At 67 years old, the founder of the eponymous band Fleetwood Mac isn’t ready to reveal the secrets behind rumours of band’s debauchery
When I read a musician’s autobiography I really want to know what’s driven them to create their art, everything from musical influences to the inspiration for their lyrics. Some musicians, such as Graham Nash, deliver, others just don’t quite ‘bring it on home.’
For Mick Fleetwood, the drummer and mainstay of the wildly popular Fleetwood Mac, the responsibility to the reader becomes even more onerous, what with fractured relationships that simultaneously fascinated fans while threatening to tear the group apart. Who is the song, “Sara” about anyway? What about “The Chain?” Then of course the real nitty-gritty: just who was sleeping with whom?
Fleetwood, now 67, hails from a generation of British rockers who drew their inspiration from musicians such as Buddy Holly and Little Richard. He’s been playing rock for at least 50 years, 40 of those with the same musicians. Members drift in and out of the band over the years, while Fleetwood provides the glue that guides them through rocky times and back to where they are now. With the publication of Fleetwood’s book, Play On, his new photography exhibit and a new tour, he’s enjoying his life more than ever.
He begins by talking about his early life and the formation of Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood received his first set of drums from his parents at the age of 11. His first band, the Cheynes, toured Britain with the likes of The Yardbirds, The Animals, the Spencer Davis Group, eventually opening for the Rolling Stones, tidbits any music aficionado loves to hear. He then did a stint with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers where he met John McVie. A fellow musician dubbed their rhythm section Fleetwood Mac; the name stuck when they formed their band which included McVie’s wife Christine, a talented pianist. They met with success in Britain and the U.S. but it wasn’t until they lost their lead guitarist in 1974 and offered Lindsey Buckingham the job that they really took off. Buckingham, who had been playing in a band with Stevie Nicks with limited success, accepted the offer on the condition Nicks come with him. The rest is history.
One of Fleetwood’s big challenges is that, as he admits half way through Play On, he never wrote any of their songs. Rather they were the work of Nicks, Buckingham and Christine McVie. While, he offers some tidbits about their inspiration, it’s quite limited.
Instead, he concentrates quite a bit on his own relationships, which gets to be a bit daunting after awhile. Twice-married to Jenny Boyd (sister of Patty Boyd, married to George Harrison), he and Jenny break up so many times, you find yourself screaming, ‘Jenny, do not jump on a plane again!’ Especially when, at one point, he’s still married to Jenny, having an affair with Stevie Nicks and sleeping with her friend, Sara, who, yes, is Nicks’ inspiration for the song, “Sara.”
Fleetwood also talks about the drugs, especially cocaine; he describes the infamous studio Sound City, where they encountered Nicks and Buckingham, saying “there seemed to be white powder peeling off the walls in every room.”
After reading the autobiography of a couple of rock musicians — Graham Nash, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton — you wonder if their prime motivator is cocaine rather than a burning desire to make music.
Fleetwood says its use during their first album together — their breakout album Fleetwood Mac, which he’s dubbed the “white album” — fuelled stories of their debauchery that he won’t confirm or deny. “It’s all so tired at this point.” What’s with that? Inquiring minds might like to know.
While he doesn’t offer those details, he does admit to going bankrupt twice and also apologizes to his children with Boyd for putting them through so much heartbreak.
Despite its shortcomings, Fleetwood provides an interesting overview of the band which makes watching their current tour that much more enjoyable. His voice and outlook are happy and he comes across as a kind, thoughtful man. Even if the book is limited in what it can offer, it still makes for some fascinating reading.
Georgie Binks is the author of A Crack in the Pavement
Georgie Binks / The Star / Saturday, November 1, 2014