Mick Fleetwood Goes His Own Way: A Love of Hats
I AM A wearer of hats.
I've always worn hats, many hats, too many hats at times, and even though I've never given losing my hair much thought, hats have proven to be rather a chic fashion segue as the years have gone by.
Hats are poetic, romantic; they provide generous amounts of theatrics for an old drama queen like myself.
They're also handy to keep about in case things get desperate.
Did you know they make great coin collectors for busking?
My channelling of the Mad Hatter began as a "spark" from seeing my father getting ready for work, donning his Air Force peaked hats and berets.
I have memories of playing dress up in them.
I still have them but, after some 30 years in showbusiness, sad to say my head is somewhat larger than it once was, so my father's hats no longer fit.
I am a collector of hats.
Recently I went to the Westbrook Maker Hat Company in Venice, California, a fine place where all the felt hats are made the old-fashioned way, by hand.
After a lengthy fitting, I ordered several hats that I am excited to be wearing on our upcoming tour.
Hats have always been a big part of my showmanship.
Traditionally, after the encore, I walk on-stage to say my goodnights wearing a red, collapsible top hat, reminiscent of a mad ringmaster under the big top.
Even Stevie will don her top hat at some point during our show.
There are plenty of good hat wearers today but the guy I love the most at the moment is Pharrell Williams and his awesome hats.
I love even more the message of Happy.
That video going viral is a great example of the powerof the internet to connect people world-over through music in a way that is both subversive and sublime.
Gotta love those "feelgood" songs!
Many years ago when I was short of a few bob and not "feeling so good" I was persuaded to visit a fortune teller.
Being a die-hard romantic and a believer in fairy tales, I was an easy mark.
Desperation makes us do strange things.
The dubious palm reader asked me what it was in life I needed.
"Well," I said. "I've run out of money!" She told me to bring her $10,000.
Then she instructed me to "donate" (we use this word loosely here) half of it to her "charity" (another loose translation) and the remaining $5,000 (all the money I had to my name) I was ordered to put inside my shoes and into the lining of my beloved hat.
Apparently I was to be rewarded a bounty worth one hundredfold of the investments I had just made.
I can say that it did feel different, walking around packed, head and foot, with the last bit of cash I had.
Before long, I went back to making money more conventionally. But still, I am waiting for the day when the money starts pouring out of my hat!
Over the years, Fleetwood Mac has been known for pulling surprises out of the proverbial hat. No rabbits yet, but who knows? ?
Mick Fleetwood Goes His Own Way: Custom Fashion
IT'S NOT exactly breaking news, my many dalliances with addiction in my life, but one hasn't been well-documented, and that's my absolute love of fashion.
Not so much fashion per se, rather my personal pursuit of theatrical self-expression through my clothes and what I present to the world.
Here's a riddle for you: What can a broke, 18-year-old, 6ft 6in beanpole find to wear in a ready-made shop? Answer? Absolutely nothing. I was left to scour the markets, usually ending up at the Army and Navy surplus store.
Then I met Rod Stewart and the incredible blues artist Long John Baldry who, incidentally, was 6ft 7in. Imagine my initial envy, seeing this tall man in garb I'd only dreamt of.
I played with Rod for two years and I attribute much of my fashion savvy to him and John. Not only were they renowned for their style, they shared their secrets, showing me the ways of bespoke tailoring on the cheap in London's East End.
I saved up for one thing that fit properly - a pair of trousers, a shirt - at a time. I was hooked. Finally, I had clothes that fit.
Then I acquired a bolt of Levi's denim (fallen off the back of a lorry) and had my first pair of jeans tailor-made. I thought I was in heaven. They were my prized possession until my poor mum washed them and then put them in the dryer.
She actually cried when she saw how distraught I was. I spent the entire day on the verge of tears, lying in the bath, trying to stretch them back to their original size, to no avail.
I still love having my jeans tailor-made (at The Stronghold in Venice, California) but trust me, I'm a stickler for pre-washed, pre-dried denim.
I really wanted a costume that stood out when I played gigs.
It had to be original, not too hot to play in and cheap.
I still had my school gym kit and fencing gear. I wore the knickerbockers, tore the sleeves off the jacket to make a waistcoat, put my gym shoes on.
That was the start of my stage costume, captured on the iconic Rumours cover, and I've worn some version of that ever since.
In the early days of Fleetwood Mac we liked to push the naughtiness envelope. At one gig I came back from a toilet break with the lavatory chains, a ball attached at each end, wrapped around my waist.
I did a solo, hitting the balls into the microphone, just to make the lads laugh. Talk about spontaneous expression! The funny part is, my balls never went away.
I began wearing wooden balls in everyday life, attached to my belt - quite the conversation starter. To this day I never play without them.
I was only one of the pioneers for diversity. Sir Mick Jagger, David Bowie and countless others who wanted to be outrageous and self-expressed, pushed the envelope of what was considered "masculine". We opened minds by blowing minds.
I say hats off to the Lady Gagas of today's world, those who challenge society's expectations and encourage people who are different from the mainstream to stay that way. Bravo.
There are a lot of minds that still need opening and blowing and much work to be done.
Mick Fleetwood Goes His Own Way: Motoring Nostalgia
DID you know that in the 17th and 18th centuries, “nostalgia” was deemed a mental disorder?
Actually, I have friends who would agree because when it comes to me and my cars, my nostalgia knows no bounds. It is an important link between my past and present self.
Each car I’ve owned has a story attached. My first was a London taxi that I bought for £12 from a neighbour in Notting Hill Gate.
The perfect vehicle to carry my equipment and take me from gig to gig, I loved that cab, with its solid doors and the familiar diesel rattle and hum. I’ve never had another car that could match the turning radius.
After the cab, vanity got the better of me and I bought a Jaguar XJ-120 sports car for about £60. It was a wreck, leaked as much oil as it used petrol. I couldn’t afford to buy the hard-top roof for the winter so, rain or shine (mostly rain), I drove it with no top at all.
I had a system to weather the storms; a leather cape, one of my dad’s Air Force flying helmets, goggles and enormous Air Forceissue gloves. I’d bomb down the motorways like a mad speed racer, arriving at my destination (no heater) frozen half to death, frost-bitten and soaked to the bone.
That’s what vanity does to you when it’s the car that counts. That car almost killed me when the entire transmission fell out on the road at a roundabout. I retired it soon after that.
In an out-of-character moment, the next car I bought with the novel intention of owning something that I could afford to run. It corresponded to the only time I thought I’d give up being a musician. I bought a little Deux Chevaux.
My pal, percussionist Dave de Silva, was also out of work. Our next possible career move was a choice between being window cleaners or painters and decorators.
Painting won the toss. Our first job? Painting a fresco. I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to paint an entire wall of intestines! And that dear little Deux Chevaux dutifully carried the paint. By far my favourite car of all time, though, was a little Austin 7, that we named Lettuce Leaf (it was racing green!). I’d see this car parked on my daily walk to visit with Andy Sylvester, who was playing with Chicken Shack with Christine McVie at that time. I had no money but I wrote a note and left it on the little car’s windscreen, saying: “I’m in love with your car, if it ever needs a good home please call me.”
The owner saved the note and two years later, when he called, I had enough to purchase the car because I was playing in the Bo Street Runners. It was the car that drove me to my wedding with Jenny Boyd, the car that made me feel things were on the up.
After that I was unstoppable; I saved every dime to purchase more old classic cars, including a 1961 Bristol 401 and a beautiful 1955 MG TF. When we first moved to Los Angeles I bought a gold Cadillac convertible to console me when my other beauties could not make the transatlantic journey.
Poor Lettuce Leaf! When I went to seek my fame and fortune, I left it with my then brother-in-law, Eric Clapton. About 14 years later I got a call from his manager, asking if I wanted the car back! For the past 10 years it had been sitting, uncovered, in an apple orchard. Birds were nesting inside. But that little car was so well built it was very much intact.
I resurrected it and had it shipped to Maui to come live with me again. Now I take my 97-year-old mother to lunch in it every Sunday.
I’m not the only one who enjoys a good car story. Look at the millions of people who love watching Top Gear, a show that illustrates the many ways people become enamoured of their vehicles.
It’s my nature to wax nostalgic over my cars. I can’t bear to let go of even one of them. They represent my life and, in a strange way, they represent the different stages with Fleetwood Mac.
People’s lives become entangled with the lives of their cars; they hold memories and symbolise so much!
I’m obsessed with keeping mine going, no matter what ails them. It’s sort of like all the times Fleetwood Mac was as good as written off. I just kept tinkering, resurrecting, all to keep that motor running.
Mick Fleetwood Goes His Own Way: Running Away
I WAS a three-time runaway as a kid from an English country boarding school. Early on, I decided to follow my dreams and made many, futile attempts to get the hell out.
I was 11 when I made my first escape. I had drawn a picture of what I thought a naked lady looked like and had determined the only way I could see one in the flesh was to become a doctor. Now a normal child would have waited, studied and gone through the necessary channels but, dreamer that I was, I resolved to find my way to London that instant to studymedicine!
Each time I ran away, the goal was to get to London. The city held a mythic attraction; I'd stop there for a night or two as I went back and forth to boarding school.
I stayed with my art student sister and her boyfriend. They took me to Cafe des Artistes, where I had my first sip of champagne, contributing enormously to my fantasy world. I was obsessed by that place, with its brooding beatnik types listening to jazz and smoking cigarettes. It was dark, cool, the place to be and I was hooked. Above all, I wanted to re-create this place.
Since my nomadic inclinations showed no signs of slowing, my parents, in their infinite wisdom, finally got the hint and signed me up for a day school nearby. Once at home, I set about cleaning out the old stables at our house and Club Keller was born, my first stab at re-creating my adored Cafe des Artistes. We served cola and sandwiches. I had a radio and entertained local friends with music and by playing drums.
At 15 I knew I wanted be a drummer and, with my father's blessing, I flew the nest.
My first job was playing with my band, The Cheynes, at London's Mandrake Club, which in its heyday used to host the likes of Liz Taylor and Eddie Fisher. But when I had my nightly residency there, the only remains of that once-thriving scene were the yellowed, celebrity-signed portraits which adorned the walls.
Still, it was a club, in a basement, thick with intrigue and underground seediness.
Today I own Fleetwood's, my lifelong dream realised as a combination restaurant/club in Lahaina, Maui (where I live when I am not touring). We have fabulous, rooftop dining and a stage. People come to enjoy great food and music.
I play there often with my friends and part-time residents of the island, Steven Tyler and Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top and Willie K, a local talent.
I love it when people have a good time and enjoy themselves; it reminds me of those long ago days at Club Keller.
By the way, although I never stopped following my boyhood dreams, I let the "doctor" thing go.
I soon learned that there are plenty of other ways to get to see naked women!
Mick Fleetwood Goes His Own Way: The Marquee Club
IT WAS 50 years since The Beatles first played the Ed Sullivan Show, and 50 years since the Marquee Club shaped and changed the course of my life.
It was there I made life-long friends, saved sweethearts and survived fights. It was there I went from complete obscurity to learning the tools of my trade from the musical masters of our time.
The Marquee was the jewel of the London clubs. All the musicians wanted to play there. It was a jazz club until the brilliant, groundbreaking management of John Gee, who guided its metamorphosis into the seminal rock and roll/rhythm and blues club whose influence is still relevant today.
I have a first, stomach-turning memory of playing the Marquee with my band The Cheynes. We had no following and it was a miracle to have been asked to back the legendary blues star Sonny Boy Williamson. This giant of a man played a tiny harmonica and dressed in the coolest suits, all mismatched fabrics in wild designs. We had studied his albums and learned his every note by heart to prepare for this honour.
On the night Sonny Boy went totally off book, dropping into the middle eight at different places. We just didn’t get it and kept trying to play the song the way we had learned it. We even tried to correct him by corralling him back to the way the song was supposed to go.
This did not go over well. He stopped playing in mid-song and bawled us out in front of the audience for not following his lead, not listening or watching for his signals.
The Marquee Club relocated to Wardour Street, where I saw the greats: Zoot Money and Cyril Davies, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, the Stones, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Mick Taylor, The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues, John Mayall And The Bluesbreakers just to name a few. So many screaming fans, crammed into that tiny sweatbox!
Early Fleetwood Mac was actually banned for a time from playing the Marquee. We were opening for John Mayall And The Bluesbreakers. Jeremy Spencer and I had a running joke at every gig involving a sex toy (that we had named Harold) which would be ceremoniously hung on the top of my bass drum for the duration of the show.
People loved Harold but one night, Jeremy appeared on stage with Harold dangling out of his trousers! Suffice it to say that we were severely reprimanded and Harold would never again make an appearance at the Marquee. (Harold’s showbiz life came to a crashing end at an American Southern Baptist college, where we were very nearly arrested for his performance. Poor Harold was too much for them and, much to my wife’s chagrin, he ended his days on show, sitting on our pine corner cabinet).
It’s a funny thing, going back to an iconic place to commemorate the fact that something great happened there.
I remember walking into the Marquee on a rainy day in the early 1980s like a ghost, wandering through a unique moment in time. I was there at the club’s inception and became a part of its history. This was where I came up the ranks, this was where I met John McVie, this was where the rhythm section of Fleetwood Mac was born. I hold it in my heart with utmost gratitude.
Mick Fleetwood Goes His Own Way: Dreams of Vinyl
CALL me retro but I still love records. I have great memories of shopping for vinyl, playing amazing albums, listening to records with friends, trading music and discovering new sounds.
Records have always been a huge source of inspiration. To me there is nothing better than looking at the cover artwork, reading the liner notes and taking in the album’s entire experience.
The way they master music today, much of the integrity of the sound – the emotion and subtlety – is lost. Fleetwood Mac records have an organic sound that is more comfortable to the human ear. At least to mine!
I love listening. I am a great listener, although perhaps a few of my exes might not agree! But I repeat, I am a great listener. Being a drummer, I am well trained to listen. I am not playing a melody but listening to see where the beats come in, that is my skill. My hearing is sharp, acute, first rate.
When we were in the last phases of making the Rumours album, it dawned on the band that all that listening, playing, singing and writing, all that heartache and pain, time and poetry, was just sitting there on two reels of tape, totally vulnerable.
We realised that anything could happen to it. Of course, we never had a hard drive to back it up like you do now. It could all have been lost in an instant.
All kinds of what if? paranoia flooded our brains. What if there was an earthquake, a fire? What if a giant magnet came down from outer space and wiped out half of our reel? We made contingency plans and had copies made of the multi-tracks. Those we had locked up in a bank vault in Phoenix just to be safe.
We were like expectant parents with that album. We went so far as to accompany our “baby” to the “delivery room” and watched the first pressing of Rumours at the pressing plant. We stayed for hours, checking and rechecking to make sure the sound had kept its integrity.
We even hired an engineer whose only job was to watch over the quality of our sound. We were that protective.
My ears miss that analogue sound. Most people have no idea that what they are hearing on a daily basis is actually digital sound, or that digital sound has no sound waves, no high fidelity. All that compressing, in my opinion, takes a lot of the traditional dynamics out.
Fleetwood Mac released a full box set of vinyl recently and I know I am not alone in my fanatical audiophile ways. I just picked up a small, portable record player sold by Jack White’s Third Man Records. This record player actually has great sound.
I use it on the road so I can pacify my demanding ears and I have a lot of fun with it. At home I have a Thorens deck to play my beloved vinyl.
Did you know that you can actually play the gold ones, too? This, I discovered, after some hullaballoo in the late Seventies when people were complaining that their Rumours albums were not actually playing the album they had bought but a Frank Sinatra record instead.
I remember popping my gold record out of the frame to see what all the fuss was about. Sure enough, there was old Frankie Boy crooning away and my gold record spinning on the record player. Ironic after all the care we took at the pressing plant! I guess someone on the assembly line had gone to sleep on the job.
Of course Warner Brothers stopped the press but, hands down, I bet that Frank Sinatra/Fleetwood Mac album may be one of the most collectable we put out. Meet our precious baby, Frank. Isn’t he cute?