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The Ghost of Fleetwood Mac
  • March 15, 2012 : 20:03
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Stretching 48 miles long and 26 across, Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian islands, is a tropical paradise full of dreamy beaches and lush landscapes, the most atypical of which is arranged over 18 acres at 4,000 feet above sea level. Near the top of a winding one-lane road cut into a ruddy hillside, a shady driveway dips beneath a canopy of trees to reveal a spread that—minus the citrus groves—looks more like an English country home than a tropical retreat. Clouds that seem but an arm’s length away cast moody shadows over the homestead, giving the sense that this place is half a world from the sunlit valley below. Lovely bushes of pink and blue flowers abuzz with bees line the roundabout that lies before the front door. Beyond it, stretching into the trees, a long, manicured lawn awaits a garden party or a game of croquet. Off to one side, a fenced pen with a tasteful wooden shed houses Tilly, an 18-month-old black-and-white potbellied pig that is blissfully excited by the sudden arrival of guests.

This is Mick Fleetwood’s estate in Kula—part studio, part rehearsal space, part hideaway and all dapper man cave—which has been a refuge from everything that comes with being a legendary rock-and-roll drummer for nearly 50 years. Though he and his soon-to-be third ex-wife, Lynn, and their two children have lived near the beaches on the other side of the island, in a home that once belonged to his Fleetwood Mac co-founder John McVie, Fleetwood has relished this place as his personal creative space. Over the years everyone from Willie Nelson to George Harrison to Steven Tyler has come through to play for fun or to rehearse for one of the many benefit concerts Fleetwood has participated in. During his downtime from Fleetwood Mac, he has also put together a few bands of talented local players with whom he’s toured the Hawaiian islands and points farther afield.

Fleetwood opens the door to reveal a lofty great room with exposed beams, wagon-wheel chandeliers and a roaring fire below a huge mantel of pink and green granite. A meticulously restored piano that has been in his wife’s family for more than 100 years sits before a large window. Behind the piano, an even larger painting, The Blue Rose, fills the wall. It’s done in neo-Renaissance style and includes a likeness of Rodin’s The Thinker, a nude female angel playing a harp, a pack of blues musicians, an ax and a headless torso—and more nude women—plus a portrait of Fleetwood in the midst of it all, draped in a patterned scarf and wearing a white shirt. There is, naturally, a blue rose in there too.

“Come, have a look around,” he says. “There are some great old pictures of John McVie, Peter Green and me hanging about—real schoolboy stuff—and some good shots of George Harrison in the next room.” Fleetwood stands six-foot-six and sports long, straight white hair with a wise wizard’s beard to match. He’s wearing linen trousers and a matching shirt, which is unbuttoned low. He has a long scarf around his neck and looks every inch the lord of this manor: He’s one part maharaja, two parts bohemian royal. Aside from his stature, the most striking thing about Fleetwood is his eyes. Clear blue and massive, they’re capable of conveying wide-eyed wonder, deep compassion or a wild man’s gaze from one moment to the next. They are exceedingly honest too, because Fleetwood is all those things.

Fleetwood’s drum kit commands one end of the room, and racks of guitars, a few ukuleles and all manner of percussion instruments line the walls and floor. An eclectic, eccentric decor abounds, ranging from vintage Wurlitzer jukeboxes full of early-1950s soul and rock to Tiffany lamps, African art, a variety of books, a few antique suitcases and hatboxes, plus a collection of photos and memorabilia that would make any Fleetwood Mac fan salivate. Fleetwood recently brought these spoils of his travels and career out of storage to redecorate the living room himself.

“When I saw this place, within 10 minutes I knew I was home. But I just used it to play and rehearse. All my bachelor stuff was shut up in here, and it was empty, really. I was never encouraged by my wife to do anything with it, but now so much is changing in my life,” he says, taking a long look around. “I was terrified by all of that at first but not anymore. Once I made my peace with how this next chapter of my life is unfolding, I began to pull the belongings that I valued and set about creating a home here. It was the right thing to do. I plan to transform this into my main estate and live here full-time very soon.”

At 64, an age at which most men are settling down—or at least settling in—Fleetwood is doing the opposite. He is readdressing everything he had taken for granted, from his personal relationships to his professional goals, and he’s diving headlong into flux. Some of these changes are beyond his control, but the wise man’s destiny is determined not by the events he encounters so much as by how he reacts to them. Fleetwood, as co-founder of one of the longest-standing acts in rock and roll, and as a player in top form and prime health, has accepted that all he has built is no longer sound, and he’s embracing the future with the same fluid grace that characterizes his drumming. He seems more than all right, and he’ll be the first to tell you as much.

The biggest change in his life is in progress: his separation from his wife, Lynn, after 16 years of marriage. The loquacious drummer will say no more about it, apart from the fact that the couple plan to do everything they can to make the transition as easy as it can be on their two young children. And yet, this isn’t the longest-running relationship coming undone for him now.

“I don’t believe Fleetwood Mac will ever tour again,” Fleetwood says dryly. “But I really hope we do. We have rehearsed and prepared for it since 2010. We were supposed to tour in 2011, but we delayed it for a year to allow Stevie Nicks to support her solo record and for Lindsey Buckingham to do the same with his. I’ve always been supportive of my bandmates doing solo albums, so long as we kept our band together. If you look at the credits as far back as you like, I’ve always played extensively on many of them, and this time was no different. I played drums on most of Stevie’s latest album, the one she is still out there supporting and the one that is the reason that for now she refuses to do a Fleetwood Mac tour. It comes down to her, and for the first time, I think, even Lindsey has lost his patience. All of this uncertainty is a tremendous change for me.”

Fleetwood looks off to the side, pulls his white mane into a tight ponytail and collects his thoughts. It’s clear he wants to get this just right. “Stevie is really proud of her new album, and I get that, but she will not let it go. Honestly, it’s not easy out there, and it’s done well, but she’s insistent upon working it until it is incapable of growing further. I understand what she likes about her situation: Touring in support of her album, she is able to be her, without any degree of compromise. She doesn’t have to worry about the other three of us asking her to do anything—which is basically the contract that comes with being in a band. She has become enthralled and obsessed with her album in a very nice but very inconvenient way. She’s working 20 times harder than she would ever have to with Fleetwood Mac and not making anything close to as much money as she would with us. But that is what she wants to do, and I respect that. In the past I’d not have taken no for an answer. I’d have persuaded Stevie or whoever needed persuading at the time to do the tour. But I’m not doing that this time or ever again, and there is nothing else to say about it. Stevie changed her program and changed her mind, and however willful anyone may be, this is what’s happening. Or not happening, rather. It’s quite simple: Stevie changed her mind. And you know what? That is our innate privilege as humans: Each of us has the right to change our mind.”

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read more: entertainment, interview, music, musician, issue april 2012


  • anonymous
    An excellent read on a living legend. Really a good time for reflection.