‘I would probably be delighted’ – how Christine McVie opened up about wanting to rejoin Fleetwood Mac

For a fan, interviewing the late musician was like a surreal dream. Better still was the privilege of hearing about her lifelong friendship with Stevie Nicks

It was strange enough being in Christine McVie’s flat – high up and hovering over a stretch of the River Thames in Battersea with an upright piano in the corner of the room (oh, to be her neighbour). But it was stranger still hearing what she had to say. As we sat together on her light grey sofa in December 2013, McVie told me how she had left Fleetwood Mac in 1998 thinking that she wanted a quiet life in the Kent countryside with her dogs and Hunter wellies. But that hadn’t been what she had wanted at all. Fifteen years on, McVie was restless, isolated, a little lonely … and wouldn’t it be nice if she could be back playing with the band? “If they were to ask me, I would probably be very delighted,” she ventured nervously.

What was I supposed to say to this? It seemed obvious to me that they would take her back in a flash. Earlier that year, Stevie Nicks had said she’d “beg, borrow and scrape together $5m and give it to her in cash if she would come back. That’s how much I miss her!” And just two months before, McVie had even appeared on stage with Fleetwood Mac to thrill the crowd with a surprise encore of her hit Don’t Stop.

Of course, it’s eminently possible that this was all stage-managed by the band: ask McVie to sound reticent in front of a journalist in order to build the hype around her grand return. But this was also a genuinely dysfunctional band that revolved around the careful massaging of male egos. Communicating their deepest desires to each other via the press was equally likely. I think McVie was being genuine in her cautious approach, not just because I like to pretend I played a key role in getting the classic lineup of Fleetwood Mac back together, but because everything about her seemed genuine.

When I told McVie how excited I was to meet her – a rare bit of fanboying that I would normally steer well clear of – she looked uncertain how to respond, a tad embarrassed. While Nicks, who I had met a few weeks earlier in Paris, had spoken fantastically about fate and celestial beings and communicating with her late mother through her jewellery, McVie told me tales about mastering blues bass lines with her left hand and how she supposed she must be “good with hooks”. (“Oh, do you think so?” I had to hold myself back from replying to the woman who had written Say You Love Me, Over My Head, You Make Loving Fun, Songbird, Don’t Stop, Over and Over, Hold Me, Little Lies and Everywhere.)

The difference between the two female members of the band played out in the music, too, where McVie, with her optimistic songs about falling head over heels in love and moving on from broken hearts, complemented Nicks’s more mystical and poetic output. In a way, McVie was the McCartney to Nicks’s Lennon; each was stronger for having the other by her side.

The same was true, I discovered, about them as people. It was a privilege to hear the story of their friendship, something that can get lost beneath the wreckage of the affairs and cocaine-fuelled rows that serve the Fleetwood Mac myth. Because what really kept the band afloat during their most tumultuous period was the bond that these two sisters of the moon shared from the moment they first met up – for Mexican food in 1974.

Christine McVie with Stevie Nicks in 1987
No pushovers … Christine McVie with Stevie Nicks in 1987. Photograph: Aaron Rapoport/Getty Images

Back then, McVie was given the final say on whether Nicks could join the band. She admitted that she might have felt threatened by another woman, five years younger and from glamorous Los Angeles, competing with her for songwriting space. But she liked Nicks instantly – and from there the band’s music blossomed. There were still plenty of tantrums, of course, and lots of bitchy infighting – only it was the men providing all that. Whenever tensions simmered too high between the guys, Nicks and McVie would seek solace in each other: sharing Dunkin’ Donuts, doing each other’s makeup, rolling their eyes at the bad behaviour of their male counterparts.

There were double standards galore. After the splits – between Christine and John McVie, and Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – the two women were discouraged from bringing their subsequent partners on tour. What would be the point when their exes would just glare at them and start fights? But the men would happily bring their new girlfriends along. “Oh, it was all right for them,” said McVie. “But whatever keeps the lads happy, I suppose.”

They might have been pragmatic but they were no pushovers. “We made a pact, probably in our first rehearsal, that we would never accept being treated as second-class citizens in the music business,” Nicks told me. “That when we walked into a room we would be so fantastic and so strong and so smart that none of the uber-rockstar group of men would look through us. And they never did.”

Nicks once said from the stage that McVie was her “mentor … big sister … best friend”. I was probably only in her London flat for an hour or so, but I left feeling that if I were ever in a globe-straddling rock band, dealing with the many madnesses of the music industry, there would be few better people to have on your side than Christine McVie.


Tim Jonze

The GuardianTramp

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