H P de Tijd, April 30, 1977

by Peter van Bruggen

Singer Stevie Nicks: " Fleetwood Mac has always been famous for it's tragedies".

Ten years ago Fleetwood Mac had some modest success as an english rhythm & blues formation. Now they experience worldwide success with their lp "Rumours". The intermediate time was one of religious excursions, broken marriages and musical confusion. Peter van Bruggen spoke to singer Stevie Nicks about the change of Fleetwood Mac.

She looks like the kind of girl you get for present as extra with some commercial campaign. Beauty deliverable from stock. Tonight she goes with Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. She puts pieces of meat in his mouth and smiles the entire evening. She walks to the toilet or serves out mushrooms with the refined air of a ballet dancer. I knew her already from the magazines but was surprised never the less she continued like this also outside the framework of the pictures.

On her other side sits a road manager. On his t-shirt he's wearing a button with a small red light. It flickers on and off, and gives the evening a restless tone. The thing runs on a small battery, he tells me. When the battery has run out you just throw the button away.

Christine McVie has already seen the entire world, one time as singer of pop group Chicken Shack, one time as member of experimental rhythm & bluesband Fleetwood Mac, and now as organ player with the ennobled Abba, which is still named Fleetwood Mac but has practically nothing to do with that earlier group of outstanding. Except for the two founding members of that sixties-band, who are also at this table, and just sending back their rare steaks to the kitchen to have it turned into well done.

Mick Fleetwood, on my right, is enjoying his meal and John McVie is getting drunk on what was once the cause of the divorce between him and Christine. He now has a chubby girlfriend who shares his love for gin-tonic. When the officials of WEA have an employee dressed as a penguin bring in a cake, because Fleetwood Mac with their penguin-logo, have reached the position of best selling act of the company, John has already gone under because of the liquor. The filosofies he then builds up are comical. For example:" some people think we were more famous in the old days than we're now. But that's not quite true. The people back then were much more noisy and hysterical than these days. You shouldn't misjudge that. " When I ask him whether drinking has not become too much of a problem for him, I have to wait for an answer for a second. He just took a sip.

February last year, when Fleetwood Mac went into the studio to record a follow-up for a best-selling album (4 million copies), just about everything fell apart. Bass player John McVie divorced Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood got divorced from his wife Jenny and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and star singer Stevie Nicks split up. Three relationships went to pieces in the same month. But one partner did not play in the group and did not have to turn up in the studio a couple days later. The other players in this tragicomedy would first work in complete seclusion at a new record, and after that ten more months at the bearable moments, when working was possible. Rumours, the new Fleetwood Mac-album, would mainly be the proof of the fact this band was stronger that three marriages together.

Stevie Nicks was not present, that night in the restaurant. She still finds it hard to see Lindsey with another person. But Lindsey had a hard time too when Stevie answered advances of Eagle Don Henley, who'd sometimes come and visit her in the dressing rooms.

Stevie Nicks: "It has been a terrible time. While other people split literally when splitting up, a time started for us of continuously being together while working on a creative project. Having to be together creatively day in day out, while your feelings about this other person are all messed up.When we were finally mixing the tape we'd been through a lot together. Then we said to each other, well, we've had the worst."

"Things just weren't working any longer between me and Lindsey. To sleep and wake up with someone is one thing, but then also having breakfast with him, ride in a car to the studio with him, playing with him, having lunch with him... it was so hard."

Stevie can certainly count on understanding of many. Or rather, lack of understanding. Because none understands how this could actually go well.

"None actually thought about leaving the band. We all felt incredibly pitiful but one would not leave for the other's benefit. We said, alright, you're pitiful, and I'm pitiful and he's pitiful and she's pitiful... we're all pitiful, so let's consider each other's feelings. That created a certain bond. We all had the same kind of hurt, understood each other's feelings very well."

" I thought: I'd be crazy to go and be on my own somewhere in Los Angeles and feel sorry for myself while the rest of the band is having success, stealing the show somewhere and having a little fun anyway. And everyone thought that. Everyone thought about the other: you leave, but I'm staying in."

I've always wanted to interview Stevie Nicks. But if the fire alarm might start, do you expect me to stay and sit here with you?

"If you wanted this interview bad enough... then you would want to die with me."

Fleetwood Mac. English musicians who used to play rhythm & blues but mainly did a lot of experimenting. The american duo Buckingham Nicks gave the band a firm push in the direction of the renowned West Coast-pop. That country-orientated music can be successful, especially with a sunny Californian sauce on top, has already been proven by the Eagles. Fleetwood Mac, like Steve Miller, has blues as a starting point for a tasteful brand of pop music in which many genres are hidden. But besides the accessible music also singer Stevie Nicks (composition of Rhiannon) has been important for the group's success; she's the important piece of glamour on the stage. Big almond shaped eyes, heart shaped lips, wild uncombed hair, she looks like just getting out of the bathroom, and a sexy, kind of gritty sounding voice.

"Of course we saw each other too much. The situation was a bit like when you're married to your secretary. You see she's not doing certain things correctly, and she sees you just staring in front of you once in a while. You start paying attention to that because you also have other types of relations with this person, but at home you can't talk about it because then you'd end up with no personal life. That gives friction. You start seeing more and more flaws of each other."

"I always took the line a performer should decide for him/her self what he/she wants to do on stage. Other people shouldn't interfere in that. Lindsey didn't agree to that. He's the kind of man that likes timid women, very introvert, serious. I like talking to people, sometimes 'd go to the edge of the stage to say hi to the people who, after all, did come for me. Sometimes we were afraid I'd drop of the stage. But I happen to like that. I'm a real entertainer. If I were born fifteen years earlier, I now would have been on Broadway, as a ballet dancer, singer, perhaps even a tap dancer. "

"But Lindsey has never been anything else than a serious guitar player. It bothered him when the audience would go crazy about me. He thought that I, being his girlfriend, was acting too sexy on stage, with my dancing and all that. But I like doing that. I've told him: I can't be your Stevie up there. I'm not telling him how to act there?"

"But, well.... Fleetwood Mac has always been famous for it's tragedies, we should consider. "

In 1967 Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Jeremy Spencer and Peter Green ( the second and last from John Mayall's Bluesbreakers) started rhythm & blues band Fleetwood Mac. Oh Well, Albatross and The Green Manalishi, big hits from that time, were all written by clearly prolific guitarist Peter Green.

Summer 1970 Green announced he'd withdraw. The music business didn't suit him anymore and he wanted to dedicate himself seriously to Christianity. At first he became a grave digger, then worked in a hospital. According to Christine he has changed a lot after a group of decadent jet-set types practicing black magic put something in his drink. That is supposed to have happened in Germany, during a tour. She has seen him recently, but didn't even recognize him, at first.

Stevie also met him.

"In november. But sadly enough he wasn't the Peter Green anymore he must 've been when writing The Green Manalishi. That's my favorite song.I always do those cries in the background when we do that song live. That makes feel connected to him, somehow. He was very far away when I saw him. I often tried talking to him. But he didn't want to talk the entire week. Especially not about music. And definitely not about Fleetwood Mac. He only wanted to watch. Everyone walked on tiptoe during those days."

End january this year Peter Green was convicted by the court to be admitted in a mental institution. He's said to have threatened his accountant if he would not stop the monthly transferring of royalties (for the old hits, about 30.000 pound a year) immediately. Green did not want to have that money. His father was complaining how Peter had always given away all his money. According to his hippiefilosofy he could give a friend a sum, and that person should then buy a bigger house in which also a place for Peter. He gave tons to friends and slept somewhere else each week. He considered the royalties 'dirty money'. He didn't want to have anything to do with it.

In 1979 Jeremy Spencer went out shopping, walked out the hotel, was stopped by a couple of Children of God, and went along with them, never to return to the hotel or the band. He now lives in South America where he has five children, has a group of musicians with whom he makes hideously simple music and sings his lined about the Lord.

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn't you love to love her
She rules her life like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover
She is like a cat in the dark
And then she is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark
And when the sky is starless...

Stevie Nicks: "Rhiannon is about a witchy girl. It's a very mystical song. I like mystical things. Fleetwood Mac has always had a mystical side and I like keeping it that way. If we wish we can be just a rockband and really rock it... but the mystical thing is always there. Before me there was Bob Welch. He also had that a bit.

You also look kind of mystical.

"Yes. I like looking kind of mysterious. Just wait until you see our show. When I don't like this conversation, I might change in a frog afterwards."

Before Stevie Nicks was asked to join Fleetwood Mac, she worked as a waitress in a restaurant. She remembers it well. "Of course I remember", she stresses.

"I was working in a restaurant in Beverly Hills. It was called Clementine's. A very chique place where only expensive business people would dine. That was nice."

"Actually, I was a good waitress. I ran from one side of the restaurant to the other. I probably had a better physical condition then than today."

"In that kind of work, you have to be able to think and work in a organized manner. I only needed to come for a couple of hours a day, between eleven and four, but then you had all the lunch breaks. It was hard work but I met a lot of interesting people. Whenever I'm helped in a restaurant these days I remember it. Then I tell this girl:"have a nice day". It wasn't that long ago I did that. I'm glad I still remember, because I wouldn't like to have been in this roundabout if that made me forget the things that are truly of value."

Each tim someone pulls out the cover of a record Stevie produced together for Lindsey for a friend, she whispers: "That's my car, on there".

"It hardly ever works, constantly has to go to a garage. It's very pretty, but always complaining. My car... the band's made it possible."

Is the material side of success very important for you?

"It means my car can always go to the garage if it's necessary. I first had a Toyota, that worked fine for six years. Then I bought this small romantic Mercedes. And this one's always sick."

The band needs to be successful to pay your Mercedes' repairman.

"No, it just means I can buy things I always wanted to have. That car has nothing to do with it, I need it to be independent. The romantic thing has worn off, each time I had to take it to a mechanic. Every time I come home my brother has put a carton plate on it: do not drive car."

"No, for me it meant mostly I could buy my own house. I think that's important. I going to live in a house where Velma Banky used to live with Fatty Arbuckle. Ever heard about them? No, me neither. But they had a passionate relationship and when she happened to have another lover they went to him together and stabbed him. She got convicted for that. It didn't happen it the house, don't worry, but they did live there. So when I get back I'll first start and do some research, see what happened to them. Very interesting. You can just sense these people having lived there. The sphere is still there. You can just feel it. Wow..."

Stevie keeps a diary. She writes down everything that happens to her and her band during these stormy days of the tour in Europe.

"I always do that when I'm in my hotel room, nice and quiet, like in the afternoon. Or I write down my 'thoughts during the flight trip from America to England'. I also have lots of little notes I keep in envelopes I probably won't open for years. I'll do that in ten years, just to see what was keeping me occupied then."

Are you religious?

"To a certain extend, yes. I don't go to church, but I have some kind of own religion.I believe in reincarnation and I'm not afraid to die because I know at the other side is something better. I'm not afraid for the unknown."

"Maybe later I'll get engaged with religion but I don't have time for that, now. I've always had the feeling... I have an aunt that practices metaphysics, and she's very religious. A very interesting religion, too. I'll probably engage myself with that when I have time for it. With these things it's like, you should just do it. So if one sunday morning I'd be passing by a church maybe I'll walk in, acting an impulse. And enjoy it too. But right now I don't feel the need to do that, really. It'll come, the interest is there. Also Eastern religions. Actually, I haven't seen a church for a long time..."

Your lyrics are kind of poetical...

"Oh, I love poetry. It's too bad I haven't had time to read something, the last few years, but I love it. Now I just buy a book and leave it in a hotel somewhere. But I'd love to acquire old editions of poetry, editions none knows about. Really old ones..."

Did you know the Fleetwood Mac music well before you were asked to join the band?

"Just like anyone, the hits, from the radio. But it happened like this: they asked me and Lindsey, and then we said: if we like them, we'll do it. Then we went out for dinner with them, and we liked them. None ever said: ok, join us. At the end of the evening it just went like: next Wednesday we're rehearsing there and there."

"So I then went out and quickly bought all the Fleetwood Mac records, and listened to them systematically, to discover a theme. And I managed to do that."

That evening, at dinner, John McVie tells me he's bought a two-mast yacht.

Thanks to Mari for translating and posting it to the Ledge. Thanks to Anusha for sending it to us.