Going Their Own Way
Fleetwood Mac is coming back
By Alan Sculley

It's never been any secret to those familiar with the history of Fleetwood Mac that drummer and founding member Mick Fleetwood has been the glue that has kept the band alive through its many breakups, reformations, reinventions, and soap opera-type dramas.

It was Fleetwood who, when guitarist/singer Lindsey Buckingham abruptly left the group in 1987 before a world tour, played a key role in salvaging the tour by bringing aboard guitarists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito-two players who remained with the band to write and record on the next CD, 1990's Behind The Mask.

After that lineup splintered, Fleetwood brought together guitarist Dave Mason and singer Bekka Bramlett to join returning members Christine McVie, John McVie, and Burnette, in a mid-1990s edition of the group that released one largely overlooked album, Time, in 1995 before falling apart.

In 1995, when Buckingham invited Fleetwood to play on his in-progress solo album, the drummer knew he would be accused of using the session to plant the seeds for a reunion of the classic Fleetwood Mac lineup of himself, Buckingham, singer Stevie Nicks, John McVie, and Christine McVie. That reunion eventually happened in 1997 with the recording of a live CD, The Dance (supplemented by a handful of new studio tracks) and a tour that fall.

Fleetwood, though, said he tried to keep any ulterior motive of a band reunion out of the picture when he got involved in Buckingham's planned solo CD.

"I right up front said, 'I need you to know I'm here because I really want to do this with you,'" Fleetwood said. "'I also need you to know that I would love to see Fleetwood Mac get back together, but really that's at your discretion. And let's see how this goes. But I want you to know I'm doing this for our musical fun.' And with that in mind, not too long after that, the joke was around the studio, Lindsey used to say, 'Well it's the three-year plan, right?' Which it wasn't quite that, but by the time we got out on The Dance, it was a two-year plan."

Buckingham interrupted his solo project to participate in The Dance CD and tour. At that point, Fleetwood said he knew reunion would not be a one-shot event.

"Ever since then, there has been a Fleetwood Mac," the drummer said. "The only realities that we had to face were how do you get that band functioning so we can actually make some music in terms of a new album."

The key was Buckingham's decision to take the songs he had targeted for the solo CD and make them the foundation of the Say You Will project. Fleetwood said he had told Buckingham he thought the songs would have a far better chance to be heard under the Fleetwood Mac banner than as a Buckingham solo CD. Apparently Buckingham reached the same conclusion.

"I truly think that his life really changed, " Fleetwood said. "And part of his decision was bringing these people (in Fleetwood Mac) together and feeling that he was able to do that. I think he enjoyed that process." One person, though, that neither Buckingham nor any of the other members could bring back into fold for Say You Will was Christine McVie, who bowed out after The Dance tour.

"No doubt it's different. It has to be," Fleetwood said of the musical chemistry without Christine McVie. "But the sensation is that we feel really good about what we're doing, which pays some tribute to the three players in the band, John, myself, and Lindsey. We jokingly call it the power trio. We're digging it."

Christine McVie's absence, ironically enough, also brings an element of drama to the Say You Will project that has always been a major part of the Fleetwood Mac story.

Buckingham and Nicks, of course, had been in a relationship that ended not long after they joined the band in 1975. The marriage between John and Christine McVie also fell apart around the same time. Those events fueled the songs on the band's monumentally popular 1997 album Rumours, and turned Fleetwood Mac into rock's most compelling soap opera.

Fleetwood also said the drug abuse that was a major part of the Fleetwood Mac lifestyle during the 1970s and 1980s played a significant role in eroding relationships, particularly where Buckingham was concerned. "He never played the games that I played in terms of substance abuse and things like that, and never to any great degree," Fleetwood said. "I think my journey got so out of hand, as did Stevie's, to be quite candid-and I only say this because she's spoken about it so openly that I don't feel bad bringing her in a bit-and I think that's something that just got old for him."

With everyone's life now much more in order, Fleetwood said the band members are optimistic that Say You Will will lead to more recording and touring.

"It's nice to (say), as we sit, we are actually at least looking forward to a future, which is sort of an interesting equation," he remarked with a laugh. "We don't normally necessarily sort of do that."