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Published on August 1st, 2017 | by Alan Cross

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“Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” is a distraction Fleetwood Mac cannot afford

[Passsionate about something musical that you want to get off your chest? Got a great story to share? Fantastic! Guest posts are welcome at AJoMT. Submit away and we might find space for you. Today’s post comes from hardcore Fleetmac Mac, John Duffy. He has a real problem with Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie peeling away from the Mac to do their own thing, even if it’s temporary.- AC]

If a band can make it to their fifth decade, they have beaten the longest of odds. August 13 will mark the 50th anniversary of Fleetwood Mac’s its debut at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor, England. Back at the beginning, they were a loud, brash, ballsy British blues quartet, led by a messianic guitarist named Peter Green who sang songs about the indifference of God and the evils of money.

And in the long history of the band—seventeen studio albums, twenty Billboard Top 40 hits, 100 million records sold, addiction, madness, love, betrayal, breakups, religious cults, and numerous stylistic changes—there have certainly been stranger things than this year’s “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” side project.

But if anything, this episode is another example of just how fragile the band’s political chemistry has always been.

Just two days before the 50th anniversary of the Windsor debut (neither of them was in Fleetwood Mac at that time) the two finish up a tour in support of what by all measures should have been a new Fleetwood Mac album. Many have asked, “Why wasn’t it?”

As the story goes Christine and Lindsey went into the studio to woodshed a backlog of songs back in 2015. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, the engine room of the band since the beginning, were there too. But they were stuck when Stevie Nicks made it clear that her solo career—these days splitting dates with the Pretenders—was more important.

Instead of proceeding as the “Mac,” or waiting for her contributions to be added later (a la “Tango in the Night”), someone thought it best to release the ten songs that had been worked up thus far as a full album.

Several songs, while well-crafted, are of the quality that wouldn’t have made the cut were there another world-class singer and writer present (one of the secrets to so many hits in their bag). More than one tune is embarrassingly trite.

And while it’s been billed as a duets album, there are almost none of the characteristic harmonies on Buckingham/McVie we have come to expect as a given on Mac songs over the last forty years.

So why isn’t this a Fleetwood Mac album? Are we to believe that minus Stevie Nicks it just doesn’t count? It clearly would’ve been a better album with her presence, but it’s been the rhythm section of the band that has been its core from day one, if not its sexy and sultry face.

But more unsettling than that question is the fact that Fleetwood Mac is running out of chances to make a final definitive musical statement. Since “reforming” in 1997—that’s twenty years, kids—the group has managed to put out one album of new material. One.

“Say You Will” (2003) was better than even the band’s most ardent champions had hoped. It had singable pop songs form Nicks, Lindsey’s deep and brooding studio explorations, and even without Christine, it was a hit. A successful tour followed, then a few others, at least one of them attempted to make the lack of new material to promote seem a virtue (they did pretty much the same set from the last tour anyway).

Then, in 2014, Christine was back, and what did we get? Extended Play, four undercooked songs. It sounded exactly like what it was, the beginnings of a new album that ran out of gas. Oh well, at least there was something to tour behind now.

The longer great bands last, the more difficult it becomes to make music that doesn’t suffer by comparison to their classic work. U2, Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Eagles, Prince, Pearl Jam, even Canada’s Blue Rodeo and Tragically Hip have all in a sense reached this point.

This means that the nearer an act comes to their final bow, the more difficult it is to sound like something other than a well-paid cover band of yourself.

And Fleetwood Mac is quite frankly running on borrowed time. Christine turns 73 this year. John, a lifelong smoker and one-time heavy boozer, had a serious cancer scare a few years ago. And there are only a limited number of times the band can lower the octave so Nicks can land the notes on “Rhiannon” or “Seven Wonders.”

A great band this far in gets increasingly fewer chances to prove its continued validity other than as a jukebox. “Say You Will” made a giant step toward late-career relevancy for Fleetwood Mac. I suppose we should be grateful for “Extended Play” and “Lindsay Buckingham/Christine McVie,” but given the quality we’ve come to expect, they fall well short.

At this rate, does the band have another half decade to burn before they can get their act together once more?

 




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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6 Responses to “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie” is a distraction Fleetwood Mac cannot afford

  1. Haley says:

    🤔 Extended Play didn’t include Christine (who turned 74 this year, not 73). Small points but it bothered me just the same…

  2. Zonefree says:

    Stevie Nicks doesn’t write much anymore, and she said there is no money in records, so she chose not to be a part of a new album. The Buckingham McVie album is highly listenable. Say You Will and Extended Play languished from a missing Christine McVie.

  3. Brooke says:

    I’ve been a FM die hard for 25 years (I turn 38 this month). I have seen the Buckingham McVie tour once and I’m going to the last show on August 11. The reason why this band has not released an album since 2003 lies solely on the shoulders of Stevie Nicks. Lindsey and Christine wanted her to be a part of this project and she didn’t want to. She made everybody wait for her and finally, the two others decided not to. If you’re going to be critical of a band not releasing another album, at least recognize the reason. She’s had very little to do with Fleetwood Mac for a long time and I give Lindsey and Christine credit for doing this on their own. When Christine was on hiatus, they still called it Fleetwood Mac without her. Even though the Buckingham McVie album includes John and Mick, they didn’t want to call it a FM album I assume because Stevie was on it. Having been to one of the shows, I can tell you that nobody seeing this tour misses her one bit. The dynamic may not be there but at least there’s none of her ridiculous drama that she’s always causing. They will do one more tour next year and that is perfectly fine with me.

  4. Chris Reque says:

    I totally disagree. I love the new Buckingham/McVie album. I think the writer is projecting his own issues onto the band.

  5. Mike says:

    I agree. Though, the better choice for your title is “In Your Dreams and 24 Karat Gold: Songs From the Vault are Distractions Fleetwood Mac Can Not Afford”

    After reading every interview by members of the band and their inner circle the past 40 years, it has almost become laughable to read Stevie Nicks crap on the thought of new Mac Music and “the recording industry” now, and block two potential Mac albums to record, not one, but two solo albums in the same time frame.

    Of course Buckingham/McVie was supposed to be a Mac album. Lindsey was not talking about a duets album during their last tour when he mentioned new music. He was even quoted talking about the tracks they had, and saying Stevie had not been in to participate as of yet. Christine said the same.

    When it became clear that Stevie’s solo career was more important, they all back tracked and acted like they never had any specific plans for it.

    This is what is aggravating. Not that it didn’t work out, but in order to keep appearances and reputation as a band that “has a lot of love for each other”, they really do not want to be in the same room together.

    They waited for her in 2011 and 2012 when she did In Your Dreams. Extended Play was then anything but. In 2014, they waited again as she recorded her songs from the vault album. Then they toured. Then they waited again while she took several months after the tour in 2016 to finally state it was now time to tour the album released 2 years ago- on the eve of the mac tour no less. Rolling Stone gleefully poured some gas on the fire by pointing this out in the issue with Stevie on the cover- sans the mac, during the third month of the Mac tour.

    Lets get to the real reason. Stevie Nicks does not want to record with Lindsey Buckingham. By all accounts, Say You Will was miserable for her. Stevie is completely dependent on the musicians around her for the quality of her albums. And she has had some GREAT albums. She is a great super talent in her own right. I have been to many a Stevie show and I have loved them all. I prefer he with Fleetwood mac. I prefer Lindsey with Fleetwood mac. I even sat in a bar with 75 people and sat 12 feet in front of Mick Fleetwood while he played with the his side band, The Zoo. 1992. Met John McVie outside the Mac hotel opening night SWY tour. Talked photography and sailing.

    Point is- the Mac will always be greater than the sum of its parts. They are never better than when they are together. And, they all hold their own and shine when apart. Not a big deal in the past when they could go years in between projects. But now now. So naturally people are getting impatient for that last true mac album.

    What will they do next?

    Watching Stevie “get to be the boss” with Dave Stewart on the In Your Dreams Documentary was cute.

    Other than her first 3 solo albums, I will take any of her leaked demos from any Fleetwood Mac recording session over any of her other solo albums.

    Good timing, because not to be outdone, Stevie recorded a demo version of Gypsy for release at the same time Buckingham/McVie was released. This stuff writes itself…. She said in an interview it was “better and like it was meant to sound when she wrote it .” or before Lindsey got a hold of it. Cue the laugh track.

    I am sure they , and especially Stevie, have good reasons for doing what they do. And it is their business. Reading how Stevie exaggerates the length of time for a tour, or how long it would take her to contribute a couple of songs and add harmonies is hilarious.

    With technology today, she really would not even have to be in the recording studio. Christine and Lindsey got a chunk of Buckingham/McVie done that way.

    The latest recording features all member of Fleetwood Mac and is only not a Fleetwood mac album because they would be in tight spot when it came time to tour. No way Lindsey is going to go out and not play anything from it. And no way would Stevie tour with them while they played songs from it when she was not there to make it. No Stevie= no tour.

    So Stevie essentially has blocked new Mac Music.

    IF that big tour next year was not looming, and they knew there was no way they were gonna tour again, you can bet this would have been a Mac album! They would have found and included some unused Stevie material that the band owned and put out an album.

    Sadly, the most important thing is the money they will make next year from touring. Reading Lindsey not even pretend that the 2 stadium shows they did this month with the Mac would be anything more than a cash grab made my stomach turn a little bit.

    What is going to change between now and the next Mac Tour? Will you be there?

  6. T says:

    As someone already noted, Extended Play did not involve Christine McVie. She re-joined a year later.

    We would all love a new Fleetwood Mac album, but the reason it has not happened is Stevie Nicks. To title this article what you have titled it, and to avoid the obvious reason why the band can’t “get its act together” is more than just irritating. It’s selective journalism. The new Lindsey-Christine album (which involves John and Mick) is as much a Fleetwood Mac album as Say You Will. And it certainly captures the band’s spirit more fully than Say You Will album did.

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