APRIL 1981


"I s'pose we're broken up now," Mick Fleetwood says half-seriously as he settles into an off-white sofa in his Bel-Air home, near where Elvis Presley once lived.  For the last five years, gossip regarding Fleetwood Mac's "imminent" demise has persistently dogged them.  Mick can't even count the number of official denials they've had to issue, the last of which came just before their "Tusk" tour-end stands at the Hollywood Bowl last summer.  These rumors were spurred, no doubt, by the publicity about Stevie Nicks' solo album and "another project" based on her 1976 hit, "Rhiannon (Will You Ever).  "People are always going to say that we're breaking up," explains Mick, while his straight face softly cracks a sardonic grin, hinting that he may almost welcome the idle chatter.  Certainly such rumors have garnered the band as much media attention as has their music, and Mick, as their manager, recognizes the value of that.

"It's fine with me, because the more they talk, the better it is for us.  But the rumors," Mick admits, "still boil down to a lot of hogwash.  We are all very aware that we're lucky to be involved in something that works.  And no one has any intention of destroying this.

"But," he sighs, "God only knows there have been plenty of reasons that the band should've broken up."

Fleetwood Mac's 13-year career has certainly been turbulent.  In the late '60s --- with guitarists Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, and Danny Kirwan --- Fleetwood Mac was the biggest of the English blues revival bands.  The ensuing years, however, brought no less than eight personnel changes and several stylistic diversifications.  Some pretty lean years passed before Fleetwood Mac finally settled in 1975 with its current lineup.  When guitarist Bob Welch left the band in late '74 to pursue his solo career, a pair of L.A. soft-rockers, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, were asked to join.

"Mick didn't really know anything about us," recollects Stevie. "All these relationships between us are so close and they were so heavy, even in the beginning, that it's easy for me to think that we were together, before, in another life."  The combination of Mick, John McVie, Christine Mcvie, Stevie and Lindsey clicked immediately:  commercially and artistically, the results were magic.  "Fleetwood Mac" climbed into the Top 10 setting the stage for "Rumours", which shot to the top of the charts in 1977 and held the Number 1 position for over four months.  As rock entered its third decade, the little band that would was catapulted to superstardom.

In view of "Rumours'" success, it is ironic that some of its lyrics alluded to the break-ups of the band's two couples --- John and Christine, after an 8-year marriage, and Lindsey and Stevie, after a 6-year romance.  Life was hardly a bowl of cherries for Mick either.  He and wife Jenny (Patti Boyd Harrison Clapton's sister) divorced, remarried, and, more recently, divorced again.  As "Rumours" spun, the romantic upheavals seemed to transform Fleetwood Mac's personal crises into a rock and roll soap opera.  And few people would bet on the band's future stability. Circumstances that would surely and easily signal the disintegration of just about any other band served to, as Lindsey puts it, "cleanse and strengthen" the band's foundation.  "It was necessary to go through," he explains.  "I'm not sure the stability of the band would have been very good if we had remained together as couples.  Still, there's a lot of love, talent and energy involved with this band.  We respect each other more now."

Says Christine:  "I think a lot of people want something to go wrong with this band.  They want to believe that we can't stay together." No one, however, denies the occasional flaring of tempers and emotions. "In the healthy sense of the word," says Mick, "you need a certain amount of conflict.  That's a definite, obvious ingredient that HAS to be there. You can feel the sparks between Stevie and Lindsey because they're both sparky, wiry people together.  I dare say, if they had to work together now without the influence of the band, it'd probably be a potential horror show.  But, because of the way this group of people is, if anybody has to start putting up guards, which happens from time to time, everyone else drops everything right away and goes in and helps.  No question about it."

When Stevie was quoted recently in a national magazine saying that the recording of "Tusk" was "Like being a hostage in Iran" and that Lindsey was the "Ayatollah," there was some concern as to how Lindsey might take it.  Stevie had been avidly watching the nightly network coverage, and her quote came out sounding quite literal.  Says Mick:  "She and Lindsey talked about it right away and Stevie said 'I didn't mean for it to sound quite like that.' and Lindsey said, 'I don't mind.'  Lindsey IS a very intense person," says Mick, "especially in the studio when he's trying to express his feelings or find the exact sound he's looking for and having to do that through other people, the engineers and all of us.  He knows a lot about the technical aspects of recording, so he knows what he wants and I don't know a bugger about them, but he really wasn't a TYRANT." Mick chuckles. "When I asked Lindsey how he felt about being the Ayatollah, he started laughing."

John McVie has always said, "Fleetwood Mac is whatever it is at the time."  But one thing it's never been is complacent, either personally or artistically.  With "Tusk", the band remained true to its tradition of change, virtually unswayed by pressure to repeat the monumentally successful, seductive sound of "Rumours".  Lindsey had taken a portable studio with him on the road, and when the band returned to Los Angeles to begin recording, he told them he wanted to work at home.  "I have to be able to have a machine at home because it's homebase and it's a very different relationship with your work.  In the studio with four other strong-egoed people, plus all the mechanical units you have to go through, it can be limiting.  By using all the state-of-the-art technology, it's easy to get away from what rock and roll has always been.  The rawness on "Tusk" was a necessity and I, in my own mind, had no choice in the matter."

That basic "rawness" of Lindsey's tunes did give "Tusk" a feel somewhat defiant, completely different from "Rumours."  As a result, the two-album set inspired mixed and contradictory reactions.  Some hailed it as the most ambitious album since the Beatles' "White Album"; others panned it for being disjointed.

Says Mick:  "A lot of Lindsey's tunes had trouble with airplay because people didn't know immediately who it was and a lot of people wanted another "Rumours" for their own good ends.  Looking back on it, it was a risk (it sold some 4 million copies), but one I'm glad we took.  It put a full stop on others' attempts to control us and I'm thankful for the future bounce-off value. It was a growth album and healthy for that reason.  Now we won't have to worry about people presuming what they're going to get next.  We've never, ever stayed put, and the album will probably be viewed differently with time."

Stevie was not wholly pleased with "Tusk's" graphics, and her candid comments on the matter fueled more speculation of dissention in the band.  "I never did like the cover, and everybody knows that," she says adamantly.  "I got attacked by a German shepherd about a year ago and the picture reminds me of that dog.  He really isn't a mean dog, but I don't like pictures of dogs that look like they're going to rip your face off.  I simply had to learn to accept it.  But I'll just never wear a tee shirt with that dog on the front of it."  Says Mick:  "I thought it was a lovely cover and Stevie was voted out."  Fleetwood Mac's democratic decision-making process ("we have to do it that way," he says) is perhaps one reason the band has managed to retain its unity.  It's a majority-rule policy and both Mick and Stevie agree that it's next to impossible for all five members to agree completely on anything.  "I'm not Lord Mac in the corner," says Mick, "but I do tend to be more aggressive."

Once Fleetwood Mac came off their 10-month "Tusk" tour, they began digitally mastering the recently released "Fleetwood Mac Live" which features such FM hits as "Oh Well", "Monday Morning", "Dreams", "Over My Head", "Rhiannon", "Go Your Own Way" and "Don't Stop."  Also included are three new tunes recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Stevie's "Fireflies", Christine's "One More Night" and a cover of the Beach Boys' "Farmer's Daughter."  "We thought about the chances we were taking with another double album, but there was no way around it.  As far as I was concerned, if this band was ever going to release a live album, there would have been no better time, because I don't think we'll ever do a tour that long again.  It was all-encompassing, a real grind."  And despite some mumbling from some record company executives, as Mick puts it, "They're happy to get anything --- especially from this band."

With the live album en route to the record stores, Mick, Lindsey, John, Stevie and Christine took off in separate directions.  "We needed the breathing space," says Mick, "and I think we all deserved at least a six-month vacation."  Stevie agrees:  "Fleetwood Mac is like a marriage of five people and sometimes you've just got to have some room."

Stevie is currently working on her "Rhiannon" venture and plans to spend some time in her second home, an antique hacienda in the Camelback Mountains outside Phoenix.  She sold her Tudor-style house off Sunset Boulevard a year ago and took up residence in a beachfront condominium in Santa Monica.  "There was just too many people there all the time and I had to get away.  I want to get back to my old gypsy-kind of lifestyle.  I get tired of being a rock and roll star."  She's filling in a few spare moments she has by writing her poems and observations in journals.  She's also talking about developing an idea for an animated video project.

Christine joined her boyfriend, Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, on the road for a few weeks and has been writing some songs.  "I'm enjoying the freedom that success has given me.  It's enabled us all to realize a few of our dreams.  I do get bored with the business," she says, adding, "I'm not so dedicated as a nun to a church."

John took off with second wife, Julie, to Tahiti in his 63-foot sloop, but he'll undoubtedly return in enough time to visit Hawaii, before Fleetwood Mac begins recording again.  "I want to live in Maui," he jokes, "and be the last of the capitalist pigs."

Lindsey has been doing some recording on his own, but has yet to make plans for a solo album.  "I feel like I'm a real disciplined sort of person.  I don't often go out and party or drink.  I like to work, write songs, 'cause that's what I do --- like a novelist who just keeps turning out novels.  And that's something that I think is going to be a part of the music of the '80s,  reevaluating the whole atmosphere surrounding rock and roll and taking it more to heart."

Mick embarked on a two-month trip to the African bush where he's recording native drummers for an album of his own.  "It's a wild thought I've had for years," he says.  "I don't like to call it a solo album, but I guess that's what it is, but it's not like I'll be the only singer.  It's not going to be an artsy-crafty percussionists LP.  I mean, I don't want to do such obscure things that they won't get played on the radio.  I don't want to commit suicide," he laughs.  "It's like a method of madness for me to become a songwriter through other people in a way, but I'll also be doing some covers, like Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," for the obvious reasons and Bing Crosby's "It's Raining In My Heart."

Mick doesn't think outside projects threaten FM's stability.  "We've all got our lives outside of the band and I think this will be healthy.  We've been living in each others' pockets for five years."

By May, Fleetwood Mac will, as Mick puts it, "talk about going into the studio" for their next album.  "There's already a stack of songs from Christine and Stevie.  But this time, I think our approach will be different.  We've allowed ourselves to be totally self-indulgent in the use of the studios, and it was definitely necessary then, but I think this time we'll record the album more as a unit.  You can get into real trouble in the studio if you don't know where to stop."

Undoubtedly, there'll be another series of rumors and denials before the band ever completes their next studio release, but in some ways the more things change, as the philosophy goes, the more they stay the same.

Thanks to Kayde for transcribing this and posting it to the Ledge and to Anusha for forwarding it to us.