The unequivocal thrill that scorched across the social networks of mine and most other news feeds last week was a joy to behold. From hipsters to housewives there was no escaping it; Fleetwood Mac were touring again and seemingly the entire world were talking about it. Despite the fact this was a band whose last great album was released in 1987 it’s hard to imagine a similar shit storm erupting for many other acts.
The story behind the band is smeared in gack and scandal; countless affairs, addictions, deaths and pretty much anything you could summon forth from the pantheon of rock and roll. Appearing originally against the wood chip doorways of the late sixties London blues scene, the bands original incarnation disbanded after mercurial guitarist Peter Green over indulged on LSD amongst the forests of a Munich hippie commune; the side effects being his immediate decent into madness and simultaneous attempts to convince the remaining members that it was a good idea to give all their royalties to charity. The band didn't agree.
As the rock landscape switched to the States, so did Fleetwood Mac. Beat keeper and new leader in chief Mick Fleetwood led the band to America’s west coast and with an eye firmly on the charts, added Lindsey Buckingham and his then girlfriend Stevie Nicks to an already augmented line up, complete with bassists John McVie’s then wife Christine. Going into the Rumours album each of one of the members personal relationships splinted-Stevie left Lindsey, Christine left John, and for good measure Mick got a divorce and they sacked their manager. They then spent an entire year in the same room trying to write an album, and Rumours inevitably became an outpouring of guilt, bile and regret. They were all also doing enough coke to turn horses into unicorns.
Amongst the mixture of narcotics, alcohol and heartache, tensions never dipped below volcanic- lyrics were lifted directly from the slanging matches of the night before. In live footage from the era the venom in Lindsey’s eyes as he wails ‘packing up, shacking up all you wanna do’ dagger straight across stage to Stevie is palpable. Consumption also led to confusion, during a sustained bout of substance abuse, legend has it that it took the band 6 days, 9 separate pianos and three professional tuners in order to get Christine Mcvie’s keyboard sounding ‘just right’ before finally enlisting the help of a blind man called the ‘loony tuner’ to solve the problem. So intrinsic was cocaine to their hourly existence that Mick Fleetwood attempted to give their dealer a credit on the album, though wisely this was re-thought. Rumours went on to sell 40 million records. It was a soap opera made of vinyl, an invitation into the bedrooms and private lives of its creators. The follow-up always was always going to be difficult.
Tusk was extravagance in the extraordinary. Recording studios ran around the clock, ego's orbited Jupiter and an unquenchable thirst engulfed the band. Asserting creative control over the album and with his head firmly turned by the primal sound sound of punk, Lindsey Buckingham demanded experimentation. Having found a vocal sound he approved of he taped a microphone to the bathroom tiles and on his hands and knees chanted 'oooohhh' & 'arghhhh' into it. Unfortunately for the others concerned, this carried on for 2 weeks.
Buckingham was not alone in the unorthodox. Fleetwood decided that when the title track required a brass section, he would ignore the obvious and simply hire the entire United States California University marching band to accompany them; he went one step further and rented the 60,000 seated Dodger stadium, just for him and his band to record a chorus.
The Tusk toured matched its recording, demanding the exquisite the band unwittingly hired Hitlers former train to traverse across Europe because it had palashal walnut and matching velvet. To add even more expense Stevie Nicks demanded a grand piano in every hotel room; this often resulted in an exasperated hotel staff winching a Steinway way piano upwards of nine floors each time as, unsurprisingly, she also demanded the penthouse.
After all this where does it leave Fleetwood Mac and their proposed tour? Only a fool would say anything other than Sunday night on Worthy Farm. A band built around emotion demands the drama of a Glastonbury headline set, you and your assembled friends-some you will know, many you won't- will gather round the Pyramid and as refrain rings out across the hearts of the assembled throng, all that’s left to say will be:
'I can still hear you saying you will never break the chain.'
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