Picture this. It’s the summer of 1976. Somewhere in the middle of Amer- ica—wait, let’s be more precise—
somewhere in the middle of Virginia, a
station wagon full of Bermudians is
labouring along the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking the scenic route.
If you look closely, you will see
that the back seat is chock full of
kids, all praying that they will not have
to stop in another lay-by and peer down into
another holler (so big you could drop the
island into it and never see it again) to spot
the ruins of another hovel where once upon a
time, a poor man and his poor wife lived very
unhappily with their 17 children.
In the front seat, Mom and Dad are having
his and hers nervous breakdowns, as he attempts to negotiate hairpin turns and ignore
the squawkings from behind, and she tries to
navigate and answer increasingly tetchy questions, all variations on the “Are We Almost
Yes, it’s the Hughes Family Vacation—and
“there” is my Aunt Anne and Uncle Skip’s
house in the Shenandoah Valley.
The only thing keeping us from turning on
each other, like six rats in an overheated sack,
is the radio. Mercifully, it is a vintage summer
for sing-along pop. Paul Mc Cartney and
Wings’s “Silly Love Songs” vying for air space
with their new single, “Let ‘Em In” (“Some-
one’s knocking on the do-or!”). And Dad’s
darling, Neil Diamond, trying to topple both
And then there’s my favourite: “Say You
Love Me” by Fleetwood Mac. I’d heard of the
band already. Their single “Rhiannon,” sung by
Stevie Nicks and spookily sophisticated (par-
ticularly to the ears of a spookily unsophisti-
cated teenager, weaned on music dished up
by David Lopes on the Breakfast Show), had
been the soundtrack of the spring.
“Say You Love Me,” though, was something—and someone—else. A chiming, sunny
song from the other girl in the band, Christine
McVie, made for back-seat backing singers.
“Have mercy, baby, on a poor girl like me.”
Sing it, sister!
Now, fast forward 40 years…I am queueing
with thousands of other aging groovers, all
flexing our arthritic knees in anticipation of a
long night on our feet at London’s O2 arena.
It has taken me almost half a century to get
here, but I am finally going to see The Mac (as
we hipsters like to call them) in the flesh.
And not just any old incarnation of the
band. Oh no! Tonight, they are all here:
including the elusive McVie who, thanks to
stage fright, has been absent from the lineup
for more than a decade. Christine may have
conquered her nerves, but I have to confess I
I have been a fan for most of my life despite,
or possibly because of, their awe-inspiring
excesses—romantic and chemical—as well
as their poptastic hits. I listened to them not
only in the car with my parents, but in dorm
rooms with my friends and in the kitchen with
my children. But I had never seen them live.
And now? They’re old! I’m old, too. But then
I’m not a rock ‘n’ roll legend, so expectations
What if they’re—whisper it—rubbish?
The early buzz is not encouraging. “Pop
Bitch says Mick Fleetwood had to have a
second drummer playing behind him last
night on a little drum kit,” my husband reports
glumly. (Pop Bitch, in case you’re worried, is
not some louche friend but a show biz gossip
site.) A concealed midget drummer. Only a
band as big as The Mac could get away with
something like that—although clearly it
is not good news.
The lights dim. And there they are.
Stevie still looking witchy, with what
appears to be a tasselled tablecloth draped
over her golden head. Still channelling crazy
with a capital “C”—although now of the
eccentric-great-aunt variety, rather than the
lock-up-your-frontmen kind, but still with
that unbelievable voice: like a Black & Decker
planer on crack cocaine.
Lindsey Buckingham is thin as a whip and
fizzing with energy.
His face is slightly scary, like a man frozen
in a wind tunnel, but he plays the guitar like
a god, fingers flying over the frets till they’re
just a blur.
John McVie, well let’s be honest, John looks
a bit glum. But I suppose that’s natural, given
that (a) he’s in the shadow of Mick’s drum kit,
which is the size of Mount Doom, and (b)
everyone is making a tremendous fuss of his
And finally, Fleetwood—at the heart of
everything and sans (I’m pleased to report)
Mini-Me backup. Snowy haired but still
with that vestigial ponytail, and beaming like
a bad Santa who’s decided on a late career
change and is pleased with the move. After
10 minutes, I’m afraid he might have a heart
attack, so ferociously is he attacking those
skins. After 20 minutes, I think I’m having one
too, although it’s probably less arrhythmia and
more the giant speakers.
And then they play it. My song. Christine
strikes the opening chords. Lindsey gets cracking on the banjo. And it’s…perfect. The years
melt away. And I am 16 again. And you know
what? It was worth the wait.
Reunited—and it Feels So Good!
That’s Life! A Letter from London | Wri TTen BY WINIFRED BlACkMORE