Born in England, singer, songwriter and keyboardist Christine Perfect joined the band Fleetwood Mac in 1970, after marrying the band’s bass player John McVie. She performed with the group through it’s most successful years, which saw the release the such top-selling albums as the 1975 “Fleetwood Mac,” “Rumours, ” “Tusk,” and “Mirage.”
She left the group in 1998, but this year has rejoined Fleetwood Mac, recording songs for an upcoming album and heading out on tour with her bandmates — Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and ex-husband John McVie — for the first time in 17 years.
Correspondent John Blackstone recently talked with McVie about her return to performing with Fleetwood Mac.
John Blackstone: On that rehearsal stage, does it seem like you were never gone? Or– or is it a struggle sometimes?
Christine McVie: I thought it was gonna be a struggle, to be honest. I was a little anxious. But actually walking onto the stage, I mean, we started off in a smaller room that didn’t have a stage, that was just one big flat room all on the same level. And it was much more of a laid-back rehearsal atmosphere.
But the moment you find yourself playing with these fantastic musicians and friends, it just melted away. And now I feel completely comfortable, really, surprisingly so.
Blackstone: Surprised yourself?
McVie: I surprised myself, indeed. I thought I was gonna be much more nervous. And we did a bit of recording beforehand as well earlier this year, which I had a little trepidation about. But that ended up being a magical time for us all. And hopefully, we’ll finish the album next year. And now looking forward to the tour. (laughs) It’s gonna be fantastic.
Blackstone: This all started with you climbing on a plane to Hawaii, having the nerve to climb on a plane to Hawaii.
McVie: Well, yeah. I’ve told quite a few people this story. But still, I mean, it’s worth a tell. I did have a phobia about flying. And I had the phobia when I left Fleetwood Mac. It was a multiple of different reasons that led me to leave — my father had died in England, and I wanted to be close to my own family there. So I bought a house.
The earthquake happened in ’94. I developed a phobia about flying. It was multiple reasons why I thought, “I’ve had enough. I wanna go home, and live in the country and get a Range Rover and get the dogs, the wellie boots and the scarf and cook for the YMCA,” or whatever.
And I sort of had this misguided idea that that was the life that I wanted, you know? And to some degree, I enjoyed it for a few years. Moving onto more recent times, I’ve then gone for therapy. ‘Cause I found that I couldn’t go anywhere except by boat or train.
So I was okay if I wanted to go to the Med or something, I could sail there. But I couldn’t really go to anywhere exotic because I was frightened to fly. So I went to a therapist, had that dealt with, and in the end, bought myself a ticket to Maui and called Mick and said, “I’m gonna come to Maui to visit you.”
And he said, “You’re gonna get on a plane? Oh, my God!” he said. “But I’m now coming to England in about 10 days to promote the European leg of Fleetwood Mac’s tour,” last year, two years ago. “And so you stay there. And then I’ll come back with you.”
So that’s what happened ultimately. We met up in London and hung out together for a few days. And then I joined him, or he joined me, to go back to Maui. And I got on the plane. And I swear, it was completely effortless. I didn’t even think when we took off, you know, I was so busy chatting. “We’re in the air. And do I care? No.” I didn’t.
Blackstone: Had a lot to talk about with Mick after all that time.
McVie: Oh, yeah. Mick always has a lot to talk about. (laughs) Great guy.
Blackstone: When you got to Hawaii, there came a time they delivered a piano to your hotel suite.
McVie: Well, yeah. Because Mick had a blues concert, one of his blues bands that he runs in Maui just for fun, keep his chops in and everything. I think that it was me that tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Well, how about me going in and sort of doing a couple of blues with you or something?” And he said, “You’re kidding. Yeah, great.”
So they delivered a piano to my room. And I practiced, and so we performed. And that was sort of the very embryonic stages of when I thought, “Crikey. If I could play again, who would I wanna be playing with?” And of course, there was only one answer to that. So the seed was planted pretty much in Maui.
Blackstone: And then back to ’02.
McVie: Yeah. Well, first of all, we stopped off in L.A. and met up with Stevie, Lindsey and John for dinner, just the five of us, literally no peripherals. Just the five of us had a private room and had the most lovely, lovely evening together. We were just going, “How weird is this, the five of us back together again?” And then I went back to England. And then conversations started. And I’m pretty sure it was me that ventured forth to Mick and said, “Well, what would be the chances, you know, of me getting back with the band?”
And he was going, “Well, I mean — ” there was a bit of hemming and hawing and conversations between all those guys, and ultimately we ended up having a conference call with Mick and Lindsey at the time. And I called Stevie, who was then in Paris, and said, “What would you think, hypothetically, if I was to come back to the band?”
And she just jumped for joy and said, “Are you kidding? Absolutely.” So that’s kind of what happened. I had a conference call with Lindsey and Mick. John was absolutely fine with everything. And Lindsey said, “What are you doing now, if you’re coming back? You can’t be coming and going. You’ve gotta, like, commit, you know?” And I said, “I commit. I commit. I do. I do.” And so then we started exchanging tapes and things back and forth, Lindsey and I, my horrible little demos that I’d written.
And he then listened to them and rebuilt them in Buckingham style. ‘Cause Lindsey’s always produced my songs. And I love the way he plays and works with my songs. And so he sent them back to me, his version of my demos, and loved them. And so we set a date to start doing some recordings in March this year.
Blackstone: After all of the ups and downs — everybody knows the history of Fleetwood Mac by now, the ups and downs, the breakups, the heartbreak — when you’re standing onstage, lookin’ around, does it amaze you that, after 40 years, here you are all still doing it?
McVie: Well, for me in particular, because I’ve had that rather long vacation, as you know. These guys have been doing it for the last 18 years. So for me, it’s extraordinary. Because one minute, I’m just completely relaxed and flippant about it almost. And then the next minute, I’m jabbed with the surrealism of it, you know? “God. I’m really actually on this black carpet with these fantastic musical friends of mine and really enjoying it, you know? It’s been really profound.
Blackstone: Mick has written a book, largely autobiographical —
McVie: About himself. (laughs)
Blackstone: About himself, but about the group as well —
McVie: Yeah, no, I’m kidding.
Blackstone: Has he invited you to read it, any of it?
McVie: No, he hasn’t. I don’t know why not. But I’m sure he will at some point. I don’t think it’s in print yet.
Blackstone: Not quite published yet.
McVie: But I’m sure I’ll be one of the first to get it.
Blackstone: Well, I already have a little bit. (laughs) And one of the things that he says is that he described you as being like a fly when you were back in your home and garden in England, like a fly buzzin’ around in a champagne glass.
McVie: Well, my brother always described me as a fly in a jam jar. Because I did suffer from a bit of agoraphobia. I went through a few little problems along the way because of the isolation that drew me to seek some help along with my fear of flying. So I got that all sorted out. Yeah. I was a bit like a fly in a jam jar. But my brother calls me a butterfly now.
Blackstone: One of the other things that he says is that, you know, Chris knows all the shenanigans in and out, and that she’s like, “We’re back. We’re gonna have a ball. We’re gonna have a ball this time.”
McVie: Yeah. I mean, I think that’s the whole object of the exercise this time around. We have had some pretty hairy times on the road. And coming back, my full intent is to really squeeze all the fun that we can get out of it and just really enjoy each other. ‘Cause this is sort of pretty unprecedented, really, that someone should leave such a high-status group as Fleetwood Mac and then return 18 years later. If you’re not gonna have fun then, you’re never gonna have any fun. So I’m sure that the whole band is in agreement that we wanna have a really good time and celebrate our friendship and our lives together.
Blackstone: One of the things Mick writes about as well is that at this stage in life, that it’s sort of time to get it all together, I guess, to —
McVie: To finally grow up. (laughs) I don’t think we’ll ever grow up. We’re all kids, really, the lot of us.
Blackstone: I guess that’s another thing. Does it amaze you when you look back and think it’s been 40 years? Does it seem like 40 years?
McVie: No. No. I mean, the gap since I left and rejoined seems to have sort of vanished like salt on a slug, you know? I’m starting to wonder what the heck I did do for those 18 years? ‘Cause it seems to have melted. It’s as if I never left.
Blackstone: And the songs you wrote back then are still much loved, still big hits. Are you amazed at what you did at such a young age, sometimes, when you look at that?
McVie: I don’t think I ever looked at it quite that way. Amazed? I don’t know if that’s the right word. I’m amazed not at what I did. ‘Cause I attribute my songs largely to the group as well.
Blackstone: Does Mick need Fleetwood Mac more than the rest of you?
McVie: Well, Mick is a drummer. And drummers don’t make the habit of sitting in their living rooms just playing the drums. I can play piano. Lindsay can play guitar. Stevie can hack out a tune on a piano and sing and stuff, you know? But a drummer really needs the stage and people to play with to get the full kudos out of it.
I don’t think he needs Fleetwood Mac in that sense. But of course, he being a drummer, he wants people to play with, you know?
Blackstone: One of the other things he does say [in the book] is that he sold his soul to the company store. You certainly didn’t do that. You decided to get off that merry-go-round. Did Mick sell his soul to the company store? Dedicating himself to Fleetwood Mac and whatever?
McVie: Well, you could argue that a lot of us have, but Mick to a larger extent, yeah. But I don’t think he sold his soul. I think he did it out of love, you know? I think that he carries the banner for the band and probably always has. Because he somehow is determined that Fleetwood Mac will never die, in one configuration or the other. This is the most successful configuration of all. Fleetwood Mac is Mick’s love. He loves Fleetwood Mac. And I don’t think he’s sold his soul to the company store.
Blackstone: Did it for love anyway.
McVie: He did it for love.
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