Fleetwood Mac, the American-British powerhouse behind one of the bestselling albums of all time, is rock's greatest example of the good gained from ignoring every bit of sage advice known to humans about love and relationships.
But thank the dysfunctional heavens they did: The Mac has emerged some 30 years later as a weather-worn but still gripping outfit, still tours in its most potent configuration, minus the singer and songwriter of some of its most durable hits, the retired Christine McVie.
For those needing a refresher course in popular rock scandal, the band forged ahead for 1977's blockbuster "Rumours" despite breakups between front couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, and founding member John McVie and wife, Christine.
After its "Rumours" album in 1977 established the band as one of the most successful rock acts ever, the quintet had its share of lumps.
Mick Fleetwood, "fired" as the group's manager after the 1979 "Tusk" tour, declared bankruptcy. John McVie spent two years drinking his boredom away on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. Nicks' hectic schedule led to a chemical dependency that resulted in a visit to the Betty Ford Center. Lindsey Buckingham agonized over his role in the band.
But Fleetwood, interviewed in 1987 when the band released its first album in five years, rejected the idea that these problems were major. He points to the earlier trials of the Big Mac, including the tempestuous "Rumours" recording sessions.
John and Christine McVie, longtime members of the band, as well as Buckingham and Nicks, who had joined just before the "Fleetwood Mac" album in 1975, both ended long-term relationships. The McVies were married and Buckingham and Nicks had lived together for four years. That resulted in extraordinary tensions in the studio.
With most bands, there is a single spokesperson who conveys an idyllic picture of life within the group. With Fleetwood Mac, however, five distinct personalities often saw things differently.
Each has enjoyed the spoils of success long enough to acquire the independence to speak his and her mind freely. This spirit is also reflected in their interaction. Each member has a separate manager and a separate set of priorities — one reason it took five years to get "Tango in the Night" on the shelves.
Drummer Fleetwood, an imposing 6-foot-6 Englishman with shoulder-length hair, co-founded the group in England in 1967 as a blues-accented unit and, with soft-spoken bassist John McVie, has kept it afloat all these years. He comes across as the elder statesman of the band, one who sees occasional skirmishes within the group as the normal actions of any "family." Of the five, he appears to worry most about the group's long-range plans.
Buckingham, a Californian whose brother won a silver medal in swimming during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, has evolved into the band's musical leader. The guitarist agonizes the most — at least publicly — over the quality and freshness of the band's work, but seems to subscribe least to the idea of keeping the "family" together at all costs. The reason the group isn't already on tour to promote the LP is that Buckingham insists on completing his solo album. Indeed, he's not sold on the idea of touring again at all.
"It's hard to explain our relationship sometimes," Buckingham said. "There is a strong, almost psychic bond, but we are not even really friends (in the sense) that we spend a lot of time together. Mostly, we are a group of individuals who happen to sort of play well together. We aren't even all in the studio at the same time. The only time we are a real band is on stage."
John McVie and Christine McVie, the band's two other English members, tend to be less outspoken than the others. They enjoy their lives away from the band and seem generally content to allow others — namely Fleetwood and Buckingham — to be the catalysts.
About the members' relationship, John McVie said: "It's true we don't spend a lot of time together, but I do think of us as a family. It's like two brothers and two sisters grow up and live in the same town, but that doesn't mean you have to be in everybody's front room. You still love them. You feel connected."