This week I’m work with Fleetwood Mac – Stan Notte on Cobh News – Last Night After Fleetwood Mac
If you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan you will know that in 1976, when they began recording the now legendary Rumours album, all five members of the band were in failing relationships.
Mick Fleetwood, the drummer, was in the midst of divorcing his wife. Christine and John McVie’s (keyboard and bass player respectively) eight years of marriage was, due to the former’s affair with the bands lighting director, on the rocks.
And Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who had been in a passionate, but volatile, ten year relationship, were – very publicly – careering toward an acrimonious ending.
It is no great surprise, then, that all ten tracks on the album can be interpreted as ‘break up songs’ written specifically about one of the complicated relationship scenarios that provided the backdrop to the album’s recording.
In some cases that would be stretching the truth. Certainly ‘The Chain’, which is an amalgamation of different ideas, and the only track on the album credited as written by all five members of the band, is not a direct comment on any failing relationship.
You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise when the chorus cries, ‘And if you don’t love me now, you will never love me again.’ And there is no doubt the line, ‘Damn your love, damn you lies.’ could be applied to any of the crack-filled band partnerships.
But all band members have publicly stated that is not the case. In fact the lyrics are a mix of songs written by Christine and Stevie years before the track was recorded. And the music began as a jam session between Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, neither of whom ever provided a fully formed track to the bands catalogue.
But in other cases, the pain and poison of losing love is not only evident in the song, but pointed directly at the recipient.
Christine McVie penned ‘You Make Loving Fun’ about the crew member who was lighting her fire (as well as the stage); and John knew it.
Lindsey Buckingham provided ‘Go Your Own Way’, a song written directly to/about Stevie Nicks that opens with, ‘Loving you isn’t the right thing to do’, and contains a line – ‘Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do.’ – that, to put it mildly, did not sit well with his lover.
Stevie Nicks has talked about the pain of hearing that song, and particular line, for the first time, and the decades it took to get beyond the wound it created, many times over the years.
She has also frequently admitted that ‘Dreams’ (which, by the way, is such a great song even The Corrs couldn’t mutilate it) was written in direct response to what she viewed as the disrespect displayed in ‘Go Your Own Way.’
Little wonder then ‘Dreams’ opens with the caustic observation, ‘Now here you go again you say you want your freedom.’ and later warns Lindsey to ‘listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness.’
The pain of their break up, and the wounds created during the Rumours sessions, stayed with Lindsey and Stevie for decades. In fact, despite continuing to work with the band, they were, for long periods, barely on speaking terms.
Thankfully, in recent times they have managed to get beyond that trauma, and are now firm friends.
Getting their relationship to a better place may well be down to realising, via the wisdom of age, that life is too short for holding a grudge – especially toward someone you love deeply.
There are however other possibilities. And I’d like to proffer one here.
It has been a few years since I penned my poem Last Night using Fleetwood Mac song titles. The poem is, without doubt, a break up piece. But it ends with the narrator realising that moving on is possible, and finding peace in that epiphany.
Because the piece ends in such a manner a large part of me believes that the Universal Consciousness was at play, and connected me with Stevie and Lindsey at the time of writing.
What do I mean by that? Well, how can I put this without sounding… completely nuts?
Actually, that’s not possible. So, I may as well just tell you what I believe unfolded.
I think a group of musicians who were friends and/or admirers of Fleetwood Mac were asked by the Universal Consciousness to help heal Stevie and Lindsey. This group, in reality (if anything about what I am about to say can be described as such) was a Super Celestial Allstar Songwriter Collective led by Paul Simon – and included luminaries Carole King, David Bowie, Chrissie Hynde, Jimmy Webb, Joni Mitchell and Amy Winehouse.
I’m told (in the wee dark hours when fantasy has complete hold of my thinking) there was an almighty clamour in the afterlife for membership of this club; That Kurt Cobain, Ellie Greenwich and Marvyn Gaye are just some of the greats that, for a variety of reasons (Kurt was deemed ‘too edgy’), were denied membership. And that Sir Paul McCartney was not included due to a late application – that, of course, leads one to wonder why Sir Paul, or the legendary other half of his songwriting partnership, were not the first to be contacted about this project.
When one then learns, as you are about to, that the Super Celestial Allstar Songwriter Collective failed to create anything deemed good, or healing, enough to present to Stevie and Lindsey… well the list of those excluded takes on a greater resonance.
But hey, you won’t hear me complaining about The Collective’s failure. After all, that is what led to my involvement.
Because when The Collective reached the end of their tether, and were bereft of ideas to advance the project (apart from crawling on all fours to ask assistance from those already rejected), was when I, thanks to a mention from Chrissie Hynde, got involved.
That, you may now be thinking, is highly improbable. But the truth is – and I swear on Stevie and Lindsley’s renewed relationship this is not a lie – I have a friend – let’s call them Jack – who is married to a person – let’s call them Andy – who has a close family member married to a direct relation of Chrissie Hynde.
More importantly I spoke to Chrissie’s direct relation when we both attended Jack and Andy’s wedding. So, it is more than possible, Chrissie’s deep subconscious is aware of my existence.
So, I’m sure you’ll agree that, with the help of the Universal Consciousness it is very probable that Chrissie could have said, as she did, to her fellow songwriters’ ‘There is a slightly odd character in Ireland that writes poems using song titles. Why don’t we ask him?’
It is then just one small leap of faith to reach the point where anyone (including you, Dear Reader) can believe that The Super Celestial Allstar Songwriter Collective agreed, in desperation, to Chrissie’s suggestion, tapped into my brain (most likely when I was asleep) and asked for my assistance.
And it is an even smaller step to believe that once I completed writing Last Night that the Universal Consciousness then connected me (remotely, of course) to Stevie and Lindsey, and Hey Presto, the healing was done.
All of the above could, of course, be utter BS. But believing I found a way to connect with a Super Celestial Allstar Songwriter Collective, and played a role in helping two deeply hurt living legends heal a fractured friendship, warms my heart and lifts my soul.
It is also waaaaaaay more exciting than accepting this piece was written with nothing more than hard graft and a love of words. And given that I am artistic – and therefore sensitive – soul, I’d appreciate it if you would not take that away from me.
And so ladies and gentlemen I present to you, in two formats, Last Night – the poem that, via a Super Celestial Allstar Songwriter Collective, healed the gaping wounds created by the shattering of love, in the hearts of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.
The first of those formats is the poem housed in artwork inspired by, and created with, visuals used in album, single, video and tour art from the Fleetwood Mac canon.
The second is a musical interpretation of the poem. I need to thank the wonderfully talented Malcolm Urquhart of The Lost Gecko for his help in creating the audio version of this poem. Because it was he who composed the music for this piece.
Recording this piece was a total joy for me. It was produced in Claycastle studios, Youghal, and was my first ever experience of a recording studio. Despite a notable lack of musical talent I, like many other youths, harboured vivid dreams of a career as a Rock Star for most of my teens – so just being in a studio was a thrill.
But the swift manner in which this piece came together flabbergasted me far more than seeing the sound booths, consoles and everything else that comes with being in a professional recording facility. And that is all down to Malcolm’s gifts.
Finally, I’ll say this: It is not often I tell myself I am proud of something I create. But the first time I heard this piece played back was one of those moments. Today, when I listen to it, I hear things I would change. But it is, too, of it’s time on my creative journey. So it will remain as is.
I hope you enjoy it.