Fleetwood Mac - Rolling Stone (10.30.1997)

“You know,” says Nicks, who still wears chiffon but is a good deal more battle-hardened (and speaks a bit deeper) than the hippie priestess of one’s former imaginings, “Lindsey made a whole lot more money than everybody else did because he produces. The producers get paid first. And he probably didn’t spend nearly as much money as everybody else did; he lives way simpler. So he didn’t have to do this for money, you know. The rest of us would all like to put something away for, you know, our golden twilight years. But he has to want to do it, or we don’t want to do it, either.”

Lindsey was a high school junior singing “California Dreamin’ “ at somebody’s house when transfer student Stephanie Nicks, a senior, saw him. Two years later, she was the chick singer and he the bassist in a post-high school band called Fritz. It was understood that none of the guys would hit on her. But when Nicks and Buckingham migrated to Los Angeles to shop the band’s demo (he was on guitar by now), they were tapped by the Polydor label – without their band mates. In Nicks’ room at the Tropicana Motel, confusion was sown, innocence lost. “Why it happened between me and Lindsey was because we were so sad that we had to tell the three guys in the band that nobody wanted them, only us,” she says.

Once they’d broken up with the band and their respective steadies, “our relationship was great,” says Nicks. “We had other problems: didn’t have a lot of money, alone in L.A., didn’t have our families, no friends, didn’t know anybody. But we had each other. “I knew that we were going to be somebody,” says Nicks. “I think that he had a little bit less belief in the fact that we would really make it big. I always knew.”

This particular crystal vision did have to wait. When Buckingham got mononucleosis, they moved back north, short on cash. Nicks continued college but often stayed with the Buckinghams in their living room. The two cut tracks, working nights in a spare room at the gloomy coffee plant. “It was scary there,” says Nicks. “Good acoustics, though.” Working with a four-track Ampex tape machine, they built songs one channel at a time, the old Beatles way. The tracks would form the basis for their 1973 album, Buckingham Nicks, but the musical idyll was interrupted by his father’s heart illness and death, at age 54. “His dad died within a year, as we watched, and it was awful,” Nicks says. “I picked up the phone and had to hand it to Lindsey the morning his father died. Devastating. Changed all of our lives.”

The singing duo set up shop in a slightly beat section of L.A. with engineer Keith Olsen and another musician friend, and despite the occasional passed-out session man on the floor, Nicks and Buckingham grew domestic. “From ‘71 through ‘75,” says Nicks, “I lived with Lindsey all those years. We were absolutely married. In every way [but for the ring]. I cooked, I cleaned, I worked. I took care of him.”

Buckingham Nicks, made with credentialed studio players like Jim Keltner, had an almost Delaney and Bonnie Southern twang and even got a pocket of rabid fans in Birmingham, Ala. This aberration may have been what led to an odd New York meeting with a Polydor A&R type who told them, “I think you’d be better off, you know, if you did something more like this,” and put a 45 on his office turntable Jim Stafford’s crackerbilly hit “Spiders and Snakes.” They had a tenuous spec deal to make a second record, but even as the advisers “were trying to glom us off on the steakhouse circuit, the one-way ticket to Palookaville,” as Buckingham says, Fleetwood was making his legendary visit to Olsen’s studio and hearing “Frozen Love,” from the duo’s LP. A week later, when Bob Welch left the band that Fleetwood had been nurturing since 1967, Buckingham got the call, and within days, the newly minted Mac were in rehearsals.

The steady drugging, combined with the pressures of recording under the band’s highly collaborative system, tore at the already weak fabric of the couples’ relationships. Though she’ll hint that Buckingham was at least somewhat possessive and controlling, Nicks says, “I don’t even remember what the issues were; I just know that it got to the point where I wanted to be by myself. It just wasn’t good anymore, wasn’t fun anymore, wasn’t good for either of us anymore. I’m just the one who stopped it.”

She remembers the day quite vividly: “In Sausalito, up at the little condominium. Lindsey and I were still enough together that he would come up there and sleep every once in a while. And we had a terrible fight I don’t remember what about, but I remember him walking out and me saying, `You take the car with all the stuff, and I’m flying back.’ That was the end of the first two months of the recording of Rumours.”

Back in L.A., in a Sunset Strip recording studio, Buckingham added the vocal to his “Go Your Own Way,” an outburst of a song to which Nicks dutifully added backup vocals. “I very, very much resented him telling the world that `packing up, shacking up’ with different men was all I wanted to do,” she says. “He knew it wasn’t true. It was just an angry thing that he said. Every time those words would come out onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him. He knew it, so he really pushed my buttons through that. It was like, `I’ll make you suffer for leaving me.’ And I did. For years. Lindsey immediately got girlfriends. I never brought men around, because I wasn’t going to tick him off any more than I had already.” Back and forth it went. When Nicks wrote a song, she’d bring it to him, and he’d ask, “Who is that about?” “You don’t really want to know,” she would say. “So I’m not going to tell you. It’s just about nothing.” Even so, without Buckingham’s help, some of those songs she was scrawling in her notebooks never quite got finished. Her productivity plunged. “That’s where the double-edged sword came,” Nicks says, “whether he wanted to help me or not: `So, you don’t want to be my wife, my girlfriend, but you want me to do all that magic stuff on your songs. Is there anything else that you want, just, like, in my spare time?’“

FROM THE TIME THAT RUMOURS WAS released and had its quick, massive success until Buckingham ducked out, in 1987, Fleetwood Mac were imprisoned by their own near-mythic popularity. Behind the tinted glass, things could get ugly. “It was just having to be together and being so unhappy,” says Nicks. “You don’t want to sit in the same room, be on a plane after a show, with somebody who hates you. It was not fun.”

As frontman for the band, Lindsey Buckingham gave performances that were more like exorcisms; toward the end of the U.S. leg of the 1977 Rumours tour, he collapsed in the shower in a Philadelphia hotel room and was later diagnosed as having a mild form of epilepsy. By then, Fleetwood and Nicks had a serious flirtation cooking – despite his marriage and her relationship with a record executive. On the band’s Pacific tour that fall, after a show in New Zealand, they went back to her room and began a covert affair that moved from there through Australia and back to the U.S.

“Mick and I,” says Nicks, “were absolutely horrified that this happened. We didn’t tell anybody until the very end, and then it blew up and was over. And, you know, Lindsey and I have never, never talked about Mick. Ever.”

That wasn’t the only psychodrama Australia would see; one evening, as Nicks performed her patented witchy dance on “Rhiannon,” twirling under her hooded poncho, Buckingham wrenched his jacket over his head and began dancing in a crude, crowlike imitation of her. “Lindsey was angry – just mad at me,” recalls Nicks. “That wasn’t a one-time thing. Lindsey and I had another huge thing that happened onstage in New Zealand. We had some kind of a fight, and he came over – might have kicked me, did something to me, and we stopped the show. He went off, and we all ran at breakneck speed back to the dressing room to see who could kill him first. Christine got to him first, and then I got to him second – the bodyguards were trying to get in the middle of all of us.”

“I think he’s the only person I ever, ever slapped,” says Christine McVie. “I actually might have chucked a glass of wine, too. I just didn’t think it was the way to treat a paying audience. I mean, aside from making a mockery of Stevie like that. Really unprofessional, over the top. Yes, she cried. She cried a lot.”

Without quite denying such incidents, Buckingham looks genuinely a bit puzzled to hear them played back. “What I do remember,” he says, “is a show where I purposely sang much of the set out of tune. We got offstage, and everyone was irate, obviously. They were talking about firing me and getting Clapton. Very well founded, because it was not a professional thing to do.” Ultimately, the guitarist’s voluntary departure, in 1987, stopped the toxic brawls. In fact, except for a couple of weeks in the studio when the band cut Tango in the Night, in 1986, Nicks says she spent little time in the ‘8os around Buckingham “and his insane kind of going-insane thing.”

Brought to attention by “The Chain,” stroked by “Everywhere,” almost chastened by the rigors of “I’m So Afraid,” the band settled in during the deceptively peaceful opening strains of “Silver Springs.” But Nicks, who had shown a good deal of power the previous night, was clearly going for the whole enchilada this time. “Time has cast a spell on you, but you won’t forget me/I know I could have loved you, but you would not let me,” chanted all three singers as Nicks gathered herself, then gripped the mike and turned toward her ex-lover with every semblance of smoldering anger and hurt: “You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loved you.”

By the time Nicks was virtually shouting, “Was I just a fool?” and “Give me just a chance,” Buckingham was peering sideways as he sang his part, eyes guarded behind whatever masking his guitar and mike stand could afford him. “ `Silver Springs’ always ends up in that place for me,” says Buckingham later, “because she’s always very committed to what those words are about, and I remember what they were about then. Now it’s all irony, you know, but there is no way you can’t get drawn into the end of that song.”

It’s four months later as night settles in outside Stevie Nicks’ L.A. house, and a couple of dozen candles stacked around the room flicker in the breeze coming through the open French doors. “At night the ocean gets really loud,” Nicks says. “And then you realize how close you are to it.” An oversize original print of her and Buckingham bareshouldered, as they appeared on Buckingham Nicks, sits nearby, awaiting shipping to a museum. She’s discussing he performance of “Silver Springs” that will be seen in a few days on MTV. “I never did that before,” she says of he fervent, face-off reading of the song. “I left that for Friday night. The earlier shows were good. I just paced myself. They weren’t the show I wanted to leave behind for posterity, just in case Fleetwood Mac never did another thing.”

“I think,” says Buckingham, “some people are probably getting the impression that we are back together or something along those lines. Which is certainly not true. Not yet, anyway. You never know. I don’t foresee that at all. But, you know, things…”

Stevie Nicks sits up very straight when she hears that notion: “Over my dead body. See, I don’t want to be part of that darkness. He knows that. When we’re up there singing songs to each other, we probably say more to each other than we ever would in real life. If you offered me a passionate love affair and you offered me a high-priestess role in a fabulous castle above a cliff where I can just, like, live a very spiritual kind of religious-library-communing-withthe-stars, learning kind of existence, I’m going to go for the high priestess.”

MICK FLEETWOOD HAS INVITED Lynn, his wife of two years, to come out on the road and see a few shows – just not the early ones. “Lynn and I were talking to someone who is new to this whole thing called Fleetwood Mac,” he says. “And she said, `What you’ve got to understand is that these people have something in between them that is extraordinarily theirs. And you will never know. It is you and them, but you have to get used to it, because when these people are together, there is an unspoken thing that absolutely exists.’

“You know, this whole thing is not happening as a bunch of corporate decisions. The celebration that Stevie and Lindsey are now able to have is interesting to watch. It’s good – an understanding of where they’ve come from. I would hate to see anyone walking away or something going wrong, because now they’re at the point in their lives where they can relate to the fact that they did come as a couple – first as a couple musically, then they joined this thing called Fleetwood Mac. And then they went to hell and back, basically. And now they are able to talk about that. It’s also a celebration for me and John – I sometimes go, Wow, this man has been standing next to me for 30 damn years: Christine, too. It’s something to be proud of.”