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- November 26, 1979
- Vol. 12
- No. 22
The Rumors About All Those Fleetwood Mac Splits Were True; and Now Their Comment Is Tusk, Tusk
But financially, Mick and Co. might as well have titled it Risk. Along with Led Zeppelin and the Eagles, Mac was the fall's Great Vinyl Hope to resurrect the lagging music industry. Yet Tusk defiantly lists at $15.98 when, as Mick admits, "record sales are taking a complete dump." Further, the group invested more than $1 million to create a jarring, audacious new sound. So why depart from the hit-cranking pop-rock formula responsible for some 20 million sales of their last two LPs? As lead guitarist Lindsey Buckingham points out invidiously, the Eagles' new work "is just more of the same of the last five years. I mean, why bother?" "Our ideas and lives progressed, moved on," seconds keyboardist Christine McVie. "Tusk is years more mature. If you're complacent, you stagnate."
Complacency has never been a vice of Fleetwood Mac since the group settled into its present composition in 1974 with Mick and two other Britons, bassist John McVie and his then wife Christine, plus two Californians, Buckingham and his then lover, singer Stevie Nicks. In the two years since their provocatively autobiographical last LP, Rumours, three of them have changed partners. John has found a new wife. Christine is riding the perfect wave with Beach Boy Dennis Wilson. Fleetwood, after remarrying his divorced wife, split again and lives with a model. Nicks is now unattached since busting up with a record executive. Buckingham is still with his model.
Under those circumstances, much of Tusk was put together piecemeal on what Christine says was a "non-communal rotation system"; the five members were often not in the studio together. The involvement this time was less emotional than aesthetic and, to hear Lindsey, not even commercial. "If Tusk becomes an influential work over the next decade," says Buckingham (who dominates the LP with nine of the 20 tunes), "then that's the measure of success. Whether it sells three million or five million," he adds ever-so-blithely, "is neither here nor there." "People may not have expected Tusk," says Mick, "and noses may be slightly out of joint. But we did this for us. It was a healthy challenge to pull it off."
Now, obviously, they have. The Tusk LP and single are both Top Ten, and as Mick reports from the road, where they are on the 22-city first leg of a nine-month worldwide tour, "the energy is really poppin'."
For Fleetwood, 31, it hasn't been easy. His second split from his wife of 12 years, Jenny Boyd, now "seems permanent. But, luckily," he adds, "we get on well." She has custody of their two children and has taken them back to England. Mick, like the rest of the group, lives in the L.A. area and sees the kids during vacations. "I quite miss the fact that I can't be a father," he admits. "I happen to be one of those men who adores that thing of 'alright, kids, let's go.' "
Then, if his marital breakup weren't trouble enough, last year while working on Tusk Mick discovered he was suffering from diabetes. "I had been feeling burned-out," he recalls. "My eyes were going wild, I started drinking like a fish, I'd hyperventilate while talking." One doctor suggested he see a shrink. "My ego couldn't accept the fact that I was going around the twist. Manic-depressive one minute, eating a bowl of ice cream, quite happy, the next. I thought it was a brain tumor. I was afraid I was going to die. It was 18 months of hell." But once the ailment was diagnosed (it's a mild case), Mick adjusted his habits. "Bless her," he says of Sara Recor, his companion of the past year. "She was there to hold my hand and look after me." Though he concedes, "I have overworked and overplayed," Mick says he now "feels like I did 10 years ago."
Perhaps the least changed Mac member of all, says Fleetwood, is his co-founder John McVie, 34. McVie and second wife Julie Rubens live both in Beverly Hills and on his 63-foot sloop. The casual "rotation" recording system allowed McVie to leave his bass tracks behind and sail out to Maui while the group did the last month of polishing Tusk. And no less an expert than his first wife, Christine, finds John has "mellowed since marrying Julie. He's become a gentle person."
The Mac member who has changed most, according to Fleetwood, is Buckingham, 30. "He was volatile and intense in the beginning," says Mick, "and afraid he was trapped into doing things a certain way." But with almost half of Tusk under his name, he's been freed. "My contribution was not that visible before," says Lindsey. "Things that had been swimming around in my head for years finally got exorcised on Tusk."
Doing some of his own cuts on his 24-track in Hancock Park, Buckingham bravely usurped some drumming parts from Mick. "We've broken down barriers that existed for five years," says Lindsey.
The liberated Lindsey has even forsaken the furry curls, scraggy beard and skintight satins of his old lead guitar sex-idol image. He now displays a clean look and casually modish Gentlemen's Quarterly couture. His retreat from classic rock macho has come home too. His girlfriend of three years, Carol Harris, will be along for only half the tour dates. "I want to give Carol the chance to express herself in her modeling without tearing too much from our relationship." Meanwhile, Lindsey reports that without her on the road, "Getting crazy on a few drinks at the bar means nothing to me. I'm happier having time to myself in my room, doing my tunes, than looking for action."
But if Lindsey ever needs some post-concert commiserating, he can probably call on Christine McVie. Her squeeze, Beach Boy enfant terrible Dennis Wilson, 34, will not be steady during the tour either. "It doesn't suit Dennis' personality," says Christine, "to be a guest, to have to say, 'Oh, I'm with the piano player.' " On her own, Christine is clearly less shy and more self-assured since they met a year ago. "He is a multifaceted jewel," she exults. "Dennis has awakened things in me I'd have been scared to experience and made me feel the extremes of every emotion." Specifically, says Christine, he has turned her onto speedboating and water-skiing. "Dennis has thrown me into the deep end, literally and figuratively."
They commute between Dennis' 68-foot ketch in Marina del Rey and her "very English" home in Coldwater Canyon. They "definitely" plan to marry in February, but Christine has ruled out kids. "I'm 36," she says, "and my life-style is pretty much settled as far as sacrificing and accommodating myself to children."
"She used to call me the Mad Songwriter," says Stevie Nicks, 31, noting that in Tusk Christine composed six tracks to her five. "Chris sits up all night and writes, she's so inspired," says Nicks. Stevie is prolific herself, in love or out, but for two years she has been mostly out. One problem: Male rockers, she finds, are "pretty chauvinistic. I strive to be taken seriously as a writer, and be as good as they are. So they resent my success. I see it in their eyes: 'How did this dingbat manage to get everything she wants?' "
Another problem is her immersion in Mac's work ethic. "How many men, even the nicest, most patient, can understand that for months you will come home at 7 a.m., dead tired and in a bad mood?" For now, she says resignedly, "the band is all there is room for in my life." Just as well. On the road, she says, security is so tight that "no man can get within 10 feet. I hardly ever meet any new men."
Nicks' large Tudor home above Sunset Boulevard is now on the market because it attracted hangers-on who overstayed their welcome. "Any man I ever went out with called the place Fantasyland. I'm 31. I won't always be in a rock band, and I don't want to come out of this absolutely helpless." So she is moving into a modest beachfront condo. "Some people thrive on being a rock star. I hate it. I don't like being waited on all the time, people following me around saying, 'Let me do this, let me do that.' "
Stevie has signed on with former boyfriend Paul Fishkin's Modern Records to act in and do the solo sound track LP of Rhiannon, an upcoming movie based on her 1976 Mac hit. She has also written a children's story and hopes to turn it into an animated film. "It's a love story about a goldfish and a ladybug. A friend told me it would be the Doctor Zhivago of children's cartoons."
Though she is still the band's sexily whirling, wailing focus onstage, Stevie claims, "The last thing the world needs is another sex symbol." And what does Stevie need? "I don't need doctors, nurses and babysitters. I need love."
But even Nicks, who seems bent on going her own way, knows that this "is still the best rock band in the world."
And one of the most durable. "The band's been breaking up for five years," says Fleetwood, sardonically, of all the reports. The group has two more years left on its record contract and the road stretches ahead until August. "If the members really felt suffocated," Mick says, "then there'd be an obvious danger. Things do get a little crazy at all times. But this doesn't feel like a band that's breaking up."
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