Christine McVie Is No Stevie Nicks
But Fleetwood Mac’s unsung heroine just might be their real MVP.
In a Billboard chart twist no-one saw coming (at least I didn’t), Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is top ten again, more than 40 years after becoming one of the best-selling albums in history. Although a viral Tik Tok video featuring the band’s “Dreams” led to the resurgence of the 1977 album and sent its number-one single inching toward the top 10 once again, Fleetwood Mac’s popularity has never waned.
Myriad line-up changes haven’t dimmed FM’s star power (Lindsey Buckingham was fired in 2018 and replaced by Neil Finn of Crowded House and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) nor the perception that they owe it mostly to Stevie Nicks, who sang lead on the band’s only US chart-topping single. While Nicks and Buckingham might appear to be the core of Fleetwood Mac’s long-running success, we shouldn’t underestimate the creative and commercial might of Christine McVie.
Few bands in the history of rock & roll have exemplified the division-of-labor work ethic as effectively as classic-era Fleetwood Mac (1975–1988), which featured McVie, Nicks, Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, and McVie’s ex-husband John McVie. If Stevie Nicks was the star and Lindsey Buckingham the musical genius, Christine McVie, possibly the lead singer people think of least when they think of FM, was the heart and soul.
In Praise of Lindsay Buckingham, Part 2
Fleetwood Mac as we knew and loved them are no more… once more.
Like Nicks, 72, and Buckingham, 71, McVie, 77, launched a solo career in the ’80s and scored a top-ten single, making FM one of the few groups to spawn more than two successful solo acts. (A. Bob Welch, from the pre-Buckingham Nicks FM, also enjoyed a respectable solo run in the late ’70s. B. The Beatles, The Temptations, Eagles, Genesis, Duran Duran, New Edition, and One Direction also produced three or more hit-making spin-offs.) “Got A Hold on Me” from her 1984 self-titled second solo album holds up as well as anything the band or its various members did in the ’80s.
I lost interest in Fleetwood Mac after the artist formerly known as Christine Perfect (what a fitting maiden name!) left the band in 1998 to retreat to country life in the middle of nowhere, England, until she returned in 2014. I remember FM’s Lindsay Buckingham-free years after 1987’s Tango in the Night (during which FM released two studio albums: 1990’s Behind the Mask and 1995’s Time, the latter of which Nicks also sat out), and they weren’t pretty, but I have even less use for the McVie-free 2003 album Say You Will.
This is not to underestimate the musical pull of Buckingham and Nicks. I never got into Fleetwood Mac’s original bluesy incarnation, in which McVie costarred from 1970 to 1975, but the band needed Buckingham Nicks (that was actually the name of Stevie and Lindsey’s duo project before they joined FM for 1975’s eponymous US breakthrough) as much as it needed McVie.
Buckingham brought the quirk that pushed boundaries and the band past the level of classic soft rock into the realm of daring art pop. Nicks’ ethereal witchy-woman persona gave FM sex appeal. Christine McVie’s earthy sensuality and her melodies of love were its humanity. Each was an equally essential ingredient of the Mac attack.
Nicks has had the most success as a solo artist and is the only one to be inducted solo into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (FM were inducted in 1998.) But McVie actually wrote and sang lead on more Top 40 FM hits than both of her singing-songwriting bandmates combined: nine, compared to five for Nicks and three for Buckingham, making her Fleetwood Mac’s commercial MVP — and not just because she knew how to churn out a radio smash. Her creative touch was just as formidable.
Here are 10 examples of just how much so: the best Fleetwood Mac tracks featuring Christine McVie on lead vocals and as a primary songwriter.
10. “Songbird” (from Rumours, 1977)
The late Eva Cassidy helped make it a modern classic on her posthumous 1998 album Songbird, but McVie wrote it and sang it first. (It’s perhaps FM’s best known non-single after Nicks’ “Landslide.”)
9. “Don’t Stop” (from Rumours, 1977)
Written by McVie and sung by her and Buckingham, FM’s second-biggest single later provided the soundtrack to Bill Clinton’s 1992 US Presidential campaign.
8. “Never Forget” (from Tusk, 1979)
With a slightly countrified swing, McVie closed my favorite FM album even more masterfully than she opened it (with “Over & Over”).
7. “Hold Me” (from Mirage, 1982)
The first time I was consciously aware that I was listening to and loving an FM hit.
6. “You Make Loving Fun” (from Rumours, 1977)
Everybody wants a lover like that.
5. “Honey Hi” (from Tusk, 1979)
Yet another stunning example of McVie’s effortless seduction technique.
4. “Everywhere” (from Tango in the Night, 1987)
McVie’s “Little Lies” was the biggest hit from the album (number four), but I preferred her on the 1988 follow-up single (number 14), which boasts one of the best intro/outro combos of the decade.
3. “Say You Love Me” (from Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
The first Fleetwood Mac song I ever heard, though at the time I was too young to know — or care — who was singing it. At six years old, I just couldn’t get enough of that “falling falling falling” at the end.
2. “Brown Eyes” (from Tusk, 1979)
So haunting, so gorgeous.
1. “Think About Me” (from Tusk, 1979)
Christine rocks! One of my favorite Fleetwood Mac singles, perhaps second only to “Tusk.” If I listen to it once, I’m going to listen to it at least five more times.