By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Storms: My Life WIth Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac
By Carol Ann Harris
Chicago Review Press,
400 pages, $24.95
So maybe you've heard that the members of Fleetwood Mac did a little cocaine in their heyday? Well, make no mistake, they did a lot of cocaine. Unbelievable amounts. All the time. Everywhere.
Carol Ann Harris — girlfriend of Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham from the 1977 release of the band's megahit album "Rumours" through Buckingham's second solo album in the early '80s — recalls how each band member took a powder before, during and after nearly every concert. In her new memoir, Storms: My Life With Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac, she recalls the first night of the "Rumours" tour, when the road manager "J.C." ordered Buckingham, singer Stevie Nicks and the rest of the band to line up backstage a few minutes before show time.
"They seemed to know what came next," she writes. "Like obedient schoolchildren, the band formed their line, holding out their fists. J.C. poured a small pile of cocaine onto each wrist. 'Two minutes! Let's toot and get those roses in your cheeks, Stevie!' "
The artificial stimulants continued throughout the concerts, too, with roadies supplying bottlecaps full of blow to tables in the wings. "During the show, the band would fade back to the speakers at every opportunity and give themselves a bottlecap pick-me-up," Harris writes. "On Christine and John's [McVie] side of the stage, vodka tonics were replenished as needed, and on Lindsey's side ... his roadie always kept a joint going."
In this book, that's supposed to be the fun part. Then the domestic violence begins — sudden bursts of fury from Buckingham that would vanish as quickly as they appeared but leave behind physical and mental wounds — and what first seemed to Harris like a fairy-tale romance in swingin' '70s Los Angeles turned into a downward spiral of monstrous abuse and fear. Now, 30 years after it all began, Harris is finally publishing her candid account — and a rare glimpse — of life inside the band.
Q. So why write this book now?
A. I actually started writing in 1990. Everyone assumes I just sat down and wrote it this year. It originally started as some writing for myself. I decided to start writing about what I went through, going through all my journals and tapes. By 1991, I had about a thousand-page manuscript. A friend helped me organize it, and we started paring it down. The fact that I was a battered woman really kept driving me, but that's such a small part of the book. It's mainly just a story of what it's like to be with the band. I've been asked a million times, "What was it like?" So I tried my best to give an eyewitness account.
Q. How aware was the band that you were working on this, and what have the reactions been?
A. Sarah Fleetwood [wife of drummer Mick] and I remained best friends for years, so she knew from the very beginning, from the first page. I'm friends with John Courage, too ["J.C."], and made sure the band knew. They've known for years. I don't know how they feel about the finished book, but I hope they like a lot of it.
Q. You haven't heard anything from them?
A. No reactions. It's been very silent. I fully expected feedback — these are not people who stand by quietly for anything.
Q. OK, so the cocaine. Wow. That was a lot of blow.
A. People are shocked by this. I thought everyone already knew that. It was funny at the time, though it was a sheer miracle we weren't busted. It was everywhere. The band never tried to hide it.
Q. Why do you think the drugs were such an integral part of this particular group — or was it like this with every other band, too, and Mac just gets the press about it?
A. I didn't tour with other bands, but you know, members of the Eagles have spoken publicly about drug use. From my experience, it's so exhausting and just such pressure [to be a touring musician]. These people going out on the road singing the same song night after night, doing three cities in three days, and doing it all for a year at a time — it's exhausting. The cocaine kept them going. And four members were in relationships that crumbled, so having to perform night after night with someone you'd like to never see again, and singing songs about that very fact, well, it drives you to crazy things.
Q. Do you think the music would have been different without the drugs?
A. There's a new article in Classic Rock [magazine], an interview with [Fleetwood Mac producers] Ken Calliat and Richard Dashut talking about that. The band was so high on blow that they made music that was edgier and more powerful. But then, who knows how great it could've been without the cocaine?
Q. This is a cliched question of abused women, I fear, but I think the tension in this narrative begs it: Why did you suffer abuse for so long before leaving Lindsey Buckingham?
A. It was not like you've probably heard or seen domestic abuse portrayed. I never got the apology the next day, the bouquet of flowers and the "Sorry, I'll never do that again." I got up the next day and he refused to speak about it, like it never happened. It never seemed to happen for a concrete reason. It's not that I was out too late or had done something or was being punished. It would happen out of the blue. It didn't make sense, so I thought it was my fault. I'm not a good enough girlfriend, I'm not relieving his pressure. I blamed it on the pressure of the music, this album or that album, being on the road.
Q. What finally led you to leave him?
A. That episode at the end of the book, when he'd really hurt me and I went to Century City Hospital so badly injured. And I had to say it out loud: This was done, I was injured. That doctor — what I wrote was verbatim, I never forgot what he said — saying, "You have to leave him." It was a huge wakeup call.
Q. Lindsey and Stevie broke up before you two were together, but their romantic tension endures to this day, at least in the view of the public. Why is that?
A. Because their relationship is trapped in those great songs that are still played over and over, and which mean something to so many people still. It's interesting to me that when most people break up, people cease to see you as a couple. For Christine and John, and especially for Stevie and Lindsey, they'll always be a couple. The public will always see them as Romeo and Juliet because they still perform together and sing those songs.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.