November , 1979
By David Huff
Tusk, Tusk, It's 'Rumour'ed Fleetwood Mac's Changed
"I think that we were ready for a little bit of controversy and I think there is going to be a certain amount of controversy over the album for quite a while... "—Lindsey Buckingham.
No one can question the fact that it has been some year in the world of music. Record companies, after suffering through one of worst slumps ever in record sales, have recovered and appear headed towards a boom. Another development, probably even more dramatic, has been the release of three albums by the rock industry's giants: Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac.
The albums were a long time in coming. When they arrived, it stunned devoted fans and music critics alike, not because they were released within a shod lime of each other, but because each of the albums marked a new era in music for the groups to expand in Tusk is not an album you can listen to one time and pass judgment on The first time you hear it, you may hate it. The second time you hear it, you still may hate A. The third time you hear, you may love it.
"When you try to compare Rumours to this album," said Buckingham, in an interview in Denver last week, “There's really no grounds for comparison because one is one thing, and that has, you know, been three years. We've all grown a lot musically and this is the manifestation of a certain amount of monetary success, per se.”
"I think that we will be more happy if this album influences somebody musically rather than it necessarily selling 16 or 17 million copies. I think that it has already started to do what we hoped it would do."
"It would have been a lot more difficult to try and fall back on an old style, but, you know, it is sort of repeating yourself. As far as accessibility goes, I guess that's just something that goes along with progressing. I think that it's the kind of album that probably drives you the more you listen to it as opposed to Rumours ."
"We never had problems breaking new ground." added Christie McVie. "I mean we did that with Rumours as well. It's bound to be a relative change as you say, after three years. Whether it is a question of musical growth it is not really the point. We're not thinking about trying to have any songs on this album compared with Rumours. I think we'd be going backwards musically ourselves if we did that because that was three years ago."
Some critics have called Tusk an experimental album with a selection of random tunes. Fleetwood Mac's songwriting is centered around Christie McVie, Stevie Nicks and Buckingham. There are critics that have found it hard to understand how three individual songwriters can focus their musical attention on a single concept.
“The thing is." pointed out Buckingham, "there are three separate styles in the band. There always has been. It is getting more that way, but, I don't think that the album gets torn apart by that at all. As long as everyone feels they can express themselves within the format of the band, it will be line.
"We just wanted to give everyone a chance to expose themselves a little more. You examine any particular writer, or any particular sort of approach to anything musically, and you are sort of seeing it like this it you're doing a single album. So everyone has more of a chance to expose and express themselves this time,"
"For us, a double album wasn't that big of a deal." Nicks said softly. "We spent 13 months together in a room working on all of these songs. We write our own songs, but they are the way they are because it is us. I mean, if it was just me doing my own album, or Lindsey doing his own album, they wouldn't sound anything alike."
"You don't have to explain this album to anybody. I hope that you, as a journalist and a music person would say, 'Hey, they are free.' You don't have to explain. You just say listen. They are happy, they have tried to make you happy. If they didn't make you happy then I am sure they would be sorry. No excuses necessary. We have no excuses for what we did. Everything that we did, we wanted to do. It is exactly what we wanted. And if it fails and doesn't sell one copy, it made us very happy."
Fleetwood Mac prepared the country for what was to come when they released the title track of the album, "Tusk," a few weeks ago. It didn't take people long to figure that something was up.
"There was no significance in releasing "Tusk," as a single first," continued Buckingham. "I don't know if I would have chooses that as a first single though."
"Warner Brothers was really excited about releasing that, and I think when you listen to that song in the context of the whole album, being second to the last song on the album, it has a certain thing to it which may be a little more gentle than someone who hasn't heard our music for three years and suddenly they're hearing this song, "Tusk," on the radio. It's just something we liked and it's certainly caught a lot of people off guard. There's no doubt about that. But, that's part of the whole thing, it’s just been good. It's just been getting people's curiosity up as to what we're realty up to now, and it seems to be working. As far as significance to the meaning of the song, it's just whatever you want it to mean."
Contrary to popular belief, the USC Trojan Marching Band is not accompanying Fleetwood Mac on tour just to play back-up on "Tusk." Buckingham did say that the song comes off better live on stage for some reason. Nicks says that it makes the audience wonder whether or not the Zulu nation is going to come sort of bopping out of the background.
"Fortunately for us, they don't," smiled Christie McVie.
Ironically, the song "Tusk," wasn't going to be used on the album. Mick Fleetwood recalled an experience he had while on vacation in Europe and decide to gamble and try it with this song.
"The actual idea, which had nothing to do with the song," explained Fleetwood, "came when I was on holiday in France. I went two days and they had some festival that had the local brass band in the village going around, and I just noticed how a brass band makes people smile or feel good. The actual feeling of the idea came from that. It was to use a brass band, and then Lindsey's song melody, which was actually put away and wasn't going to be used on the album."
"I just-thought it sounded like a brass band could play the riff for a start. It just felt like it would do it. I said, 'I want to do it,' Even to the point of it not going on the album. Had it been a total failure. I said that I would pay for it, the whole escapade. It was something that was fun to do and then it turned out that Lindsey liked it and the rest of the band liked it."
"There has been a lot of attention focused on the album because of its content. But, another issue has centered on the fact it took three years for the group to come out with another album."
"Well, a lot of time, really, was spent on the road actually," said Fleetwood. "The album itself took about a year to do, so I really don't know. It's certainly not a question of us sitting around and panicking that you haven't got any songs. That has never been a problem. It's just the way that we run our situation as a band."
"It's not a highly internally pressurized situation. There are enough natural pressures which come from being successful, which are things you accept and you want to accept. Otherwise, you wouldn't be doing it. Sitting here is not a natural thing as such, but, if you approach it the right way, it's an interesting thing to do."
"The time lapse is of no consequence, really, other than you have a record company I'm sure, getting a little bit sweaty. They could have had an album in two years, or two albums in that period, but there again, you get back to the old money thing, and we just don't think about it in those terms." As for Tusk being a breakthrough musically for the group, it depends upon your own definition of the word. Monetarily, the question can't be answered for some time. Musically, a group can't live off its past forever."
"This album is not what people expected and that is the whole point it isn't," Buckingham stated simply. "If they listen to it ten or fifteen times, it's going to start making a lot of sense, I hope anyway. That's the contention, otherwise, we wasted a lot of time. That is a very arbitrary thing you know. I'd say it's definitely a logical progression from Rumours."
"I don't think it's certainly any ultimate thing. It is certainly no more of a breakthrough than "Old Well" was from coming out of 12 bars blue mixing set. If you care about what you are doing, you want to change and you want to keep getting better. If you are good at what you're doing, you can do better. So, you just keep trying to look for new things. It wasn't a question of needing something or saying, 'Okay, now we are going to do this.' It's just that everyone evolves in what their tastes are, and their influences over a period of time. If your input is different between three years and now, your output is going to be different, and it's not a question of choosing to do something. It just is the way you do it, you become something else, you reflect other things and that is the way it works, for us anyway," concluded Fleetwood.
When Tusk hit the street, the list price of the album was $15.98. Making it one of the highest priced albums ever. That price is a little bogus when you consider you can find the album priced in record stores from anywhere between $9-11 around town. But, the fact that the price skyrocketed that high, raised a few eyebrows except for Fleetwood Mac's.
"It's really minimal what it costs," said Fleetwood assuredly, "twenty songs, if you start comparing it to three years ago and so forth. But things being what they are now, there's probably a minimal difference in terms of comparing it maybe to another double album."
"The packaging thing was, you know, a very expensive package. And beyond that, people don't have to buy something. Certainly it is not a loaded album in terms of price. You can go out and pick up another double album. Whether it be Donna Summer or anyone else. It's something, which as a question, will probably come up. I think it's maybe a little unfair only in the context that we are quote, 'In a very magnified position.' To me, it's a perfectly fair situation. If we had released two single albums, the total price would probably be more."
Believe it or not, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie have survived nine separate groups called Fleetwood Mac, not counting the present five in the group.
"Yah, there has been some pretty grim times," recounted Fleetwood, "I think John and myself have sort of got used to it. The band as a band did have a lot of success in the early days back in England and Europe. We were very much the 'No. 1 band,' having hit records and kids screaming at you and touring over Europe and so forth, which didn't apply here. Then we were definitely involved in seeing a decline."
Our records weren't selling and then we started working over here. Psychologically, we've sort of been through those things. People ask me sometimes. 'How's success affected you? And those things. It hasn't really in terms of flowing me up and down as a personality, because we've gone through a graph of things that can be measured in emotional things or measured in looking at sale sheets. Your albums are sitting out and you're not selling more than seven thousand albums in England, where at one point, your album is for a year and a half, number one in the charts. Its stuff that I am glad happened, because should it come down again, then you carry on doing what you want to do as a musician and as a person until such a point you say. 'No I don't want to do that anymore.'"
"John and I have always been in the band, but the band as a band has never broken up and left me and John sitting there thinking 'Oh my God, what are we going to do?'. There has always been someone else. When Peter (Green) left the band, there were still tour people left. We say, 'Alright, so we all want to break up or do we carry on?' It's really been exactly like that. When Bob (Welch) left the band. John, myself, and Christine were Fleetwood Mac, and we had no intention of stopping. It just so happens that me and John were in from the beginning. So people like to look at us and say. 'You're still here. How come you weren't one of the people that left?' You should ask that sort of question. Why are we let? It's just circumstance, you know."
To date, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours LP has sold over 15 million copies. A staggering amount. It would seem that a group, alter looking of the phenomenal success their last album enjoyed, would be very conscious of that fact and would try to capture that same effect on their next record. It wasn't the case on TUSK. In fact, Nicks says that the name Tusk wasn't even thought of until about three months ago. The album itself was never conceived until months after Rumours .
"I know what you’re saying," nodded Buckingham. "I think there was a sense of wanting to do something that meant a lot to us. That’s for sure. And hopefully, in meaning a lot to us, it would mean a lot to everyone that listened to it. I think that we feel very, very strongly that we accomplished that. In doing this double album, we feel very good about it and musically. It is leaps and bounds beyond what Rumours was."
"You don't set out to invite failure." Fleetwood said. "Of course you don't. You’re aware you’re going to have people listening to it and you do something that's going to satisfy yourself. In terms of being real safe, you wouldn't have done a double album for a start. So, therein lies the answers tar as fear of not being successful."
"Even if you had taken some of the tracks which are on the double album and stopped there, it would have been musically different. As a thing which is more likely to be a success business-wise, it's probably the only way of measuring it almost. We are delicately not paranoid about being a success."
Buckingham best summed it up.
"We love the music that we are doing and if people care about us, they will go out and buy it and listen to it, and they are going to have to think about it a little more this time. There is nothing wrong with that, is there? That is the whole point. It's not a matter of having disregard for---it's just the opposite. It we did have disregard for the audience, then we would go out and keep on doing the same thing over and over again just to milk them tor as much money as we could. But those people out there, even the Eagles stuff is different. There is too much on the radio now that does sound all the same. No, we didn't want to shock people. There is stuff on the album that isn't a shock. You just have to be opened minded when you listen to it."
Will it take the group another three years to come out with another album? Fleetwood says no. He also nixed the idea of the group coming out with a live album after this tour is over.
"A lot of bands are motivated purely for the business side of it," reflected Fleetwood. "I think in those terms, for instance, if myself or the band were motivate that way, we most certainly would by now had a greatest hits package out, and a whole load of other things which may, I'm sure at some point, be available."
"We feel very strongly. Someone asked about a live album. Of course it is possible to do, and it is a very quick way of making a lot of money, quite frankly. We haven't done it. As for the album situation. There’s only three albums with the band as it is now. It's a very young situation, believe it or not, looking at John and me. So, that's really the sense of priority. It is reflected in the music rather than making it into a money machine, which if you delve in, none of us are naive. "Of course we are making a lot of money, but in fact, we could be making a lot, lot, lot more money by doing things. Whether or not that in the long run is the most sensible thing to do. I certainly don't think it is. I've seen a lot of people go for the quick, cheap one, and have no integrity about what they do. That's the way I think about it in terms of business. I know that the band feels that way and I am part of the band."
There has been serious discussion made about making Stevie Nicks song "Rhiannon," into a movie, In fact, Nicks herself has written several songs for the movie score. But the project is off into the future.
"It's a wonderful dream, maybe it will happen and maybe it won't," she said. "Right now I have one job and that's being in this band. When I have some time, if I can, I'll do it. I've written a lot of music lot it and it's really fun for me, it's dreamy and fairy tale like. But right now, I have no time for anything but this."
One thing Stevie did do was give up all of the royalties and rights to one of her songs on the new album. "Beautiful Child," Half of the money is going to UNICEF and the other half is going to the Heart Association. Nicks said she has always wanted to do something for worthwhile causes but never had the opportunity until now.
Fleetwood Mac was set to tour Russia awhile back but the plans were cancelled at the last minute. When the go ahead was given, it was too late for the group to schedule it, because they had to go into the studio to cut Tusk.
The cover of the new album is rather puzzling because it has the snapshot photo of a dog baring its fangs at someone’s leg. Buckingham points out that the photo is no joke.
"It's not a joke, it is just an image that is analogous to Fleetwood Mac and what the album is about. There is a certain comparison between the plight of elephants and the plight of animals in general and of the human condition, so I think there is an animal and a human foot on there. It is sort of an implied image."
Nicks, who is writing a book, is irritated when people attempt to compare Rumours and TUSK. It is like Comparing Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon with any of their other albums. You can't
"I know, I am not saying this for the group, it is me," pointed out Nicks. "When people ask about the expensiveness of this album, I think that it is very important to tell you all that we spent a long time, and I know violins are playing, in a room not this big. This is our life, I mean this is your life and ours. We spent a lot of money on this album and maybe people said, 'Hey, a double album, hahaha,' Fine, depression, split up. We said no. If we fail, then we will pick up the tab, we will be on the streets starving.
"We will do it because we believe in this album. We think that it is good. We like it, I love it. I have listened to it a hundred, thousand, million times and drove everybody out of my house with it going, 'Listen to this.' When I was starving, and Lindsey an me starved almost, if I needed tin bucks or fifteen dollars, I got it. I went out and got the album that I wanted and nobody could tell me that I couldn't get together ten or fifteen bucks for music. Music to me is the most wonder fullest thing in the whole world."
"When people say, well don't you think that is kind of expensive? You are driving around in your big Rolls Royce and everything, I don't think that counts. If it is too much, don't buy it. We will, what's it called, sponge up the difference. But, it is important to us and it is important of me that you guys know that this is probably one of the neatest things we will ever do. It is real important to us. We aren't trying to steal money from anyone, we don't need money. We need people. We need people to listen to our music, that's all."