Edited by Sean Egan
Chicago Review Press, 448 pp., $28.99.
To casual rock-book readers, works that compile previously written pieces on bands and musicians into one volume have strong pros and cons. They do provide a fascinating time capsule of the artists at very different points in their career, when they have no way of knowing what the future might bring but that you, the 2016 reader, do. But on the downside, each piece may also serve as a primer on the band’s history – one that gets told over and over and over again.
Fortunately, the insight Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac offers outweighs its frequent repetitiveness. It's great fodder for fans of a band as legendary and with as many members (with strong personalities) as Fleetwood Mac has had over the years.
Consisting of interviews, features and reviews from 1967 to 2014 (though the vast majority of pieces cover the lineup on 1977's Rumours), it’s a whirlwind tour through the Mac’s musical change and soap opera-like personal relationships. How refreshing to hear Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Christine McVie discuss, say, Rumours when it is a work in progress and not a foundation of the classic rock canon.
Through the years, members’ opinions of their romantic couplings and uncouplings change and develop as their lives progress. One circa-1982 article, ostensibly to promote the Mirage album and tour, becomes a rumination on the white-hot solo success of Stevie Nicks at the time, as well as what that did to the group dynamic and Buckingham's intensely competitive nature.
A number of articles are also from the period of time in music journalism when writers actually got to spend days with their subjects observing and interviewing them — both on and off the record. Not surprisingly, those go far deeper than a 15-minute phoner or a staged round-robin cattle call of interviews.
So the reader feels as if he or she is in the studio with the band as Christine McVie empties another bottle of Blue Nun positioned on her keyboards; or John McVie and Nicks share giggles while thumbing through a copy of Playboy; or a writer shares a joint with Buckingham (and likely more that never made it into print) after a night of partying.
Of all the band members, Stevie Nicks comes off as the most free-ranging, delving into the mysticism of lace and shawls and the “Rhiannon” myth in one talk, and railing against the Shah and the Ayatollah of Iran during the hostage crisis in another.
The recently departed Prince, who played keyboards on Nicks’s solo hit “Stand Back,” even gets mentioned when she remembers how he gave her the music to an early version of “Purple Rain” for a collaboration that didn’t happen. She also recalls spending a (chaste) night sleeping on the floor of his actual purple kitchen one night during a Mac tour.
And the story isn't over yet. The reunited Rumours Five have been touring over the past few years, including stops in Houston in 2014 and a few months later in 2015, and a new album is on the way.
Like most books of this kind, they are really aimed toward a more-than-casual fan of Fleetwood Mac. But with only Mick Fleetwood having served up two autobiographies, and the definitive history of the group yet to be written (though there have been books through the years), Fleetwood Mac on Fleetwood Mac largely lets the group members speak for themselves.
Now, about those detailed diaries that Stevie Nicks has kept since 1974…