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Sunday Mail, February 14, 1988

FLEETWOOD Mac is a rock phenomenon; a band that has survived heartbreak and tragedy, drugs and disillusionment. Not even success has managed to destroy it.

Key members come and go. Internal battles rage, and are resolved.

But still it delivers rich, beautifully crafted rock music which is uncannily in tune with prevailing musical tastes.

It has left its musical stamp on three decades of popular music, and looks set to hit a fourth. It has triumphed over disaster and disarray so often that it has become the band that has forgotten how to die.

On March 31, Fleetwood Mac hits Brisbane as part of the world tour on which it has embarked in support of its recent Tango In The Night album. The band will play one concert at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre.

As usual, there have been changes in the line-up. Two new faces _ the rather younger ones of guitarists Rick Vito and Billy Burnett, both of whom also sing _ will fill the yawning gap left by the departure of Lindsey Buckingham.

But the action will still revolve around the old team: The powerful Fleetwood ladies, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks, and the rock-solid rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass player John McVie.

None of them will see 40 again, which makes them pretty ancient in pop terms. Fleetwood and McVie both look older than that, thanks to the . . . ahh . . . strains of the rock business.

Stevie is still pretty, and Christine, oddly, is more attractive now than she was when, as Christine Perfect, she fronted a British rythm and blues band called Chickenshack in the 60s.

Fleetwood Mac has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. To put that in perspective, think in terms of a modest buck an album, double it for tour revenue, and you can calculate just how much of an achievement it was for Mick Fleetwood to declare bankruptcy some years ago.

And spare a thought for the former Fleetwoods. Peter Green, the original guitarist and the man responsible for the magical Green Manalishi cut, was committed to an asylum in Britain some years after failing to handle the fatal combination of commercial success and LSD at the beginning of the 70s. But his music lives.

Jeremy Spencer was the clown who, one night in London's historic Marquee Club, managed to outrage an audience by stuffing a piece of fruit down his trousers and doing a rude Cliff Richard impersonation.

Ironically, he was recruited by a cult outfit called Children of God on the streets of Hollywood, and was last seen struggling to sell books of dingbat religious philosophy on London's Oxford Street.

Bob Welch flirted with solo success after his years with Fleetwood Mac, but never quite made the grade. He was last seen struggling for recognition with a modest solo deal on a Hollywood record label.

And now Lindsey Buckingham, the man who replaced Welch who replaced Green, has gone. It speaks volumes of his contribution that the band has recruited two top players to replace him, and to prowl the stage in his place.

Christine McVie said recently: ""Had Lindsey stayed in the band and toured, there was talk of adding another guitarist, so to replace him with two makes good sense. Billy and Rick have two completely different styles of playing, and they complement each other very well."

So far, things seem to be working. Perhaps maturity has taken a hand at last, and the stability that has never been a part of either this band or the rock business in general is finding a foothold along with the onset of comfortable middle-age.

John McVie said of the musical relationships within the band recently: ""We try to be honest and unpretentious. We don't try to be what we're not. First and foremost, we are friends.

""Obviously there are disagreements from time to time, but in the end it is our friendship and our respect for each other that gets us through."

In the five years between the release of the Mirage album and Tango In The Night, most of the band members pursued individual projects.

Stevie, in particular, enjoyed spectacular success.

But now it is business as usual. The band's awesome momentum comes from a legendary past, but the life in their music derives from their grasp on the present and hopes for the future.

It was Stevie Nicks who said recently: ""I don't think that we have even touched the surface of what we could really do yet. The possibilities for change in this band are incredible."

True, Stevie. We've seen a bunch. But how many more names and dates will we armchair rock historians have to memorise before Fleetwood Mac has run its incredible course?