When Stevie Nicks posed only for a January 2015 cover of Rolling Stone, in the middle of a Fleetwood Mac tour, it wasn’t a particularly popular move among her bandmates. But one member of Fleetwood Mac agreed to give a secondary interview for my cover story on Nicks — her longtime “best friend in the whole world,” Christine McVie, who had just rejoined the band after many years of retirement. Here’s our conversation from December 2014, published in full for the first time.
I’ve just seen two shows in a row, and it’s wonderful to see you back with the band.
Oh, it’s the most amazing thing for me. Just fantastic. It’s almost like being in the middle of a soap opera again. It’s phenomenal. These people are across the stage from me, and it’s as if the years never existed. It’s absolutely dumbfounding.
In some ways, it feels like you never left.
Yeah, well, I mean, everyone says that… so those years never existed! I’m going, “What the hell did I do?” For the last 15 years, I was living my country life.
Well, that sounds nice too, frankly.
It wasn’t bad.
There’s long been this sort of sexist assumption that it could be a problem to have two women in Fleetwood Mac, but in fact, you two seem to have always been happy to have each other. How did your relationship work?
When Mick first heard the Buckingham Nicks album in the Valley at whatever the recording studio was called, he listened to Lindsey’s guitar on that album and thought, this guy is bloody brilliant, we want him. And then we pushed Lindsey and he said, “Well, we are a duo, we come as a couple.” And so Mick came to me and said, “They have a girl involved here. You’re gonna have to meet her and see if you like her.” And we met and I instantly liked her. She and I are not competitive in any way at all. We’re totally different, but totally sympathetic with each other. We are dear, dear friends. We don’t have any competition on stage. She is who she is. I am who I am. Easy, easy, easy.
What makes you so different from each other?
I’m a tomboy, hanging out with the guys. I love men. I love hanging around with men. And Stevie is kind of a girly-girl. She loves hanging out with her girlfriends. Having grown up with Mick [Fleetwood] and John [McVie] all of those years prior to Stevie and Lindsey, I’ve grown to have rather a dark sense of humor. Which sort of comes with the territory with Mick, walking around with his wooden balls onstage. It’s just very comical to me. Stevie probably blushed a bit at the beginning. It’s just part and parcel of how I’ve been for the last 40 years of my life, living with Mick and John, and [original Fleetwood Mac member] Jeremy Spencer, who used to have a dildo on stage, you know. I’ve grown up with all of that stuff.
What’s it been like for you to witness the sort of endless soap opera between Stevie and Lindsey?
Well, I haven’t been, obviously, there for 15 years or so. So I had a bit of a break. But they coexist, and there is love between them and there is also angst. And that is something that makes us who we are and why we are what we are. One just tries to be the mediator. They love each other and hate each other at the same time. I don’t really know how else to say it than that.
Has anything changed in that department over the time you were gone?
No, I don’t think anything has changed. They are these incredible individuals, and they have this thing with each other and that’s never going to change. They have chemistry, enormous chemistry. For good or for bad. It’s real. Everything onstage is real, at that time, and offstage sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. And that’s the truth. But it’s always interesting. They create fire. That’s a good thing.
Why did the band survive through all these endless changes?
I think it’s Mick. At the bottom of it all it’s Mick, he holds everything together. He’s the big daddy, the big cheese. He holds us all together and will not let this band die and he just goes on and on relentlessly making it the best it can be, and I think he’s succeeding. Because we all believe in this band. I mean even after me being gone for so long, I wanted to come back. And I said, “How would it be if I did come back?” They all wanted desperately for me to come back, and it has been astonishing. Really astonishing.
You’re obviously an accomplished keyboardist. Stevie, by her own admission, is not, but she’s such a great songwriter. How do you think that works?
Personally, I think it could be destructive to be too technical. So if you have piano lessons and you understand all your harmonies and arpeggios, et cetera, that can make you a bit too much of a muso. I think Stevie had the ability just to play the chords that make her happy, that make her sing. It would be Lindsey that comes in and translates her songs into chords. Then he comes to me, and he and I would work together. ‘Cause he and I have a fantastic musical connection. Chemistry, as well. It’s a different kind of chemistry from Stevie and Lindsey. But she comes in with her passion and her melody and puts her basic chords on it, and Lindsay has this phenomenal understanding of what she means… and I don’t. She comes to me with a song and I go, “I don’t know what the fuck you mean.” You know? I don’t get that at all. But Lindsey does.
Like “Dreams,” for example, sounded like the most simplistic thing in the world. She played it to me when we were doing it Rumors album, and I said to her, “This is boring, this is really boring.” And she said, “No, I only made three segments out of two chords…” and it was the only Number One hit single we ever had! There’s two chords! There’s one basic note on the left hand on my part, and three chord changes in the right hand, and it’s all the same thing all the way through, except that the segments are being lifted into different things, you know.
It’s brilliant. How did the experience of two rehabs change Stevie? How is she different now?
Bloody well, that’s a hard one. Look, I mean, Stevie is straight as an arrow. She’s very direct, very honest, very self-obsessed in a way. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. She has her brand, you know? She’s an icon. She’s a genius. She’s a lovely, kind, beautiful woman and I love her to death. She and I are different, and I can’t love the woman; she’s just amazing. She’s very, very generous in every single department. In every single department.
In her backstage area, there’s a flood of children coming in. There’s a lot of love and warmth going on back there.
She sings to me! She sings to me on stage every night. She looks at me and sings, “I still see your bright eyes” in “Gypsy,” and she’s looking at me directly. And we’re happy to be back together. It’s good. She’s happy that I’m back on the road again. Another girl to hang out with. So it’s all good.
The push and pull between her solo stardom and Fleetwood Mac, how does that effect things? How does everyone in the band deal with it?
We all had a shot at that. Lindsey did, I did. Look, I mean, everyone has to have their space, and have their freedom to create and do what they want to do, and we all did that. And I think that’s important that we all give each other the freedom to do that. Stevie was very successful at it. Others of us weren’t, not so much. Lindsey had a fantastic solo career, absolutely bloody marvelous. I’d like to put that on record. I loved his solo stuff. We’re all five individuals just doing what we do. Somehow there’s chemistry between us, and we live and survive on that.