Few expected the reunion of Fleetwood Mac‘s classic Seventies lineup back in 1997, and even fewer could have predicted it would still be going strong in 2013. On April 4th, in Columbus, Ohio, the band begin a North American tour with a set list that will include new songs. And on Tuesday comes the release of expanded editions of Rumours, their multi-platinum, career-defining disc from 1977.
“After all this time you would think there was nothing left to discover, nothing left to work out, no new chapters to be written. But that is not the case,” singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham tells Rolling Stone.
Buckingham, drummer Mick Fleetwood and singer Stevie Nicks recently gathered for interviews in a huge, wood-paneled room at the Village Recorder, a legendary recording space in West Los Angeles. More than three decades earlier, the band spent 13 months there making the 1979 double album Tusk, the surprisingly experimental follow-up to Rumours.
“We have a connection with this building like we have with nothing else,” said Nicks. “It’s hallowed ground.”
At the interview Nicks and Buckingham held hands, Fleetwood sitting beside them as votive candles flickered around the room. (Bassist John McVie stayed home, and former singer-keyboardist Christine McVie has been retired to the English countryside since 1998.)
Rolling Stone’s cover story about the making of Rumours featured a photo of you all in bed together. Were the stories of romantic turmoil true?
Stevie Nicks: They’re all true. [Laughter]
Lindsey Buckingham: That really was a lot of the appeal of Rumours. The music was wonderful, but the music was also authentic because it was two couples breaking up and writing dialogue to each other. It was also appealing because we were rising to the occasion to follow our destiny. So you had to live in denial, you had to learn to compartmentalize your emotions and do what needs to be done. It brought out the voyeur a little bit in everybody.
Nicks: Most people, when they break up, you don’t see each other for a while. You hope that you don’t run into that person ever at that point. In our situation, the breakups were going on, and we had to go to work the next day. It was very hard. You had to walk in with your head high and an open heart. We had to be very focused, and we knew that because no matter how hard it was on us – and it was awful – we still wanted to make a great record. Nobody was going to say, OK, I’ll just quit.
You knew you were going to the studio at 2 [p.m.], and you knew you would be there until 3 or 4 in the morning. And you couldn’t sit there at the board and glare at your ex-partner. You had to be a grownup. Even though there were a thousand people around us saying to do this or do that, we still had to gather together as a fivesome and say, “We’re not going to let this beat us.”
When you do the Rumours songs now, do any of those original feelings ever come back?
Buckingham: Oh, I hope not.
Nicks: I think the original feelings do come back. They take me right back to where we were. The songs morph a little bit every time we do them. Instrumentally, they morph. “Gold Dust Woman” is sometimes Indian. Sometimes it’s just rock & roll. It travels, and all these songs do that. To me, they are always exciting. I never feel bored when we burst into one of our big hit songs, because what they were all written about was so heavy that they could never be boring.
What is it like to look closely at Rumours again so many years later?
Nicks: We’ve been waiting a long time to put this out. If you were a Fleetwood Mac fan, you get to hear the songs turn into the songs without a lot of overdubbing. It’s very simple. When I listen to it, I think if I was 20 years old, I would definitely want to be in that band. There is something strangely timeless about it that makes you feel like it was just recorded last year. I now know why I went to Lindsey and said, “I think we should give this a chance. This is a really good band.” It’s quite an interesting group of crazy people that managed to meld their styles together.
Mick Fleetwood: The cause and effect of that album was so humongous – not only for us as musicians, but what it did and what it allowed for the journey. It was the start of something for sure – the enormity of everything we were faced with and were going to go through, and the opportunities, and the opportunities maybe blown and then retrieved. Now we’re sitting here excited about going out and playing. This album wasn’t the trigger for us doing this, but it’s quite a story.
Nicks: It’s pretty great that it’s coming out at the same time.
Fleetwood: I’m glad it is. It wasn’t planned that way at all.
Nicks: There’s a lot of great stuff on it, and a lot of creepy, weird stuff that never got on an album – just cool stuff, little minute things, little snippets of stuff that’s really intriguing.
Since it is coming out at the same time as your tour, will it affect your set list at all?
Nicks: There are a lot of songs on Rumours that are in the set no matter what. I think what will happen is we’ll end up talking about it onstage. Most of those songs are in our set anyway. We’ll just end up telling stories and talking about how these things happen. It’s always fun to share that with your audience.
Fleetwood Mac‘s reunion in 1997 for The Dance live album was fairly unexpected, but you‘ve managed to stay together ever since. How did that happen?
Nicks: The Dance was very strong, and I think it really opened up our eyes. We had been apart for a long time. I absolutely did not think Fleetwood Mac was coming back at that point. Then all of a sudden it was, and it was like, all our plans were canceled, everything was flipped over, and Fleetwood Mac was coming back.
Buckingham: I took off in ’87 because –
Nicks: You quit.
Buckingham: [Nods] I quit because things were getting a little too crazy, and I wanted to try to get my feet back on the ground. We did Clinton’s inauguration in ’93, and that was sort of the catalyst and had a delayed reaction. I think by the time you cut to ’96, when we contemplated doing The Dance, there had been enough time where we all settled down as people. The craziness that existed in ’87 and ’88 was gone. We were – for all intents and purposes – adults. I think the time apart helped us appreciate each other. The group has always been a group of people you can say maybe didn’t belong in the same band together, but it’s the synergy that makes it so magical. We were able to see that more clearly.
Lindsey had hesitated in the past to come back, so did something get resolved?
Buckingham: There were a number of false starts where I was trying to make solo albums. They would get constantly folded into group efforts. In retrospect I can say fair enough that you call yourself a band member and you’ve got to step up to the plate when the need arises. So that was an issue I had for a number of years that has come and gone. I am more appreciative of the fact that we know each other, we’ve been through so much together and we are really family.
Nicks: What else happened is I went into rehab on December 12th, 1993 and came out on the 27th of January – 47 days to come off of Klonopin. I nearly died. And I think one of the reasons that Lindsey left is because I was very, very high on this horrific tranquilizer. I didn’t even make it to most of the recording sessions for [1987’s] Tango in the Night. I was sick. And I think he was horribly worried that I was going to die. That’s one of the reasons you [turns to Buckingham] wanted to quit. We had this huge tour and it was booked. We were at Chris’ house and [Lindsey] stood up and said “I quit,” and I – being so high and so messed up – just raged across the room and I wanted to kill him.
When I came out of rehab, I did a small three-month tour, and I got through it. I was going to be OK, and everyone knew I was going to be OK. And I think that’s when Lindsey thought Fleetwood Mac could go on, because his beloved ex-girlfriend was not going to die. She was going to make it.
So everything since then has been different from what it was before?
Buckingham: It’s still evolving, and that’s the beauty of it too. I’ve known Stevie since high school. We were a couple for many, many years, and we’ve been a musical couple forever. After all this time you would think there was nothing left to discover, nothing left to work out, no new chapters to be written. But that is not the case – there are new chapters to be written. It’s quite extraordinary.
You have some history in this studio.
Buckingham: We recorded Tusk in Studio D.
Nicks: Thirteen months. We were here a lot.
That was right after Rumours, so you had a lot of freedom.
Buckingham: That was my line in the sand, the Tusk album. It was clearly an undermining of what was expected of us.
Nicks: It was the opposite of Rumours.
Buckingham: It was an undermining of upholding the brand, which we now represented. It was also an undermining of what a lot of groups find themselves doing, which is painting themselves into a corner by doing only what’s expected of them. It was a stand for art and for spontaneity and for the left side of the palette. It certainly did not perform commercially in the same way, nor would we have necessarily expected it to. It was a double album, for one thing. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when Warner Bros. put that on in their boardroom and listened to it for the first time. Over time it has been vindicated as a piece of work. It has become a darling for the indie bands, or at least the mentality of what that represents.
Nicks: Studio D was covered with Polaroids and shrunken heads and angel wings, and all of our stuff was in there. You walked into that room and there were big massive tusks on each side of the board, and the board was called Tusk. All of those songs – “Save Me a Place,” “Sara” – it became something so beautiful and so ahead of its time. I would have liked to be a fly on the wall too when they played it, because they had to be horrified. I was a little horrified myself over that 13-month period, but it was an experience. We were going to the top of the mountain, and it was very spiritual. And again, we were having serious relationship problems during Tusk, but when we went into that studio and saw those tusks, and all the amazing stuff we collected and brought in every day, we became part of a world that was fantastic.
What are your current recording plans?
Buckingham: When Stevie was on the road, and not long after her mom had passed away, Mick, John and I got together and we cut a bunch of tracks, and they turned out great. They were all done in Stevie’s keys. They were done with her in mind. Subsequently, Stevie and I have gotten together, and she’s sung on two of those. There’s also another track that dates back to [pre-Fleetwood Mac project] Buckingham-Nicks that Stevie and I built up from scratch. There’s a lot of stuff there. Some of this we will do in the show. We’re not pushing it. We’re just going to wait and see what everybody wants to hear.