Peter Green, in a sudden plea for Christ, left the band in late '70, and Christine McVie came out of her retirement, adding keyboards to the band. Green's departure, says Christine, "was an out-of-the-blue shock to everybody. Peter had been quite happy and was starting to write this really incredible music like 'Green Manalishi.' It was like he was being lifted. He'd wrung the blues dry and already played 50 times better than most of the black guitarists."
In the midst of a German tour during the group's first peak of popularity, Green fell in with some people Christine remembers as "jet-setters." The band had recorded a Green composition, "Black Magic Woman," and, ironically, the group he ran into were reportedly into black magic and the occult. They turned him on to acid. He left Fleetwood Mac on that same tour.
"Something snapped in him," Christine says, looking saddened. "He dropped this fatal tab of acid and withdrew. He still has this amazing power, but it's negative. You don't want him around. We've all cried a lot of tears over Peter. We've all spent so much time and energy talking him into more positive channels. He'll just sit there and laugh. 'Fuck it . . .'"
Not long ago, exasperated at being asked the perennial reunion question, Mick Fleetwood told an interviewer that sure, someday, maybe on an English tour, the original Fleetwood Mac might get onstage one night.
Later, when the band arrived in London, Peter Green was waiting for them in the lobby of their hotel. Unannounced. Christine didn't recognize the flabby, slept-in figure carrying a disco-droning cassette machine. "I heard this voice say, 'Hullo Chris.' I turned around and see this rotund little guy with a big beer gut and pint in his hand. I couldn't believe it. I said, 'Aren't you embarrassed?' 'Naw,' he says, 'fuck it, what the hell.' We gave him a room at the hotel for a few nights. He'd knock on your door, come in and just sit there on your bed. He wouldn't volunteer anything."
Jeremy Spencer left Fleetwood Mac a year after Peter Green under vaguely similar circumstances. He stepped onto a Children of God bus in Hollywood and never returned. The writer met Spencer recently on a London street, blank-eyed and selling Children of God books. His pitch: "I used to be in a group called Fleetwood Mac until I found . . ."
Christine meticulously recollects the details of all the ensuing clock-in/clock-out personnel changes during Fleetwood Mac's lean years between their Future Games and Fleetwood Mac LPs. But she places particular emphasis only on Bob Welch. "I have so much love for Bob," she says. "He is such a big part of this band. I don't really get off on what he's doing in Paris [Welch's current band]. When he quit, he was getting into a real feel of the kind of guitar playing that Peter used to have and Lindsey definitely has got a lot of. It's a very nebulous quality, very difficult to explain. It's a question of what note not to play."
Welch's last LP with the group was Heroes Are Hard to Find, their first as a transplanted L.A. band. After breaking up with their manager they had moved to Los Angeles to start all over. The McVies lived in a small three-room apartment in Malibu. It was there, on a portable Hohner piano in the bedroom, that she wrote "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me."
"I don't struggle over my songs," she offers. "I write them quickly and I've never written a lot. I write what is required of me. For me, people like Joni Mitchell are making too much of a statement. I don't really write about myself, which puts me in a safe little cocoon . . . . I'm a pretty basic love song writer."
Christine shrugs off the suddenly massive acceptance of Fleetwood Mac as "a lot of rewards for a lot of hard work." And it wasn't the flush of super-stardom, she stresses, that caused her to split with John McVie. She explains compassionately: "I broke up with John in the middle of a tour. I was aware of it being rather irresponsible. I had to do it for my sanity. It was either that or me ending up in a lunatic asylum.
"I still worry for him more than I would ever dare tell him. I still have a lot of love for John. Let's face it, as far as I'm concerned, it was him that stopped me loving him. He constantly tested what limits of endurance I would go to. He just went one step too far. If he knew that I cared and worried so much about him, I think he'd play on it.
"There's no doubt about the fact that he hasn't really been a very happy man since I left him. I know that. Sure, I could make him happy tomorrow and say, 'Yeah, John, I'll come back to you.' Then I would be miserable. I'm not that unselfish."
Then there were the Sausalito sessions. "Trauma," Christine groans. "Trau-ma. The sessions were like a cocktail party every night – people everywhere. We ended up staying in these weird hospital rooms . . . and of course John and me were not exactly the best of friends. Stevie and I spent a lot of time together. She was going through a bit of a hard time too because she was the one that axed it. Lindsey was pretty down about it for a while, then he just woke up one morning and said, 'Fuck this, I don't want to be unhappy,' and started getting some girlfriends together. Then Stevie couldn't handle it . . ."
Almost immediately Christine McVie entered into a romance with Curry Grant, Fleetwood Mac's strapping lighting director. They lived together for a year in Christine's home, above Sunset Strip. "I haven't been without a man in my life for . . . God, it must be about 12 years. I can't imagine what it's like not to have an old man . . . but I have no intention of getting married. I don't think I'm in love . . ." She considers that for a few seconds. "I don't really know what the hell love is." Then, she suddenly adds, "I'm proud of having been John's wife." She still wears McVie's ring, but on another finger. "Maybe we don't feel the same about each other anymore, but I wouldn't like to wipe that off the board.
"John can't handle Curry too well, even though he's much more at ease with other women around me than I am with men in front of him. He's making an effort. But if I was the kind of girl who wandered in with a new boyfriend every week, enjoying my newfound freedom, I don't know how he could handle that."
Isn't she tempted to play the field?
"It would be a new experience," she says shyly, growing amused at the thought. "Sure, you know." She leans toward a telephone. "Kenny Loggins! Call me up. I'd love to have a load of dates. I haven't done that since I was at college. But it's really out of the question. I mean I hardly meet anybody. I'm so involved in the band."
Christine McVie's eyes light up with a revelation. "Seven more years until I'm 40. Then I'll start all over again . . ."
John McVie stares silently out across a windy Marina Del Rey, a half-hour away from Hollywood. "Too choppy today," he mumbles. "We shouldn't take the boat out." Having had this 41-foot schooner a year now, he is brisk and expert at tidying it up, taking down the sail and draining out side compartments before we find seats outside, on the stern, to talk.
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