When Stevie Nicks posed solo for a January 2015 cover of rolling stonein the middle of a MacFleetwood tour, it was not a particularly popular move among his bandmates. But a member of Fleetwood Mac has agreed to give a side interview for my cover story on Nicks – his “longtime best friend in the whole world”, Christine McVie, who had just joined the group after many years of retirement. Here is our conversation from December 2014, published in full for the first time.
I just saw two shows in a row, and it’s wonderful to see you back with the band.
Oh, that’s the most amazing thing to me. Simply fantastic. It’s almost like being in the middle of a soap opera again. It’s phenomenal. These people are in front of me, and it’s as if the years never existed. It’s absolutely mind-boggling.
In some ways, it feels like you never left.
Yeah, well, I mean, everyone says… so those years never happened! I go, “What did I do?” For 15 years, I lived my life in the countryside.
Well, that sounds good too, frankly.
It was not bad.
There’s long been this kind of sexist assumption that it might be problematic to have two wives at Fleetwood Mac, but in fact, you seem to have always been happy to have each other. How did your relationship work out?
When Mick first heard Buckingham Nicks album in the valley, whatever the recording studio was called, he listened to Lindsey’s guitar on that album and thought, this guy is damn brilliant, we want him. And then we pushed Lindsey and he said, “Well, we’re a duo, we come as a couple.” And so Mick came up to me and said, “They have a girl involved here. You’re gonna have to meet her and see if you like her. And we met and I immediately liked her. She and I are in no way competitive. We are totally different, but totally sympathetic towards each other. We are dear, dear friends. We have no competition on stage. She is who she is. I am who I am. Easy, easy, easy.
What makes you so different from each other?
I’m a tomboy, I hang out with guys. I like men. I love hanging out with men. And Stevie is kind of a girly-girl. She loves going out with her friends. Having grown up with Mick [Fleetwood] and John [McVie] All those years before Stevie and Lindsey, I learned to have a pretty dark sense of humor. What comes with the territory with Mick, walking around with his wooden balls on stage. It’s just very comical to me. Stevie probably blushed a little at first. It’s been part and parcel of how I’ve been for the last 40 years of my life, living with Mick and John, and [original Fleetwood Mac member] Jeremy Spencer, who had a dildo on stage, you know. I grew up with all that.
How did you experience the kind of endless soap opera between Stevie and Lindsey?
Well, I haven’t been there, of course, for about 15 years. So I took a short break. But they coexist, and there’s love between them and there’s also angst. And it’s something that makes us who we are and why we are who we are. We’re just trying to mediate. They love and hate each other at the same time. I don’t really know how to put it other than that.
Has anything changed in this department since your absence?
No, I don’t think anything has changed. It’s these amazing individuals, and they have this thing with each other and that’s never going to change. They have chemistry, tremendous chemistry. For the best or for the worst. It’s true. Everything on stage is real, at that moment, and off stage, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. And it is the truth. But it’s still interesting. They create fire. This is a good thing.
Why did the band survive through all these endless changes?
I think it’s Mick. At the bottom of it all is Mick, he holds it all together. It’s the big daddy, the big cheese. He holds us all together and won’t let this band die and he continues to tirelessly make them the best they can be, and I think they’re succeeding. Because we all believe in this group. I mean, even after I was gone for so long, I wanted to come back. And I said, “How would it be if I came back?” They all desperately wanted me back, and it was amazing. Really amazing.
You are obviously an accomplished keyboardist. Stevie, by her own admission, isn’t, but she’s such a great songwriter. How do you think it works?
Personally, I think it could be destructive to get too technical. So if you have piano lessons and you understand all your harmonies and arpeggios etc, it may make you a little too muso. I think Stevie had the ability to play the chords that made her happy, that made her sing. It would be Lindsey who would come in and translate her songs into chords. Then he comes to me, and he and I would work together. Because he and I have a fantastic musical connection. Chemistry too. It’s a different chemistry than Stevie and Lindsey. But she comes in with her passion and her melody and puts her basic chords into it, and Lindsay has this phenomenal understanding of what she means…and I don’t. She comes to me with a song and I say “I don’t know what the fuck you mean.” You know? I really do not understand. But Lindsey does.
Like “Dreams,” for example, sounded like the most simplistic thing in the world. She played it to me when we were doing it Rumors album, and I said to him, “It’s boring, it’s really boring.” And she said, “No, I only did three segments over two chords…” and that was the only number one hit we ever had! There are two chords! There’s a base note on the left hand from me, and three chord changes in the right hand, and it’s the same throughout, except the segments are lifted in different things, you know.
It’s brilliant. How has the experience of two rehabs changed Stevie? How is she different now?
Damn, it’s hard. Look, I mean, Stevie is straight as an arrow. She’s very straightforward, very honest, very self-centered in a way. And I’m not saying that in a bad way. She has her mark, you know? It’s an icon. He’s a genius. She’s a lovely, kind, beautiful woman and I love her to death. She and I are different, and I can’t help loving the woman; she is just amazing. She is very, very generous in every department. In each department.
Backstage, there is a stream of children entering. There is a lot of love and warmth there..
She sings for me! She sings to me on stage every night. She looks at me and sings “I still see your bright eyes” in “Gypsy”, and she looks directly at me. And we are happy to meet again. It’s good. She’s glad I’m back on the road. Another girl to hang out with. So, it’s all right.
The back and forth between his solo stardom and Fleetwood Mac, how does that affect things? How does everyone in the group handle this?
We all had a chance at that. Lindsey did it, I did it. Look, I mean, everyone has to have their space and have their freedom to create and do whatever they want to do, and we’ve all done that. And I think it’s important that we all give ourselves the freedom to do that. Stevie did very well. Others of us weren’t, not so much. Lindsey has had a fantastic, absolutely marvelous solo career. I would like that to be recorded. I loved his solo stuff. We are all five individuals doing what we do. Somehow, there is a chemistry between us, and we live and survive because of it.