St. Petersburg Times, November 6, 1987

THE MAC ATTACK: A recharged Stevie Nicks jump-starts Fleetwood Mac on their latest tour


Fleetwood Mac, Saturday at 8 p.m. at the USF Sun Dome, Tampa. Opening act: The Cruzados (please see story, 2-D). Tickets are $ 17.50, plus $ 1.50 service charge ($ 2.50 for phone orders).

Rock's bewitching gypsy, Stevie Nicks - a fairy-tale queen draped in flowing black shawls, twirling dreamily in quasi-ballet steps - does not live in a dream world after all.

During a recent phone interview, the singer/songwriter - a 13-year member of the band Fleetwood Mac - was downright earthy, chatty and as inviting as an open book. Nicks' renewed affability results in part from her recent stay at the Betty Ford Clinic in which she conquered a substance abuse problem. More than that, however, it signifies a coming of age for the enigmatic star.

"For years I had to fight to be taken seriously," she says. "I had to be really, really clever. So I sort of played the part of the stupid blond to get my foot in the door. I acted sort of mystical and off to myself and it allowed me to sit back and observe. I couldn't be too pretty, or too sexy or too good at anything or I wouldn't have been invited back. It would have, of course, been easier if I were a guy. I was a woman hanging out with male outlaws."

Nicks' renegade brigade has included the men in Fleetwood Mac - Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and her former boyfriend Lindsey Buckingham (who left the group in August) - several ex-Eagles, Tom Petty, Kenny Loggins, Rod Stewart and the like. Do they accept her on her own terms now?

"They'll never quite," she says with a chuckle. "But they've had to deal with me so long. They love me even though I'm pretty sure they think I'm a little crazy. But I'm part of their life."

Part of Nicks' struggle for legitimacy within her chosen coterie stems from a lack of musical training. She writes prolifically - but instinctively, without formal knowledge of chord structure or song form. She has composed such beloved, fantasy-filled tunes as Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win), Sara and Dreams by following her own private muse.

It took a while, but the fellas finally caught on. "All of the music men that surround me don't want me to learn so much more that I stifle the simplicity of these beautiful songs that they can work with," Nicks says. "As it is, I don't know a whole lot about music and if I did I'd probably be really hard to work with. I give (the other members) a finished skeleton of a song, that is not arranged or anything, but the parts are there. And with my music they can really expound on it. For me, this non-training has worked. Which is also a great thing to tell the world: You don't have to be a brilliant musician to be successful."

Born in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 26, 1948, Nicks lived in several western U.S. cities during her youth. Although shy early on, she came out of her shell enough to be named first runner-up as homecoming queen in her junior year at Menlo-Atherton High School in the San Francisco bay area. Shortly after, as a student at San Jose State, she joined the psychedelic rock outfit Fritz. Lindsey Buckingham was also a member.

After relocating to Los Angeles in 1972, Buckingham and Nicks split from the group to pursue a career as a duo. They recorded one pop-folk-flavored album, Buckingham-Nicks, for Polydor in '73. Nicks waited on tables in Beverly Hills to supplement the couple's income.

The following year they met Mick Fleetwood, who invited them to join his group, necessitated by the departure of Bob Welch. The revamped band's self-entitled album (1975) was Mac's first mass success. With sales exceeding 5-million it reached No. 1 and spawned three Top-20 singles. Bigger yet was 1977's Grammy-winning Rumours which sold more than 20-million and ushered Nicks into the front rank of rock's female heartthrobs.

During the making of Rumours, John and Christine McVie's marriage came to an end and Buckingham and Nicks called it quits as well. For 10 years the band carried on with two pairs of ex's. No, rock stars are not immune to petty jealousies and, yes, the arrangement was very difficult, according to Nicks.

"It was hard, but each of us had to come to terms with 'Am I going to be the one to leave?' And when we each examined it, we all decided to stay. Sure it was hard when Lindsey brought a girl on the road or if I started seeing someone," she says, adding that she became involved with Don Henley shortly after splitting with Buckingham. "And although some people figure we would have gotten used to it, it never passed, it never became easy. It did show how important the band was to all of us, though. We figured out ways to handle it."

Outwardly, the level of commitment from individual Mac members has been suspect over the years. There have been long hiatuses between albums (the current Tango in the Night came five years after its predecessor Mirage). During those breaks, solo albums have been released by every member except John McVie. Nicks' three solo efforts have been the most commercially successful (her duet with Petty, Stop Draggin' My Heart Around from Bella Donna reached No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart). Overall, in the 10 years since Rumours, Fleetwood Mac has released only three studio albums and a much-overlooked live set.

All the current members profess an ongoing loyalty to this combustive collective, however. With the departure of Buckingham - who had taken on a co-producer's role in the studio - many speculated that the group's present tour would be a swan song. The remaining four, who have been augmented by guitarist/vocalists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito, all deny that the end is near. "It's as if we're just getting started," John McVie has said.

To reinforce this renewed commitment within the band, the shows on this tour have generously delved into past Mac favorites, even going as far back as the late '60s when the group was a British blues outfit that included Fleetwood, John McVie and several different guitarists.

Songs from Fleetwood Mac and Rumours play a prominent part in the set and Nicks says only three selections are from Tango. "Even had Lindsey toured, I would have said, 'Let's do all the songs that the people that we love, that love us, would want to hear,"' Nicks comments. "You can't expect an audience to sit there and listen to you be artsy-craftsy for two hours. We tried that in Kansas City with the Rumours album many years ago. We said, 'Okay, we're gonna go out and do this record; we're not even going to do anything from the earlier albums," she pauses. "Well, we bombed, the only time in the history of Fleetwood Mac that we put on what was without question a bomb show.

"From that day forward, all of us were aware that you have to introduce new material a little bit at a time. I have sung Rhiannon and Dreams in all of our sets and it becomes a challenge to me as a performer. I might get a little bored and change the melody around, but that's not cool. I tell (the other members), 'If you see that happening, come up and kick me in the shins."' How does the band keep from sounding too stale and redundant? "On stage it's definitely more rock 'n' roll," Nicks asserts. "People familiar with us from our records who have never seen us will definitely not expect such a high-powered rock 'n' roll sound."

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