While Nicks’ voice seems to carry a twinge of childhood regret, it’s hard to imagine what would have happened if she had been twirling flags on the gridiron, instead of crossing paths with another flower child of the Sixties, Lindsey Buckingham, during the summer of 1966.
“I met Lindsey at the end of my senior year,” explains Nicks. “We were at a party and Lindsey and I sang ‘California Dreamin’ together that night.”
However, it wasn’t until two years later in 1968, when the twenty-year-old hippie girl would speak with Buckingham again, this time it was over the phone as her future love interest asked her to join his band Fritz. “I had never sang rock before,” admits Nicks, “and I certainly had never been in a rock band, but I thought, ‘Why not?’ So I ended up being in that band with Lindsey for three and a half years. We practiced every day, and we played some really big shows.”
Those early years with Fritz turned out to be perfect training for the future, but Nicks admits that she had no idea of it at the time. “I don’t think I would have ever been able to just walk into Fleetwood Mac and been cool about being center front stage if it hadn’t been for those three and a half years in Fritz. I would have been totally nervous and ‘stage-frighted-out.’ But Fritz was like an incredible amount of preparation experience, which I didn’t really know was preparation at that point.”
Like many unsigned bands, it was the very goal of being discovered which ultimately led to the demise of Fritz, as Nicks and Buckingham got a quick lesson into the ways of the music business. “This producer named Keith Olsen [who would go on to work with Fleetwood Mac and Nicks during her solo years]invited the band down to L.A. to do some recording, but it was very obvious that everybody wanted to break Lindsey and I away from the rest of the guys in the band.”
In fact, Nicks now says that it was the dissolution of the band that brought the musical partners into a more personal relationship. “It was the guilt that drove us together,” Nicks says with a laugh. “That’s why Lindsey and I started going out. We just felt so bad because everyone in Los Angeles was trying to kill our band. I mean, after three and a half years together, these guys were our best pals in the world and they were just being shut out, and it was very obvious.”
With the other Fritz members gone, Buckingham/Nicks made their first and only album. While this self-titled cult classic has grown to become one of the most in-demand vinyl albums, it was anything but a commercial success at the time of its 1973 release.
As for the possibility of the album ever coming out on CD, Nicks points an accusatory finger at her former partner. “If Lindsey would just call me back, we would release the album because there are a lot of labels, including Atlantic, who are very interested in it. But Lindsey has just been incommunicado lately, and if he doesn’t call me back soon I’m going to put a huge ad in Billboard that says, ‘Lindsey Buckingham is the reason that Buckingham/Nicks hasn’t been released on CD,’ because it’s all him. So sign the petition because I’m doing what I can.”
As their debut album basically flopped, the two struggling musicians had no indication of the stardom that was just around the corner. In fact, Nicks was working as a waitress in Hollywood, while Buckingham worked on the music at their apartment near Canter’s Restaurant on Fairfax in the heart of Tinsel Town.
Meanwhile, in another part of town, as Buckingham and Nicks struggled through this period of shattered dreams, an English blues drummer by the name of Mick Fleetwood happened to be visiting Sound City Studios at the tail-end of 1974.
Fleetwood was searching for studios to record what would be Fleetwood Mac’s next album, while at the same time searching for a new guitarist to replace the recently departed Mac guitarist/vocalist Bob Welch.
During his trip to Sound City, producer Keith Olsen wanted to show Fleetwood the sounds that the studio was capable of producing, so he grabbed a tape that happened to be laying on the console and turned it up.
The song that came on was the seven-minute epic “Frozen Love” from the Buckingham/Nicks album. Fleetwood was instantly grabbed by the guitarist on the tape and inquired as to who it was. Olsen explained that the guitar player was part of a duo, who probably wouldn’t leave his musical partner, who also happened to be his girlfriend.
Not to be dissuaded, Fleetwood made the call anyway. Nicks picks up the story from here: “We got a call from Mick on New Year’s Eve night of 1974 going into ‘75, asking us to join Fleetwood Mac. At that time, Lindsey and I were really poor, I mean, we were like really starving. We were totally disillusioned, we were both miserable, totally unhappy with each other and the world in general, and I told Lindsey that I thought we should do anything that was going to raise our lifestyle, and he agreed.”
Ironically, Nicks had no idea who or what Fleetwood Mac was at the time. “I went down to the record store that night and bought every Fleetwood Mac album and we listened to all of them from front to back. I was looking to see if there was something that I could add to this band, and I felt that there was a kind of mystical thing throughout the band’s history from Peter Green’s bluesy guitar to Bob Welch’s “Bermuda Triangle” to Christine’s sort of ‘airy-fairy’ voice, and I thought that it might work. Of course, they didn’t need another singer, they needed a guitar player, but they couldn’t get Lindsey without me, so they had to take us both.”
As Nicks explains, it was anything but a walk in the park during the making of their classic album Rumours in 1976. “In a normal situation, you don’t break up with someone and then see them the next day for breakfast. But within Fleetwood Mac, you saw that person the next day, so the sarcasm level went way up and the little digs got to be thousands a day, and people would just slam out of the studio.”
Then, Nicks adds this obvious aside, “Great tragedy definitely led to great art. You had five people who were very high strung and over the edge really easy. Everybody was really screwed up, but we got the greatest rock & roll soap opera out of it.”