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Fleetwood Mac goes its own way

Band finds there’s life after Buckingham

MICK FLEETWOOD swears he’s leaped out of coffins only three times in his life, two of which were during performances by his band, Fleetwood Mac.

It’s an impressive record. But the band has risen from the dead more often than Mick.

In the beginning there were Peter Green, Fleetwood, John McVie and Jeremy Spencer. That was back in 1967. Fleetwood Mac was an outgrowth of the John Mayall Blues Band and its stock in trade was American blues, pure and simple. A lot has changed since then.

The band underwent periodic lineup changes with long, long gaps between albums. Even when the lineup wasn’t changing the dynamics were spectacular: The band even aired its private turmoils in Rumours, probably its finest album.

Each independent project (Fleetwood’s The Visitor, Stevie Nicks’ Belladonna, Lindsey Buckingham’s Law and Order) fueled rumors that the band’s days were over.

But each time Fleetwood Mac came back, stronger than ever.

Take the current reincarnation, for example. Shirley MacLaine would be proud.

Most bands would fold when their chief songwriter-guitarist-matinee idol packs it in just before a tour.

Not the Mac, not Mick.

“When Lindsey (Buckingham) decided not to do the tour,” Fleetwood said recently, “I decided, rather than roll over like a dead dog — which is not my style; I don’t think it’s Fleetwood Mac’s style — let’s at least keep the momentum going. We had everything going in a tour mode: We were booking gigs, we were putting a crew together.”

The band went out and recruited two guitarists, Rick Vito and Billy Burnett.

Is Fleetwood pleased with the current lineup?

“Oh, very much so. I mean, it’s still Fleetwood Mac in terms of what we’re playing, because we haven’t gone in and made a new album,” he said.

“I’m loving having two guitar players because in the early days we had three guitar players. It’s just brought a lot of new energy, a lot of excitement about what I know will happen in the future.

“In the meantime it’s blending really, really, well. We felt quietly confident …we wouldn’t have dreamt of going on the road in some gaffer tape situation.”

No, this is no gaffer tape situation.

Vito and Burnett are no strangers to the Mac.

In fact, Burnett is “like my brother” says Fleetwood. Son of rockabilly legend Dorsey Burnett, Billy has been a part of Fleetwood’s off-time band, the Zoo, for four years. He’s co-written music with Christine McVie. Vito has recorded with John McVie and John Mayall and most recently was touring with Bob Seger.

There was a comfortable feeling.

“We didn’t miss one beat,” says Fleetwood. “Rick and Billy just started exactly when we were supposed to. Had it not worked out then we would have canceled the tour, obviously.

“I was very much of the mind that we should continue to find a replacement or replacements for Lindsey, having been with Fleetwood Mac since it started and seeing varous changes taking place, this one being the most recent.

“One thing that we’ve never done is hang around, waiting and wondering. Just get on with it. If you want to continue being in the band, and you have that sort of feeling about it, then the people that are there have to become part of Rally Around Fleetwood Mac.

“We went into rehearsals and it took a half an hour before everyone turned around and said ‘Let’s go!’

Critics and fans have been rallying around the defiantly named “Shake the Cage Tour” as well. “The beast has some life in it yet,” said Rolling Stone. Weekly concert receipt reports routinely place the Mac in the top 10 since the tour began.

The most recent album, Tango in the Night, has been well positioned on Billboard’s album chart for 32 weeks now.

And that brings up a ticklish situation. Buckingham had a hand in writing seven of the album’s 12 songs. And he co-produced it. He gets co-credit for the cover concept and some additional engineering.

OK. Buckingham’s out. Doesn’t that leave a rather large hole?

It does, indeed. And you can either try to fill it or ignore it.

“We don’t do any of Lindsey’s songs,” said Fleetwood. “With respect to him, I don’t think it would be proper. One, it would be a tacky thing to do. Two, I wouldn’t dream of asking Billy or Rick to come into a situation and have to get up and be confronted with that sort of pressure. And thirdly and luckily, we don’t have to do that.

“The girls have plenty, more than enough, songs to draw on. Plus we’ve got some 20 years of records to draw on, which we are. We’re going way back to early blues stuff, which we’re having a lot of fun doing. People are loving it.”

They do one Buckingham song: “Go Your Own Way.”

Appropriate. But in no way meant to be acrimonious.

Buckingham’s departure “was like having the plug pulled,” says Fleetwood.

“It was not an easy thing for either Lindsey or us to go through after 12 years,” he said. “It’s no small thing to basically say goodbye to someone you’ve been working with that long. But needless to say, Lindsey changed his mind, which put us in a bit of a dilemma and him, too.”

As far as Fleetwood’s concerned, it’s all turned out for the best. Buckingham tried, but couldn’t bring himself to go on tour, he said.

“I give Lindsey all due credit,” he said. “Aside from initially feeling like one was sort of let down, in actual fact, in retrospect, he showed a lot of strength to tell us ‘I’m not doing it.’

“I’m glad it didn’t work out, because he would have been miserable, we would have been miserable, and it would not have been a pretty sight.

We’ve seen that sort of tour before, haven’t we?

At this fall’s MTV Video Awards show in Los Angeles the band made a big show of the newfound energy and togetherness. Both Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, looking healthy and chipper, said their next album project would be a Fleetwood Mac album.

The U.S. tour ends Dec. 18, followed by a short rest, followed by Australian and European tours. The band should get into the studio by late spring, early summer.

“There won’t be a big five-year gap,” assures Fleetwood. “We’ve had enough of that.”

P.S.: Mick started leaping from coffins at the tender age of 12 while on a carpentry shop tour with his English boarding school class. “The next time,” he says, “was when I was relatively out of my brain, in early Fleetwood Mac times.” He had a touring case made up like a coffin and used it onstage until the rest of the band made him get rid of it.

The third time was this past Halloween. He did a drum solo from inside the coffin.

Some things never change, eh?

Robert J. Hawkins / San Diego Union-Tribune (CA) / December 4, 1987



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