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Knoxville News-Sentinel, The Ever Evolving Fleetwood Mac

Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, TN), August 13, 1995

THE EVER EVOLVING FLEETWOOD MAC

By Wayne Bledsoe News-Sentinel entertainment writer

Mick Fleetwood has a simple explanation of what it's been like trying to moderate and coordinate the seemingly ever-changing cast of players in Fleetwood Mac.

"Well, I don't have any hair or what I do have is gray," says a congenial Fleetwood in a call from his tour bus.

Fleetwood Mac, named for drummer Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, was formed as a blues band in 1967 by Fleetwood, McVie, guitarist Jeremy Spencer.and guitarist-singer Peter Green. The band became a major attraction in England and scored the hit "Oh Well, Pt. 1" in the United States, but each time it seemed the band was likely to conquer America, the group's lineup and musical style would change.

In 1975, the group then consisting of Fleetwood, John McVie and vocalist Christine McVie (who had married John in 1968) invited Lindsey Buckingham(and Stevie Nicks to join the band. Two years later, Fleetwood Mac was the biggest act in America, with one of the best-selling albums of all time, "Rumours."

Today, the group consists of Fleetwood, the McVies (now divorced), Billy(Burnette, Dave Mason (former solo star and a member of Traffic) and Bekka(Bramlett (daughter of singing duo Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett). Christine McVie does not tour with the band.

Fleetwood says the group has gotten used to changes.

"In terms of the logistics of going through it 'Oh my God, this has never happened. We've lost a lead singer or lead guitar player ' it would be something less than truthful if I said it totally freaked me out. Where you make your move is basically, 'Do you still wanna do this?' And once you've assimilated that information and come out with a positive that you do, we just go ahead and say: 'Let's do it.' "

Fleetwood says if the group had ever gotten down to just himself and John McVie, the two might have decided not to continue.

"In terms of the trauma, me and John have done this several times before, and we certainly have prevailed. Certainly, with the impending album release (due in September on Warner Bros.), the jury is still out in terms of whether people are gonna like this present move that we've made. It's an exciting time." One of the reasons the band has prospered with new members is that it allows the new members to express their own creativity within the group.

"They're not there to be clones of everyone that's been there before them," says Fleetwood. "They're there because they're talented in their own right, and they bring that to the band."

The individualism flowed when Buckingham and Nicks joined the group.

Fleetwood had heard the duo's "Buckingham Nicks" album when audio engineer and producer Keith Olsen used the album to demonstrate how good his.recording studio could sound. Fleetwood loved Buckingham's guitar work.

When Fleetwood Mac's guitarist Bob Welch (who later had his own hits) announced he was leaving the band, Fleetwood "didn't miss a beat," he says.

"I phoned Keith Olsen up and said, 'You know that tape you played me down in the studio? Who was it? Because we're looking for a guitar player now.' "

To get the guitarist, the band had to accept another vocalist.

"I'm permanently cursed by Stevie. She said, 'Well, you didn't even WANT me '

"I said, 'Stevie, we were looking for a guitar player.'

"We learned after the fact, after the initial inquiry, that they were not only a creative duo, they were basically in as many words married.

"Christine just said, 'Do me one favor, Mick and John. Let's go out to dinner, and I'll see if I like this girl. Because what we don't want is two women in a band that don't like each other.'

"And me and John just said, 'Yes Yes Absolutely right '

As it turned out, Fleetwood says, the women became close friends and stayed close for many years.

With the new additions, Fleetwood says the band members were all aware "that something horribly right was happening."

"So much so, that I had the nerve to go out to Warner Bros. and sit in front of (Warner Bros. president) Mo Ostin and say, 'Look, we don't have any(real complaints, but we don't want you to think that this is just another Fleetwood Mac album

"I wanted Mo to know that unless he felt that this was something really(new and fantastic, let me off the label. Of course, we had no right to be saying anything. But we knew that something was right, and we really felt that excitement within the band."

The lineup's debut, "Fleetwood Mac," quickly went platinum and contained the hits "Over My Head," "Rhiannon" and "Say You Love Me." The group's follow-up, "Rumours," sold a staggering 13 million copies and was the No. 1 Billboard album for 31 weeks.

During all the success, the band members' marriages, both official and unofficial, broke up, Fleetwood and Nicks had a romance, and the band played on.

"I sometimes wonder how we all made it through that," says Fleetwood. "But there's been some very strange times, but this has not been a full-on nightmare. We found proper reasons for doing what we're doing. There was a lot of wonderful, real love, real connection that made this band the crazy thing that it's been."

The band's next album, the weird and experimental two-disc "Tusk," was seen by many as an expensive, self-indulgent career misstep. Fleetwood, and(some critics, loved the album. The title cut became the most unlikely hit single of 1979 and featured the University of Southern California Marching Band.

"That album allowed this band to continue making music with that lineup for many years," says Fleetwood.

He says it allowed Buckingham, specifically, to try out his own musical ideas.

"I think John and Chris were a little freaked out. And then we talked about it, and I said, 'Well, what's the big deal if Lindsey wants to play part(of a drum track on a Kleenex box instead of a snare drum? Who cares?' And that's what that album was all about. It was a growth period for the band."

Fleetwood recounts much of the band history in his book "My 25 years in Fleetwood Mac."

He says his fellow band members were a little nervous when he was writing the memoir.

"I don't think anyone in the band welcomed it," says Fleetwood. "Stevie was huffing and puffing for a while, and I said, 'Stevie, you've got to trust me. I'm working with you. I'd have to be out of my mind to scuttle anyone that was close to me in a very distasteful way.'

"When she actually read the book, we were on this private jet, and she said, 'I've just finished the book.' And I was dreading it. I thought she was going to bat me around the face or something. And she said, 'Well, you could've put more in about you and me ' "

Buckingham left the band in 1987 and was replaced by Burnette and Rick Vito. When Nicks officially left the group two years ago, Fleetwood already knew he would replace her with Bekka Bramlett, who had worked in his offshoot band Zoo.

When Vito left in '91, Fleetwood got a call from his old friend Dave Mason, who had had hits with "We Just Disagree" and "Only You Know and I Know."

Mason suggested that Fleetwood consider him as the replacement, and, after a few weeks of rumination, Fleetwood and the rest of the band invited Mason to join.

Fleetwood acknowledges that the new Fleetwood Mac may not be accepted by old fans.

"We decided not to wait until we had an album out to get out there and basically put ourselves on the line and say, 'Hey, we understand this is a different band for you guys.' And there's gonna be some reticence. There's gonna be some, 'Well, I don't like that. Stevie's not there.' Or, 'I sort of like Dave.'

"But for us as performers, we faced that head-on, and I couldn't be more(happy with the way the band is being accepted at face value, basically, because there is no album for a few weeks anyway. Then we really see if people are gonna like it or pan it, or who knows? We don't know."

Thanks to Anusha for the submission.