Mick Fleetwood: ‘Im 70 years old and I play harder now than I used to’

The co-founder of Fleetwood Mac talks the glory days of the band, touring as a septuagenarian and what the swinging 60s were really like

Hey, Mick. How are you?

Im OK, but Ive got coconut oil all over my water bottle.

Coconut oil?

I put it on my hands. When you get old, you get lizard skin. I didnt know but its an antiseptic. I put it on my head too. It doesnt smell and its not full of chemicals. You can use it for cooking and its good for sex, too.

Sex and bald heads? Mick, I wasnt prepared for this.

Well, now you know. Its multipurpose stuff.

Its the midway point of SXSW and some people are looking worse for wear. Any tips for hangover cures?

Drink lots of electrolytes even if you need to go to the toilet all the time, its worth it. And get hold of avocado or watermelon. Avocado is full of electrolytes and protein. Put it on some toast. Put a big fucking mashed-up avocado on toast and youll come back like youve never seen before.

Gracias. Why have you decided to put out a book about early Fleetwood Mac?

My former brother-in-law, George Harrison, did a similar thing in 1980. I saw it back then and it was something I wanted to do but didnt get round to it. Jimmy Page did one for Led Zeppelin too. Its all about what started the band and a lot of people dont know about that period, and the band is 50 years old in August for the original members of Fleetwood Mac. This is the beginning of the group and its very important to me.

What is it about that period?

We were doing our thing and the Stones and the Beatles were blowing up in a way that has sociologically changed a lot of shit. Fashion, art, everything was going on. The attitude was probably the main thing in the ether. We had no idea. London was a hugely exciting place and it becomes even more exciting when you look back and think so much was going on. To do with art, to do with stuff that had a sociological effect on the world. It did. You get these comedic cliched moments of Oh, its swinging London, but the truth is it fucking was. There were people jumping into Mini Minors with Union Jacks on them. I know its become a joke, but it was that.

Was that your favorite iteration of Fleetwood Mac?

I think its the most important, because its how it started. We came from nothing and with Peter [Green] we were doing what we love to do. For that reason, its the most important period for me. Because I like to think when things got crazy later on, at least I personally would remind myself that I was lucky to be doing what I was doing.

How did you deal with his breakdown and eventual departure from the group?

Losing Peter was devastating for all of us. He was a dear, dear friend of mine. I lost him, it was like losing a lover. Theres a picture in the book where it looks like we are gay lovers. We were so happy. Life became so heavy for Peter. We were joined at the hip and put the band together.

Did you think about quitting?

No, because we were really frightened. When Peter left, if ever there was a period where it was over rover, that was it. First of all, it was like: What do we do? Jeremy was there, Danny was there, John was there. We were so petrified we all huddled together like we were in an elevator when theres a power cut you learn to make friends really quickly.

Peter named the band Fleetwood Mac and then years later Peter said in an interview: I named the band Fleetwood Mac because I knew at some point that I was probably going to leave. He sort of knew. It didnt have anything to do with why we kept going, but he said: I always wanted Mick and John to have a job, and we did. We always had a home.

In the book, you ask Peter about why he asked you to join the band.

Yeah, and it had nothing to do with me being able to play drums. He said, You were so unhappy, Mick. Id broken up with Jenny, who Peter knew, and I was at a dead end. I was moping around and thats why he asked me to do it. He identified with someone who was hurting. Love That Burns is the title of the book, and its a song Peter sang which is devastating to me and sums up this band, to say the least.

The last time we spoke to you, you said you were still trying to work out: What is this creature Mick in the middle of this band? Have you figured it out yet?

I still dont really know what Im doing. If someone says do that second chorus, Ill go: Nooo, I dont know what that second chorus is. I call it going to the blackboard. If you leave me alone, Ill do my best. But if you start saying read this, my whole stomach will go and I get off track. Peter said: Youre perfect for playing the blues because you feel shit, youre like a big fucking sponge. Looking at me, Mick, through what is nearly a 50-year career I love to be around creative people, and I cling on to that. It tells a story about what I need or what I dont have.

Youve finished an 18-month tour that had 220 dates. How do you cope at 70?

I take care of myself. I didnt used to. I keep physically fit. Its about knowing when youre done. I drank and had nights out for 35 years. For a while it trains you like a circus animal, and you find a way to come back from it emotionally. You learn a sick form of survival. The last tour I couldnt do what I do and perform and all my shenanigans like I used to staying up for three days and then playing four shows in a row. I cant do that and I dont want to. Its a realization that those days are over.

Do you miss it?

I think theyre war stories and you have to be careful how you tell them. I still drink a little bit, but I stopped for 14 years. Im lucky, but as you get older you just cant do it, and if you do youre saying good bye to life as something that can be enjoyed. Everyone has their own way of handling it. Take the various forms of abuse out of the equation, you take care of yourself. Im 70 years old and I play harder now than I used to. I dont want to look like an old fart and Im not an old fart. I dont know how much longer Ill be able to do what I do. Im sort of a goofball.

  • Love That Burns: A Chronicle of Fleetwood Mac is out via Genesis Publications in September

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/mar/14/mick-fleetwood-mac-sxsw-love-that-burns-book

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