Fleetwood Mac is Finally Opening Up About the Band’s Secrets
Fleetwood Mac is one of the greatest rock bands of all time and has been around for over 50 years. Their music inspired generations, but the band was plagued with inner turmoil. Members had to deal with severe drug abuse, romantic affairs, psychosis, sex cults, schizophrenia, and more. They had all the makings of the best soap opera of all time. Many of their skeletons have finally come out of the closet in recent years. Care to take a look at what really went on behind their hit albums? Read on to find out just how crazy their early days really were.
It’s no secret that rock bands in the ’70s and ’80s were fueled by sex and drugs. It is called “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll,” after all. Fleetwood Mac was no exception. Some of the members had such extreme issues with drug abuse that it is literally a miracle many survived.
In fact, Mick Fleetwood did so much cocaine that the band actually sat down one day and attempted to calculate just how much blow the drummer had done. According to their calculations, Mick took an eighth of an ounce daily for at least 20 years. If that amount was laid out in a line, it would stretch seven miles long!
Musicians always want to be careful to thank everyone who helped to inspire their albums. In the case of Fleetwood Mac, that certainly includes cocaine. So much so that the band actually considered thanking their coke dealer in the album credits of Rumours.
Unfortunately, the drug dealer was killed prior to the release of the album and the band decided to scrap the idea. According to the band members, coke was so commonly used that the recording studio would actually provide the drug for them. They were also told that the drug was not harmful.
Is That Song About Me?
The album Rumours was undoubtedly the band’s most successful. But where did the name come from? If you guess drugs, you are at least partially right. Bassist John McVie reportedly came up with name, believing that the other members were telling covert secrets and gossip through the songs they wrote.
Well, turns out it wasn’t all paranoia. The other members frequently wrote songs about each other, many times they didn’t know who the target of a song’s lyrics was meant for. At least the album became the band’s most successful.
Questionable Yet Iconic Fashion
Those wooden balls on the cover of Rumours actually have a backstory. In one of the band’s earlier gigs, Mick Fleetwood ripped the toilet chain (two wooden balls were connected at the end) out of the bathroom and ceremoniously draped them from the pants. The balls accompanied the drummer on almost every performance.
“I must admit I had a couple of glasses of English ale – and came out of the toilet with these,” Fleetwood told the Maui Time. “I was very destructive – I ripped them off the toilet and had them hanging down between my legs.” He, unfortunately, lost the original set and has to make do with a replica. The look has since become his signature fashion look.
The only single to top US charts was “Dreams,” released on the Rumours album and written by Stevie Nicks. But not everyone loved the song upon hearing the demo of the song. Christine McVie thought the song was “boring.”
“When Stevie first played it for me on the piano, it was just three chords and one note in the left hand,” Christine said. Eventually, the band worked their magic and together made the song their biggest hit. Nicks incredibly wrote the song in only ten minutes.
Sly Stone’s Bed
Vocalist and songwriter Stevie Nicks would often wander off places with her inspirational journals and books to write songs. Interestingly, she ended up writing the song “Dreams” in musician Sly Stone’s bed. Not his home bedroom, but in a studio bedroom built for him.
Apparently, his studio bedroom was just down the hall at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, where the band recorded their Rumours album. “I sat down on the bed with my keyboard in front of me. I found a drum pattern, switched my little cassette player on and wrote ‘Dreams’ in about 10 minutes,” Nick stated.
Vocalist Stevie Nicks has been very open about her drug abuse issues. Her addiction reportedly peaked about 1986. The excessive cocaine usage lead to health complications and burnt a hole in her nose. Doctors warned the singer that if she didn’t kick the habit she could die the next time she took a hit.
She eventually checked herself into the Betty Ford rehab center. She has said in interviews that, at the time, she considered “going down in the flames of glory” such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix but later reconsidered.
That’s a Lot of Blow
Remember that seven-mile-long line of coke? Well, people were satisfied knowing just how long the line was, they also wanted to know how much it cost drummer Mick Fleetwood. The experts sat down and calculated that he probably snorted around $60 million of the drug.
Backstage, Fleetwood came to be known as “The King of Toot,” a street term for cocaine. The band even developed a ritual for signaling that they wanted cocaine. The band members would start humming a specific tune, one that changed a few times over the years, once the humming reached its peak someone would be running in with drugs.
The members of the band seem to change faster than the seasons. The lineup considered the “classic” Fleetwood Mac line up, consisting of Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine and John McVie, is actually the 10th incarnation of the band. Now that’s a lot of swapping!
This line up is certainly the most successful version of Fleetwood Mac to date. Together the band produced five studio albums and topped the charts worldwide. The classic Fleetwood Mac is still together today. Christine McVie went into semi-retirement in 1998 but returned to touring with the band as of 2014.
While the Rumours-era line up of the band is considered the “classic” Fleetwood Mac, the original members of the band were: Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, and Bob Brunning. Fleetwood and McVie are the only original members still with the band.
The band known as Fleetwood Mac has been together for over 50 years. Understandably many of the members moved on at some point, while others caused such a drug-infused raucous that they were forced out. One even just left to join a cult. As there are almost a dozen former members, we won’t have a chance to address them all. But we will talk about some of the most ridiculous ones.
A Little Mad
Peter Green was the original lead guitarist for the band and made a sudden exit from the group in 1970. He is largely considered the best English blues guitarist of all time. But why the exit? His drug abuse eventually led to mental health issues.
Green was addicted to LSD and underwent a drastic personality change after a bad trip. At one point he gave away all his money and possessions, then tried to convince the band to work only for charity. He was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. “I saw one Peter Green leave and a completely different one come back – pale, wan, depressed. A little mad, really,” Christine McVie told Rolling Stone.
The Children of God
Guitarist Jeremy Spencer also had issues with his mental health, if not due to, then exacerbated by drug abuse. After heavy use of the mind-altering drug mescaline, Spencer went out to buy a magazine and never returned. He left the band to join a sex cult.
Spencer joined a cult called the “Children of God,” now known as “The Family International.” He is still associated with the group. The cult preaches using sex to “show God’s love and mercy” and that Jesus desires a sexual relationship with his believers. According to a 1993 estimate around 7,000 members of the cult were under the age of 18.
The Guitarist Curse Returns
Guitarist Danny Kirwan also fell victim to the band’s curse. He was with band member Peter Green and suffered the same ill-fated LSD trip. On top of that, he was an alcoholic by the age of 22 and rarely ate.
He once threw his guitar at a mirror in an angry rage before a concert and began smashing his head against a wall. Kirwan, his face covered in blood, then began screaming at the band while they struggled to finish the set without him. The guitarist ended up living on the streets of London for a period of time.
Spending days trying to record a certain sound can certainly be taxing on any band’s nerves. But even worse is having to repeat tedious tasks to get to the point of perfection. During the recording of the song “Never Going Back Again,” one producer noticed that Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar had a much brighter sound after restringing the instrument.
But not just that, the producer only like the sound for the first 20 minutes after being restrung. So, he had the studio techs, restring the instrument every 20 minutes to get that perfect sound. “Restringing the guitar three times every hour was a b**ch. But Lindsey had lots of parts on the song, and each one sounded magnificent,” he said.
Fleetwood Mac Wins US Presidential Election
Not only did the band help Bill Clinton get elected, Clinton helped bring the original band back together. Clinton used the song “Don’t Stop” as the theme for his first presidential campaign. After he won the campaign, he convinced the fractured group to reunite to perform at his inaugural ball.
The inaugural ball performance was the first time that the “classic five” had performed together in six years. Even at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, Clinton quoted lyrics to the song that helped his election campaign by saying “Keep putting people first. Keep building those bridges. And don’t stop thinking about tomorrow!”
The Fake Fleetwood Mac
Around seven years after the formation of the band, another band by the same exact name began touring, and playing Fleetwood Mac songs. But it wasn’t a simple case of copycatting, Fleetwood Mac’s manager claimed that he owned the name and personally recruited members to tour under the Fleetwood Mac name.
Even more shocking is that the members of the fake group were reportedly told that Mick Fleetwood would be joining them later in the tour and had been involved in the planning of the new group. A lawsuit ensued and the fake group was eventually disbanded, but it put the real group on a forced hiatus for almost a year.
The members of the band certainly had a highly complex dynamic and numerous relationships and affairs over the years between members. Stevie Nicks and drummer Mick Fleetwood began an affair in 1977, while he was still married to model Jenny Boyd.
The two ended the affair, but Fleetwood wasn’t able to repair the damage done to his marriage. Prior to that, Jenny Boyd also had an affair and with Fleetwood Mac band member Bob Weston no less… Fleetwood and Boyd divorced, remarried, and then divorced again. They have two daughters together. Talk about complicated.
Annie Leibovitz’s Rolling Stone Cover
Annie Leibovitz shot the iconic Rolling Stone cover photo of the band members lying in bed together. But what you might not have known is that the photo shoot sowed the seeds of a future romantic fling. Nicks ended up snuggling next to Fleetwood for the shoot, not long after breaking up with boyfriend Lindsay Buckingham.
The two were cozy in bed for hours while the shoot was in progress. Even Nicks herself has admitted that the shoot was a precursor for her relationship with Fleetwood, which would occur about a year later. Annie stated in an interview that she brought the band coke for the shoot because that was the polite thing to do.
There is only one song in Fleetwood Mac history that has been credited to all its members at the time: Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood. That’s The Chain, released in 1977 on their best-selling album Rumours. Maybe that says something about the turbulence of the group and how they worked together.
The song was essentially a musical hodge-podge of various fragments put together until the band found something they liked. They ended up using pieces from every member in the final product. The core of the song is a Christine McVie composition.
Fleetwood Mac holds the record for being the last major band to release a commercial album on 8-track tape. The band released the album Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits in November of 1988. The 8-track format had long been in decline ever since compact cassettes began gaining popularity.
By the ’70s, the 8-track player had been overtaken by cassettes. Most retailers began phasing the devices out of circulation by late 1982, making the Fleetwood Mac release highly unusual. But hey, old habits die hard. Today the eight-track album is considered a collectible.
The band’s 1977 album Rumours was a smashing success and as of 2013 has sold over 40 million copies worldwide. But their 1979 follow up album, entitled Tusk, was a commercial failure. The record sold a meager four million copies. So why the failure?
Well, the band just couldn’t contain their artistic vision. The record was packed with 20 tracks and ended up being a double-album, making Tusk far pricier than its competition. The album was, at the time, the most expensive rock album ever made. Not only that, critics felt that the double-album lacked musical cohesiveness. All that pesky nose-candy might have been partially to blame…
When you listen to the band’s discography you might notice that drummer Mick Fleetwood has some very unusual beats. Fleetwood actually credits the rhythms to his dyslexia. He has stated that at times when he attempts to mimic certain beats he thinks will go well with a song the outcome is a “disorienting, unsettled beat.”
Some of his beats are so unusual that other drummers just can’t dissect the beats. “Dyslexia has absolutely tempered the way I think about rhythm and the way I’ve played my instrument,” Fleetwood says. The drummer says that he has great difficulty trying to explain his work in musical terms.
The band members and producers were known for going to any length to produce the perfect result when recording. So much so that they spent four days trying to find the perfect piano to record and reportedly went through nine pianos and three tuners.
One of the co-producers has stated that he almost got fired during the recording sessions for “The Chain” because he spent five whole days on drum sounds alone. The band members were reportedly very unhappy with his pace and thought he was “clueless.”
The Queen’s Throne
While on tour in 2003 Fleetwood Mac vocalist Stevie Nicks purchased a black leather massage chair, ever since then, that chair has followed her wherever she goes. Nicks loves to relax in the chair backstage before performances. And it is reserved for her.
No one, but no one sits in the massage chair except for the Queen of Rock and Roll herself. Apart from her time with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks has had a highly successful solo career. Combining the two, she is one of the best-selling music acts of all time. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
The song “Oh Daddy” was written by member Christine McVie and released as the tenth track off the band’s Rumours album. The dark rock ballad was, according to the author, about Mick Fleetwood who was considered the father of the band.
The lyrics also included a seemingly backhanded compliment that “everything you do is just alright.” Cynically suggesting that Fleetwood always thought he was right. By the end of the Rumours tour, the McVies couple were divorced, which added to speculation that the song had actually been written about Christine’s new boyfriend, lighting director Curry Grant.
Prior to marrying John McVie, Christine’s last name was actually “Perfect.” The two divorced during the band’s Rumours tour, due in part to her affair with the band’s lighting director. That same lighting director would go on to have an affair with Stevie Nicks as well.
“The band was at the pinnacle of its career and we had a responsibility not to break that up for anything as trivial as a divorce,” said Christine, recalling the difficult transition from married couple to just co-workers. “You know, I used to be perfect before I married John,” Christine jokingly said during an interview.
Not all music is made with expensive one of a kind instruments; sometimes it’s made with everyday household items. Sometimes it’s not even on purpose. For the song, “Second Hand News,” band member Lindsey Buckingham used a Naugahyde chair for percussive accents.
The band was inspired by the rhythms of the Bee Gees and the sound of cars crossing over and expressway. “He could accent with guitars, he could accent with toms [and] he could accent with Naugahyde chairs,” co-producer Caillat said in reference to Buckingham.
The songs that appeared on the band’s Rumours album went through numerous recording sessions and tedious editing, apart from one. One song was recorded only once, live. When producer Caillat heard Christine McVie play “Songbird,” he was amazed by how beautiful it was.
He decided that the song should be recorded raw and live in all its glory. The producer had previously recorded an entire live album for Joni Mitchell and thought that the setting would be just right for “Songbird.” The song was recorded live at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Auditorium.
The Rumours-era was so chocked full of emotional turmoil that the creative juices just wouldn’t stop flowing— so much so that there was not enough room to fit all the songs onto the album. One of Stevie Nicks’ future classics, “Silver Springs,” got cut from the album
According to the producer, Stevie was so prolific that all of her songs started off at around 14 minutes and had to be cut down. As you can imagine, it’s not easy for any artist to part with certain parts of their work. There were certainly many fights and tears shed over the cutting process. After all, vinyl was only able to hold about 22 minutes per side.
Fleetwood Mac has gone through over a dozen members since the band’s formation in 1967. Fittingly, they have also pumped out a ton of music and gone through varying periods of success. But for a British-American band, their singles have surprisingly not been well received in the UK.
The band has only topped the UK singles charts once in their entire existence. They reached the number one position with the single “Albatross” in 1968 and remained there for a week. When the single was re-released in 1973 it peaked at number two.
Black Magic Woman
The band Santana reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 with the single “Black Magic Woman.” But the single was actually just a reworking of the Fleetwood Mac single by the same name. The song was written by original band member Peter Green.
The Santana version of the song later reached number one on the Billboard Top 200. Unfortunately, the song wasn’t as successful for Fleetwood Mac. Santana did so well at popularizing the song that people quickly forgot that they didn’t actually write it.
Stevie Nicks wrote the song “Gypsy” about the time in her life prior to joining Fleetwood Mac. The song speaks about a simpler time of sleeping on a mattress on the floor and living a more gypsy-like life. A time before she had any money to her name.
Nicks dedicated the song to her friend Robin Anderson, who tragically died of leukemia. Nicks even recorded an acoustic version of the song “Gypsy” which is used as the theme song for the Netflix drama called Gypsy.
One in Six
Fleetwood Mac has been around for a very long time. It’s easy to forget how popular they were when the band hit mainstream success. The band’s Rumours album took the band to the peak of their success and popularity. So much so that one out of every six American households own a copy.
To date, the band has sold over 100 million records worldwide. That makes Fleetwood Mac one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time. Multiple band members have also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now that’s impressive!
Tango in the Night
Tango in the Night is the fifth album released by the band. It remains the last album from the most successful “classic” lineup of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, and John and Christine McVie. But the name and single Tango in the Night almost didn’t happen.
Lindsey Buckingham wrote the single “Tango in the Night,” along with “Big Love” and “Caroline,” and they were actually supposed to appear on Buckingham’s third solo album. He later opted to incorporate the songs into the Fleetwood Mac album Tango in the Night. If he had chosen to release the songs on his solo album, the band’s album would have been radically different.
In 2013 the band self-released an extended play record without a record company. The record was released digitally, no physical CDs were ever produced. Also, there was no promotion of the record. Even without all the bells and whistles, the Extended Play record reached #48 on the Billboard 200 chart.
The album’s second track, Without You, was a lost demo from the Buckingham-Nicks era. Upon finding the demo, Nick posted the song on YouTube. Nicks met Buckingham in high school and the two even grouped up to perform together at an after-school event. Two years later the two would reconnect and join a Rock and Roll group.
The emotional song “Sara” was written by Stevie Nicks and released on the 1979 album Tusk. If you listen to the lyrics you’ll realize that the song is a very personal insight into Stevie Nicks’ personal life. The song was about an aborted child.
The singer had an abortion when she was with her then-boyfriend Don Henley. “Had I married Don and had that baby, and had she been a girl, I would have named her Sara…” Nicks said in an interview with Billboard magazine. However, she added that the child wasn’t the “entirety of it.”
Wardrobe of Wonder
If you have been keeping track of Stevie Nicks’ wardrobe you have probably noticed that she has an extensive collection of scarves and shawls. She always travels with a wide array of them. Apart from wearing them on stage while performing, she also uses them to drape over hotel lamps to dim the lighting.
The singer loves to twirl around with the accessories on stage. Why does she twirl? Because she loves ballet and dance. At one point in her life, she actually wanted to be a ballerina. That was before she got into Rock and Roll.
“Landslide” is an incredibly beautiful song. It was written by Stevie Nicks and featured on the album entitled Fleetwood Mac. The song was inspired by the scenery in Aspen, Colorado. The lyrics certainly do such the amazing landscape justice.
“Landslide” also reflected her struggles around pursuing her music career and relationship with Buckingham. “Looking out at the Rocky Mountains pondering the avalanche of everything that had come crashing down on us … at that moment, my life truly felt like a landslide in many ways,” Nicks said, reflecting on the song.
This next fact might have been obvious, but maybe you’ve never realized. Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks has a doppelganger, Carrie Fisher. Or maybe Stevie’s just been living a double life. The resemblance between the two is uncanny.
As far as we can tell the two have never been photographed together, leading to speculation that they are one and the same. Sadly, Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016, leaving Star Wars fans devastated. Some fans have even suggested that Stevie Nicks should stand in as Princess Leia for any future Star Wars movies. We can only hope!
The Muppet Show
The Muppet character dubbed Animal first debuted in 1975 and people immediately started to make a connection between the angry Muppet drummer and Mick Fleetwood. It is rumored that Fleetwood was the inspiration behind the character.
The performer behind the character Animal says that the Muppet can be described in five words: Sex, sleep, food, drums, and pain. There is, however, no evidence to support the claim that the Muppet character was based on anyone in particular. But people have certainly been speculating, and the resemblance in their looks is uncanny.
The band eventually became such an icon in popular culture that they leaked into other mediums as well. Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks both appeared in an episode of The Simpsons. The famous cartoon couple was spotted re-enacting the cover art for the Rumours album in Springfield Heights.
In the episode, entitled Those Were The Days, Marge and Homer are reminiscing about the good old days and mention Fleetwood Mac and Disco Duck playing on their eight-track player. The band’s song “Landslide” also made an appearance on the animated series Family Guy when Joe sang the song to Peter in an attempt to calm him down.
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