October 05, 2017 Music, Arts & Culture » Music
Fleetwood Mac members Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie play Vina Robles Amphitheatre on Oct. 15
BY GLEN STARKEY
Genius and dysfunction seem to intertwine in Fleetwood Mac, arguably one of the most successful bands in rock history. They've sold more than 100 million records including 40 million copies of Rumours (1977), the eighth-highest-selling album of all time, but the band was just as famous for the duel relationship flameouts of John and Christine McVie, and Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
OLD FRIENDS Fleetwood Mac members Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie will play songs from their new duet albums as well as classic Fleetwood hits on Oct. 15, at Vina Robles Amphitheatre. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN RUSSO
Buckingham stayed with Fleetwood Mac through the years, though he enjoyed a successful solo career at the same time. The entire group disbanded from 1995 to 1997. Christine disappeared into the British countryside in 1998 and didn't return to the band until 2014. It now includes founding members John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, Buckingham, and Nicks, who reformed in 2014 to embark on their On with the Show tour.
To prepare for that tour, Buckingham invited Christine into Studio D of LA's Village Recording Studio, where they recorded Tusk together, to see if they could re-spark their chemistry.
"It wasn't that I was particularly skeptical," Buckingham explained recently during a phone interview, "it's just that we went into the sessions without any agenda. She said she wanted to reconnect with her writing process, and Mick and I thought it would be good to get together early on. She had been sending me bits and pieces of songs she'd been working on, and I had a great feeling about them."
Buckingham, known as a studio wizard and master at fleshing out other people's material, began to massage the songs as well as share songs of his own he'd been working on.
"The other thing is Christine had taken leave of the band for 15 years. It's one thing to correspond across the Atlantic Ocean with her in her particular bubble and me in mine, and it was another to get together in the same room and see if the chemistry was still there, the common bond and vocabulary. A lot of times, once you let that much time go, it can be hard to reclaim that former experience."
Perhaps surprisingly to both, not only did their creative chemistry remain, it seemed to have grown stronger. Their songs clicked together, the voices blended seamlessly, and the songs the session generated were amazing.
"The light bulb went off and we thought, 'Holy crap,'" said Buckingham, "and suddenly we started to think these songs we were working on could be a duet album. It started to take on a life of its own, and we started becoming protective of the songs."
What might have become a new Fleetwood Mac album instead became the eponymously named Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie album, which features Fleetwood founders Mick on drums and John on bass. The pair has already completed a summer U.S. tour, and next week they'll embark on another leg that'll cross the country, with a stop at Vina Robles Amphitheatre on Sunday, Oct. 15 (8 p.m.; all ages; $60 to $100 at vinaroblesamphitheatre.com).
"The album is a departure from the Fleetwood Mac thing and yet it's still completely familiar," Buckingham continued. "We were able to find that spot. What the songs mean to me now is that we were able to navigate a willy-nilly process that happened in fits and starts and still turn it into something cohesive. When we finished we thought, what took us so long [to worked together again]?"
Buckingham just turned 68, and yet he seems as creatively driven as he ever has. McVie is proving there's life after a decade and a half of reclusiveness. They both still have "it," whatever that elusive "it" is. Critical acclaim for their new album is rolling in, but with all he's achieved over his nearly 50-year career, do the accolades mean anything anymore?
"What you try to do is the best job you can," Buckingham said thoughtfully. "We made the album we wanted to make together, an album we wanted to tour with. After you've been in the business awhile, you begin to see that people constantly long for reinforcement, but if you look at every review, it can be a little self-defeating because if you're going to buy into the good reviews, in theory you have to buy into the bad. For me, I've tried not to lose perspective on what I do, my craft as a songwriter. I'm still doing this for a set of reasons and I still have respect for what I do.
"The business model has always been to find the thing people want and to keep giving it to them, but that's an idea we rejected after Rumours when we followed up with Tusk. We rejected the idea of chasing a brand, rejected the corporate formula, and rejected commercialism. I think when that happened, I defined myself for the first time as someone who cared about art and aspired to be an artist, and I've tried over the years to continue to transcend stereotypes."
Also as Vina Robles this week is the return of country star Lee Brice on Saturday, Oct. 7 (8 p.m.; all ages; $45 to $55 at vinaroblesamphitheatre.com), with opening act Lewis Brice. Last year he sold out the venue, so if you want to go, get tickets quick.