Have you ever been a member of a band? Moreover, when I use the term band, I mean a group of musicians who play together, particularly a group playing popular or rock music. I looked up that definition in the dictionary and found several definitions but this one was best because it directly alluded to music. Large or small the goal of any band is to entertain its audience. Yes, I was in my high school marching band. The experience was somewhat life defining as it shaped what I am today. Of course in the high school band setting the members are constantly moving on into adulthood and other endeavors. Still the memories are lasting ones just like much of our high school experience. As time moved on I developed other friendships and was exposed to many associates who were in smaller bands. In my younger years, musicians were attracted to the popular setting of singers with instrumental accompaniment. Bands with a similar orientation who have been working together for decades still exist. Why? Some were a little more committed than others were but it seemed they all enjoyed the experience for the most part. Well, there is that word “commitment” again! Without the commitment, a band certainly would not go too far. Nevertheless, I wonder if it takes commitment to attain success or success to invoke commitment. This week we will examine this as we feature the group Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac is an internationally known band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. What year was Fleetwood Mac formed? Answer, 1967. This band, although only Mick Fleetwood remains from the original group, has been performing and recording together for almost forty-seven years. The year 1975 marked the group’s mainstream success as they released the eponymous album Fleetwood Mac. The album proved to be a breakthrough for the band and became a huge hit, reaching No.1 in the US and selling over 5 million copies. Among the hit singles from this album were Christine McVie’s “Over My Head” and “Say You Love Me”, and Stevie Nicks’ “Rhiannon” and “Landslide”.
However, the very next year 1976, brought about personal problems internally with the end of John and Christine McVie’s marriage, as well as Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ long term romantic relationship. Even Fleetwood was in the midst of divorce proceedings from his wife, Jenny. These issues would certainly test the commitment of the members of the group. The album the band members released in 1977 was Rumours, in which they laid bare the emotional turmoil experienced at that time. Critically acclaimed, it was the recipient of the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for 1977.
This very successful and somewhat troubled band lineup would record three more studio albums before one of the members would choose to leave the band. Although a ten-week tour was scheduled, Buckingham backed out at the last minute. He tried to explain to his band mates that he felt his remaining in the band was stifling his creativity. Following a tumultuous meeting at Christine McVie’s house Lindsey Buckingham left the band. Stevie Nicks also left the band later in 1991. While I do not question the commitment of either Buckingham or Nicks to work with the rest of their band mates, I find it interesting that the band stayed together through both success and pain. In fact, Fleetwood Mac found a way to parlay their internal issues into very good music. Regardless, people in general do change and find that they must move on. Did they really move on?
Just two years after Nicks left the band, she, Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie and Fleetwood reunited at the request of U.S. President Bill Clinton for his first Inaugural Ball in 1993. Clinton had made Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” his campaign theme song. His subsequent request to perform it at the Inauguration Ball was met with enthusiasm by the band; however, this line-up had no intention to reunite again. A friend of mine joked that it took an executive order to get Fleetwood Mac together again. In reality, it was not nearly as hard for them to work again. Inspired by the new interest in the band, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Christine McVie recorded another album as Fleetwood Mac, with Billy Burnette taking on lead guitar duties. However, more adversity came as on October 10, 1995, Fleetwood Mac released the unsuccessful Time album. Although hitting the UK Top 60 for one week the album had zero impact in the US. It failed even to graze the Billboard Top 200 albums chart.
The members of the most successful lineup of Fleetwood Mac never seemed to stay away from each other long as Nicks and Buckingham came back to the band March 1997. Then in 1998, Christine McVie left the band permanently to retire from touring. I do not think any of us can blame a person if they realize the time has come to move on. Fleetwood Mac has endured so much throughout the years together that perhaps McVie she felt she needed to step away.
Flash forward to last month, January 11, 2014, as Mick Fleetwood announced Christine McVie would be rejoining Fleetwood Mac. This good news means that we will have all the members of the successful lineup back together again. Great music always follows this band! Does success fuel commitment, or does commitment help make one successful? I think members of Fleetwood Mac feel it works both ways. Even though there may be personal and internal issues that hinder group harmony, collectively the members realize that they make beautiful music together that fans worldwide appreciate. Music fans, keep listening!