By JERRY CROWE, Times Staff Writer
Los Angeles Times; Saturday, August 9, 1997 -- We've all grown up a lot and we're not all screwed up on drugs and drinking," Stevie Nicks says on the eve of the formal return next week of Fleetwood Mac's most successful lineup.
"And we have lives outside this band. This is just a nice addition to our lives, where before it was everything."
Like the other members of the group whose string of romantic pop-rock hits made it one of the best sellers of the '70s, Nicks is thrilled by the prospect of the reunion they all doubted would ever happen after the band splintered in 1987 for a variety of personal and professional reasons.
Even after they got together to play at President Clinton's 1992 inauguration--Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" was his theme song--the group's five members gave no thought to a reunion tour.
"Absolutely none," says singer-guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. "After so many years," Nicks says, "you come to the conclusion that maybe it's never going to happen."
And singer-keyboardist Christine McVie adds almost in disbelief: "The last thing I ever thought was that this band could seriously work together again."
But here comes Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours"-era lineup: Nicks, Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood and Christine and John McVie.
The Mac attack formally kicks off Tuesday with MTV's airing of "The Dance," a 90-minute concert special taped last May. The special will be followed Aug. 19 by a live album from the MTV concerts, also titled "The Dance." A 40-date tour kicks off Sept. 19 in Boston and will include Oct. 17-18 shows at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre and an L.A. date to be announced. (Tickets for the local dates are expected to go on sale Aug. 18.) So what changed their minds?
"It really comes down to Mick," Christine McVie says. "He's the one who was constantly trying to get these five people in one room together. This is his love, his baby. It's his band, and there's nothing more he loves to do than get up on stage and play with us."
Buckingham, recording a solo album at the time, inadvertently paved the way for the project a year ago when he invited Mick Fleetwood into the studio to play drums on the record. Although it wasn't his intent, Buckingham knew soon after he'd extended the invitation that he'd set the wheels in motion for a reunion.
"Mick was pushing for it," he says. "He may have been behind this solo record of mine, but his lifeblood is Fleetwood Mac, so he had the big double agenda going. And the record company--I'm sure the lightbulb went on over there. And when you get the two of them together, it's tough to fend off."
It's easy to see why Reprise Records would be excited about a Fleetwood Mac reunion. The group ruled the pop world two decades ago, when its 1977 album, "Rumours," topped the national album sales chart for 31 weeks and sold 17 million copies. Two other Fleetwood Mac albums, 1975's "Fleetwood Mac" and 1982's "Mirage," also reached No. 1.
Even so, Fleetwood says the reunion wasn't pulled together by financial concerns. "Before I went into the studio with Lindsey," he says, "there was absolutely no talk about doing this. People were waving all sorts of money at us, but it was just not in the cards. This genuinely happened how it happened. It was a mutant accident."
Will it work? The band members remained skeptical right up to the moment they began rehearsing last spring for the MTV concerts.
"But the chemistry was still there," Christine McVie says. "To me, that was the biggest thing: Would the chemistry be there? Can we really go ahead and do this? And it was obvious within the first moment of plugging in the instruments that the magic was still there. It was a fantastic feeling."
Nicks says the tension that weighed so heavily on the band a decade ago has been lifted, replaced by mutual respect, admiration and fond memories.
Says Buckingham, describing the turmoil that led to his decision to leave the group in 1987: "The creative atmosphere was next to nil. . . . It was pretty nuts. It had gotten to the point where it was hard to work."
Today, he says, it's a different Fleetwood Mac. "We're listening to each other a little more, and it's just a little more focused," he says. "A lot of the approach on stage up to the time I left was, 'Let's kick back a few and get on with it.' . . . It was kind of a bittersweet thing back then, but now it's not really bitter.
"There's a real sense of celebration. Yes, there are a lot of people out there doing [reunions], and I'm sure there will be a certain cynicism about it in various camps. But when you see the show and you see what's really going on up on stage, I think you'll see that it transcends the formula."
* Fleetwood Mac's "The Dance" premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. on MTV. "Fleetwood Mac: Behind the Music" premieres Sept. 7 at 9 p.m. on VH1. Fleetwood Mac plays Oct. 17-18 at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8800 Irvine Center Drive, Laguna Hills, 8 p.m. $30-$85. (714) 855-4515. Tickets expected to go on sale Aug. 18.
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