The Philadelphia Daily News, Friday, July 28, 1978

Section: Daily News Friday Mag Drawer

By Jonathan Takiff

THEIR SHOW OF STRENGTH will be at JFK Stadium, Sunday at high noon. And it should be a much better concert than show the snooty Stones bestowed on their JFK audience last month.

Group founders/leaders Mick Fleetwood and John McVie would hardly allow a crowd to sit on its hands for two hours before their appearance (as the Stones did at JFK, after Foreigner's set), nor would they skip off the stage after a cursory 90-minute set, with nary an encore or even a "thank you." (That Stones stunt at JFK provoked an angry crowd to trash the stage for a full hour. Nasty, nasty.)

BECAUSE FLEETWOOD MAC gives more, they also get more - attracting one of the most diverse and interesting audiences in pop; not just the teen crowd you see at most rock shows, but also adults - young 20s to middle aged. Savvy musicianship - a steady stream of infectiously melodic radio hits, laced with a hard beat, powerful guitar, and superstrength vocals, with a hint of blues and a touch of jazz - created this fanatic devotion. There's always a lot to listen to on Fleetwood Mac records, which gives the songs staying power, and yet it's always a sound that's easy to take - music that's controlled, so it lays nicely on the ear the first time round.

VIEWED FROM THE Monday morning quarterback slot, the game plan for the group's success looks deceptively simple. But it took Fleetwood Mac ten years and four gestations to get it down right.

"Lots of other artists would have given up a long time ago," says Mick Fleetwood. " But we've always kept up the momentum, kept thinking about the potential. And now we're getting paid back in a really pleasant way, seeing the results of a lot of fucking hard work."

The group's first incarnation as a gritty blues band (circa 1967), Fleetwood Mac paled by comparison with their British competitors John Mayall and The Yardbirds. In their second sprint, as a keyboard-oriented soft rock group, Fleetwood was so laid back they were hardly in the race.

Compounding their creative dilemmas, the band was being blocked, time and again, by personal and business hassles. Guitarist Peter Green, long considered their strongest asset, stumbled off the playing field in 1970 - a victim, said Mick Fleetwood, "of too much self-analysis, and too many drugs floating around."

Not long after that, second guitarist-vocalist Jeremy Spencer freaked out and joined a fundamentalist religious group, the Children of God. Professionally, neither Green nor Spencer has been heard from since.

IN 1973, AT THE LOW ebb of their career, a vengeful former manager threw the band an outrageously wicked pitch, by sending a bogus " Fleetwood Mac" band out on tour. The legal machinations necessary to untangle that mess took two years and sapped considerable group energies. But thanks to a sympathetic press, the Mac One/Mac Two controversy created renewed public interest in the real band, and "inspired the group to work harder than ever in the studio," according to Bob Welch, then a member of the band.

Welch is one Mac alumnus who's kept up good relations with the group. As testimony to that fact, he and his own band will be sharing the bill with Fleetwood Mac tomorrow at JFK. Other Big Mac-ers who've come and gone with lesser ado are Danny Kirwan, vocalist Dave Walker and guitarist Bob Weston.

It was Mick Fleetwood's choice of successors for Bob Welch that finally made the difference in the group's sound and success. Recalling a single hearing of an obscure Polydor album called "Buckingham Nicks," Mick tracked down and hired guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and his lovely songwriting-vocalist partner Stevie Nicks.

"AFTER YEARS IN the business, I can easily tell if someone will be good in the context of Fleetwood Mac," related Mick. " I identified with Lindsey's style of playing, with the sort of simplicity of emotion that he and Peter Green had in common. And it seemed a good idea to have two female singers (Nicks and Christine McVie) and three writers. That way, you never get caught in a box."

The energy level in this Fleetwood Mac proved "a lot more apparent than in the past," Mick also acknowledged. "When we made the 'Fleetwood Mac' album with Stevie and Lindsey I think we all became aware of getting it on tremendously well and being motivated - feeling strongly about it. It sort of snow balled."

In good times as well as bad, personality conflicts have continued to plague the band. Not long after the "Fleetwood Mac" album became the biggest seller in the history of Warner Brothers Records, Christine and John McVie split up, and then Stevie and Lindsey called their marriage quits.

Yet, this time, the group has managed to separate its personal differences from its artistic concerns. The follow-up album, "Rumours," made in the midst of this marital strife, mined another mother-lode of pop pearls and sold like crazy. And the group continues to provide a united, and electrifying front in stage appearances.

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