Print E-mail

By JANE DOUGHTY

 FIVE months ago Christine McVie contemplated life without Lindsey Buckingham _ regarded by many as the architect of Fleetwood Mac's seductive sound. Rumors were rife that he would leave after co-producing their latest album, Tango in the Night. ""I know Fleetwood Mac has gone through all sorts of changes, but this configuration has been together for 12 years now. If Stevie (Nicks) or Lindsey were to leave . . . it wouldn't be Fleetwood Mac," said Christine at the time.

A month later Christine, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks and John McVie announced Buckingham's departure. Lindsey would concentrate on a solo career while Fleetwood Mac gained two new members _ Billy Burnett (rhythm guitar, lead vocals) and Rick Vito (lead guitar, vocals).

Burnett spoke to BLITZ last Thursday from San Diego, where the group was touring to promote the new album which has gone platinum in the US and gold in Australia, Japan and the UK. He said audience reaction to the new line-up had been ""overwhelming". ""The sound's still there _ it's definitely Fleetwood Mac. The album's Top 10 in 10 countries and the tour is going really well. ""It's during the live performances you find out, first-hand, how you're doing, so we feel really good about it." It seems Mick Fleetwood, the two-metre drummer who founded the group with bassist John McVie in 1967, was right when he said: ""The only way you could stop this band is with a firing squad." The revamped Fleetwood Mac will tour Australia in March/April _ the first time since the Tusk tour in 1980. Billy toured here as the lead singer with Mick Fleetwood's side group, The Zoo, in 1985 and said he could not wait to return. ""We had fun all over Australia but I love Brisbane especially _ we had a ball there. We're expecting the same response."

A respected singer/songwriter/guitarist in his own right, Burnett has made several albums and his songs have been sung by artists such as Roy Orbison, Ray Charles and Jerry Lee Lewis. He also co-wrote the song So Excited with Christine McVie for her 1984 solo album. ""I've always been a big Fleetwood Mac fan _ ever since I first heard the band way back in the late 60s. When Stevie and Lindsey joined the band (in 1975) I became an even bigger fan. ""It's hard to replace Lindsey but knowing all these people for so long has made it a lot easier. ""There have been no conflicts whatsoever. There's a very good chemistry among us and for me to be in this band is really the most exciting thing that's ever happened to me. I'm not missing my solo career because I'm having such a ball in Fleetwood Mac." Burnett said Rick Vito had also known the original members for years. ""They inspired him to start writing songs when he first heard them.

Back in the mid-70s, Rick and John McVie recorded with John Mayall." Vito was the lead guitarist on Bob Seger's Like A Rock album and tour and has also played for Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt. During Fleetwood Mac's five-year break after the poorly-focused Mirage album, each member of the group except for John McVie made at least one solo LP. Guitarist/singer Buckingham has since revealed he decided to produce Tango in his home studio because he thought the group had something to prove. ""I would not have wanted to leave the group on the ambiguous note that Mirage sounded." Burnett said the new line-up hoped to avoid another gap between albums. ""We're going to produce more records in the future and we'll be making one when we get back from Australia." He said the next album would probably be quite different from Tango. ""I'm sure it'll be different since Rick and I will be writing. It'll be Stevie and Chris and Rick and myself writing most of the songs. ""We've got a much fuller sound because of the extra person in the band and a little more rock "n' roll edge to the sound, which will, of course, be reflected in future albums."

Fleetwood Mac were originally a blues-accented outfit based in England but they moved to Los Angeles in the early 70s. In 14 years they have sold more than 40 million albums. THE new band (from left) Rick Vito, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, Billy Burnet, John and Christine McVie. Their 1977 album, Rumours, remained at No. 1 for 31 weeks in the United States (second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller). It won the Grammy award for ""Album of the Year" and established the group as one of the most successful rock acts ever. John and Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks ended long-term relationships during the recording of Rumours. Mick Fleetwood was going through a divorce. Personal crises continued to haunt the band's members in the early 80s, including the bankruptcy and sacking of Fleetwood as the group's manager after the 1979 Tusk tour, John McVie's dependence on alcohol and Stevie's drug addiction. Burnett said they had maintained their appeal over the last 20 years because they were ""all survivors". ""Apart from their music being great, they just refuse to give up." Of their coming Australian tour, he said: ""We'll be doing a "Fleetwood Mac greatest hits' tour. We're doing three or four off Tango _ Seven Wonders, Little Lies, Big Love _ and a lot of the old hits like Dreams, Sara and Go Your Own Way."

Were the original members sad to see Lindsey go? ""I'm sure they were but they feel this is a new era of Fleetwood Mac. Lindsey wanted to do his solo stuff and the band wanted to remain a band so that's what happened. They've been wanting to tour for ages." LINDSEY Buckingham (far left) chose to go it alone earlier this year.