The McVie Story Part 2

Christine apparently did a lot of soul searching around this time and, after eight months of being married to a man she adored but rarely saw, decided to make a major change. John was certainly making quite a good living with Fleetwood Mac, and was earning more than enough to support them. Chris, on the other hand, had become quite disenchanted with the demands of her own career, saying, “Life on the road is no life for a married lady.” She clearly knew she didn’t have to work, and it had gotten to the point where she really didn’t want to, either. Therefore, she chose to leave Chicken Shack altogether, and devote herself to what she felt was now most important: “I wanted to spend more time with ‘hubby' ...and obviously he couldn’t give his career up since his was the more successful… so I decided to be a housewife.” She left her band in April 1969, on the same day their new single “I’d Rather Go Blind” was released. (Oddly enough, the lyrics of the song were criticized by some as being ‘sick’—it was quite a different time back then, compared to lyrics you hear today! Chris defended Go Blind Singleherself by asserting, “If I thought it was offensive to blind people, I wouldn’t have recorded it.”) The Etta James song ended up being a huge hit, and she did re-join the group for a day to promote the single on the popular TV program Top of the Pops. She felt a bit flustered while preparing for the appearance, having gotten used to her life of quiet domesticity—“I’d forgotten what it was like…it’s all so chaotic.” She also admitted she’d walked in to do her one radio interview carrying her “bag of shopping” (or ‘bag of groceries’ for the Americans reading!) Her former bandmates joked that “the singing housewife” should do the appearance with her hair “in curlers and holding a dripping mop in her hand.” Perhaps they should have been a bit more appreciative and a bit less sarcastic—for after she left them, Chicken Shack certainly never achieved the same level of success. Apparently more people were coming to see the gorgeous and talented Ms. Perfect than Stan Webb would have cared to admit. But even with the huge success of the single, Christine was content with her new, less stressful life of simply being Mrs. John McVie: “I am delighted the record has done as well as it has, but I have no regrets about leaving. In the first few weeks I felt a bit disorientated. I was feeling tired all the time even though I had nothing to do. It was just that I spent that first fortnight unwinding.” She now had time to enjoy the thrill of being married to the bass player of England's top band: "It was extremely romantic. Some of the glamour of what Fleetwood Mac was in those days rubbed off. It was almost like someone marrying a Beatle-- you married one of the links in the chain, and you were part of them."

Fleetwood Mac’s popularity continued to grow--the talented Danny Kirwan had joined right after John and Chris got married-- and now that Chris wasn’t working, the couple finally enjoyed a little more 'togetherness' during this exciting time. At least it was an improvement over those pathetic days of passing each other on the doorstep with their well-worn suitcases. Now, when John arrived home from his frequent travels, she'd be there for him; if he happened to have a few days off, they could spend them together. What luxury! John splurged a bit around this time and bought them a “new orange Marcos GT” (which I suppose was really mainly his, since Chris didn’t drive yet!) The security of married life seemed to provide them both with a much-needed sense of moderation and equilibrium, and they seemed well suited for each other; one visiting writer observed, “certainly she and McVie together exude a warm compatibility that has its basis far away from the music world.” Stereotypically, the story often goes that ‘the love of a good woman helps a man to settle down,’—and this may well have been true, as John had quite a reputation back then for his alcohol intake, which was said to have been reined in a bit--at least for awhile-- after he married Chris. His answers in a January 1969 Melody Maker questionnaire were also very sweet-- after five months of marriage, he was still caught up in the flush of newly-wedded bliss. Aside from proudly answering ‘Christine Perfect of Chicken Shack’ under the ‘Wife’ column, he also wrote her name under ‘Best Friend’, ‘Pets,’ (along with the small creature implication, this is also a British term of endearment), ‘Miscellaneous Likes’ (where Chris had to settle for second place, after ‘cowboys’), and finally—put this in your pipe and smoke it, Peter Green with your rude onstage comments, as women find shyness in a man to be a most attractive quality-- ‘Most Thrilling Experience.’ John’s life certainly wasn’t the only one that changed for the better, however-- the press at the time emphasized that his supportive presence had also affected Christine in a most positive way. Years of trying to ‘fit in’ as a girl on the music scene had apparently led her a bit astray: “To help her merge with the group image, she dressed like the boys; to help her get though the hectic pace of living on the road, she drank with the best of them. Her beer arm was constantly on the lift. She became ill.” The assurance of settling down with someone who understood firsthand the pressures of the lifestyle, and who knew and loved the real woman behind the ‘star’, “was to change her whole outlook and attitude to life. She softened up and stopped drinking…Of all the people who have influenced Christine Perfect’s extraordinary life, it has been the quiet McVie who has brought her the stability she so obviously needed.”

By late 1969, after 15 months of marriage, the couple moved for the third time, into a “new spacious London flat…overlooking Gloucester Terrace...with all mod cons (modern conveniences?) except that the carpet is dirty and the kitchen roller blinds don’t work.” It’s always something when you move into a new place, isn't it? Things in their relationship, however, seemed to be working fine—with the one downside being the amount of time they still spent apart, despite the fact that Chris had ‘retired.’ John realized his long periods away were not easy, but over coffee during an interview he gently reminded his wife of the bigger picture—he was trying to save enough money to buy them a house: “Ultimately, that’s what I’m working for. It means I’m away for three or four months at a time and Christine, like all women, tends to get emotionally upset about it. But it’s money for our future, and, eventually, we’ll be pleased I did it.” (In the photo above, John's looking a bit 'emotionally upset' himself. It could not have been easy working so far from home and from loved ones for such long blocks of time. Perhaps it was just a fleeting moment that was captured on film... but in that moment Peter, Danny and John all strike me as looking very young, and very sad.) Chris, ‘like all women,’ was perhaps a little more honest with her feelings of how difficult these long separations were, maybe even more so now that she had no work to distract her. Her response to John's comment made it heartbreakingly clear that even after a year of living this way, it wasn’t getting any easier: “It always destroys me when John’s away. It’s like having my right arm missing. I pad about the flat feeling lost... He’s my best friend.” She movingly expressed the resigned sadness of their frequent goodbyes in her lovely song from this period, called “Gone Into the Sun”—‘Just one last look before you leave me, just one last look before you go; be careful now, the light is fading… and I'm so scared of being alone/Hold me closely in the darkness, let me feel that you are near…just one last look and you'll be gone… oh, gone… into the sun. ’ I adore this song; it’s so melancholy…you can almost see the airplane disappearing into the sunset. Several other songs she wrote during this time frame shared this common ‘he's gone/I'm sad’ theme as well: ‘It’s You I Miss,’ ‘Lonely Without You,’ ‘No Road is the Right Road.’ At least the separations provided her with a bit of musical inspiration. When not meandering through the rooms in a depressed funk, she occupied her time painting, sculpting and sketching -- one writer mentioned that, “A very telling portrait of John, sketched by Christine, hangs on the wall of the flat. It is a drawing by someone who knows another human being inside out.” Another article showed a photo of her gazing up at a larger-than-life head shot of him that was on the wall—the implication being that for months at a time, looking at those pictures of her husband was apparently as good as it got. (John later praised her drawings and a clay bust she made all those years ago as “excellent,” and she even carved a dragon into his original Fender bass—which, unfortunately, was later stolen from Manhattan Beach. In the photo above—if you look really closely, you can see a bit of the dragon—right beneath his hand; we tried to make it stand out a little.) Aside from their goal of buying a house, Chris also laughingly told of another dream they had in those early days together: “You know, John and I want to pack up everything in a couple of years time and go on safari—travel a bit before we’re too old. After that—well, I think we’re going to be the most conventional married couple in the world!” (That ‘traveling’ irony just kills me…being as most of their married life was soon to become one long, wretched road trip.) Chris has always made it pretty clear that she never set out to make a career in music her life, and was definitely "quite prepared to be a housewife," with all the responsibilities that title entailed: taking care of her home, her husband, and perhaps, eventually, a family. In the Melody Maker questionnaire from January 1969, when asked whether he had children, John's response was, “None yet.” These two simple, poignant words certainly support the premise that this young couple did anticipate a ‘conventional’ future, much different than the one that came to pass. It appears they thought they'd follow that most traditional of newlywed agendas-- buy a house, do some traveling together, have a baby. Fate’s a funny thing. Who knows-- had the tides of the music business not sucked Chris right back in so quickly, the McVies might today be enjoying their grandchildren in the garden of a little English cottage somewhere, with Fleetwood Mac having taken a completely different path…or perhaps having faded into just a fond memory from the days of their youth in London.

But fate had other plans. Although she'd left Chicken Shack, the great success of "I'd Rather Go Blind" began to pull Christine back to her former career within a fairly short time. In 1969 she was voted Best Female Vocalist in the Melody Maker's readers poll, which she recalled was “quite a thrill for me. I got front page of Melody Maker, which was quite something in those days!” (She was also awarded the honor of having one of the top ten pairs of legs in all of Britain—an honor she later laughed about since she thought “back then they were rather chubby!”) Although she says she “wasn't keen on giving up my life of leisure” as a housewife, Christine was strongly encouraged to get her own band together and release an album, and gradually the idea of a solo career began to grow on her—if only as “an extension” of her other artistic endeavors. She admitted, “I suppose I’ll be a bit nervous at first because I don’t know what people will expect from me,” but she did see an advantage in that it would be more flexible than her former career, and would give her a sense of purpose and independence during the long periods she spent alone: “...I can choose when I want to work. If I want to earn money, I can when John’s away.” Following “an amazingly great audition at the Lyceum” she formed a band and made an album, simply entitled ‘Christine Perfect’. Today, Chris is not proud of-- and is actually quite embarrassed by-- this album, and felt it was "not very representative of me-- I wrote very few songs at that time, and the ones that I did write-- I'd just as soon have them slipped under a carpet somewhere." The live shows did not go well at all: "Everything had to be done in such a rush, so nothing was done properly. When we started working live, the band just wasn't together; it was very rough." The tour came to an untimely end in Nottingham, however, when poor Christine ran off the stage in tears, overcome by her own imaginary defects—“Even worse, I had to come back on and finish the set.” She had been invited to promote the single from her album-- a Danny Kirwan composition (which he and John McVie both played on) called "When You Say"-- on the ‘Top of the Pops’ TV show. It turned out that John actually had some time off around this same time, and Chris found herself having to choose between sticking around to do the TV show, or taking a rare holiday with him to Greece. Decisions, decisions…stressful TV appearance, or romantic getaway with oft-absent husband… what to do …? Suffice it to say, her bags were quickly packed. Her priority at that time certainly wasn't to have a 'solo career' anyway, and she had felt it had been pretty much “handed to her on a silver platter.” The success of her album was actually significant enough that she again won Melody Maker’s Best Female Vocalist award in 1970—but after this brief attempt at a solo career, Chris was quite happy to 'retire' again, telling the press quite emphatically, "I shall be doing no more live dates, and making no more records." At that time she was considering putting her art degree to use and going into painting and illustration. (While in college she had focused on sculpture and portrait modeling, but certainly seemed quite gifted in all artistic areas.) She did concede that in the future, she might do "some songwriting, perhaps."


Peter Green’s days with the band were nearly at an end. He’d grown interested in Christianity, and that had become a primary focus in his life. He was unhappy with the band’s lifestyle and with their growing wealth, and thought they should perhaps try to make the world a better place by giving all their money away to charities. Mick was immediately against this idea. (Much as I adore Mick… this doesn’t really surprise me.) John, however, perhaps being a bit more soft-hearted—and momentarily forgetting that houses aren’t free-- agreed at first with the generous simplicity of it all: “I thought, ‘Yeah, it makes sense!’…Mick caught me about two hours later and said, ‘Are you out of your %&$# mind?’ It sort of brought me around and I said, ‘Sorry, Peter.’ Duh!” Legend has it, after a particularly brutal LSD trip in Munich, given to him by some German ‘jetsetters,’ the Peter they’d once known began to slip away; as John remembers, “He did acid for three days. It was so intense…that’s what did him in. Those buggers. I always wished I could catch up with them.” After Green’s traumatic exit in early 1970, the rest of the band, at Mick's urging, decided to move as a group into a rural property called Kiln House, where they lived for six months. John said, “We did the ‘move into the country’ and ‘gettin’ it all together’ bit…so we all moved into this…old converted oast house, which was very beautiful.” Chris described what it was like at the time: “It’s down in Hampshire, a big place on a rambling wilderness piece of land, uncultivated, mostly covered with forest. That was just what we wanted. We were completely cut off; we could enjoy the seclusion.” Here the four guys began work on a new album—but John recalls they also indulged in less ambitious endeavors: “We spent most of the time just sittin’ around smoking…stuff.” Chris also agrees that they passed many hours around the kitchen table “cogitating life.” Although she had played keyboards and sung background vocals on the Kiln House album, she could not be credited due to contractual reasons. She did, however, receive credit for drawing the album cover-- which she calls "a little doodle”: “I did that in a day-- well, actually a couple of hours. They were desperate for a cover, and I don’t know quite how it ended up me doing it. I think I’d done some drawings of things and Mick said, ‘This is really good, why don’t you try and knock up a cover?’ So I did. Fantasyland, Kiln House. That’s what it was at the time.” There was a good-sized assembly that lived together in that house, and all the women were in their prime childbearing years. Jenny Fleetwood, Fiona Spencer (who I think was actually still in her teens, but who already had one son, Dicken, with Jeremy-- see photo at right), and Danny Kirwan's girlfriend Clare were either pregnant already, or would be soon. This was really one of the few 'time windows' in her life when it would have been practical or feasible for Chris to start a family as well. However, she may have been somewhat pre-occupied dealing with the loss of her mother, who had recently passed away. (Interesting note: Some of psychic Tee's 'prophetic’ last words to her daughter before she died concerned an orange grove—go look there, you’ll find something. I’d imagine this obscure message provided the McVies with at least a few evenings of befuddled conjecture…! Five long years passed before the meaning behind those words became clear: when Mick, John and Chris found Stevie and Lindsey, the duo were living on the corner of Fairfax and-- Orange Grove . Pretty neat, eh? That little anecdote always gives me goosebumps!)

Fleetwood Mac was just about to embark on their first American tour without Peter Green, and went into a bit of a panic, thinking that their sound wasn't full enough; on Mick’s ‘Two Sticks and A Drum’ DVD, Christine candidly recalled the foursome “were definitely not sounding that good.” John agreed: “We rehearsed, and realized that we really needed a pianist, and then the light came on—there’s Chris, having just come off Chicken Shack, and ‘female singer of the year’ bit, and just sittin’ around!” (Well, not really. She recalls she was often "madly cooking away with all the other wives" in the Kiln House kitchen.) The group somewhat desperately asked Christine to join them, and she didn't deliberate for long; as John says, “She graciously said ‘yes.’” As she remembers: “I was playing with them at the house—there was a piano and I used to muck around on that while they were rehearsing. One day they asked me if I wanted to join; they had all been thinking of asking me individually, but it took awhile for them all to realize that they felt the same way.” (Many documentaries imply that ‘John invited his new wife into the band’ etc-- like it was all part of his big ‘master plan’ after he married her-- but Chris once emphasized that, “It wasn’t John’s idea. It was Mick, who, I think, vouched for me.”) She admits she had grown a bit bored with her domestic duties, and probably figured it would be fun to accompany John on tour and and finally see what it was like ‘across the pond’. Perhaps she also was less than thrilled with the prospect of being left behind in a house full of hormonal women. Her quick decision to join them on the road was not based on any great desire to be a future ‘rock star,’ however, but rather on a more personal reason: "No, I didn't have any second thoughts about joining the band-- I was married to its bass player, and I wanted to be with my husband ." They might have looked upon this as their opportunity to finally pack up and go on that “safari” together; it was August- their second anniversary, after all-- and it seemed a pretty convenient way to combine business with pleasure. A ‘spokesman’ for her in 1970 told Disc magazine that, “As far as we know, Christine was only going to the States for a holiday with John,” to escape some of the unrest in England at the time, and was joining Fleetwood Mac “for appearances only.” She certainly never thought it would become her life for the next 28 years. Her contract with Blue Horizon was bought out so she could legally work with the band; she also stressed that she now wished to be known only by her married name, Christine McVie. Within ten days, she was onstage with them in muggy New Orleans, perhaps in a state of some disbelief at where her life had taken her: “It was nerve-wracking and frenetic, and I was in a band with my idols and I’d married one of them, and our marriage was very happy at that stage.” (Interesting side note: Chris had never cared for her maiden name and seemed glad to be rid of it-- she once jokingly asked an interviewer, "Why do you think I got married?" She claims that it was a difficult name to live up to as a child: “My schoolteacher would say to me, 'Well, I certainly hope you are, Christine.' It was severe... a lot of people ask me why I still keep my married name, now that I'm no longer married, and the answer is obvious --because I didn't like the name Perfect!" In his usual self-effacing way, John McVie has warmly worked into several interviews how, "She used to be Perfect... and then she married me!" I think a fairly recent place to find this is on 1997’s ‘Behind the Music;’ check out his adorable ‘going down memory lane’ smile as it fades in, right before he says it.)

Some critics had a hard time reviewing the shows right after Chris joined, considering many of them had no clue who this new blond chick was, what had happened to Peter Green, or why the band wasn't doing any of the old favorites. It wasn't exactly a confident time for anyone in the group; Chris stated around that time: "It was still a really desperate effort to make up for the loss of Peter, and everyone felt terribly inadequate and insecure. We were pulling the band in different directions...Before, Peter ran the band. Now there is no leader; we just take turns." After awhile, the group seemed to settle into their new line-up, and she had a much more positive outlook on things (and had also begun to identify herself as really being part of them): "We're happier than we've ever been before with the set-up we've now got. Also with the music we're doing. The band is so much tighter than it ever was." Upon returning home, John and Mick purchased a huge country estate in Hedley, Hampshire, called Benifold, for the band and some of their roadies to live in. Peter Green even used to visit his former mates occasionally, to jam and spend a night or two. Danny and his girlfriend were there, as well as Jeremy and his family. On the next American tour, though, Spencer would disappear off the streets. For three terrifying days, the band searched for him, and finally managed to locate him at the Children of God Headquarters in LA. He had abandoned them and his former life, choosing instead to devote himself to Jesus. (He remains active in the group to this day.) Peter graciously flew in to help Fleetwood Mac complete the remainder of their tour, but seeing Peter play again made everyone more depressed, for they knew after these shows, their brilliant guitarist would be gone from them again. Upon their return home, the group had plenty of time to sit and endlessly obsess on what Jeremy had done. Chris felt so betrayed by Jeremy's sudden departure, and thought--unlike John and Mick-- that he should not be allowed to re-join to the group if he suddenly decided he wanted to. While the band tensely waited for Jeremy to return to the house and pick up his belongings, Christine said, "....he could have had the courtesy to let us know , instead of just walking out on us and leaving us to worry like he did for those four days....I don't think I can work with him again after what he's done." She, along with the others, also felt extremely grateful to Peter Green for his help in their desperate hour of need. One wonders what might have happened at this point if Jeremy hadn't left, and the band hadn't been placed in 'crisis mode.' Even if Christine's original plan was to join the band 'for appearances only', how could she now go back to just being a 'housewife' again and leave the three guys to deal with this problem on their own? I doubt she felt she could back out of anything now: she clearly realized that her marital circumstances were indisputably linked to whatever misfortune befell Fleetwood Mac. If Peter hadn't helped them complete their tour, they would have been in some dire straits. She said at the time, "We would have lost a lot of money, lost this house, everything. It would've been the end, because this house represents everything that we've got. (Then addressing herself to John, she stressed:) Everything you've worked for, for the last eight years, let's face it. It's all tied up in this house."

After Jeremy left, the remaining members decided they needed to find a replacement. As John recalls, they were unsure as to what other direction they could take, other than carrying on working as a band: “We didn’t know what else to do! And, you know… we got on well together. I was married to Chris…and me, Chris, Mick, and Mick’s wife at the time, Jenny, lived in this nice house….and I don’t think there was any thought of, ‘I’ll go this way, you go that way’-- it was like, ‘Well, what do we do to keep this going ?’” On the recommendation of old Mac friend Judy Wong, songwriter/guitarist and California native Bob Welch joined the group in summer 1971, when the morale of the group had sunk particularly low. He managed to infuse some fresh life and enthusiasm into the proceedings, and Chris remembers: “He was the kind of guy that after dinner would sit down with a glass of wine and a huge cigar about the size of a billiard cue and tell these amazing stories. He was a wonderful story-teller with a terrific sense of humor, so he and I hit it off well." Shortly after Bob joined, the band attended Danny Kirwan’s wedding to Clare Stock, at a nearby yacht club. (Bob recalls they took Mick's dog in the car with them to the wedding, (why..?!?) and the poor animal proceeded to throw up all over his suit: "We cleaned it up as best we could, but the wedding photos show a very nasty stain indeed!") By this point, Fleetwood Mac had begun to prefer doing gigs in America rather than England; Chris explained why: "In England it means traveling by road and coming home each night in the very early hours, but in America you are staying in hotels. You don't feel it's such a tiring drag over there...we are doing positive stretches of work now and then rest periods, rather than a few gigs and a few days off." While the group 'holidayed' between tours, a visiting reporter described a typical day in the life of Fleetwood Mac in 1972-- "Mick Fleetwood is overseeing the fitting of a new silencer to his new V8 Morgan; John McVie and his wife Christine are painting the hall; Danny Kirwan is away at the seaside and Bob Welch is at his home in the states." Chris' older brother John Perfect (who played saxophone on the group's album Future Games; in photo at left in the late eighties) also helped her learn to drive in summer of 1972. After a week of practice, Chris drove with her brother in her ‘new white mini’ to pick up a New Musical Express reporter at Hazelmire station; this fellow recalled Christine having a bit of a heavy foot while she negotiated the wet roads on the way back to the house. Her brother advised her, "Not so far out...ease up a bit," but the car apparently still 'hogged the centre of the road'. The reporter said he felt quite relieved once they reached Benifold (and was probably glad when John drove him back to the train station later in the day, instead of Chris!) One comment made by this nervous chap seemed to sum up Britain's attitude toward Fleetwood Mac at that time: he wrote that it was sad seeing Jeremy's gold lame' suit hanging lifelessly in the corner, "...because that was once how Mac were in this country. A sparkling outfit who had so much going for them." In the eyes of their native land, they were history, but-- much like Chris behind the wheel-- they stubbornly pressed on, despite the fact that the climate was a bit hostile.

Christine’s decision to join the band was, in hindsight, a truly life-changing one-- both for the band and for she and John personally. They both recall the early years of their marriage as being wonderful; despite the times they often had to be apart, the saying ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ certainly seemed to ring true for them. Chris once emphasized, “We had no problems prior to me joining the band; I think we were actually really happy.” In the beginning, touring with Fleetwood Mac must have initially been a welcome change for the woman who’d confessed to ‘feeling lost’ every time John went away. They knew all too well what it was like to miss each other, and Chris admitted in 1995, “I thought it would bring us closer together” when she joined. They probably never thought they’d reach a point where they’d get a bit sick of seeing the other’s face. You have to feel for them, really; I don’t think they ever truly had a fair shot. It was either feast or famine from day one. Chris later described how about a year after she joined Fleetwood Mac, things began to take a downward turn: “We were very happy. Very happy… for probably about three years. That’s when the strain of my being in the same band as him started to take its toll.” When asked in 1988 how things were when Chris first joined, John asserted that they were happy initially, having had very little experience at that point of it being any other way: "Yeah! It was wonderful!…Because we didn't know any different ! In retrospect…it (the divorce) might not have happened." Christine agreed with this, as she said in 1997: "I daresay, if I hadn't joined the band, we might still be together. I just think it's impossible to work in the band with your spouse. Imagine the tension of living with someone 24 hours a day, on the road, in an already stressful situation, with the added negativity of too much alcohol. It just blew apart." Anyone who has taken a holiday with someone knows how after about a week in close quarters, tempers start to wear thin, and little irritations start to grow into major blow-ups. I can’t fathom the strain of doing this for years instead of days or weeks, and dealing not only with your spouse, but also with the little idiosyncrasies of other individual band members. Add to that a poor diet, cramped travel cars, a nightmarish laundry situation, dirty hotel rooms, and lack of privacy--Mick has said that at times they had to sleep three or four to a room-- not exactly a recipe for marital bliss. But the root of the problems really seemed to lie in the fact that they were just together too much: “John and I spent too much time in each other’s pockets. It’s pressure, being in the public eye. When people get married they can live in a house with more than one room. But on tour you’re in a hotel room together, you leave the hotel together, you drive together, eat together, sit on the plane next to each other—you’re like Siamese twins.”

It should be noted that every decision Chris had made up until this point, regarding her career, was based on what she thought was best for her marriage. As her role in the band grew more significant, her relationship with John began to deteriorate—but by then it must have become nearly impossible to separate her commitment to the group from her commitment to her marriage. They were too closely intertwined-- she couldn’t make changes in one area without it somehow affecting the other. Mick once commented on how she may have felt divided in terms of where her loyalties should lie once she joined: “…there was that element of the commitment that she made to the band—but also was aware of, because of the marriage, ‘Is this the right thing to do?' Many years later it transpired that she had second thoughts as to whether it was . I don’t think she would have changed it, and it certainly was not a problem to start with.” Sadly, it certainly ended up being a problem, and a major one at that: as Chris later said, "We saw so much of each other at work, at play, and at home that it became very wearing on the relationship." It was really unfortunate, this tricky situation they had so unsuspectingly gotten themselves into. Much as you might truly love someone, having them right there in your face all the time for hours, days, weeks, months, years on end... you'll end up irritating the life out of each other. It's inevitable. Sometimes after spending a three-day-weekend with my husband, I'm ready to run screaming from the house to escape all the 'togetherness'; the fact that the McVies made their arrangement work for five years after Chris joined the band (they were married seven years total) is really no small feat. For a while Chris thought it was "more strain on the marriage having to spend so much time away from home"—but of course during these lean years of trying to keep the band afloat, the touring was nearly incessant. When not on the road, the couple took the opportunity to live like normal people and spend a bit of time away from each other-- they each did their own thing and enjoyed some privacy and personal space. John used to go to boat shows with Bob Welch, and dreamed about maybe someday buying one of his own. He also took a couple of solo trips to Hawaii and began cultivating a passion for sailing and for the ocean. Chris, ever the homebody, enjoyed spending time with her family and caring for her home at Benifold. Mick remembers that Chris made her section of the house very cozy, with "antiques and dim lighting", and that his wife Jenny used to be unhappy at the amount of time he spent there (but the decline of that marriage is a story for another day, and probably another writer!)

Aside from making major contributions to all albums from 1970 on, Chris was also an important part of the group's stage personality, and was a source of strength and stoicism throughout the many pitfalls that befell them. She, John and Mick bonded over all the trials, and developed quite a strong attachment and loyalty to each other: “John and Mick are the most dominant people in my life musically over the years—I married one and became almost like a sister to the other. (They) have been there. When we were struggling, we struggled together, and when we were doing well, we enjoyed doing well together… and somehow there was never any thought to ever stop working with one another. It just seemed that we just flowed with the strongest tide.” Over the years, they ‘flowed’ through Jeremy's leaving, Bob Welch joining, Danny's decline and eventual firing, and the arrivals and departures of Bob Weston and Dave Walker. Mick recalls that she was “always the solid participant. Never really complained, that I remember, about anything. Very supportive and had a warmness about herself. Quite a homebody type person.” John once commented that his wife was "more mellow than Mick and me put together. She has a great ability to accept situations and put them in their proper order. That's her strength." However, all these stressful ‘situations’—losing band members, incorporating new ones, trying to keep the band itself going-- often put severe strain on the group, and most certainly on the McVie marriage. Bob Weston commented that, “Christine and John touring as a married couple obviously had its pressures. Because of the sheer amount of touring that was incurred, I suppose it must have become intolerable for them. But they had the dignity to keep the personal stuff separate from the job at hand…There was a closeness between them, but I think the road just took its toll in the end.” Mick Fleetwood indicates in his book that by 1972 the couple already had some serious troubles, which were not helped by the alcohol intake which went along with life on the road. Neither one was a stranger to the drinking/drug scene that went along with the territory; if drinking was an issue for them in their early days together, it is tough to find evidence of it. It was simply a part of their lifestyle and didn’t seem to cause any major problems. The personality changes that accompanied John's over-indulgence, however, could be rather severe; as Chris once said: “John is not the most pleasant of people when he's drunk. Very belligerent. I was seeing more Hyde than Jekyll.”

We now enter into a most confusing era for all concerned. It’s difficult to even write all this in such a manner that it will make any sense. Mick, John and Chris have never really spoken much about the details of what happened during this time (although Chris has admitted her marriage was really in trouble “around ‘Mystery to Me’, shall we say?”) By now, both the McVies and the Fleetwoods were experiencing some major marital problems. In the McVies' case, all the endless association that pushed them together in their professional lives drove them apart in their personal ones. As John spent more time in the pub, Christine spent more time in the studio, working closely with the group’s producer, Martin Birch. According to a book written by Bob Brunning, she and Martin may possibly have had a brief affair around 1973. Both Bob Welch and Bob Weston agree there was some heavy electricity going between Chris and Birch during the making of the Mystery to Me album, while Welch also recalled that John wasn’t around the studio much: “He’d go to the pub with Dave and come back three days later. (Note: It was in an "afternoon of complete delirium" that he got his penguin tattoo on his right arm.) He was very paranoid about his playing—during Mystery he wanted to go to France and come back later to put on his bass parts, and we kept having to convince him to stay. He and Chris used to have a lot of ups and downs, I mean a lot. Then it was probably more downs than ups.” Chris wrote her magnificent song, ‘Why,’ during this time; though to my knowledge she’s never said it was about their marital difficulties, it sounds an awful lot like a woman realizing that the most precious relationship in her life has become something she hardly recognizes, and that the future isn’t looking particularly bright. The Fleetwoods were also in a state of turmoil-- Jenny had become quite close with Bob Weston, and this seemed to hit Mick full force while the band was on the road. Jenny, Amy and Lucy happened to be traveling with the band, and it soon became quite obvious that Weston was interacting more with Mick’s family than Mick himself did. Bob Welch has said that the band “were all aware” of the affair that had sprung up between Weston and Jenny, and Weston emphasized, “I thought the band was on its last legs anyhow. John and Christine were saying, ‘You leave the band and I’ll stay; no, you leave and I’ll stay’…and they were the kingpins of Fleetwood Mac!” In his eternal effort to keep the band together at all costs, Mick tried to ‘look the other way’-- but he soon realized he was at his breaking point. Weston was sent packing—perhaps having become an easy scapegoat during these troubled times-- and the remainder of the tour had to be cancelled. This was truly a shame, as ‘Mystery to Me’ was a fantastic album, which probably could have been huge in the States had they been able to properly tour and support it.

The remaining members scattered—Mick to Africa, Chris to England, John to Tahiti, and Bob to L.A. The band’s furious manager, Clifford Davis (whom John McVie had never really trusted from the very beginning) then assembled a ‘fake band’ and sent them out on the road as Fleetwood Mac. It’s been written that Chris may have pondered leaving the band at this point to make a solo album with Martin Birch, while John is said to have had thoughts of also calling it quits and going to live on Maui-- the magnitude of the troubles in both his marriage and his band had become a tad overwhelming. Bob Welch seemed to have the most interest in defending Fleetwood Mac’s good name and reputation, and not just giving up. He recalls, “The band just needed some breathing space, some time off because Mick had this difficult situation. John and Christine might well have been going through another struggle, but they could still stand to look at each other. It was specifically Mick who could not deal with the whole thing.” Gradually, the band got themselves together—the Fleetwoods worked through their issues, and John decided to stick around and not move to Hawaii after all, since whatever might have existed between Chris and Martin soon fizzled out. With some major assistance from Welch, the ‘real’ group began legal proceedings, and eventually won the rights to their own name. Chris recalls this being a really rough period for them: “The most soul-destroying time was just after the bogus group. We hadn’t gone on the road for a year. We didn’t work , actually, for a year, and that became very depressing. There were times during that year when we thought, ‘Oh, no, we have to build the whole thing back up again.’” John also admitted, “I’d thought of quitting—in those lonely moments in a hotel room, when you’re looking at the walls. But then I’d realize, ‘What else am I gonna do?’” After their exhausting legal fiasco, a drained and dejected Fleetwood Mac contemplated a move to America, where at least they had a fan base; England had more or less forgotten about them. In the beginning, neither of the McVies was too thrilled with the idea. The stress involved in battling the ‘fake Mac’ had taken its toll on everyone, but Bob persistently pushed on and realized they had no other option if the band was to continue. Welch remembered, “I took on the job of rallying Mick, John and Chris to the idea that we had to fight this, or forever forget about Fleetwood Mac. There was some reluctance. Christine was (even back then!) tired of going on the road, and had talked about wanting to "retire" and run a small shop or something.” Mick and Bob eventually persuaded John that the move was essential, but Chris was still hesitant; she maintains that she made her feelings on the move clear, telling them, “I don’t wanna go, I don’t wanna live in America.” Her home, her family, her roots were there in England, and the idea of such an enormous change-- of leaving their familiar way of life behind-- had to be daunting. The McVies and the Fleetwoods had grown accustomed to living together in their secluded country home-- Mick has said they were like "a family”--and the McVies were Godparents to his daughters. When they weren’t on the road, John and Chris had watched Amy and Lucy grow from the day they were born, and Chris once said about the little girls, "They're almost like my own kids." Her little nephew Dan Perfect was probably in the picture by then; plus, her father Cyril had re-married a woman who was only a year older than she, and fathered another son who was born around this time. (Another musical Perfect child: Chris said this young man was an "aspiring classical composer" by age 14.) Surely she would have liked to remain close to her nephew and get to know her new half-sibling, instead of moving thousands of miles away.

She also may have needed some time to think carefully about her own future, and about the path she was taking. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: men have the luxury of waiting to have children-- women have to make choices, and that darn clock is always ticking. Realistically, it is much more acceptable for a father to have a child and still work in a touring band; for a mother, as Stevie Nicks has said many times, it’s really not an option. Bob Welch did think that Christine “might have been conflicted back then about family vs. career, yes.” An insane article that once appeared in a British tabloid showed a photograph of Chris with a baby (actually her half-brother, I believe), and implied that she’d actually had a son with John—but that the couple had decided to leave their child in the care of her father and his wife to raise, since they themselves were on the road so much. Chris later found the utter lunacy of this notion darkly funny-- that people would think she was the type of person who would give up her own baby to be in Fleetwood Mac instead!—and she emphasized that if she’d had a child, she would have quit the music business and raised it right. Note that she felt her choice was ‘either/or’. (For the record, Stevie made several definite choices in this area as well.) It might be noted here that Christine did later make a most unambiguous decision regarding children, after her marriage had ended, during the insane period following the success of Rumours: a NME article revealed that around 1977, she “had herself sterilized, a very Californian thing to do.” Another writer later added: “Even this great, warm pillar of the band must have taken some serious punishment on board. Some years ago she made the irrevocable decision to be sterilized. Understandable, perhaps, given the lifestyle—but for a woman of such warmth and presence to yield up such a crucial female power without having borne children, there must have been forces at work at which one can only guess.” She told the New York Post in ‘77, “I love kids. Personally though, I don’t think I’ll ever have children. I’m just too set in my ways to change and babies certainly dictate change.” In 1980, however, she did express some maternal urges in a television interview, “I have no desire to have children of my own… maybe as I get older, I’d like to adopt some children.” Stevie has also in the past commented that adoption was a thought in her mind, but obviously neither woman went ahead with it. The fact is that Mick, John and Lindsey have by now produced eight children between them—of course with younger wives-- while Stevie and Chris are presently doting aunts to their brothers’ children. So while the guys can look forward to future graduations, weddings, and grandchildren, the women’s legacy lies only in all the music they’ve created over the years. Chris made a comment in 1992 that always struck me as a bit sad: “This happened to me. I didn’t go for this…when I listen to those songs I realize that’s been my life, really. Stack those records together and that’s really all I’ve done.” In a July 2004 interview she also admitted, “Sometimes I regret not having children. There was a time 20 or so years ago when it would have been nice, it just didn’t happen.” Of course the three guys deserve every happiness with their families; this whole thing is not a slam against them at all! It just bothers me how the women felt theyhad to sacrifice something, while the men did not—they were simply able to wait for a more convenient time. The stakes for women are very different than they are for men, who can—and often do -- ‘have it all’. And I felt strangely compelled to point this out. And perhaps got a bit carried away.

Let’s take a deep breath and move on, shall we?

Ultimately, Christine made the choice to forge ahead with the band, at least (in her mind) for a while. She must have recognized that they had little future if they stayed in England--and they spent more time in the States than they did in the UK at this point anyway, and were more popular there---so she agreed to a six month trial period, with Mick and John's promise that they would return to England if she truly hated it. This was a major decision that Christine essentially had to give the final 'OK' to, that had an enormous impact on the group's future. (In recent interviews from 2004, Chris has been emphasizing that she really only thought she’d be in America for six months!) The group made the move in April 1974, and the McVies stayed at John Mayall's house in California for a while before renting their own small house in Laurel Canyon. While living with Mayall, John McVie joined a group of a different nature, called 'The Brain Damage Club'. Christine remembers, "In order to join, you had to dive off the third floor naked into the pool. I'm still amazed he didn't kill himself. Needless to say, I didn't join the club." OK, so maybe she didn’t dive off the third floor, but she did join her husband in shedding a few inhibitions. Mick’s (now ex) wife Jenny--who herself was thrilled to be away from the ‘stagnation’ of Benifold-- remembered one inventive way they passed the time in those early days of living in America: “…we mostly hung around the pool of the house where John and Chris McVie were staying…There, the release from our rather prim, stiff-upper-lip upbringing took full rein. Spirits were up, and lots of wine encouraged us to shrug off our British propriety – and, with the exception of Mick-- our bathing costumes—and indulge in underwater acrobatics.” (Wonder if John Mayall knew exactly what was going on in his pool!) Anyway, after the trials and tribulations of the previous year, at least they had a chance to share in a bit of fun au natural as they started off their life in the States, a chapter that would simultaneously be one of the happiest, saddest, craziest times of their lives.