New Books Explore Fleetwood Mac's Vast Appetites

Classic Mac then -- Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John McVie, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham
Classic Mac then -- Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John McVie, Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham
CBS News/Warner Brothers

Play On: Now, Then and Fleetwood Mac By Mick Fleetwood with Anthony Bozza Little, Brown; 352 pp.; $30.

Before the Beginning: A Personal and Opinionated History of Fleetwood Mac By Sam Graham eBook (iTunes only); 42 pp.; $4.99.

Mick Fleetwood used to love cocaine. I mean, love cocaine. At one point, the mathematician in him figured that if he added up all the white powder he'd sent up his nose over 20 years, the "King of Toot's" line would stretch for seven miles.

As the band's leader, he also became the drug holder, overseeing distribution of the specially-prepared packets to band members and crew which were given out on tour like food per-diem money.

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And when someone began humming the theme to Chariots of Fire in the '80s, it meant that willing participants would run to Fleetwood -- in slow motion, just like the movie -- to pick up their pick-me-up. They would also have to bow to the 6' 6" skin-thumper.

It's just one of the many good ol' fashioned sex, drugs and rock-and-roll revelations in the drummer/leader of Fleetwood Mac's new memoir, Play On.

It amplifies and updates his life and musical story since his last autobiography, 1990's Fleetwood. Ensuing changes in the Rock Star Memoir in the past nearly 25 years have likely also given the author a freer hand with memories and anecdotes he kept to himself the first go around.

Fleetwood traces the band's story from its beginnings as straight English blues disciples under the guidance of singer/guitarist Peter Green, to the more pop/rock-oriented, massive worldwide success with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, to the ensuing years of shifting lineups.

And then full circle to 2014, which finds the "classic five" with Christine McVie back on board, touring the country (the band stops at Houston's Toyota Center next Monday) and set to release a new album in the spring.

Fleetwood offers a wise-eye view of his fellow bandmates as (along with bassist John McVie) the group's only constant members, surviving in spite of the madness. Remember, this was a group that lost their three main singer/guitarists -- Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan -- to mental illness, cult religion and alcohol in successive order.

That they would come back bigger than ever -- music domination level, really -- with two unknown California kids added to the lineup would seem fantastical on paper. And while the band's personal and romantic relationships -- both within the lineup and surrounding family, crew, and friends -- are well-documented (and not just on the Rumours album), Fleetwood still throws in a few surprises.

Story continues on the next page.

 

Like how his often-told "affair" with Nicks was actually a full blown three-year secret, deep love-and-soulmate relationship (at least to him). And one that he doesn't seem quite over himself yet. Still, he doesn't spare himself criticism, albeit not as much as he probably should. As in the hypocrisy of firing the band's then-guitarist, Bob Weston, for having an affair with his wife, Jennie Boyd, herself the sister of George Harrison/Eric Clapton muse Pattie Boyd.

All while he himself was drugging and drinking himself into non family-man stupors and sneaking around with a succession of women including Nicks and then her best friend, Sara (subject of the Mac song of the same name). Ah, the tangled, tangled web of flesh...

Early in the narrative, Mick Fleetwood notes that the book's title -- also the name of a Mac album, based on a quote from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night -- has been his unwavering clarion call for nearly 50 years of the band's existence. And with the book's story after story, there's plenty of good stuff here; think Fleetwood's faulty LSD-fueled driving directions for not getting busted at a Grateful Dead party and then deported.

For an additional take on Fleetwood Mac, there is former Record World Assistant Editor Sam Graham's eBook, Before the Beginning: A Personal and Opinionated History of Fleetwood Mac.

The title is somewhat misleading, as it is largely a sort of postmortem on Graham's brief time with the band as a traveling reporter on the Rumours tour and as he gathered interviews for the 1978 (long out-of-print) book Fleetwood Mac: The Authorized History.

There are really no recording insights or road tales, save one incident when Stevie Nicks accidentally falls into Graham's lap during a plane ride -- surely the epitome of a memorable incident, at least for a reporter. And much of the book actually traces the band's history before Rumours.

What makes the eBook interesting, though, are the more than 30 audio-interview clips rescued from Graham's long-moldering cassette tapes. The info he elicits from Buckingham, Nicks, Fleetwood and Christine McVie at the near-cusp of their fame (and hearing their actual voices) are all fascinating, especially McVie's.

Graham seems just as interested in charting the band's earlier history, and audio segments also include comments from former Mac members Jeremy Spencer, Bob Welch and early producer Mike Vernon.

Other interactive elements include Graham's handwritten notes from a talk with Mac founding father Peter Green (his cassette recorder was on the blink), as well as former manager Clifford Davis, who put a completely fake lineup of the band on tour during a legal and musical downtime for the band.

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