Los Angeles Times, Monday, October 4, 1982

TO FLEETWOOD MAC, MUSIC MATTERS MORE THAN THE RUMORS

by Dennis Hunt

The members of Fleetwood Mac could save themselves lots of aggravation with a simple ploy. They should have some T-shirts made bearing the declaration: No, Fleetwood Mac Is Not Breaking Up.

If group members wore the T-shirts a few times a week - particularly to concerts and interviews - they might not have to contend constantly with annoying questions about an impending breakup.

Christine McVie (keyboards player, singer, songwriter), Mick Fleetwood (drummer), Lindsey Buckingham (songwriter, guitarist, singer), John McVie (bassist) and Stevie Nicks (singer, songwriter) have been beleaguered by breakup rumors for years. These tales have been circulating ever since Fleetwood Mac's 1977 album, "Rumours" (a most appropriate title), sold more than 16 million copies and made this one of the most popular groups in pop music.

Yet, Fleetwood Mac is still around. A nifty addition to the group's bulging repertoire of hits would be the Neil Sedaka oldie, "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do."

The list of what was supposedly causing the split is staggering. At one time the gossips were saying that drugs and alcohol were undermining the group. Then some people swore that Christine McVie's jealousy of Nicks was boiling over and destroying the band. And then there was the rumor that Fleetwood Mac was doomed because all the members hated each other. These are just a few of the less sordid rumors.

"Yes, I know we've been on the verge of breaking up for years," said Christine McVie sarcastically. "It's not true, I assure you. There's no reason to break up, but for some reason people seem to like to think we are breaking up."

Every Fleetwood Mac tour is supposedly the finale. In 1980, during the tour to promote the "Tusk" album, the word was that it would be the last opportunity to see the band perform. The rumor then was that Nicks, reportedly immersed in crippling personal problems, wanted out.

Last year many were saying that the band wouldn't be around long enough to finish the album it started last summer in a studio near Paris. Recording was interrupted to allow Nicks and Buckingham to complete solo albums, which were released last fall.

Nicks' "Bella Donna" turned out to be one of the biggest hits of 1981. She even did a short solo tour just before Christmas. After that success everyone was saying it seemed certain that she would never go back to Fleetwood Mac. Well, when the group finished the album in early summer Nicks was still there and so was Buckingham, whose "Law and Order" was also a hit.

Despite all the delays and rumors of doom, the band's album, "Mirage" - on Warner Bros. Records - was finally finished. Featuring the hit singles "Hold Me" and "Gypsy," it's in the top five and one of the year's best-selling albums.

Why Fleetwood Mac still exists is an intriguing puzzle for pop fans. But to McVie and her colleagues, it's no mystery or surprise at all.

"You should see it from our side," she said. "People don't know what they're talking about. For some reason they just like to gossip about us."

The origin of the gossips' interest in Fleetwood Mac dates back to 1975 when Nicks and Buckingham joined the band. The first album with that lineup - "Fleetwood Mac," featuring the singles "Over My Head," "Rhiannon" and "Say You Love Me" - catapulted the group to the brink of superstardom.

Fans became fascinated with Fleetwood Mac in the late '70s when the news leaked out that a mini-soap opera was in progress within the band. There were two warring couples in Fleetwood Mac. One was married - Christine and John McVie - and one wasn't - Nicks and Buckingham.

Suddenly Fleetwood Mac was No. 1 on the gossips' hit parade. Many followed the decline of the two relationships as fervently as they kept up with the fates of their favorite soap characters. When the couples finally broke up, everyone figured the band would eventually collapse, too. So this deathwatch has been going on for years.

"People can't believe that two ex-couples are in the band and we're still all in one piece," said Christine McVie. "They imagine the tension is so great that we couldn't possibly work together comfortably. They keep thinking the tension will finally split us up. That kind of tension just isn't there."

McVie acknowledged, though, that tension was once gnawing at the group: "There was a time when it was tense and it was painful to talk about this. There was a time when being in this band was no fun at all. What we did was stay out of each other's way and let the dust settle and let the wounds heal."

According to McVie, the situation was never in danger of causing a split in the group: "The band had reached the pinnacle of its career. There was no way anyone was going to walk out. We were business partners too, and you just don't walk out on a thriving business.

"In this particular band, I think losing someone would finally end it. Each one of us is irreplaceable. I don't think the audience would go for a brand-new drummer or a brand-new bassist or a new whatever."

One of the things that kept them united, McVie observed, was their sense of humor: "You have to start laughing at yourself at some point. This band has its fair share of mirth and merrymaking. We're amusing people to be around. After a while it all seemed so funny to us. We laughed our way through the tragedy and managed to stay good friends and keep the band together."

There was a time, she said, when the band was truly on the verge of losing a member - Buckingham. The issue was musical rather than romantic. The problem arose during the recording of "Tusk," the 1979 avant-garde album that followed "Rumours."

"The only real different music on that album was Lindsey's," McVie said. "He was frustrated musically and had to do something on his own. He recorded most of his own tracks in his bathroom. He said to Mick and John: 'This might not be fair of me, but I want to play drums and bass on some of my tracks.' He also played keyboards, and Stevie and I didn't sing on some of his tracks. We were wise to allow him to indulge himself then. Otherwise he would have left, and there wouldn't be a Fleetwood Mac today.

"All those pent-up frustrations are no longer in him. He got them out of his system on 'Tusk' and his solo album. Now he's happy working in the framework of the band."

Christine McVie, 38, will be the next Fleetwood Mac member to do a solo album. Her plan is to begin it in a German studio in December. It's not her first. The Englishwoman was a solo artist in England in the late '60s when she was basically a blues-rock singer.

After she joined Fleetwood Mac, then a blues-rock band led by Mick Fleetwood and her husband, John McVie, she watched its blues roots get slowly buried during the often-changing membership in the early '70s that pulled the band in a pop direction.

"I haven't lost my blues roots," she said proudly. "They're still really present in my keyboard playing."

However, she said this solo album won't be a return to the blues. "I'm not sure what's going to be on this album," she said. "But the one thing I'm sure about is that it will be a pop album."

There's another thing she can be sure about. When she's working on this album there will be a deluge of hot new rumors that this time Fleetwood Mac is really going to split up.

Thanks to Les for posting this to The Ledge.