Fleetwood Mac: Back on the Chain Gang

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It got to the point where the craziness seemed normal. "In those days," Christine McVie says, "it was quite natural to walk around with a great old sack of cocaine in your pocket and do these huge rails, popping acid, making hash cookies." Oddly enough, Nicks' "Gold Dust Woman" had been written several years before, when she had little experience with cocaine. By the time she cut the song, she still wasn't fully wise to the drug. Even singing, "Take your silver spoon and dig your grave," she says, "we did not realize how scary cocaine was. Everybody said it was OK, recreational, not addictive. Nobody told you that you may end up with a hole through your nose the size of Chicago."

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?'"

Meanwhile, Christine McVie remembers, "Mick was sort of holding everything together. But the music was, also. The music was very rewarding. It was very powerful to be there recording these songs." Somehow, amid the emotional devastation, her signature tune, "Songbird," arrived gift-wrapped. "I wrote it in half an hour," she says. "Just stayed up late one night. I think I just was thinking of all the band members – 'God, wouldn't it be nice just to be happy?'"

There was little chance of that, as she reluctantly prepared to split with John. "I dare say, if I hadn't joined Fleetwood Mac," she says, "we might still be together. I just think it's impossible to work in the band with your spouse. Imagine the tension of living with someone 24 hours a day, on the road, in an already stressful situation, with the added negativity of too much alcohol. It just blew apart."

"John," says Nicks, "drinks too much. And that's why Chris and John aren't together. Period. And John knows that he needs to quit, but you know none of us are going to go over there and nail him to the wall. So hopefully it will all be OK. You know, I pray every day, 'Please, God, just take care of John.'"


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."

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