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TOM MONCRIEFF, PART 2, September 18, 2008 

What was it like being around FM in the studio when they were recording “Tusk”? What are your favorite, funniest, or most unforgettable memories from that recording process?

Since many of the “Tusk” songs sounded so different from “Rumours” (especially Lindsey’s) did you think the album would not be as successful as “Rumours” was? Did you think it was a mistake for Fleetwood Mac to go in that different direction or a good move? How was the band getting along for the “Tusk” recordings? Did you witness many conflicts, any showdowns you can remember?

Thanks a lot,
John

A: I was never there when the whole band was recording, but that might have been true for them as well. That album was a lot like the Beatles “White Album” in that it was clearly three different songwriters developing their own songs, but somehow pulled together by Lindsey. It might be my favorite of that lineup just because Lindsey’s songs were so adventurous in every way. I know that the band was extremely worried at the time that it was too far out, and they didn’t want to disappoint the fans, or have a drop off in their status and look like a “one-hit-wonder”. But I say, too bad. Artists have to grow, and when they don’t it usually manifests itself in lackluster performances and boring songs.

Now, I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I was in residence. It was more like checking in whenever the Walter Egan Band got in from the road. Sometimes I would go over to Lindsey’s house and he’d play me his work tapes or song demos, unfinished, or whatever state things were in. His stuff was so incredible it blew me away. “Save Me A Place” with him doing all of the vocals, “What Makes You Think…” with that banging snare sound….. He was doing some very innovative and revolutionary stuff. Previously, the trend in drum recording in L.A. was based on Elton John records – low tuned, thuddy snare, everything very close-miked and direct sounding. Lindsey threw that completely out the window by banging away on a very live sounding snare in his huge tiled bathroom. It was so radical. I think it come from somewhere between older Eddie Cochran records and new punk music, breaking rules, and tossing everything upside down in his own unrestricted way. I still believe it changed the way records were made from then on. It brought ambience and life to a recording process that had become very flat, boring and predictable. He’s never gotten credit for that, or sought any. It’s my take (but I am right!).

Christine and Stevie’s songs were all really good, and there are plenty of great performances by all, but I’ll always love that album for being the emergence of Lindsey as a great and innovative artist in his own right. Sometimes listeners have to be challenged even if it takes a while for them to accept some changes. And an artist has to take some risks, and that was certainly the case with “Tusk”.

Meanwhile, as I’ve noted earlier, I was filling in for Lindsey, working on some of Stevie’s demos.


Did you ever play on any of Christine McVie’s songs or work with her on any demos or other material? Michelej1

A: Sorry to say I did not.

Would you agree with a great many Fleetwood Mac fans over the years that Christine McVie is actually the most consistently appealing singer & songwriter in the band in the post-blues years?

David, Los Angeles, California


A: I thought Christine was terrific, but I was always an S&L fan first. And by the way, as a result of them joining FM, I became a huge fan of Peter Green. The best blues guitarist to come from England, bar none. He said more with two notes than Clapton ever did with way too many. I loved his songs and his soulful singing. When S&L joined FM they had to incorporate some of the “Greeny” hits and I went to a few dress rehearsals for their first tour. They were playing “Green Manalishi”, and wow! It was so incredibly powerful.

After the Buckingham Nicks album was recorded, there were a lot of “leftovers” that Stevie and Lindsey never released as BN. It seems like most of these songs resurfaced later on Stevie’s solo albums or on Fleetwood Mac albums. On the “Rumours” DVD-A, Lindsey discussed how they used to perform “I Don’t Want to Know” as BN and we have heard the early performances of “Lady from the Mountain.” What other songs were out there, kicking around in the Buckingham Nicks days but that we never heard until later?

Someone wrote about “Heartbreaker” aka “Circle in Time” on The Ledge. Is that a song Buckingham Nicks recorded or performed live? Are there other songs you played on with Buckingham Nicks that haven’t seen the light of day yet? Thank you!

Erica K.


A: Most of the songs you’ve mentioned were being recorded by us for BN II. We played all of them live, most are floating around as pieces of a not very good bootleg of our “Southern Safari” tour recording.

Do you know what the hold up is on having the Buckingham Nicks album released on a cd after all these years?

What have you heard as the reason(s) that this is not happening? Daniel


A: I have a pretty good idea. It really should be released, but I think that it never will be, other than the atrociously bad bootlegs that are out there.

That album was recorded and co-produced by Keith Olsen (no matter what the credits say, it was really produced by Lindsey). My understanding is that he has some kind of ownership of the masters that doesn’t work for S&L. Probably not too far removed from the problems that John Fogerty had that caused him to disappear for a long time. More than that I cannot say.

But as a side story…

Around 1997, when FM was on tour, they played in Minneapolis, and Lindsey got me and my band in to see the concert. While I was watching, I saw my old friend Kim Anderson, whom I’d met in L.A. Kim was married to Stevie’s best friend, Robin, and he was one of the nicest guys I’d ever met there, which was my home town. It turned out that most of the nicer people I met in L.A. were from Minnesota, which certainly had a great deal with deciding to move here, besides the fact that my partner Annie was also born here. Anyway, I got to talking with Kim and we renewed our friendship, and eventually we started talking about doing something together involving music. Kim used to work for Warner Bros Records and had brought Prince to the label, among other things. He had collected some of the bootlegs of the BN album I mentioned. They were so bad. Horrible needle noise, distorted audio, badly scanned artwork. I told him that I was quite good at restoring vinyl albums to CD and we could do a much better job than any we’d heard, but we were not going to bootleg any album. But we agreed that we’d go ahead and do the restoration and present it to Stevie and then Lindsey and see what they thought.

I worked on it for about two solid weeks, carefully removing every pop, scratch and artifact from the dub of the cleanest vinyl copy we could find. When I was finished it was gorgeous. Really. Those first guitar chords of “Crying in the Night” exploded from the speakers. We restored the artwork, and it was done. I made a copy for Kim, myself, and everyone in the BN band.

Kim talked to Stevie about it and the impression that it will never happen because Keith Olsen has made too many demands. So our CD became a beautiful keepsake. We would never release our version without complete approval.

If you were to be given credit for your work on Stevie’s material, or any Fleetwood Mac songs that you played on, what would be those songs? Please list the song and in what capacity you should be credited (ie: co-writer, producer, musician, etc.) Dee (CADreaming)

A: The major ones would be “Sara”, “Gypsy”, “Sisters of the Moon”, “Golden Braid”, and a bunch of pre-production stuff for “Bella Donna”. “Golden Braid” was the only song that Stevie and I co-wrote.

So how long did you live with Lindsey and Stevie, before they made it big. Did you also live with Stevie later on when she was doing “Bella Donna”? How did that come about and how long did it last? Ty B in Shreveport

A: I think that between 1974 and 1980 I was a room-mate, along with Richard Dashut and Bob Aguirre in many combinations, sometimes leaving to do a road gig for a while.

I was still Stevie’s room-mate during the transition to her concurrent solo career. She was still very much a band person despite FM’s apprehension, but she wrote more songs than FM could ever put on an album with two other writers. So a solo album would simply be an outlet for a very prolific songwriter.

We started working on a lot of the songs that were eventually re-recorded for “Bella Donna” and maybe some other albums. “Outside the Rain” was one that I played bass on the session along with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I didn’t play on “Leather and Lace”, but I remember working on the original recording in some capacity at Larabee Studios and just dying over how good the singing was between Stevie and Don Henley. It was perfect. I love that guy’s voice. But those vocals were both re-recorded, and the results were pretty lifeless by comparison. That leads to another part of the story of my involvement as Stevie’s demo producer during that time.

Once it was known that Stevie was “going solo” she was courted by some folks that wanted to start a record label, with her as their premiere artist. That would launch their effort, and their attitude was that anything she released would be a big hit, and that means making a lot of money. It became clear that it was their only consideration, and I, being an unknown & unproven entity, was seen as a small bump in the road. What I wanted was for Stevie to be respected and regarded as a quality artist, not unlike the way Joni Mitchell was. And I wanted to explore some of her more fringe instincts like the Motown/Soul aspect that I’ve mentioned earlier. And she had that kind of Dolly Parton thing, as well.

What her “people” wanted was, in my opinion, the “lowest common denominator” approach. Almost a caricature of the “commercial” Stevie. So they brought in a big name producer, Jimmy “wheel in the Hammond” Iovine, whose name was on a number of albums that I truly loved (Springsteen, Dire Straits), and I was maneuvered out the door. The funny thing was, at the only session I ended up on, “Outside the Rain”, all he did was talk on the phone while engineer Shelley Yakus did the recording. What they ended up with over the years was a bunch of one-dimensional disco tracks that never did justice to Stevie’s talents.

I was fed up with that scene and moved out of her condo and started a band with Annie McLoone that was much more to my musical tastes. I’m not saying I didn’t make any mistakes, but for me it should have been music first and foremost. I think that they really thought Stevie could sing the phone book over anything and it would be a hit, and that was all that was required. Too cynical for me, sorry.


You once had a crush on Sara (formerly Recor & Fleetwood), who is an excellent singer. Did you ever record any demos with her?

David, Los Angeles, California


A: No, she was just starting and wasn’t very confident or ready.

Die-hard fans of Buckingham Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey and Stevie and other groups pre-millennium can often feel, I think, that the era of "good" music ended in, or before the 1990's but was at its strength in the 70's and 80's. The latest albums from the Mac, Stevie and Lindsey were phenomenal in terms of artistry, but relatively unsupported commercially. Some of this can be blamed on the internet as many download rather than buy, and some of it on a considerable lack of marketing (odd given the power of the net). But it seems that the greatest music out there today is overlooked.

Do you feel any disappointment in today's standards of "music", what do you account for the change, and do you think there is any hope of turning out real artists who write and sing their own material and don't need to use gutter words every other stanza? I understand that both Stevie enjoys "Justin Timberlake" and Lindsey is an "Eminem" fan. And I'm wondering what in the world is going through their minds.

Heather Eddy,
South Carolina


A: Well, everyone’s taste is very personal, and I know those guys listen to music of all kinds. I heard a story once that Elton John used to rent Tower Records in L.A. after they closed for the day, and he’d spend the evening cruising the racks and buying records by artists of all kinds including some of the “soul” music that I liked, the Spinners, being one. You can never tell what might inspire an artist that you like, and I think both of those that you’ve mentioned are very, very talented. Personally, I like some pretty edgy stuff. I’ve been a Public Enemy fan forever, I absolutely love the Sex Pistol’s one album, but I think Barbara Streisand is one of the greatest singers ever, and I recently discovered Bluegrass.

I really believe that at any point in time you can always find some amazing music if you dig through the past. There’s always someone who’s deep and heartfelt, but it might take some searching. It’s there. We have this great heritage of music in America, and it has inspired artists all over the world. There’s also incredible music around the world, Africa, Asia, and then there’s classical/orchestral music.

The Internet has certainly changed the equation, and it’s something that some of us are trying to adapt to. Annie and I work with a lot of very talented local artists. Who knows if any of them (or us) will ever get an audience at all. But making the music is really what it’s all about. We’re just trying to figure out the best way for people to hear some of this stuff and let the chips fall where they may.

Was it like a culture shock leaving Los Angeles and moving to Minnesota? Did you have to get used to a slower pace? Do you feel more removed from the music industry, like you aren’t in the thick of things? Is it harder to get things produced or to find the talent you need? What’s better about living there?

I’m a musician and I make money in LA, but I feel like I’m hurting myself by not moving to California and taking a chance. I may starve, but if I don’t risk it, I may hate myself 5 years from now. Do you feel like you gave up any career ops by leaving?

Ty B in Shreveport


A: It was a change that I desperately needed. L.A. is very destructive, and you need to have more ambition than talent to succeed there, unless you get exceptionally lucky. And even luck won’t get you signed to record companies that don’t exist anymore due to the radical changes brought about by the Internet. But, I believe that the Internet has actually brought us the possibility to reach people that you never could have before. For example, my band “Surf Nation” has been played and purchased all around the world. There’s no book yet on how to do this, but it is possible.

As far as being removed – I don’t feel that way at all. I have cable modem and TV, and can access stuff from all over the world. Fantastic. And living in a small upper Midwestern has allowed me to focus on music far more than when I was living in L.A. Plus, I love the Vikings.

Mr. Moncrieff,

I'd been hoping you would do a Q & A for years, ever since I read Hoppy Hodges' answers, I wanted to hear from you too. Thank you for visiting. I have two questions.

Were you present for the recording of Bella Donna? If you were, what were the major differences between Fleetwood Mac’s production style and Jimmy Iovine’s? Was one production more organized than the other? Did one have more improvisation or creative exchanges than the other? Was Stevie’s role different when she was recording with Fleetwood Mac than when she was working on her solo material?

Thank you for your time,
Rhiannon’s Mom


A: There certainly is a difference between a band doing a record and a solo artist. In a band like FM you really have to try to involve everyone and bring out the best in each member, as well as play down their individual weaknesses. I think of it as “focus”.

For example, I think Lindsey had a hard time adjusting to McVie’s style of bass playing when he joined FM. It was just different than what he was used to. Here was John, known as a premiere Blues bass player in England, but played a looser “concept” than Lindsey preferred. I, being one of two bass player’s in BN, was keenly aware of what he wanted, and was very willing to do that, despite the fact that it was part of my natural instincts to play that way anyway. That meant playing very simple and structured “parts” that we made up, and supported the song as much as possible. A Blues style would be thought of as more improvisational and interpretive. Eventually they came to terms.

I wrote about the Bella Donna record earlier, but I would say that Jimmy Iovine was more like Keith Olsen in that he would just dispose of anyone at any time. Those kinds of producers don’t take into account what a dedicated “side-musician” that has a relationship with an artist might contribute. If you are not a songwriter you are considered expendable. The unspoken secret of signing bands is that it’s usually only the songwriters in a band that get signed.

Same kind of question for Buckingham Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. How did Lindsey and Stevie change in the studio between the time Buckingham Nicks was recorded and the time Tusk was recorded? Did Lindsey grow more anal, obsessive or controlling in the studio over time? Did Lindsey and/or Stevie turn into prima donnas, from the early seventies to the late seventies. Did you see their talent grow over the years, remain the same, or decrease?

Thank you for your time,
Rhiannon’s Mom


A: I can say with a smile that Lindsey didn’t really grow more anal, obsessive or controlling in the studio because he was already maxed out in that regard. He’s a perfectionist (personal definition required) and a genius, and totally dedicated. It was my pleasure to be of any assistance in that pursuit.

I think they both got more confident to some degree, which helps them both. The thought of standing in front of 10,000 people that really don’t have to like you if they don’t want to, and put your heart and soul, vulnerability and art ….

Did Stevie and Lindsey really have as tempestuous a relationship as has been reported ad nauseum, or would you say it has been magnified in order to fuel the machine? What were your personal observations of their relationship? Do you think they are friends today?

Dee (CADreaming)


A: It was tempestuous at some points. I’m sure they would not have exaggerated that for the sake of publicity. My guess is, they will always be good friends even though they might not see each other outside of music.

Lindsey played bass in Fritz for a few years; did you guys discuss tips, etc? Did he tell you how to play?

Dee (CADreaming)


A: In Fritz, Lindsey was really a guitar player playing bass. He’s so musical that he could pick up any instrument and do something meaningful with it. Plus, being a great singer and songwriter, a lot of time was devoted to that stuff.

Me, I learned bass and guitar at the same (around 13 years old) and was dedicated to those instruments. I was neither a lead singer or a song writer at that point. So tips, not really. But he would, without a doubt, want certain things played a certain way. And like I said, I was more than happy to do that. It was great music, after all, and us BN guys all burned on our instruments. We might be playing Lindsey’s concepts, but the band always brought their “A game”, so to speak.

Just for the record, I first joined Buckingham Nicks as the other guitar player. The bass player was Lanny Landers, the drummer was Hoppy Hodges. We rehearsed for about a year and played very few gigs. S&L were signed to Polydor Records, but that company had no idea what to do with them, and eventually fell asleep. I went on the road for a while with some sleazy band so I could pay the rent, and had my neck broken in a hit-and-run auto accident in Fresno, Ca.

When I recovered about a year later, Lanny and Hoppy had gone and I became the bass player with Bob Aguirre (from Fritz) on drums. This was the lineup that started recording BN II at Sound City with Richard Dashut.

When S&L joined FM we were offered a farewell tour in the South where the BN Band had previously played to large crowds (for us) at some colleges, roughly 6,000 seat auditoriums (while simultaneously eating Hamburger Helper in L.A.). Hoppy joined us for the “Southern Safari” tour and we went as Stevie, Lindsey (gtr), me on bass, and both Bob and Hoppy on drums. There are MP3s of those gigs floating around the Internet that came from a “board mix” made by the sound company.

Hey Tom:

I was just wondering if you could give a little background about the Surf Nation project, and where I can pick up a copy of the CD?

Thanks!
Chris Jackson


A: Hmmmmm…. I think I have one… er… somewhere……BAM!!!

No, but seriously, folks, you can get it at
www.cdbaby.com, or www.surfnation.us.

I started Surf Nation in the late nineties with Annie McLoone on rhythm guitar, our drummer, Frank Utecht, and eventually joined by bassist Tim Mullally. Since I was not a lead singer, I finally realized that I could have an outlet for writing music if I used the guitar as the vocalist. I’d been in some other surf bands in LA (the Malibooz and the Surf Raiders) and it was always fun. So we started a modern surf band, and in that context, we could play anything. Everyone has wildly eclectic music tastes, and we try to incorporate it all. World Beat, Punk, Ennio Morricone, Dick Dale, the Mermen, Funkadelic and Public Enemy, somehow mangled into Surf Music.



I’d like to thank everyone for their questions and for providing a place to tell some of these stories from a perspective that might be a little different from those already available.

- Tom Moncrieff (aka: monte x)