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SXSW 2017: summary of SXSW Conference conversation with Mick Fleetwood

By on Thursday, 30th March 2017 at 5:00 pm

For me, the name Fleetwood Mac immediately conjures up mental images of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. This is a function of my age—as a child born in the late 1970s, I’ve always associated Fleetwood Mac with songs like ‘Go Your Own Way’ and ‘Gypsy’, ‘Landslide’ and ‘Rhiannon’. I think it was my father who told me, on some late night cross-country drive as we listened together to 1980s FM radio, that Fleetwood Mac had once been a blues band, that their history went back to London in the 1960s, that the Buckingham-Nicks years were a sort of re-invention of the original band and its sound.


Lineup changes have been a consistent part of Fleetwood Mac’s history, going back to the band’s origins in 1967 under founding member Peter Green. Through it all, the one constant has been drummer and co-founder Mick Fleetwood. Fleetwood has recently penned a memoir of the band for Genesis Publications, titled ‘Love that Burns – A Chronicle of Fleetwood Mac’. Volume One of the memoir specifically covers the years 1967-1974, the period of time that most modern listeners would be least familiar with, which naturally prompts a look back at the band’s remarkable evolution over the past 50 years.

Fleetwood joined the SXSW Music Conference for a well-attended panel session on the Wednesday afternoon, called simply a ‘Conversation with Mick Fleetwood’. The informal discussion was facilitated by Rolling Stone contributor and well-known music critic David Fricke, who is also a knowledgeable longtime fan of Fleetwood Mac. Fricke had clearly done his homework on this assignment, and he deftly led the discussion from the band’s early years in England, through their relocation to America and their later pop-rock orientation. While Fricke directed the trajectory of the conversation with a number of astute questions, he also wisely allowed Fleetwood ample space to relate interesting first-person accounts and expand on the multitude of characters who crossed paths with Fleetwood Mac’s storied history.


For lifelong music fans like myself, the conference session with Fleetwood and Fricke was a chance to experience music history as a living and present entity, rather than as a discrete set of far-removed past events. I was interested to learn about Fleetwood Mac’s part in the British blues revival of the mid-1960s, when blues and rock began to come together, creating a foundation for the current proliferation of blues rock artists like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. But Fleetwood Mac has proved its own staying power over the course of 50 years, and their work has already begun to find its way into the accepted canon of “serious” music discography and literature, especially as the defining line between “pop” music and “art” music becomes ever more indistinct.

Mick Fleetwood currently spends most of his time running a restaurant and bar in Hawaii, where he makes his home. But he insists that Fleetwood Mac is alive and well, though they now work intermittently around the individual schedules of their members’ other projects, notably Stevie Nicks’ solo career. Our readers across the pond might remember the iconic band’s 2015 UK/Irish Tour, and American audiences will have a chance to see Fleetwood Mac this summer as part of The Classic Concerts in New York and Los Angeles.


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