They are a band known for their wild antics, industrial drug consumption and, perhaps most famously, their string of bittersweet hits about their failed romances with one another.
But this week, the soap opera of Fleetwood Mac took a devastating turn after one of the leading members, vocalist Christine McVie, died after a ‘short illness’ at the age of 79.
It is a loss that will have rocked the band, one of the most successful groups of all time, having sold 100 million records globally.
At every turn, their fame was rocked by scandal – and the band made mutual enmity into an art form with a string of bittersweet hits about their various failed relationships with each other.
After Christine McVie’s death, FEMAIL reveals how Fleetwood Mac found fame amidst a backdrop of drug-fuelled scandal, bed-hopping and violence
Many thought it was all their continual feuding and fury that made them the enduring success they have become, 51 years and 100 million album sales later.
The British-American group, comprised of Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie and John McVie, started as a blues rock band playing in a London pub,
Buckingham and Nicks met in 1965 as teenagers at a church-run gathering for young musicians.
Three years later, they became lovers, bonding over their love of cocaine and ambition to make it in the music business.
After launching their career as a couple in 1971, they posed two years later for the cover of their first album, Buckingham Nicks.
The record company had asked it to look ‘sexy,’ but the shy Nicks was uncomfortable when the photographer asked her to pose topless.
The British-American rock band was one of the most successful groups of all time, selling 100 million records globally (pictured Fleetwood with Nicks)
Many thought it was all their continual feuding and fury that made them the enduring success that they have become, 51 years and 100 million album sales later
How Fleetwood Mac became a global success – and faced astonishing scandals
1965 – Buckingham and Nicks meet as teenagers at a church run gathering
1968 – Buckingham and Nicks become lovers, bonding over music and cocaine
1971 – They launch their career as a couple
1972 – Guitarist Danny Kirwan was sacked from Fleetwood Mac for alcoholism and violent behaviour.
1973 – They pose for the cover of their first album, Buckingham Nicks, and Nicks is asked to pose topless
1975 – They are recruited into Fleetwood Mac
1976 – Buckingham and Nicks split as they are recording Rumours, their most famous album
Meanwhile the McVies were ending seven years of marriage and only spoke to discuss music.
1977 – Rumours is released to huge success
1980 – Nicks and Buckingham’s feud is on full display during tour for their album Tusk
1987 – Warring band members convene at Christine McVie’s home after Buckingham calls off a 10 week tour, saying he isn’t prepared to play Nicks’ solo work
Fleetwood said in his autobiography that there was a physical altercation between Buckingham and Nicks. Buckingham left the band the following day
However he continued working with the band and musicians in different ways.
1993 – The group reunited to play at Bill Clinton’s Inauguration ball
1997 – Buckingham rejoined the band and stayed with the group
2013 – Nicks says she has made up with Buckingham
2018 – Buckingham claims Nicks is still in love with him.
Buckingham leaves the band for a second time over disagreements about touring
Buckingham begins proceedings to sue his bandmates for sacking him
The case is settled by the end of the year.
2021 – Buckingham says he believes Nicks is still in love with him
2022 – Christine McVie dies
When she refused, Buckingham lost his temper. ‘Don’t be a f***ing child,’ he snapped. ‘This is art!’
He got his way.
They were recruited in 1975 by Mick Fleetwood, the glamorous American couple bringing some showbusiness sparkle to what was originally a London folk-rock pub band.
Fleetwood’s band had already faced some scandal.
Guitarist Danny Kirwan was sacked in 1972 for alcoholism and violent behaviour.
A year later, his replacement, Bob Weston, was ousted after he had an affair with Mick Fleetwood’s then-wife.
‘When they first joined the band, Lindsey had control [over Nicks],’ recalled Mick Fleetwood.
‘And, very slowly, he began to lose control. And he really didn’t like it.’
Singer Nicks and guitarist Buckingham injected Californian glamour into an otherwise all-British band made up of bassist John McVie, his wife and singer Christine, and Fleetwood, the 6ft 6in son of an RAF fighter pilot and the band’s drummer and de facto leader.
The act, originally a Sixties London blues band, were to become a huge pop success with their album Fleetwood Mac.
It was recorded at Sound City in Los Angeles when the city was hit by the ‘first wave of the tsunami of white powder that rolled in’ during the Seventies and Eighties, Fleetwood recalls.
Cocaine was dispensed at the studio ‘as if it were simply another of the available services at your disposal’, and the album was written with ‘white powder peeling off the wall in every room of the studio’.
A studio engineer would test it for purity, which the wide-eyed Brit compared with a ‘cool’ chemistry lesson.
That album went to Number One in the U.S., and the fact that the band’s creative juices had been stimulated by drugs and drink encouraged even greater excess next time.
The couple split in 1976 while the band was recording Rumours, their most famous album.
According to Gold Dust Woman, Nicks told her mother she left Buckingham after an argument in which he had ‘thrown her to the floor’.
Making Rumours, ‘almost killed us’, Fleetwood previously said.
By the time they started writing the album, he claims, ‘we had all fallen to pieces’: the McVies were ending seven years of marriage and only spoke to discuss music, while Nicks and Buckingham had also broken up.
Fleetwood’s marriage to Jenny Boyd, sister of George Harrison’s first wife, Pattie, was heading for divorce. And Christine McVie was having a fling with the band’s lighting director. All this was worsened by creative tensions, the temptations of their new-found wealth, and by the band’s astronomical drug and alcohol consumption.
They decided that the solution to the various relationship breakdowns was to live together in two groups — the men sharing one flat and the women in neighbouring ones.
At the studio, Fleetwood would go from room to room trying to keep spirits up. When his good humour didn’t suffice, there was always cocaine — lots of it.
‘In the studio, we had a ritual, in which the engineers and band members all started humming a tune — it changed over the years — which would serve as a siren’s call for cocaine, specifically the cocaine that I was invariably holding,’ writes Fleetwood.
The act were originally a Sixties London blues band (pictured, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Bob Welch and Christine McVie before Nicks and Buckingham joined)
They went on to become a huge pop success with their album Fleetwood Mac (Pictured left to right, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, and Lindsey Buckingham)
The tune in later years was often Vangelis’s theme to Chariots Of Fire, to which the athletes run in slow motion.
‘As if in a trance, I would drop what I was doing and in slow-motion, beckon them over,’ recalls Fleetwood. In ‘homage to the film’, he would make them run in slow motion, ‘then get them on their knees and beg, before I’d administer the goods’.
In those days, they even included a ‘thanks’ to their drug dealer on their album credits.
Rumours took a year to record, costing more than $1 million. But the album, released in 1977, stayed at Number One in the U.S. charts for 31 weeks and has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide, producing a slew of chart-topping singles. Most of the songs were about the band members’ break-ups.
Dreams (which Nicks wrote) and Go Your Own Way (which Buckingham wrote) were blunt broadsides at each other.
The decadence — amazingly, all claimed against tax as ‘corporate expenses’ — continued on tour, Fleetwood says.
The band’s ‘rider’, the requirements it laid down before each performance, was ‘extensive, detailed and exhaustive’. The band demanded 14 black limousines continually at their beck and call, while Nicks insisted her room be painted pink and have a white piano (a crane was often used to lift it through a window).
‘We were pleasantly out of control,’ muses Fleetwood. Cocaine was bought ‘in bulk’ and everyone — band and crew — would turn up each night and queue for their ‘ration’. The handing out of drugs was even listed on the band’s daily tour schedule.
Nobody consumed more than Nicks and Fleetwood. He admits that, as acting manager ‘through all of that wonderful chaos’, he would often go around bullying other people to give him any of their ration they hadn’t consumed.
The situation became even more complicated when Fleetwood and Nicks began an affair that lasted several years. They would ‘sneak away’ (which can’t have been hard given how stoned everybody else was).
Stevie Nicks: Fleetwood Mac created its best music when members were suffering the worst personal crises
Rumours took a year to record, costing more than $1 million. But the album, released in 1977, stayed at Number One in the U.S. charts for 31 weeks, and has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide
When Fleetwood told Buckingham he had taken over duties from him as the singer’s lover, he simply said: ‘Nice of you to tell me. I appreciate it.’
The sexual free-for-all took another twist when — having split from Jenny, who was looking after their two daughters in England — Fleetwood started a relationship with one of Nicks’s best friends, Sara Recor.
Fleetwood, a man who apparently didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘faithful’, admits he was ‘surprised’ that Nicks was ‘so hurt’. But at least, true to form for Fleetwood Mac, she was inspired to write a song, the hit single Sara.
Fleetwood and Sara, who eventually wed, were ostracised by their friends, including the rest of the band. That marriage lasted seven years, before, bizarrely, he remarried Jenny.
Cocaine: Nobody consumed more than Nicks and Fleetwood, who is pictured backstage here
In August 1987, the warring members convened in Christine McVie’s home in England after Buckingham had just called off a ten-week tour, saying he wasn’t prepared to play any of Nicks’s solo work (pictured, Nicks and Christine in 1987)
But their second union was no more successful than the first, and having divorced again, he married third wife Lynn, mother of their twin girls. They divorced in 2015.
The Nicks-Buckingham feud was on full display, says Davis, during a tour to promote their 1980 album Tusk.
At a concert before 60,000 fans in Wellington, New Zealand, Buckingham — who had drunk a bottle of whisky — tried to trip up Nicks on stage and began mimicking her moves and dances.
Nicks later said: ‘I was doing my thing with my shawl and Lindsey pulled his jacket up over his head and started mimicking me, behind my back.
‘I thought, ‘Well, that’s not working for me.’ But I didn’t do anything. This must have infuriated him, because he came over and kicked me.
‘And I’d never had anyone be physical with me in my life. Then he picked up a black Les Paul guitar and he just frisbee’d it at me. He missed, I ducked – but he could have killed me.’
Nicks went to the Betty Ford clinic in 1986 to be treated for cocaine addiction. She then spent eight years hooked on the prescription tranquillizer Klonopin. She gained weight, her hair turned grey, she shed her skin, her ‘life force died’.
In August 1987, the warring members convened in Christine McVie’s home in England after Buckingham had just called off a ten-week tour, saying he wasn’t prepared to play any of Nicks’s solo work.
Members of the band have continued to perform together over the years in various iterations (pictured John McVie, Nicks, Buckingham and Fleetwood in April 2013)
A furious row broke out between the two ex-lovers that continued as Buckingham went out to his car.
According to Davis: ‘Lindsey slapped her face, and bent her backwards over the bonnet of his car. He put his fingers around her neck and started to choke her.’
Davis quoted Nicks as saying: ‘I thought he was going to kill me. I think he probably thought he was gonna kill me, too.’
Buckingham left the band the following day.
Fleetwood says he never saved any money, and has no idea how much he earned or spent in those years. He went bankrupt in 1984, and says he can’t even remember how many times it has happened again since.
The curse of the Fleetwood guitarist
Lindsay Buckingham has spoken of ‘curse of the Fleetwood Mac guitarist’.
Fleetwood previously admitted he and his bandmates failed to see that fellow founding member, the brilliant guitarist Peter Green, had mental problems.
He blames these on the vast amount of LSD Green took — as did other band members.
Fleetwood recalls one ‘trip’ during a U.S. tour. Imagining each other to be terrifying skeletons, the band sat holding hands in a circle on the floor of a New York hotel room, passing around a telephone so they could each ‘blubber’ to the man who had supplied them with the drug.
Fleetwood says Green’s behaviour ‘changed fast and drastically’. He started talking incessantly about religion and his disillusionment with the greedy, music industry. He wanted the rest of the band to donate all their profits to charity.
Green left the band in 1970 and became a recluse. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and later threatened the band’s accountant with a gun for trying to give him royalty cheques.
Green’s fellow guitarist, Jeremy Spencer, the band’s other big LSD user, disappeared in 1971 in Los Angeles during the band’s U.S. tour, joining the Children of God, the sinister cult which used sex to win converts. ‘He’d been completely brainwashed,’ writes Fleetwood.
The next guitarist to come unstuck was Danny Kirwan, whose problem was heavy drinking. During 1972, just as the band was about to go on stage one night, Kirwan started ranting about a bandmate’s guitar being out of tune and then wrecked his dressing room.
He refused to play, and when his bandmates came off later and he tried to offer them tips on how to play better, his fate was sealed. Fleetwood sacked him.
Kirwan would later spend periods living rough in London.
His replacement, Bob Weston, had an affair with Fleetwood’s wife, Jenny. Weston died of a gastro-intestinal haemorrhage last year — within months, of another Mac guitarist, Bob Welch, committing suicide at 64 in his flat.
Buckingham rejoined 10-years later and stayed with the group until his firing in late January 2018.
Nicks previously said she and Buckingham finally made up in 2013 when she insisted he promised to behave decently toward her.
However, they’ve never resolved their artistic differences. While Buckingham wanted Fleetwood Mac to produce new songs, Nicks has been happy to just keep playing the old ones.
The group performed to rapturous applause in London’s 02 arena in September 2013 and it was officially announced a short time later that McVie had rejoined the band.
In 2018, Buckingham claimed Stevie was still in love with him.
Speaking to The Times newspaper, Buckingham said: ‘There were a number of years where I wasn’t over her. It is possible that she has never been completely over me either.
‘The way we had to get through Rumours is part of the legacy and heroics of the whole thing,’ he said.
‘We didn’t have time to heal or move on in the traditional sense. I think — and she was the one who moved away from me back then — that we both had to compartmentalize our feelings.’
He added: ‘That is not a healthy thing to do because those little compartments can remain sealed up for years until things start seeping out when you don’t realize.
‘I met the love of my life late and that gave me a whole other take on the world. Stevie did not have children. She went down a different route and has placed more importance on her professional life,’ he shared.
‘How that played out in the last three, four, five years . . . It’s hard for me to know what her mentality is towards me, but I know what mine is to her because I’ve been married for 21 years and I have three children and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me.’
Then, the British-American group finally imploded after Buckingham began suing the others for sacking him.
In a 28-page lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court and an interview, he laid bare the astonishing extent to which he had fallen out with his former band mates — particularly singer Stevie, his ex-lover.
The case also revealed quite how lucratively popular the band remains.
Tickets to see them in 2018 in St Louis, Missouri, on their new tour cost up to $899 (£686). Meanwhile, the most expensive tickets to see Buckingham’s solo tour were less than a tenth that price.
According to Buckingham’s lawsuit, each of the band’s five members was to earn around $13 million from playing 60 shows over two years in a deal with a concert producer, Live Nation.
He accused his former band members of breaching their fiduciary duty, breach of oral contract and ‘international interference with prospective economic advantage’.
Stripping away the legalese, the guitarist was demanding his share of the tour income because he still wanted to perform.
Other Fleetwood Mac members said he was sacked because he wouldn’t fit in with their touring plans and they met a ‘brick wall’ in negotiations.
Buckingham admitted he initially requested the tour be delayed for three months so he could concentrate on his solo album. However, he insisted he later relented and agreed to the original timing.
Two days after Fleetwood Mac performed at a charity do in New York in January, he said he was told the tour was off. But three days later he discovered the band was going without him.
Fallout: Buckingham sued Fleetwood Mac following his departure, which has since been settled
His bandmates had ‘secretly and unceremoniously moved on without him’, even hiring two musicians to sing and play in his place, his lawsuit complained. ‘After 43 years of camaraderie and friendship, not a single member of the band called Buckingham to break the news to him,’ it went on.
In his lawsuit, he didn’t spare the feelings of other Fleetwood Mac members in making clear that the band was only really successful when he was part of it. After his departure in 1987, ‘the band’s popularity declined precipitously’, said the lawsuit, adding that his return revitalised their fortunes.
Fleetwood Mac said it ‘strongly disputes’ Buckingham’s claims. In a statement, a spokesman said: ‘Fleetwood Mac looks forward to their day in court.’
The Buckingham lawsuit didn’t spell out exactly why he believes he was sacked, apart from insisting it could have had nothing to do with him messing them around over the tour.
In 2019, the band came together to be inducted into the 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (pictured)
Her take: Nicks denied Buckingham’s claim that she gave the band an ultimatum; she insists she removed herself from a ‘toxic’ situation and that the band as a whole ‘found a new path forward with two hugely talented new members’
However, he pointed the finger of blame clearly at Stevie Nicks in an interview with Rolling Stone published just a day after the suit was filed.
He recalled Fleetwood Mac’s manager, Irving Azoff, phoning him two nights after his final appearance with the band in January to say: ‘Stevie never wants to be on stage with you again.’
According to Buckingham, Azoff told him that Nicks was upset by his angry response to the decision to play a recording of the hit song Rhiannon, which she wrote, while they took the stage.
She also accused him of ‘smirking’ as she made a slightly long-winded thank-you speech. Buckingham insisted it was a ‘standing joke that Stevie, when she talks, goes on a long time’.
He says Azoff told him Nicks had given the rest of the band ‘an ultimatum: either you go or she’s gonna go’.
Nicks publicly insists Buckingham was ousted because he wanted to put off their tour for more than a year.
The current lineup: Nick and bandmates John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie moved forward with Fleetwood Mac with new members Mike Campbell and Neil Finn
However, she admitted her relationship with him ‘has always been volatile’, adding: ‘This is sad, but I want the next ten years of my life to be fun and happy.’
Nicks recently denied that she had Buckingham fired and claimed his version of events was not true.
She said: ‘His version of events is factually inaccurate and while I’ve never spoken publicly on the matter, certainly it feels the time has come to shine a light on the truth. To be exceedingly clear, I did not have him fired, I did not ask for him to be fired, I did not demand he be fired.
‘Frankly, I fired myself. I proactively removed myself from the band and a situation I considered to be toxic to my wellbeing. I was done.;
She added, ‘If the band went on without me, so be it. And after many lengthy group discussions, Fleetwood Mac, a band whose legacy is rooted in evolution and change, found a new path forward with two hugely talented new members.’
It was eventually settled in December of 2018.