It has been 50 years since Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Peter Green formed Fleetwood Mac. “Is it over yet?” laughs Fleetwood, who sits across from me swilling a hearty glass of wine that matches his red leather boots. It’s 10.30 in the morning.
Fleetwood is jet-lagged. He is over in London to promote the release of Love That Burns: a gargantuan chronicle of his childhood and Fleetwood Mac’s first eight years on the music scene. “We had a really busy day yesterday, but I think I went to bed too soon. It was like a gig – I should have unwound.” Despite being a little spaced out, once he gets going, he is in fine form. He is intimidatingly tall, which contrasts with his gentle nature; the iconic figure exuding the easy-going demeanour – and sartorial nous, with his Liberty print shirt and black velvet waistcoat – of someone who has experienced first-hand the highs and lows of the golden age of rock and roll.
Fleetwood, alongside John McVie, has been a constant in a band that has seen many significant line-up changes. He is often seen as the band’s driving force, pushing the band through the decades. “It’s somewhat fair to say that I’ve been the cheerleader creature that has always said, ‘We’ve got to keep going!’ – even to the point of overdoing it,” says Fleetwood openly. “But hey, this has been my life! John said to me the other day, ‘Fuck! This is what they call a career!’ It has consumed parts of our lives.” Despite the band’s longevity, Fleetwood is clearly still puzzled as to how the band has overcome obstacles that would break most bands. “We’re all over the place. Sometimes we don’t work enough; then we’re all falling in and out of love; and then there’s the sadness of people’s personal journeys. You just think: how are we still here? It’s a miracle.”
Alongside releasing some of the 20th century’s most iconic albums, Fleetwood Mac has sustained due to Fleetwood’s perseverance – while honouring the talented and influential characters that have coloured the band’s past. Love That Burns takes in the years 1967 to 1974 – the period before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham came into the fold and 1977’s Rumours was yet to be conceived. “It’s fair to say that a lot of people are only really interested in the latter years; but I’m very happy that we were able to do this – and it stands on its own for that very reason. This book is about the foundation that led to you-know-what – which is why it was so important for this to be separate,” he says, noting that this is just volume one of the story.
Fleetwood says that it is his duty to put the spotlight on those players who helped shape the band, but no longer have a voice to tell their story. “It’s important for me to wave the flag. I’m still in the band that was started 50 years ago. I’m really proud of everything about the book and what’s in it – and speaking for people who, in my opinion, have no concept of what they did – like Peter Green and Danny Kirwan. And of course, Bob Welch isn’t here anymore,” says Fleetwood, remembering three of the band’s iconic players. “It’s appropriate that these people and the different incarnations of the band don’t get forgotten.”
It is a rarity that a band can experience obstacles, line-up changes and shifts in musical styles and still survive across decades – a fact that Fleetwood is aware and proud of. “There’s no band that did all that weird shit, frankly. It’s an odd story with that many personnel and musical changes. If you put a few of our records on at the same time, you would wonder if it was the same band. But there was a whole energy that survived those changes,” he says, noting the importance of McVie and himself being at the heart of the band’s work. “The fact that the rhythm section stayed the same has something to do with a connective that still lives and breathes today.”
Alongside Fleetwood and McVie, who have provided the band’s deep, in-the-pocket grooves, Fleetwood Mac has brought the talents of many great musicians to the fore. Alongside guitarists Danny Kirwan, Jeremy Spencer and Bob Welch, who Fleetwood says he has “huge amounts of regard for”, there is a zealous dedication to highlighting the impact founding member and former Bluesbreaker, Peter Green, had on the band. “Peter is my mentor in many, many ways – and a dear friend,” he says. “I just fell in love with Peter and his playing; he was everything to me. That’s fairly evident in the way this book has been put together. Not to diminish Bob Welch and other members that came in and out, but I think it’s appropriate, because Peter is the reason why we are here.”
Green, responsible for penning classics including ‘Albatross’, ‘Black Magic Woman’, ‘Need Your Love So Bad’ and ‘Love That Burns’, from which the book takes its name, is a pioneering blues guitarist that gave the early band a true originality. In 1970, Green’s mental state began to decline – purportedly brought on by an LSD trip. “I basically lost him, and he lost his place in the world in many ways. That was his life, and there was sadness and tragedy to it; but you’ve got to get over that and just say, ‘This happened; but look at this! Look at the music; hear the music; feel the music! And it’s profound.
“Peter’s music speaks for itself, but having the position to be doing this, to be talking about it, is important to me. I love doing it, and he’s certainly not going to do it,” says Fleetwood, breaking into a cackle.
When he’s not cajoling his Mac bandmates into working again, Fleetwood is happy in his home of Hawaii, swapping arena tours with blues jams in beach shacks. “Either way, once I get going it’s all the same, as long as I’m sweatin’,” he says with a grin. “I love to play and I get to play a lot in Hawaii – mainly at my own restaurant.” He must be relieved to be taking it easy after 50 years in studios and on the road; but he tells me that despite the band’s history resembling a “Shakespearean play”, there has never been a dull moment. “I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that everyone takes those journeys… but it has never been boring – never been boring.”