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Fleetwood Mac: Going Back Again, One More Time

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Saturday, March 7, 2009

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Fleetwood Mac has been going since 1967, selling more than 100 million albums, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

But drummer and founder Mick Fleetwood still considers it “the worstrun franchise in the business.”

“We’re not grinding this thing every two years ... and running this well-oiled machine. It’s actually quite a rusty machine,” notes Fleetwood, 61, who’s seen the band through 13 lineups, 16 members, mental illness, defections to cults, broken relationships and lawsuits against bogus versions of the band.

“We don’t do this very often. We do this when it feels right ... because it’s the right time to do it and everyone feels free and open and upbeat about what we’re doing.”

And this year is one of those times.

Fleetwood Mac has lit out on an Unleashed tour of North America, its first road trip in five years and the first time the group has toured without a new album to promote, focusing instead on its greatest hits. Fleetwood is joined by longtime bassist John McVie (who joined later in 1967), Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who joined as a couple in 1975 and ushered in the group’s most successful era.

Their breakup also helped to inspire the band’s 1977 blockbuster “Rumours,” which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and is being released this year in an expanded version with previously unreleased bonus tracks and a DVD.

The lack of new material does not seem to be bothering the band members, however.

“It takes a little pressure off,” notes singer-guitarist Buckingham, 59, who’s released three solo albums since Fleetwood Mac last toured. “It kind of frees you up to enjoy each other a little bit more as people. We can relax into just hanging (out) a little bit more.

“The mantra is really, ‘Let’s just have a good time’ and value the friendships and the history that really underpins this whole experience that we’ve had over these years.”

That was also necessary, he says, after the 2003-04 sojourn to promote the group’s last album, “Say You Will.”

There was lingering “discontent,” according to Buckingham, following that tour. It was the group’s first run without singer-keyboardist Christine McVie, who retired from the band in 1998, and Buckingham felt that Nicks in particular was “overwhelmed” by being the only woman in the band after 24 years with McVie by her side.

“Maybe to some degree there was a little too much testosterone on stage when we went out in 2003,” Buckingham says of his ex-girlfriend. “We did not succeed as well as we could have on a kind of interpersonal level.”

But while Nicks says, “I miss Christine every day because she was my best buddy,” she counters that she has no problem with her role as the first and only lady of Fleetwood Mac.

“You have to understand I’ve been the only girl in Fleetwood Mac now since 1998, and it’s 2009, so I’m used to it now,” Nicks, 60, says. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wish (McVie) would call up and say, ‘I’m back,’ but she’s not going to, so we’ve all kind of accepted that now.”

Another woman almost made her way into Fleetwood Mac, however. In 2008, Sheryl Crow — a good friend who coproduced Nicks’ 2001 album “Trouble in Shangri-La” and was a guest on “Say You Will” — told reporters she would be joining the band. There was apparently some truth to that; Nicks confirms that Fleetwood Mac had rented a studio on Mother’s Day 2008 to test out the potential collaboration, but personal circumstances intervened.

“It was Mother’s Day. She had a brand new baby. She had all her parents and everybody coming and she chose not to cancel that, understandably,” Nicks says. “She called back and said ‘I have to pass,’ and it was over.

“I said, ‘You’re making the right decision. You have a new baby, you survived breast cancer, you survived Lance Armstrong ...’ Sheryl is my very dear friend ... and that will go on forever. The fact she is not in the band does not mean she’s not our friend.”

But Buckingham says that he “wasn’t really sure what the logic was” for having Crow join the band and was somewhat put off by what he considered a “premature” announcement on her part.

However, he notes, “I think the good side of that has been that Stevie came to a point of clarity where she realized the most appropriate thing we could do as a band was to work amongst the four of us and to create what needs to be created in that context. That’s been a real positive and a real rallying point for all of us.”

There are hopes that the Unleashed tour will ultimately lead to a new Fleetwood Mac album, though Nicks contends that it’s a far-off thought. “There isn’t any plan at

this point,” she says. “We’re going to get through this tour before deciding what to do with an album.”

But Buckingham says he’s hopeful that the tour will “sow some seeds musically that would get us more prepared to go in the studio rather than just going in cold.”

Fleetwood, however, confirms that “there have been discussions, for sure, that we would love to make some more music ... We hope it happens, and certainly it’s been somewhat loosely touched on. Certainly, I know that all of the songwriting department, both Stevie and Lindsey are continually writing.

“The whole creative bowl is very much intact, so I would love to see what happens. My heart says I believe that will happen.”

Fleetwood Mac performs at 8 p.m. Sunday (March 8)at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $49.50, $79.50 and $149.50. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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