Fleetwood Mac - ‘Rock Lives’, Timothy White (1990)
The High Priestess of Pop-Rock is spitting mad.
"Mark my words," says Stevie Nicks, a furnace in her gaze, "tomorrow, in this very room, is the final reckoning, and if Lindsey Buckingham dares to insist his own projects are more important than the future of Fleetwood Mac - that's it! New beginnings have always been the best part of this band. I swear it to you now: if there needs to be a new Fleetwood Mac, we'll start all over again!"
It is Wednesday, July 8, 1987, and the wild-hearted head siren of rock and roll's longest-running passion play is storming around the art nouveau-packed living room of her hillside Los Angeles home, attired in full Good Witch of the West Coast finery. Stevie's startling fashion statement builds upwards from white lace anklets and black spandex hose to a vision of cemetery seduction. And there is disorder in the dark lady's realm.
"If that man tries to hang us up," she vows, regarding Fleetwood Mac's errant lead guitarist, "he is not gonna have the last laugh!"
“Big Love,” the first single from Tango, carried a hint of foreboding with its inscrutable choruses of sweaty ooohs and aaahs. Who, the rock rumor mill wondered, was responsible for such outbursts? With a wink and a shrug, Buckingham is now happy to ‘fess up.
“It surprised me there was a whole lot of interest in who was doing the female side of the song’s ‘love grunts,’ or whatever you want to call them,” says Lindsey, with a nasal laugh, while seated in the Slop, the cluttered twenty-four-track home studio inside his quasi-oriental Bel Air home. “That was actually me – with VSOs, variable-speed oscillators. There’s a lot you can do in terms of your arranging and your voicing with slowing and speeding tape machines. It was odd that so many people wondered if it was Stevie on there with me. I guess it just follows the same thread as everything that was brought to the public in Rumours – you know, the musical soap opera.”
“While Fleetwood Mac took only two or three months to record,” says Nicks, “Rumours took twelve months because we were all trying to hold the foundation of Fleetwood Mac together, and trying to speak to each other in a civil tone, while sitting in a tiny room listening to each other’s songs about our shattered relationship. It was very, very tense – a room full of divorced people who didn’t dare bring anybody new into the same room, because nobody was gonna be nice to anybody brought into the circle.”
“On August 5th, 1987, the new history of Fleetwood Mac began,” stated Stevie Nicks at a secret September band rehearsal in Venice, California, just before the revised Vito-Burnette edition embarked on its baptismal concert trek.
According to Nicks, the original July ’87 meeting in which the band was to have it out with Buckingham proved anticlimactic. All personnel arrived at Nicks’s house in the afternoon, arranging themselves on the semi-circular ivory leather couch in her living room. The atmosphere was taut, but Lindsey diffused the tensions by announcing that he might still be open to the road trip. A low-key dinner for final deliberations was scheduled for that evening – and Lindsey failed to show.
Nonetheless, a call came from his management several days later, informing one and all that Buckingham would indeed tour. “We all got really excited,” Nicks recalls. “It was like, ‘Well, he’s gonna do it, even if it’s only for ten weeks. It’s gonna be great, we’ll get to play, and we’re gonna make some money; everybody needs to make some money.’” Instantly, all of the members’ separate management offices aligned to spend a frenetic week booking in intricate itinerary that more properly should have been arranged six months earlier.
The night before the final production meeting to settle on additional backup musicians, lighting and staging, etc, Buckingham’s representatives rang Nicks and guest Mick Fleetwood at her main manse in Phoenix, Arizona, to tell them Lindsey has rescinded his agreement. In collective shock, but unwilling to face the humiliation of informing the nation’s top concert promoters that the band was in dire disarray, the rest of Fleetwood Mac demanded a confrontation in Los Angeles with their delinquent whiz kid.
That conference on August 5 lasted a matter of minutes before Nicks was on her heels, tongue-lashing her old boyfriend. The duo’s mutual harangue culminated in an outdoors tiff in an L.A. parking lot that grew more deeply felt than either party ever intended or feared.
“It was horrifying for both of us,” says a somber Stevie Nicks, describing her August altercation with Lindsey Buckingham, a shouting match extraordinaire. “We said too much to each other. We said all the things that we had wanted to say for the last ten years, and we screamed at each other. Those things in a relationship that you try to never say just in case you do get back together – we said those things. Lindsey and I had been going together from about 1971 to around 1976. But we never really broke up until that moment. We’ve since patched up our friendship, because Lindsey is far too important to my life not to do that, but the creative ties are behind us.
“The thing about Fleetwood Mac is that everybody wants everybody to be free,” Nicks now reflects, “everybody wants you to be in this group because you want to. I think that in his heart Lindsey didn’t want to say, ‘I quit, I’m leaving.’ Everybody believes in dreams and fairy tales, we all hoped he’d change his mind. I knew he would never change his mind.
“He just wants to concentrate completely on his own music, recorded and played on his terms,” she summarizes. “And I admit he’s certainly earned that right.”
Not surprisingly, Buckingham concurs. “In the past,” he says, “what I’ve done is given over the commercial side to Fleetwood Mac, and tried to make, hopefully, more artistic statements on solo records.” And how would he describe those statements? “Ah, just lust, longing, loneliness,” he answers with a subtle grin. “Same old thing you always hear from me.”
Fritz was Lindsey’s rock combo, playing music he concocted in his four-track lair in the coffee factory. Stevie was the catalyst for its modest goals, and then some. After three and a half years of experience together, which Stevie helped fund through work as a dental assistant (for one day) and a hostess at a Bob’s Big Boy, Lindsey and his gal lit out for Los Angeles. They shared a house, much as Lindsey does now, with Richard Dashut, and peddled their demo tapes. Polydor Records bit, and issued the Buckingham-Nicks LP in November 1973. An exquisite folk-rock miniature just a tad ahead of its time, it could still be mistaken as modern Fleetwood Mac product.
When the LP bombed, Stevie resumed waitressing on the lunch shift at a Beverly Hills restaurant called Clementine’s, and Lindsey hit the road with a group Warren Zevon threw together to back Don Everly. On New Year’s Eve 1974, at a party at their house, Lindsey and Stevie were wondering if 1975 was worth welcoming in when Mick Fleetwood phoned with the invitation that made their dreams, and nightmares, come true.
"Absolutely," she assures, "and each of us has he skills to prove it. I've been writing songs again like mad, and I've got a killer one I put together with Mike Campbell, the guitarist in the Heartbreakers. Like I say, I always write songs about the truth, and this is definitely one of those. Hell, if it can't keep until the next Fleetwood Mac studio album, I might even make it the title of my next record."
What's the name of the song?"
"Oh! I call it 'Whole Lotta Trouble.' I mean, what else?"