Behind the Beef: A Look at Fleetwood Mac’s Complicated History

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

In 1977, Fleetwood Mac released their 11th studio album, Rumours. The album went on to be a name-making effort for the group and has continued to captivate audiences for nearly five decades.

While recording the landmark album, a storm was brewing behind the scenes. Throughout the process, the group was embroiled in a number of scandalous affairs–largely with each other–nearly killing the group at the height of their career.

What caused such a rift? We’re charting a course through Fleetwood Mac’s complicated dating history that led to years of turmoil and lasting grudges—not to mention one hell of an album.

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham

In 1975, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the group, completing the enduring line-up of Fleetwood Mac—Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie, Nicks, and Buckingham. Along with them, they brought Nicks’ distinct songwriting and vocals and Buckingham’s accomplished guitar playing. Buckingham championed his then girlfriend’s admittance to the group, claiming they came as a package deal.

By the time they started to record their landmark album Rumours, the duo had experienced a breakdown in their relationship. Their on-again-off-again love affair began to take a toll while working together in such proximity.

Many of the lyrics on the album are Nicks and Buckingham slapping each other on the wrist, sometimes playfully so, and others with deep-seated spite.

Tell me why
Everything turned around
Packing up
Shacking up is all you want to do

Lindsey Buckingham wrote the lyrics above for the group’s first U.S. top ten hit, “Go Your Own Way.” Nicks told Rolling Stone: “I very much resented him telling the world that ‘packing up, shacking up’ with different men was all I wanted to do. He knew it wasn’t true. It was just an angry thing he said. Every time those words would come out onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him. He knew it, so he really pushed my buttons through that.”

Lindsey also wrote “Second Hand News” and “Never Going Back” about his bandmate, to which Nicks responded with “Dreams.”

Now here you go again, you say you want your freedom
Well, who am I to keep you down?
It’s only right that you should play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness

Their relationship ended by the time the final touches were being made to Rumours.

Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood

Two years after joining the band, Nicks fell madly in love with founding member Mick Fleetwood—a highly complicated affair given her then-relationship with Eagles drummer Don Henley and Fleetwood’s marriage to Jenny Boyd.

To add to Nicks and Buckingham’s already tumultuous relationship, the guitarist briefly expressed concern that something was going on between Nicks and Fleetwood while they were still dating. The accusation was quickly shut down by the pair—unconvincingly so, given their romance a few years later.

“Eventually I fell in love with her and it was chaotic, it was on the road and it was a crazy love affair that went on longer than any of us really remember—probably several years by the end of it,” Fleetwood wrote in his book Play On.

The “doomed relationship” began to tear at the seams, ending Fleetwood’s marriage to Boyd and causing a rift between him and Buckingham. “Nice of you to tell me. I appreciate it,” the guitarist reportedly seethed.

John McVie & Christine McVie

Founding Fleetwood Mac member John McVie married Christine and brought her into the band in 1970. After seven years of seemingly marital bliss, Christine began an affair with the band’s sound engineer, Martin Birch. The pair ended up divorcing in 1976 but remain bandmates to this day, save for a hiatus for Christine in 1998.

Despite being adopted by Bill Clinton as a political vehicle, Rumours track “Don’t Stop” was written as closure to McVie’s marriage. Christine said of the song, “‘Don’t Stop’ was just a feeling. It just seemed to be a pleasant revelation to have that ‘yesterday’s gone.’ It might have, I guess, been directed more toward John, but I’m just definitely not a pessimist.”

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

Another track for the album, “You Make Lovin’ Fun” was written by Christine as an ode to her affair. To “avoid flare-ups” she originally told John the song was inspired “by their dog”—wonder if he believed that one with lyrics like you make loving fun / I don’t have to tell you but you’re the only one.

Mick Fleetwood and Sara Recor

In yet another shocking love affair from Fleetwood, the drummer embarked on a relationship with one of Nicks’ best friends, Sara Recor, following the loss of his marriage.

In an interview with the Independent, Nicks recalls the sense of betrayal she felt as news of the affair broke.

“Well, here’s a big one for ya. I had started to see Mick Fleetwood romantically. I had a very dear friend whose name was Sara [Recor], who just went after Mick. And they fell in love, and the next thing, Sara’s husband is calling me to say ‘Sara moved in with Mick this morning. And I just thought you might wanna know,'” said Nicks.

While all of this was kicking off, the group was deep into recording their 1979 double album Tusk.

“That was three months into a 13-month album,” Nicks continued. “So I lost Mick, which honestly wasn’t that big of a deal because that was a rocky relationship. But losing my friend Sara? That was a huge blow. Sara was banished from the studio by the rest of the band… No one was speaking, and I wouldn’t even look directly at Mick. That went on for months. And it was great fodder for writing. The songs poured out of us.”

Fleetwood and Recor eventually married—a relationship that lasted seven years before their divorce in 1995.

All’s Well That Ends Well?

Despite their myriad of affairs and betrayals, Fleetwood Mac has enjoyed a lasting career of over 50 years. Rumours went on to sell over 10 million copies within just a month of its release. It is still widely considered one of the best rock records of all time.

The band members’ relationship toils don’t end with their inter-group relationships though.

Nicks briefly married Kim Anderson, widower of her best friend Robin Snyder, in 1983. They split just a few months after their wedding, due to Nicks feeling Snyder’s presence lingering around the couple.

Mick Fleetwood married his third wife Lynn Frankel in 1995 before divorcing in 2013. The couple share twin daughters, Ruby and Tessa.

Christine McVie married fellow keyboard player Eddie Quintela in 1986 but they too got divorced in 2003.

John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham have both enjoyed lasting marriages to Julie Ann Reubens and Kristen Messner, respectively.

Buckingham won a lawsuit against his former bandmates in 2018 after he was kicked out of the band, reportedly over disagreements about the band’s touring schedule.

Photo: Universal Music Publishing Group

Leave a Reply

Anita Baker Thanks Chance the Rapper for Helping Her Regain Control of Master Recordings

The Meaning Behind “The Ballroom Blitz” by The Sweet