MICK FLEET­WOOD

Be­hind the drums with the Fleet­wood Mac leg­end

Rhythm - - CONTENTS - Words: Rich Cham­ber­lain photo: getty

As he cel­e­brated a whop­ping 50 years with Fleet­wood Mac, 2017 saw Mick Fleet­wood en­joy some time to sit back and re­flect. But even while look­ing back to the past, the worka­holic Fleet­wood hasn’t sat still for too long, as demon­strated in the brand new book, Love That Burns–A Chron­i­cle of Fleet wood Mac: Vol­ume One 1967-1974. The lim­ited-edi­tion cof­fee ta­ble book has been pro­duced by pub­lisher Genesis and, as its name sug­gests, looks back at the early part of the iconic band’s ca­reer. So with Fleet­wood in re­flec­tive mood, what bet­ter time to sit him be­hind our kit and put some key ques­tions to him?

This book sounds like it has been some­thing of a labour of love for you…

“The book came about from a rather long jour­ney. About 20 years ago Ge­orge Harrison showed me a beau­ti­ful book that he was work­ing on at that time. It turned out that it was a Genesis [Pub­li­ca­tions] book. I thought one day it would be good to put to­gether a book like that. Over the years, I have seen so many beau­ti­ful books that Genesis have done over the years. They are stun­ning pieces of work, I con­sider them to be works of art in their own right. About two and a half years ago, I was in Los An­ge­les and I picked up a book in a shop about Led Zep­pelin and yet again it was Genesis. I looked in the sleeve and had the idea to just call them and see if they wanted to do a book on the orig­i­nal Fleet­wood Mac. It wasn’t planned, but the book ties in with the 50th an­niver­sary of the orig­i­nal band.A lot of peo­ple think that I formed Fleet­wood Mac back then, they don’t re­alise that it wasn’t me, I was there right be­side Peter Green and we put the band to­gether. With­out Peter Green there would be no Fleet­wood Mac, and that is al­most un­think­able. It is im­por­tant that this part of Fleet­wood Mac’s his­tory should sur­vive. This book looks into what started this whole thing; it was led by a bunch of lads who wanted to play blues. It goes through the ‘any­one and ev­ery­one’ who was part of the orig­i­nal chunk of our jour­ney.”

What are your mem­o­ries of your ear­li­est days as a drum­mer, and also as a mem­ber of Fleet­wood Mac?

“Au­gust 1967 was the be­gin­ning of Fleet­wood Mac. I had, be­fore that, played with John May­all for a lit­tle bit with Peter [Green] and then I had a cou­ple of bands with Peter. My first real band would have been the Cheynes in around 1963 and there was the Peter Bs as well. Other than that, I was just bang­ing away at the drums in the liv­ing room on my own.”

Who were your early mu­si­cal heroes?

“I loved the mu­sic more than just the drum­mers. I loved Buddy Holly and the way that all of that kind of thing was put to­gether – that stuck with me.Also, The Shad­ows with Tony Meehan on drums along­side Hank Marvin and, of course, Cliff.”

What was your first drum kit?

“Well, it was some­thing only a lit­tle bit more than a toy, rather than a full in­stru­ment. It was called a Gig­ster. I never had a drum stool soI would sit on the edge of an arm­chair and play like that. That was where I got my be­gin­nings as a drum­mer.”

What is the one piece of drum gear that you couldn’t live with­out?

“I can’t tell you that I have my orig­i­nal snare drum that I have been play­ing for 40 years. I don’t tend to hang onto things like that. I re­mem­ber back in the day when we didn’t have any money, I would hang onto things. I would keep cym­bals un­til they were just not playable any­more. They would crack; I would carve out a sec­tion of the cym­bal so that I could carry on us­ing it. It would ba­si­cally turn a cym­bal into a lethal weapon. If you caught your fin­ger in the hole that you had cut or drilled into your cym­bal then that would hurt. I did that and it would cut all over my knuck­les.”

What has been the proud­est mo­ment of your ca­reer to date?

“On a per­sonal level, and this is some­thing that is told in this book, I had par­ents who were fully en­cour­ag­ing of this crazy young chap who wanted to play mu­sic. I wasn’t very good at school and once they got used to the idea that I wasn’t go­ing to make it to col­lege, they to­tally got into sup­port­ing this pipe dream of what I wanted to do. The thing that I am very proud of is the fact that I man­aged to do whatI set out to do. That was a goal that was fairly ob­scure and un­be­liev­able, even for my par­ents, at the start. They couldn’t have re­ally known back then that it would work out. I’m so proud that I had that in my make up and thatI man­aged to make it work. Maybe that was more through luck rather than any­thing else, who knows? But the fact that it did hap­pen and thatI have cre­ated a life out of what was ba­si­cally a lit­tle pipe dream of mine, in so much that I just wanted to be a drum­mer – that is in­cred­i­bly cool to me.”

What is the key to longevity as a drum­mer?

“I love what I am do­ing. I can’t re­ally do any­thing else! Maybe that has turned out to be a ea­sonr why I have just kept on do­ing what I am do­ing. But I love it, it has taken me through my life. There have been ups and downs dur­ing that pas­sage of time, but al­ways be­hind it was this back­drop of be­ing in this band called Fleet­wood Mac. I can’t com­plain about any­thing at all. This is my child­hood dream and 50 years later I am still do­ing it. We’re still do­ing it and plan­ning to go out next year and do a big old tour and get back at .itThe band is still play­ing great as well. As a drum­mer, you can’t do the show if you’re not phys­i­cally able to. It was grat­i­fy­ing that I am able to pay at­ten­tion to keep­ing my­self fairly fit – cer­tainly fit enough to play the shows. There’s no rea­son (un­less some­thing goes wrong with my health) why we can’t keep on do­ing this. I would carry on play­ing the drums even if Fleet­wood Mac stopped play­ing. I would quite hap­pily sit in the cor­ner play­ing drums and hav­ing fun, just likeI would when I was back at home.”

What is your big­gest re­gret?

“I am aware of the life that I have and I am very grate­ful for that. I have made a good liv­ing out of do­ing this and it has been a su­per-in­ter­est­ing life. Yes, there have been some bad choices in terms of life­style choices, but gen­er­ally I have no re­grets at all. There were many mo­ments in the putting to­gether of this book that were thought-pro­vok­ing. Not all of those mem­o­ries were happy, but most were a cel­e­bra­tion of the ca­ma­raderie of that early band and the de­sire for us all to get in the trenches and have a go at what we all loved do­ing. I con­sider my­self ex­tremely lucky. I look at Fleet­wood Mac and the fact that I am a mu­si­cian and still do­ing what I set out to do at 11 years old or some­where around that age –I ac­tu­ally think I was bang­ing on the fur­ni­ture at an even younger age than that. It’s nice to have a job that doesn’t feel like work­ing.”

Did you take drum lessons early on?

“No, I didn’t take any drum lessons – can’t you tell [laughs]? I was not a good pupil in any shape or form. I lis­tened like a hawk to mu­sic and that helped me a great deal. I would do my own ver­sion of things that my in­flu­ences were do­ing. I would just do my best to fol­low what they were up to. Of course, half the timeI was un­able to get near to what they were do­ing. Tony Meehan, for in­stance, was a very ac­com­plished player who ob­vi­ously read mu­sic and all of that stuff and he had this touch as well. Sandy Nel­son was an­other big in­flu­ence on me. I’d hear things in the mu­sic and think, ‘Oh, I can do that,’ and then I’d soon find out that it was harder than I first thought!”

What is the best piece of ad­vice that you’ve ever been given?

“Lis­ten like a hawk and watch the body lan­guage of the front­line in your band. This is a three-tiered an­swer, be­cause also you need to re­mem­ber that some­times less is more. But the ul­ti­mate thing to re­mem­ber when you’re a drum­mer is to play with dy­nam­ics. That is so im­por­tant.”

Fleet­wood Mac line-up circa 1974, with Mick sec­ond from left

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