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Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie: ‘Cocaine and champagne made me perform better’ | Fleetwood Mac

The UK blues and rock scene of the late 1960s was a very male-focused, testosterone-heavy environment. Did you ever consider yourself a groundbreaker for moving into that world? GeoffWhit

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In those days, there were very few women, especially playing the blues, but I never felt singled out. It just all came very naturally to me when I was with Chicken Shack and things started happening for them. Shortly after that I met Fleetwood Mac. It just all fell into place and was really fantastic. Not too many women have said, “Thanks for groundbreaking”, to be honest. I’m sure I was appreciated, but it wasn’t hero worship or anything like that. Can you tell them to start [laughs]?

I first saw you with Chicken Shack at the Toby Jug at Tolworth in ’68/’69. Some astonishingly big names from rock and blues [among them Led Zeppelin, and David Bowie launching the Ziggy Stardust tour] appeared in the pub. Do you have any special memories from that small circuit? IDNumNoLongerWorks

I remember that place! We played there a few times and it was a pretty great gig. The atmosphere was phenomenal. In a small club, the sweat is palpable. It was such a great, friendly vibe and we thoroughly enjoyed playing in them. I wonder if we enjoyed it slightly less playing in much bigger places. Playing to thousands of people is more daunting, but you get used to it in the end. After the first 20 rows they all disappear anyway.

Your Wikipedia entry says you and John [McVie, Fleetwood Mac bassist] honeymooned in Birmingham. Really? Ray_Hatton

It wasn’t really a honeymoon. We just got married locally because my mother was sick. Oddly enough, there was that famously husky-voiced singer … Joe Cocker! He was staying at the same hotel and he got plastered with us, on our wedding night! Until we kicked him out [laughs].

What are your memories about joining Fleetwood Mac, after the departure of Peter Green? Skysaxon

Chicken Shack used to open for them. I got to know John, fell in love with him and it was just sensational and exciting. Fleetwood Mac were fantastic and really funny. The biggest joker was probably Peter Green, but they all had a very copacetic sense of humour with each other. It was heartbreaking for them when Peter left. They were rehearsing at Kiln House [Hampshire], and I was down there with all the wives. They came out of the rehearsal room and said: “Hey Chris, do you want to join?” I couldn’t believe my luck. I said: “Are you serious?! I’m just a girl who plays piano.” The style had to change because I was a keyboard player, and it developed a more commercial bet. It was thrilling, and I have to say to this day it still kind of is, knowing that I did that. Then it just got better.

Mick Fleetwood, Bob Welch, Christine McVie, and John McVie in August 1974.
Mick Fleetwood, Bob Welch, Christine McVie, and John McVie in August 1974. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

What is your favorite period in Fleetwood Mac’s history and why? JohnB11

I would be silly not to say the Stevie [Nicks] and Lindsey [Buckingham] era, because that was pretty sensational. We had our fights here and there, but there was nothing like the music or the intensity onstage. We weren’t doing anything in Britain, so just decamped to America and fell into this huge musical odyssey. Stevie and Lindsey had been playing as a duo, made a great record [Buckingham Nicks], which to this day I really love, but hadn’t got very far. I think it was Mick [Fleetwood] who invited them to meet us. We all met in this Mexican restaurant, drank a few margaritas and decided to give it a go. We all got into this little rehearsal room and it just shot off like firecrackers.

What was it like being at the center of the Rumors hurricane, with all the drug and relationship issues and stunning creativity? jimd

It’s hard to say because we were looking at it from the inside, but we were having a blast and it felt incredible to us that we were writing those songs. That’s all I can say about it, really.

Fleetwood Mac Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie and Stevie Nicks.
Fleetwood Mac circa 1976: (Clockwise from left) Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie and Stevie Nicks. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Fleetwood Mac had a legendary alcohol and drug intake. In Keith Richards’ autobiography, he acknowledges some “blanks” in his memory. Is this the same for you? Mattyjj

No. I have to say I’m not guilt-free in that department but Stevie and I were very careful. The boys used to get provided with cocaine in Heineken bottle tops onstage, but Stevie and I only did the tiny little spoons. I suppose sometimes we got a bit out-there, but we were quite restrained, really. I always took fairly good care of myself. My drug of choice was cocaine and champagne. I didn’t use any other drugs at all. It’s easy for me to say, but I think it made me perform better. Maybe somebody could tell me different [laughs].

Which of the band’s glorious rock-star excesses (grand pianos in hotel suites, demands that hotel rooms be repainted) makes you smile or cringe the most? Mattyjj

I don’t think I ever had a piano in my room. Stevie always did, but she couldn’t play it [laughs]. So she’d have me come down and play. Nothing made me cringe. We all had definite images in the band. Stevie was the Welsh witch. I was mother nature. Mick was the raving lunatic. Everyone was very different, but we all got on, for the most part. In those days it was just all good clean fun. Well, fairly clean fun!

What are your memories of [late Fleetwood Mac guitarist] Danny Kirwanand did you stay in touch with him over his many lost years? cymbula

No, not really. Danny and I didn’t really gel that well. Without wishing to offend anybody, we just didn’t click, but he was a knockout guitar player and he wrote some fantastic songs. So I do have a lot of respect for him.

Who or what was Sugar Daddy about? GeekLove

I don’t recall it being about anybody. I just dreamed it up. Most of my songs are based on truth, and real people, but a lot of them are just fantasies, really.

Performing with Fleetwood Mac in 1990.
Performing with Fleetwood Mac in 1990. Photograph: Jim Steinfeldt/Getty Images

Do you regret your [16-year] hiatus [from Fleetwood Mac]? Or was it necessary for your mind and body? Did you think you would come back? Malaprop

I just wanted to embrace being in the English countryside and not have to troop around on the road. I moved to Kent, and I loved being able to walk around the streets, nobody knowing who I was. Then of course I started to miss it. I called Mick and asked: “How would you feel about me coming back to the band?” He got in touch with everybody and we had a band meeting over the phone and they all went: “Come baaaack!!” I felt regenerated and I felt like writing again.

How did you get over your fear of flying? Kmpmilano

One day I just decided not to be afraid of it any more, and that was it! I felt liberated. Then I thought: “I’m actually enjoying this.” Life’s too short to be afraid of things like flying. You’d never go anywhere. I love flying now.

It wasn’t until my 30s that I knew you grew up in the same village as me. Do you still consider yourself Cumbrian or is that a distant memory? GreenNick79

I was born in Greenodd and we lived there for three or four years before moving to Birmingham, where my father was a music teacher. Cumbria is a beautiful part of the world and we had a good time, but my distinct memory is of nearly drowning. I slipped in the mud and fell in the river, and they had to get me out using a fishing net.

Which of the songs that you have written are you most proud of? georgiah

I’ve got to say Songbird. I couldn’t sleep, started to get a song rolling around in my head and I wrote it in half an hour. “For you there’d be no more crying…” It’s sort of like a little prayer for everybody. We went into Zellerbach Hall studios [In Berkeley, California]they got me a bunch of red roses and I sang it alone on the stage.

What interests do you have outside music? appfree

Sailing. I have friends who have a yacht in Portofino, Italy, so sometimes go over there. I’m also a telly freak and like these long sagas. Narcos on Netflix is ​​brilliant. It’s about Pablo Escobar and has a great plot.

Any thoughts on the Mac following in Abba’s footsteps and staging a virtual concert with your own avatars? Gauchiomurphio

I don’t think we’re doing it. It’s a novelty. People would rather see the real people, I’m sure.

Christine McVie’s Songbird (A Solo Collection), featuring two previously unreleased recordings, is released on 24 June and can be preordered now.

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