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

Tales of the City

Share
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

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

Lead Application Developer

£80000 - £90000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am current...

Senior Networks Architect

£65000 per annum + 15% Pension, Health, Travel & Bonus: Progressive Recruitmen...

SAP BW/BO Consultant

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW/BO CONSU...

Hydraulic Power Pack Design Engineer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I recruit for contract mechanical design...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

How silly of me to assume it was Israeli bombs causing all the damage in Gaza

Mark Steel
 

Careful, Mr Cameron. Don't flirt with us on tax

Chris Blackhurst
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices