Washington Post, January 19, 1993

FLEETWOOD MAC, SOUNDING A POSITIVE NOTE AGAIN BUT GALA PERFORMANCE IS A ONE-SHOT DEAL

by Richard Harrington

Excuse them, but for the past week or so, Fleetwood Mac's been thinking about today.

That's because Bill Clinton, who chose the group's 1977 hit "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" as his campaign theme song, asked Fleetwood Mac to perform at tonight's Inaugural Gala at Capital Centre. Appropriately in this season of reunion, that command performance has brought together the classic Mac lineup -- Christine McVie, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks -- for the first time in eight years.

At a run-through in Los Angeles last week, recalled Fleetwood, "it was literally like plugging the vacuum back in the wall. ... It's a well-oiled machine."

"I made a quip about being able to play 'Don't Stop' with my hands tied behind my back, which of course is physically impossible," said the song's writer, keyboardist Christine McVie. "But we sat down and had it down pat, playing it once -- twice, maybe. We had played it for so many years, so many different times."

"We could do this in our sleep," laughed guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who left Fleetwood Mac somewhat precipitously in 1987 after a 12-year run, creating bad feelings that lingered for years.

"When Lindsey left, it was less than ideal in terms of the way it all came down," Fleetwood conceded. "There were a lot of hard feelings, but this is definitely a way of putting all that straight and making it feel good."

Three Mac members, checking in from various locations by phone, agreed. "By the end of the {rehearsal} , we were enjoying each other's company," said Buckingham. "We were having a good time."

Of course, this is a two-for-one-shot deal -- they're reuniting to play a single song on a single night. And as Christine McVie pointed out, "It's not as if we haven't seen each other for years. It's mainly Lindsey who left the band -- the remaining members have been a working unit, so it was really getting together with Lindsey. And things are fine between us."

Say, this is beginning to sound like Clinton euphoria. "Bearing in mind what the event is all about," said drummer Fleetwood, "that's the spirit of it."

The band recently released a 25-year retrospective, showcasing its evolution from a British blues group in the '60s to one of the biggest pop acts of the late '70s and early '80s. The band, named after founders John McVie and Fleetwood, developed a California sensibility with the arrival in 1975 of Americans Nicks and Buckingham.

In interviews, band members also were in agreement about their surprise last summer when Don't Stop" came wafting from the stage of the Democratic Convention as Clinton accepted his party's nomination, dancing vividly to the baby-boomer hit with Hillary and the Gores.

"I was at my home in Los Angeles, watching television but not paying that much attention," recalled Christine McVie. "But of course my ears pricked up immediately when I heard that song. I couldn't believe it."

"I was at a girlfriend's apartment and we had CNN on," said Fleetwood. "I wasn't really thinking about it, either. Musicians from time to time hear something that is uncannily like something you've done yourself and I was in that mode, actually, so the first thing I thought was, 'Someone has ripped off one of our songs.' And then I realized it was us."

Buckingham pointed out that "my song 'Tusk' had worked its way into the fabric a bit by being played at sports events and by marching bands at football games... . In a way, it was the same kind of thing, just on a larger scale. Clinton used it well, given that at the end of Bush's convention, he played, 'God Bless America.' That just about says it."

Irving Berlin, of course, wrote an intentionally patriotic anthem. The roots of "Don't Stop" were decidedly more personal: McVie wrote the song in 1976 to help get past the breakup of her marriage to bassist John McVie.

"Don't stop thinking about tomorrow/ don't stop, it'll soon be here/ it'll be better than before/ yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone. ... "

The song, part of the 20-million-selling "Rumours" album, was a Top 5 single, and McVie said she's not all that surprised that it made the transition from radio hit to campaign song.

"It was written about John, but one can apply those lyrics to just about anything. It's a very positive, up song ... the words are very applicable to any political party -- plus insurance companies and God knows what else."

But after tonight, the song is not likely to be played by the original group ever again. "Quite honestly, I didn't expect it to happen," said Buckingham, who surprised many by agreeing to this performance. "It was a tough thing. The {Inaugural Gala Committee} was asking for the five people that had been involved with that song, and I just felt that if everyone else in the band wanted to do it, I didn't really have anything against doing it. I would not have done it if it had been a major commitment to rehearsing, or if we were going to do a whole set."

Buckingham's quick to point out that he'll be going his own way again on Wednesday. He finally has his own band and is ready to hit the road. "My sense of my musical growth is totally out of the realm of Fleetwood Mac at this point, and I really wouldn't consider a reunion," he said.

As for the others, they'll be going back into the studio in April for a new Fleetwood Mac album, though both Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks restructured their roles in the band two years ago: They'll record, but won't tour.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is today re-releasing a single of "Don't Stop," though it won't resemble the version Fleetwood Mac will play at Capital Centre tonight.

"Endless choruses, into the sunset," laughed Fleetwood.

Thirteen choruses, in fact, with lots of folks joining them onstage, probably including a saxophone-toting president-elect.

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