I came late to Fleetwood Mac, not realising until Tango In The Night in 1987 that this is the band behind the Formula 1 motor racing music from the late 1970s. By that time, someone called Lindsey Buckingham, presumably the girl with the blonde hair, had quit. Lindsey could not face another drug-fuelled world tour with the world’s most pampered band. They replaced him with Rick Vito and Billy Burnette, and on they played, bravely attempting a largely forgotton album which was so bad that Stevie Nicks then left too.
So I have waited a few days to think in depth about the latest chapter in rock’s most complex family. Their line-up changes became so famous that they were featured in a book by Pete Frame called Rock Family Trees, later made into a series on the BBC. Published in 1983, it was so great that it is still in print. What Rock Family Trees teaches us is two things: Fleetwood Mac is not the only band to have several personnel issues. Some died, some stormed out. Some bands, including the Mac, were stolen and put back on the road again by rogue managers with a bunch of impostors. The other thing the book shows us is that leaving Fleetwood Mac is seldom a permanent status.
A few minutes after Fleetwood Mac announced that Lindsey had left, they announced that Mike Campbell and Neil Finn were to join the band for their next tour. A few minutes before Lindsey left, I had coincidentally read that John McVie had just sold his Hawaii home and was going to spend more time in LA. Even this 30-year Mac watcher was surprised. Not by the real estate transaction.
What I did not believe, for one second, is that Lindsey was somehow ‘fired.’ That is an unofficial ‘source’ comment that boils a complex forty-year history down into one word. For a start, a band is not a company, so nobody can be fired in fact. More practically, Lindsey was still not fired.
It’s important to remember that to British fans, Lindsey Buckingham is not the star of the show. Stevie Nicks sold more records here, and no doubt there are some fans in London who bought Mac records in 1969, when the band sold more records than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. Just one of my favourite Mac factoids.
Over in America, two cash-in ‘festivals’ recently featured Fleetwood Mac. Classic East and Classic West were not reviewed well by Mac specialists. Lindsey made comments himself about cashing in, and cashing in is what this year’s world tour, billed by some as a ‘farewell’ tour, smells of too.
I first saw the band live in Boston in 2003 on their Say You Will tour, and again in Manchester, England on the same tour. The latter concert was most famous for Lindsey and Stevie throwing fighting fans out of the venue with a string of expletives. The expletives were from him of course, and were nicely timed. He brought Tusk to a stop, the lights came on, and then a few seconds later they were back into the groove. I mention this tour because it was a proper tour, in that it supported a new album and a few hits. Since then, Fleetwood Mac have done nothing new together, a situation usually blamed on Stevie Nicks. We all know just how keen Buckingham was to write new material because he unleashed a series of solo albums and then even paired up with Christine last year for a collection that critics and fans were kind to. But nothing with the Mac branding since 2003.
Maybe Lindsey asked for too much money. If he did, it must have been a symptom that he really didn’t want to go on the road. If he needed the money, he wouldn’t have walked away over a few extra dollars. The reason Lindsey left, I confidently predict, is the same reason he left last time. He is tired of doing the same songs to the same fans. Last year’s collaboration has given him the confidence to go out again without a band behind him. Sure, it means we’re unlikely to see him in Europe again, but he has earned the right to do whatever the hell he wants, and I still have my Boston 2003 memories.
Believe it or not, I think this Variety article has the truth of the matter somewhere in its midst. And don’t forget, it’s not that long ago that Sheryl Crow was supposed to be replacing Christine McVie. That was a lot of hot air too.