John Walsh: 'Fleetwood Mac survived 42 years of madness, sex, drugs, failure and success'

Tales of the City

Related Topics

I went to see Fleetwood Mac at Wembley Arena and, musically speaking, it was wonderful. The strains of "If You Go Your Own Way" (which Lindsay Buckingham wrote about Stevie Nicks after their stormy relationship came to an end), the passion that Stevie Nicks put into "Sara" (the song she wrote about her best friend, for whom Mick Fleetwood left his wife after he'd ended his affair with Stevie), the tenderness of "You Make Loving Fun" (which the keyboards player Christine McVie wrote in a tribute to the lighting-rigger for whom she conceived a passion when her husband, the bassist John McVie, hit the bottle), and the final singalong of "Don't Stop" (which Christine wrote after her eight-year marriage packed up,) were inspiring indeed, although my favourite moment was Buckingham's gorgeous solo rendition of "Never Goin' Back Again" (about Stevie's breakdown, after her well-documented cocaine addiction...)

You can try and keep the music separate from Fleetwood Mac's emotional serpentinings, but it wouldn't be so much fun. No beat combo in rock history has had such combustible permutations of personnel, or such terrible luck. They've survived 42 years of madness, drugs, marital bust-ups, sexual rivalry, drink, failure, bankruptcy, wild success, rehab clinics, and a whole gamut of peculiar hairstyle choices. Their heyday was of course 1975, when Fleetwood and the warring McVies signed up Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks and they made Rumours out of their tormented relationships. Many thought it commercial schlock at the time, but the tunes got inside your head and stuck like fishhooks.

So I went to see them at Wembley – and what a weird sight they make these days. Mick Fleetwood, now 62, shiny-pated and white-bearded, whacked the drums like a deranged pirate king, widening his scary eyes until the whites glowed. During an extended solo, he appeared to hold a conversation with the tom-toms. McVie, the inscrutable former tax inspector, wore a white Kangol beret and a black waistcoat. We looked at him and Fleetwood, their grizzled chins and stolid Britishness. "My God," breathed the person beside me, "it's Chas 'n' Dave."

Buckingham, in skinny leather jacket and collarless T-shirt, talked about the band's emotional rollercoaster, struck attitudes and scrubbed his guitar during long solos. It was very much the Lindsey Show. Ms Nicks sang gorgeously in her low contralto and did her twirling-with-a-shawl routine, but sounded emotionally conflicted, like a pissed-off Pollyanna.

They look absurdly different – how did they ever work together? Mick and John, like retired yeoman farmers, relaxing after a hard day's pig-scratching. Lindsey and Stevie, seeming half a generation younger, so Californian, neurotic, theatrical. Buckingham, though an astounding guitarist, seemed prattish and full of himself beside the cool beardies. At the end, he teased the crowd with hints of another album. Mick Fleetwood wasn't bothered about such things. "Look after each other in this crazy world," he told the crowd, with evident emotion, and was rewarded with a mighty cheer – not for being a rock star, for being such an indestructible old (English) buzzard.


Spare a thought for the lovelorn Vaibhav Bedi, 26, an unsuccessful young Indian lothario, who is suing the maker of Lynx deodorant spray. In India, the fragrant armpit-freshener is marketed as "Axe", but its TV advertisements lack the tongue-in-cheek quality with which British viewers are familiar. In Lynx ads, dozens of attractive girls routinely fling themselves at hopelessly geeky types, to comic effect. Axe ads, by contrast, tend to feature one foxy chick in a library, tapping her number into a fellow student's mobile and making a "call-me" gesture. Now the regrettably-named Mr Bedi is taking Unilever to court in New Delhi and claiming £26,000 for psychological damage. "The company's [...] advertisements say women will be attracted to you if you use Axe," wailed Mr Bedi. "I used it for seven years but no girl came to me." He should think himself lucky he didn't get attacked by mermaids, or turned into a grotesque Chocolate Man, like the chaps in other Lynx commercials.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own