If you’re a dedicated fan of Fleetwood Mac and Buckingham Nicks, then you certainly don’t need an intro to the beautiful chaos this music band is and continues to be to this very day.
If you only know of them in passing (please rectify that) or maybe because you’ve heard Landslide a few times here and there, let us get into the quick and dirty history of the music band.
Quick and dirty — just the way I like it.
Now, the Fleetwood Mac we all know and love did not exactly start out that way.
In fact, they used to be a blues band.
Well, let’s allow Wikipedia to explain things a little bit more extensively: “The band was founded by guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Jeremy Spencer.
They lacked a permanent bass player for the first few months before Green convinced John McVie to join, establishing the first official line-up in time to record their self-titled debut album.
Danny Kirwan joined as a third guitarist in 1968.
Keyboardist Christine Perfect, who contributed as a session musician starting with the second album, married John McVie and joined the band in 1970.
At this time the band was primarily a British blues outfit, scoring a UK number one with Albatross, and had lesser hits with the singles Oh Well and Black Magic Woman.
Personal problems led to original guitarists Green and Spencer leaving, to be replaced by Bob Welch and Bob Weston.
By 1974 Welch and Weston had both departed, leaving the band without a primary male vocalist or lead guitarist.
In late 1974, while Fleetwood was scouting studios in Los Angeles, he was introduced to folk-rock duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
Fleetwood Mac soon asked Buckingham to be their new lead guitarist, and Buckingham agreed on condition that Nicks would also join the band.
The addition of Buckingham and Nicks gave the band a more pop rock/folk rock sound and their 1975 self-titled album, Fleetwood Mac, reached No. 1 in the US.
Rumours (1977), Fleetwood Mac’s second album after the arrival of Buckingham and Nicks, produced four US Top 10 singles and remained at No. 1 on the American albums chart for 31 weeks.”
Yes, you read that correctly — Stevie Nicks only joined the band as a freakin’ favor.
The members of the band at the time didn’t even want her, but Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie’s boyfriend at the time, insisted and so they obliged.
In hindsight, the notion that a music band did not want a musical icon like Stevie Nicks sounds absolutely ridiculous, but she wasn’t exactly world-moving, Grammy-winning Stevie back then — just a girl with a dream.
And so, like any awesome band worth their salt, throughout the years Fleetwood Mac has had an UNBELIEVABLE amount of success, failure, and internal strife.
A wild amount of success.
A wild amount of money made.
A wild amount of internal strife, both of the personal and romantic nature.
A wild amount of drugs consumed.
A wild amount of money spent on drugs.
Hey, did I mention the amount of drugs this band consumed?
Sure, it almost sounds cliché to point out just how much musicians, especially musicians in those days, used to party.
And by party, I mean do drugs. And by do drugs, I mean do an obnoxious amount of drugs. Just how much?
Let’s pick up where we left off by letting the Daily Mall paint the jaw-dropping picture:
“Fleetwood Mac were sitting around stoned in the studio one night with one of their engineers when they set about solving an arithmetic problem that had been niggling at them.
How much cocaine, they wondered, had drummer Mick Fleetwood put up his nose?
Working on the premise he had taken an eighth of an ounce every day for 20 years, the sound engineer calculated that if you laid out the drug in a single snortable line, it would stretch for seven miles.
Rock and roll is full of such apocryphal stories, but as Fleetwood admits in a candid new memoir, this one is completely true.
But then, this is the band that in 1977 gave the world Rumours, one of the best-selling albums ever, and almost died in the process.
Though they appeared deceptively inoffensive, with their hippyish outfits and gentle, melodic hits such as Don’t Stop, Little Lies, and Go Your Own Way, when it came to decadence and over indulgence, Fleetwood Mac made the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin look like a Salvation Army band.
Quite how they are still alive, still talking to each other, and touring is a marvel to everyone, least of all themselves.
It is a puzzle that Fleetwood, 67, tries to explain in his autobiography, Play On. He claims in his new book that he “refuses to be romantic in my perspective of drug abuse,” but admits “it was all new and undiscovered territory” when he first bought cocaine in 1975.
After innumerable line-up changes and personal tragedies, the band had taken on two new American recruits.
Singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who joined as a romantically attached couple, injected Californian glamour into an otherwise all-British band made up of bassist John McVie, his wife and singer Christine, and Fleetwood, the 6’ 6” son of an RAF fighter pilot, and the band’s drummer and de facto leader.
The act, originally a Sixties London blues band, were to become a huge pop success with their album Fleetwood Mac.
It was recorded at Sound City in Los Angeles, at a time when the city was hit by the “first wave of the tsunami of white powder that rolled in” during the ‘70s and ’80s, Fleetwood recalls.
Cocaine was dispensed at the studio “as if it were simply another of the available services at your disposal,” and the album was written with “white powder peeling off the wall in every room of the studio.”
A studio engineer would test it for purity, which the wide-eyed Brit compared with a “cool” chemistry lesson.
That album went to Number One in the U.S., and the fact that the band’s creative juices had been stimulated by drugs and drink encouraged even greater excess next time around.”
This sentence really caught my attention:
“Though they appeared deceptively inoffensive, with their hippyish outfits and gentle, melodic hits such as Don’t Stop, Little Lies, and Go Your Own Way, when it came to decadence and over indulgence, Fleetwood Mac made the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin look like a Salvation Army band.”
This is precisely what fascinates me about the band — their mellow, carefree music records are in stark contrast to their demons.
And what about Stevie Nicks, specifically? Glad you asked.
Well, Fleetwood Mac’s shiniest star just happened to also be the group’s biggest addict. With the band’s fame, came money.
And with a wildly successful solo career, came even more fame and even more money. And with more fame and more money, well, you know what follows.
In a group of wild boys and girls, Stevie was the wildest.
As per The Independent, “When Fleetwood Mac released Rumours in 1977, the album was a portrait of a group in crisis.
Christine and John McVie were divorcing, McVie was having an affair with the band’s sound engineer, and Nicks and Buckingham were breaking up too.
All but one of the album’s tracks were written by individual members, taking lyrical swipes at one another in song, and then expecting the subject of their vitriol to help play it.
Go Your Own Way was written by Buckingham as a thinly veiled attack on Nicks. She later said: “Every time those words would come onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him.”
Instead, she sang harmonies — and then wrote her own counterattack in the form of Dreams (“But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness…remembering what you had and what you lost”).
John McVie played bass on You Make Loving Fun, a song his wife, Christine, had written about her affair.
The process was an unmitigated mess – but the album was a masterpiece.
Stymied by both their success and their failures, the band spiraled further into drug addiction.
They took to stashing velvet bags of cocaine under their mixing desk to allow immediate access to the drug while they recorded.
All of us were drug addicts,” said Nicks, “but there was a point where I was the worst drug addict. I was a girl, I was fragile, and I was doing a lot of coke.
And I had that hole in my nose. So it was dangerous.” While they recorded 1987’s Tango in the Night, Nicks would do shots, and record her vocal takes paralytic.
At many points during this drug-addled, characteristically fractious period, Fleetwood Mac told themselves that they were done. And then they kept making records.”
And lest we forget, the internal strife is far from over to this very day.
You didn’t expect any less, did you?
In an article from a month ago, Andy Greene from Rolling Stone writes,
“Lindsey Buckingham has filed a lawsuit against Fleetwood Mac for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of oral contract and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, among other charges, according to legal documents obtained by Rolling Stone.
The group parted ways with Buckingham in January and replaced him with Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and Neil Finn of Crowded House.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, states that he asked the group to postpone their tour three months so he could play shows with his solo band.
He says plans were in place for the Rumours-era lineup to play 60 shows across North America when he was let go without warning.”
And in another Rolling Stone article from the same week, David Fricke from Rolling Stone writes,
“Lindsey Buckingham and his wife, Kristen, were at home in Los Angeles on January 28th, watching the Grammy Awards ceremony on television, when the phone rang.
Fleetwood Mac’s manager Irving Azoff was calling with a message for Buckingham from Stevie Nicks.
The gist of it, Buckingham says, quoting Azoff: “Stevie never wants to be on a stage with you again.”
Two nights earlier, the most popular and enduring lineup of Fleetwood Mac — Nicks, Buckingham, singer-keyboard player Christine McVie, bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood — performed in New York at a MusiCares benefit show honoring the group.
“We rehearsed for two days, and everything was great,” Buckingham claims.
“We were getting along great.” But on the phone, Azoff had a list of things that, as Buckingham puts it,
“Stevie took issue with” that evening, including the guitarist’s outburst just before the band’s set over the intro music — the studio recording of Nicks’ Rhiannon — and the way he “smirked” during Nicks’ thank you speech. Buckingham concedes the first point.
“It wasn’t about it being Rhiannon, ” he says. “It just undermined the impact of our entrance. That’s me being very specific about the right and wrong way to do something.”
Did you catch all of that? This band is endlessly fascinating.
You couldn’t script a crazier timeline.
One thing bears mention — the idea that somehow drugs magically give you talent is absurd, but it may be fair to say it enhanced the genius and wild ride that is the Fleetwood Mac experience. Christine Mcvie has said as much.
By the way, I would be remiss if i didn’t mention how breathtakingly gorgeous Stevie Nicks was in the ’70s. I mean, my lord.
You’re dead inside if you don’t get sentimental every time you listen to that.
I’ll end with this — time and time again, we see see how pain, torment, and absolute chaos produces some of the most beautiful art.
Fleetwood Mac is no different.
We’re just lucky we get to go along for the ride.