Q&A: Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham Reveal Lingering Tensions in Fleetwood Mac
As previously reported, Fleetwood Mac will head out on the road next year for a massive world tour. It turns out the tour was originally scheduled for 2012, but Stevie Nicks decided to take an extra year for her own solo trek. The rest of the group decided to make the best of things and use the time to cut a new album, but that ultimately fell apart, too.
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Rolling Stone spoke at great length to Nicks and Lindsey Buckinham about all the drama, their disagreement over how to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their long out-of-print collaborative LP, Buckingham Nicks, and how the ex-lovers manage their fragile partnership. They got on the phone separately, about a week apart.
Is there any chance that Christine McVie might guest at some point on this Fleetwood Mac tour?
I would say there’s no more a chance of that happening than an asteroid hitting the earth. She is done. You know when you look in somebody’s face and you can just tell? She doesn’t want to do it anymore. She doesn’t want to fly. She doesn’t want to come back to America. When she left, she left. She sold her house, her piano, her car. She went to England and she has never been back since 1998, so it’s not really feasible, as much as we would all like to think that she’ll just change her mind one day. I don’t think it’ll happen. We love her, so we had to let her go.
I’ve been hearing rumors of this tour for a couple years now. How did it all come together?
In 2010 I made a record, and I toured all that year. Then I decided to take this year and give this record that I’m really proud of one more year. I thought it deserved it, and now I’m done and I’m letting it go. I’m ready to go into Fleetwood Mac. In my opinion, whenever we work we should be off the road for three years. It feels special when you haven’t seen us for three years. You didn’t just see us a year and a half ago. That’s why I make an effort to not do it every two years.
Are you thinking about making any new material with Fleetwood Mac before the tour?
Well, we don’t have a lot of time. We go into rehearsal on February 15th. We do actually have two new songs. I went into Lindsey’s house two weeks ago and spent four days there. We also recorded a very old Buckingham Nicks song that we loved and couldn’t figure out why it didn’t go on the album. It got brushed under the carpet somehow. We recorded it, so that’s a third song.
Next year is the 40th anniversary of Buckingham Nicks, and we’re hoping next year to get the record out. Then we’ll take that lost song and put it on the record. That’s kind of exciting, though it doesn’t have anything to do with Fleetwood Mac. People have been waiting forever for that record to come back out. Fleetwood Mac is totally good with us doing that. They know.
It was great spending time with Linds. We’re old enough now that we’ve laid down our weapons. We started this whole thing in 1968 and we’re proud of what we’ve done. We look each other in a slightly different light now. It’s a good light.
Do you think the set list is going to be very different than the last tour?
What we do is go through our entire catalog and everybody makes a list of the songs they want to do. There’s about 10 songs we have to do no matter what. You have to go “Go Your Own Way” and “Landslide” and “Dreams.” You can’t get out of that, but when you’re Fleetwood Mac you do a two-hour-and-20-minute set. It means you have eight or nine other songs you can pick from your catalog. That’s what we do. We put them all up on a board, like in school. We play all of them and see what works.
A lot of your peers have been playing their classic albums straight through on recent tours. Has there been any talk of doing Rumours straight through?
Well, no. But we do a lot of songs from Rumours. If we did that, we would really be left with only a certain amount of time to do the hit songs that people want from all the other records. So that would be a very different tour. That’s not to say we couldn’t do it, but that’s not the tour we’re doing this year. It might be fun at some point though. It might even be a good idea to film that. Then we could talk about each song and all the experiencers that went along with them.
Do you envision Buckingham Nicks coming out as a deluxe edition box set?
It is the 40th anniversary, because it was released in 1973. We have this new version of an old demo. So, we should put the album back out, and if we can make that happen then Buckingham-Nicks should go out on the road next year. It would be great to do it in the 40th anniversary year. This might not just be the year of Fleetwood Mac, but we might throw in the Buckingham Nicks album for a special, sparkly, extra present.
So you might actually reform the original band and take them out on the road?
There’s always a possibility. That is a situation where we would actually go onstage and do the complete Buckingham Nicks album. It would be a trip to bring it back with Waddy Watchtel and some other people from San Francisco. It would be trippy for Lindsey and I to revisit those songs.
Do you think a new Fleetwood Mac album is possible at some point in the future?
We did record two songs when I was at Lindsey’s house those four days. He and the boys recorded in the beginning of the year. I didn’t go because my mom had just died and I wasn’t in the frame of mind to go into the studio or write songs. They recorded some songs, which turned out great. So I chose one and Lindsey chose one and I put my vocals on them. They came out great. I’m really proud of them. They tried hard to pretend I was there recording with them.
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We have two new Fleetwood Mac songs and one Buckingham-Nicks song. We have new product, but I don’t know what we’re going to do with them. Maybe we’ll throw one of them out in January and the second one in February. The music business is very different right now. I don’t understand it. I don’t have Internet. I don’t have a MySpace Face page. I don’t have all that and I don’t want it. Nobody is really interested in buying albums with 14 songs on them anymore. It breaks my heart, but that’s the way it is and I have to accept that.
Maybe the thing to do is release five or six songs at some point during the year. We can record four new songs and throw them out when the tour is done. I don’t really know. I’m so not a part of today’s music scene. I really couldn’t tell you because I just don’t know.
I could be wrong, but I’m sort of sensing that lots of the drama from the band’s past is gone. Things seem pretty functional right now.
Well, don’t seriously fall for that. We’re a dramatic bunch, but a lot of the anger is at least tempered now. There was a lot of anger and resentment and crazy things that went on for a long time. It’s always going to show up here and there, but we’re not focusing on it right now. We’re going to try and never focus on it again. But that does not mean we aren’t full of drama.
I guess it’s mostly behind the scenes these days.
You might see a little of it onstage. That’s who we are. We’re dramatic. Lindsey and I will always be dramatic. When you were almost married for seven years, and then you’ve been in a band for 30 years, it’s never not going to be dramatic. We are who are are and we were dramatic kids going together. That never really goes away.
I guess it’s a very complicated relationship, to put it mildly.
I spoke with Stevie last week. She said she wanted the band to be gone for three years, because anything less would make the tour seem less special.
There might be a little bit of rationalization to that. We had actually planned to tour last year. We hadn’t done any routing yet, but there had been a commitment from everyone, and then it got put off. Stevie had done her album and I had done mine as well. Hers came out a bit later and, to be fair, someone is always causing trouble in the band. She would look at me doing these small, solo things where I nurtured myself and brought that back into the band. I don’t think she had one of those experiences, whether it was an album or touring behind an album for a while. She needed to have that experience.
It was fair enough for her to want to extend that until she felt it had been played to her satisfaction. There’s no judgment on putting the tour off for a year, but it was a surprise to everyone. We had planned on it for a while, and she had planned on it. But things change, and that’s a part of Fleetwood Mac. We’re a moving target. We’re a group of people who, you could make the argument, don’t belong in the same band together. It’s the synergy of that that makes it work.
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It also sort of makes us the anti-Eagles, in terms of never, ever being on the same page. One thing I admire about the Eagles is they always seem to know what they want. They always seem to know why they want it. They always seem to want it at the same time. We’re just the opposite. It’s kind of a political minefield out there. It’s interesting.
It’s interesting that the drama is now entirely out of the public eye. Back in the 1970s, it was all laid bare for everybody to see.
We’re still doing what we’re doing, but we’re not this year’s model, per se. We’re in the fabric and people want to see what we’re doing and we can do business. But we’re not in the public eye. Can you imagine if we’d done Rumours in today’s media climate? Oh my lord. But the thing about that album is that we were laying bare out personal lives through the subject matter of the music. It became detached from the music and became more about the success and the tabloid-ism. That’s fine, but it’s not something you want to do everyday.
Speaking of Rumours, have you thought about playing it straight through on this tour? It might be a nice way to switch things up.
That’s not a bad idea. That would be pretty cool. I’ll bring that up, see where it goes. It could cause problems in terms of how you make the arc of a set that works and isn’t too long. You’d have to frame it somehow and it would potentially disruptive to the bigger picture of what we’re trying to do. But, hey other people do it. Why can’t we? What do they do? Do they come out and play the album and that’s their set? Do they do other things too?
It varies, but usually they do the album in the second part of the show. They do an hour or so of other material, maybe take a break, and then do the album straight through, followed by encores.
Well, let me think about that. The only problem I can see with that, and I’m just shooting the shit with you here, is that it was vinyl. Side A builds to a crescendo with “Go Your Own Way.” Then it sat back down with the piano song by Christine. Side Two starts off strong and then tapers off into a . . . it doesn’t have a . . . unless we mixed up the running order. I suppose we could do that, but that really isn’t in the spirit of what you’re talking about here. It’d be problematic, unless you followed it up with some other stuff. Ending the set with “Oh Daddy” and “Gold Dust Woman” doesn’t sound right to me.
Maybe there’s something inherently unfriendly about that for that album. It certainly worked as an album and it worked very well as something that was resonant with all of our personal lives whimpering out at that time, too. I’ll give it some thought. I will.
Stevie didn’t think it would work for this tour.
Of course she didn’t. [Laughs] Well, that may be not be a fight I want to fight then! I gotta pick my battles here.
How do you envision the set being different from the last tour?
Good question. Good question. It’s kind of a mystery. You have to understand you do come to a point where people aren’t . . . where it isn’t a prerequisite to go out and do things people haven’t heard before. In a way, they don’t want to hear anything new. They are coming to hear a body of work. When you come to terms with that, it’s kind of freeing.
For right now, I don’t have a particular vision of what this tour is going to be. I don’t have an agenda for it. Knowing Stevie, she probably talked about this one track she wants to put on Buckingham Nicks, right?
[Laughs] What did she say about it?
It’s the 40th anniversary, so it’s time to finally put it out on CD and maybe do a tour with the old band, possibly including Waddy Wachtel and the other guys.
Oh, the old band with Waddy Watchtel. Wow. Well, listen, I would love to do a tour with Stevie. I think that would be very appropriate. She was talking about doing it in between legs of a Fleetwood Mac tour, which is not going to happen. It’s logistically impossible. It’s economically suicidal because you can’t do enough touring it make it worthwhile.
Putting out Buckingham Nicks, I’m totally down with that. To do what she’s talking about, we need some bonus tracks. We need to do one from each of us. I’m totally down with that. I’m not necessarily opposed to doing that in a Fleetwood Mac set, although it hits me a little bit like we’re going off message. But did she mention any other new material to you? I bet she didn’t.
She said you cut one new Buckingham Nicks song from an old demo, and two new Fleetwood Mac songs.
Here’s what happened. She was on the road. I was aspiring to do a new Fleetwood Mac album, because that would have been really nice, wouldn’t it?
Yeah. It’s been almost a decade.
It would have been really appropriate at this point. Stevie wasn’t really into doing it. She wasn’t into it at all. But I went ahead and got John and Mick over from Hawaii and we cut eight new songs of mine. All of them were done in the proper key for Stevie’s voice, if she were to sing the songs. I had no ideas for what she could sing.
My intention was that she would come in, hear the songs and then get engaged and want to bring some material to the table and we could have a new album. That didn’t happen. I really just think she didn’t want to do an album. And that’s OK. I think the reason probably was she didn’t feel like she had a bunch of material sitting around that she wanted to give up, or she didn’t have any material sitting around, period, any new stuff. That I don’t know.
I think she felt maybe a little bit intimidated by the fact that all this stuff just showed up. I mean it really was pretty spectacular, I thought. John and Mick were playing their asses off. I wanted to use a really under-the-radar producer to help me, because I didn’t want it to seem like a big deal. I really wanted Stevie to be engaged with it without it being anything that there was any public awareness of at the time, so we got Mitchell Froom in. I had never worked with him before.
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It kind of languished there. I think she was very defensive against the idea of making an album. When she came over here with this song that she’s talking about for Buckingham Nicks, she really had initially brought it in as one of her contributions for a Fleetwood Mac bit of material. Now, originally someone had said, “Let’s just put out two tracks, one of yours, one of Lindsey’s, and it’ll be downloadable at time of ticket sales.” And I said, “Well let’s at least do an EP. If Stevie doesn’t want to do an album, let’s at least do an EP. It’s got more credibility. It is something of substance.”
I got her to sing on two of my songs. We had a great time, by the way; we had a really fun time hanging out. It was just so much fun, which was just really reassuring and we hadn’t had that much fun together in a long time. But, in the meantime, she decided to take this track that was supposed to be for Fleetwood Mac, and put it on the Buckingham Nicks album. At that point I sort of glazed over. In my mind, she still needs to come with a few things for Fleetwood Mac. She’s vacationing in wherever she is, Key West or wherever. Is that where she is?
I don’t know where she was calling from.
Somewhere in Florida . . . In theory, she is going to come back with a couple of tracks to balance it out. We’ve got these two great things that she’s singing and she likes very much. They should be something we do in the set. If we decide to put out an EP, maybe around the time we hit the road, we have a lot of time. That’s in April. I’m hoping that will happen. We’ll see.
But you definitely think that Buckingham Nicks tour is not going to happen this year?
How could it? Let’s look at the logistics. We’ve got about 40 dates right now on the books for America, starting April 3rd. We’re running into the middle of the summer, and they may add more dates. We’re going to take a break, maybe a month, I’m going to go vacate with my family in July probably. I’m thinking probably then, obviously if things are going well we’re going to go play in the U.K. There are a ton of places we’ve never played that we could play, but let’s just say we play only the places we have played, which is Germany, Scandinavia, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand. Let’s just leave it at that. I mean . . . now we’re into . . . Obviously you do maybe Australia last, because the weather’s going to be better down there in the fall. So how do you even contemplate doing a Buckingham Nicks tour anytime in 2013?
I guess you can’t. Will the album finally come out at least?
Well, she’s all big on that and I don’t have a problem with that. I mean, I don’t know how many people actually care that it’s the 40th anniversary. If it were up to me, and it may be to some degree . . . this is just something that was an idea off the top of Stevie’s head, in the same way she brought in a song for Fleetwood Mac and turned it into a Buckingham Nicks song in a couple of days.
You can’t follow this stuff because it’s a moving target. It complicates a set of preconceptions you already have about Fleetwood Mac, which is really the message we’re on now. But, okay, if it were just you and me I would say it doesn’t matter it’s the 40th anniversary.
Stevie, if you’re serious about touring behind Buckingham Nicks, let’s wait. I would have two scenarios. One would be to wait and put it out close to the end of the Fleetwood Mac tour. When the tour is done and go rehearse a proper show and do it. Another thing would be to go ahead and put out Buckingham Nicks as a sort of secondarily level of awareness around a Fleetwood Mac tour. It’s a little off message, but that’s fine. When the tour is done we can go into the studio and cut a new Buckingham Nicks album. That would be the most credible thing you can do. Then you’d have to enough material to do a whole show.
There’s nothing expedient about any of this. It’s a total commitment to the idea of the past and the present as regards Stevie and Lindsey. Again, if you contemplate doing shows as Buckingham-Nicks, there’s only nine songs on that album. Even if you do the whole album, you don’t have enough for a show and you’re back to doing your other stuff. That isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t a huge statement. I don’t know. There are a lot of questions surrounding how we’d do this. Stevie said to me, “We could do five shows.” Five shows!
That’s a lot of work for five shows.
And what are you accomplishing by doing that?
The two of you have a very complicated relationship.
Now that you’ve talked to the two of us, are you starting to feel like a shrink?
A little. I’m just hearing different visions for the future of your partnership.
I’ve been saying to Stevie for years that we should revisit Buckingham Nicks. I know there’s a market for it. I’m not saying . . . I know we’re not going to go out and play arenas . . . I think something elevated happens with the two of us and there’s an interest in that . . . It’s a bit of an intangible. But I’ve been saying that for years. To me, if you’re going to do it, do it properly. I just feel like a lot of what she’s talking about is kind of skimming and isn’t necessarily well thought out. She does things from the heart, but you have to do things that have logic, too. And make some sort of sense on any number of levels. I don’t know what she’s thinking even. She’s going to take Waddy and all these people out? We can’t do that. We have to reinvent that whole thing.
[Publicist: Alright Andy, can you ask your final question?]
You can make it long. I have nothing else to do today . . . Is this article going to get me in trouble?
No, of course not.
[Laughs] Oh, it’s funny. You know what’s really funny is that for so long we’ve had to keep all this stuff under wraps. Then the two of us start talking on the phone, and she’s talking about it . . . everything just comes out. It’s almost like the old days where we were talking to each other through songs, and now we’re having conversations through you. It’s very strange, isn’t it?
Yeah. I’ve been here before. A couple of years ago the guys in Aerosmith were all yelling at each other through me.
[Laughs] That’s very funny. Well, you’re doing a good job then.
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