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.
Our final act continues here.