good.”