Fleetwood Mac: Happy at the Top

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Mirage is more of a group effort than anything since Rumours. "Tusk was great, but it had no sense of community to it," admitted Buckingham. "It didn't seem fair or right to do that again." So they decided to play as a band on every song on the new album, which was not an easy decision, since Nicks and John McVie – the latter a necessary part of every track – hate recording studios.

First, they spent eight weeks recording in France. For most of that time, and during the subsequent sessions in three stateside studios, they worked in typical Fleetwood Mac fashion: Christine, Mick and Lindsey in the studio, lots of painstaking overdubs with Buckingham in charge (though he doesn't like to talk about it, he adds his touch to just about all of the band's compositions), and through it all, in Christine's words, "too many chiefs and not enough Indians."

Though Mirage, the end product of those sessions, is commercial and accessible enough to garner frequent comparisons to Rumours, the band members strongly deny any such calculation. "People say this is Rumours II. I don't see it that way," said Buckingham. "I certainly see it as a more conservative album, but there are a lot of albums coming out by artists who are sounding a little more pop and a little softer – Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson."

Onstage later that night, the band played it relatively safe with an effective, powerful set that varied little from the ones they had played the past couple of tours. ("It's not too clever to get fancy ideas when you've only got eighteen shows," said Fleetwood of the band's shortest tour ever – partly because Christine has her own record scheduled, partly because Stevie didn't want to tour at all.)

Fleetwood and John McVie were the rock-solid rhythm section; Buckingham played the edgy, intense ringmaster; Christine McVie, the soothing professional. As usual, Nicks got the lion's share of applause for her swirling veils and mystical anthems to sisters of the moon. Afterward, though, an astonished Christine McVie held up a teddy bear. "Somebody actually handed this to me," she said. "Usually Stevie gets all that kind of stuff."

Calculated or not, Mirage worked: in a few weeks, it hit Number One, a position Tusk never reached. Christine said she expected the showing and was surprised only by how fast the record hit the top slot. John McVie agreed, adding that he always expects to sell millions of copies. And if not? "I think we'd disband," said Christine.

To most of this band, chart position and sales figures mean a lot. "The only yardsticks you have are Billboard, Cashbox and Radio & Records," said John McVie firmly.

"You also have what's in here as a yardstick," said Buckingham, slapping his chest. "You can't let that other stuff be your motivation for making albums." He was adamant; just because Mirage hit Number One doesn't make it any more of a success in his book: "No, no, no. Not to me. You've got reviews, you've got other things."

Even so, it doesn't seem that Fleetwood Mac has to worry. Even the expensive, confusing Tusk was a financial success, suggesting that it is possible to challenge pop audiences without losing them if you have the right name and track record. But if you want to shake things up, Buckingham has learned, you've got to be ready to take some abuse.

"Even in the band, I remember getting flak afterward for having done Tusk," he said. "I remember Mick saying, 'I think you went too far.' "

"Well, I think you did," said Fleetwood. "As far as the presentation of your songs, a lot of them never got played on the radio."

"Well, but so what?"

Mick sighed. "Yeah, I know, but. . . . "

"My songs aren't getting played on this album either!"

As John and Christine laughed uproariously, Fleetwood protested. "You know what I meant."

Lindsey forged on. "You can't put the Clash up against Olivia Newton-John and expect the Clash to get the airplay."

"I know, but. . . . " Mick trailed off.

"I know," muttered Lindsey. He then stopped himself short. "My God, what is this – a therapy session?"

John McVie laughed heartily. "Sounds good to me."

This story is from the October 28th, 1982 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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