Miami Herald, September 22, 1982


by Lynn Van Matre, Chicago Tribune Service

Fleetwood Mac's latest effort, Mirage, went from a new release to the No. 1 spot on the best-selling-album charts practically overnight, and spirits in the Mac camp, as might be expected, are running high.

"We're really on an up at the moment," said Christine McVie, who likens being a member of one of rock's last reigning old-line supergroups to being married to four people, each with a decidedly strong mind of his or her own.

"In the last year or so, we've sorted out a lot of our personal differences -- the breakups and all that kind of thing within the band -- and the emotional situations, and we had a lot of fun making this album. I think you can tell that when you listen to it. But we were dumbfounded, you could say, with the success it's had. Rumours and Tusk had a massive amount of success, of course, but they didn't seem to get to the top of the charts quite so quickly."

"It was a surprise, a quite pleasant one, to have it happen so fast," agreed Mick Fleetwood. "I just hope it stays up there and doesn't go down as fast as it went up."

Only Lindsey Buckingham, of the three Fleetwood Mac members who called recently to chat about such matters as music, Mirage and the band's current month-long tour, admits to having a sneaking suspicion that success might be kind of a sure thing.

"I guess I wasn't all that surprised that Mirage got to the top so fast," said the singer-songwriter and guitarist, sounding more matter-of-fact than immodest.

"I mean, it did shoot right up there, but on the other hand, there hasn't been all that much out lately. The Eagles have broken up. So have the Doobies. A lot of the bands that could be considered part of that 'upper strata' of rock are gone. I think maybe Fleetwood Mac perhaps just represents one of the last available groups of that stature.

"The surprise," added Buckingham, "is that the album came out at all, as far as a lot of people are concerned. When Stevie Nicks and Mick and I started making solo albums, most people figured it was the beginning of the end for Fleetwood Mac."

Curious observers, of course, have been quick to write finis to the Fleetwood Mac story before. "By now, we're resigned to it," said Fleetwood. "Whatever we do, we're permanently going to be considered to be breaking up." But when the band wound up its 1980 tour with a couple of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and then took off in different directions -- singer-songwriter and keyboard player McVie to do some production work, drummer Fleetwood heading for a solo project in Africa, singer Nicks to work on Bella Donna and singer-songwriter and guitarist Buckingham to begin his own album -- the talk grew louder that Fleetwood Mac was indeed tossing in the towel.

"Nobody wanted to see those solo projects for what they were," said Buckingham, whose own album, Law and Order, sold about 300,000 copies. (Fleetwood estimates sales of his solo album, The Visitor, at about 250,000; Nicks' Bella Donna, a
genuine smash hit, sold more than a million.)

"They were safety valves, really -- safety valves that improved things within the band and helped us to get through this new Fleetwood Mac album," Buckingham said. "In my case, for instance, the fact that I have a solo outlet made me want to do a more collective Fleetwood Mac album.

While Fleetwood Mac has made its biggest mark with mainstream rock -- and all of its members now live in the Los Angeles area -- the group's origins were as a late 1960s British blues band. Originally called Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac (after guitarist Green, and current Mac members Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie), the band amassed a following in Britain, then set their sights on the United States.

But shortly after Fleetwood Mac's first tour of America, where they opened for such acts as Jethro Tull and Joe Cocker, Green decided to leave the band for religious reasons; another member, guitarist Jeremy Spencer, vanished one day in Los Angeles only to be found several days later with a California cult known as the Children of God. ("He went out for groceries and ended up quoting the Bible," John McVie noted at the time.) Replacements were soon found in the form of McVie's wife, who had worked with British band Chicken Shack as Christine Perfect, and California guitarist Bob Welch, who later left the band and was replaced by guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and his singing girlfriend, Stevie Nicks.

With songwriters Buckingham and Nicks spearheading a move toward a more mellow rock sound -- and Nicks' gypsy-witch stage presence providing a visual focal point -- Fleetwood Mac seemed to have the necessary components for large-scale
success in the middle 1970s. Nearly a decade after the original band began, the group's albums began selling in the millions; singles such as Rhiannon and Over My Head turned up in the Top 40. But offstage, things were less than harmonious. The McVies' marriage broke up; so did Buckingham and Nicks' longtime relationship. "It wasn't easy," recalled Fleetwood, "but everyone came out on the other side with a lot stronger attitude that enabled us to keep going."

The turmoil, in fact, provided inspiration for much of the material on Rumours, an album of songs about relationships that ranks as Mac's best-selling album ever. "The music was very easy to listen to and accessible to all walks of life," said McVie, who estimates the album's sales at 30 million worldwide.

Tusk, the band's late 1970s follow-up to Rumours, sold a fraction of its predecessor -- "a mere 8 million," McVie noted wryly. By that time, of course, the record industry bubble had burst; a downturning economy would no longer support such phenomenal sales as Rumours had enjoyed. But Tusk was also missing much of the accessibility that characterized the smooth-flowing rock of Rumours; Buckingham, who recorded many of his contributions to the album at home, was moving in far more adventurous directions. The eclectic results delighted some and puzzled and put off others, including a number of radio programmers. But while Rumours is notable for its commercial success, it is Tusk that, to the members of the band, stands as Fleetwood Mac's finest effort.

"I think that will probably be the signpost in terms of the band's continuing to feel good about making music and continuing on a creative level," said Fleetwood. "We could have become complacent or listened to all the people who were telling us what we should do to follow up Rumours. Instead, we took some healthy artistic risks."

Mirage (the title was suggested by Buckingham's aunt, but he declines to explain its significance) is, for the most part, a return to the former Fleetwood Mac format. Its melodic mainstream rock celebrates proven sounds rather than musical challenge; the overall impression is one of finely crafted pleasantness.

"Still, I think that, in its own way, Mirage is a fairly progressive album," maintained Buckingham. "True, there isn't anything that radical on it, but I'm talking more about production values. The vocals are used in unusual ways, for example. So are the guitars; there are times when it takes more than one listening to be able to identify what they are.

"We're just trying to keep a step ahead of things," he added. "Just because we're a commercial group and a successful one and not all that far to the left doesn't mean that we can't be influential."

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.