Christine McVie got her start in the blues quite suddenly in 1967, with the band Chicken Shack. As a child growing up, McVie studied classical music. The way she described her start in music on the famed BBC’s Desert Island Discs, makes her climb to esteemed member of Fleetwood Mac, seem so effortless and easy. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” she recalled, “A friend of mine was walking past the window of Dickins and Jones one day, and saw me in the window and knocked on the window, so I went out to meet him on my coffee break.
“And he said, ‘You want to join a band? We’re forming a group called Chicken Shack, we need a keyboard player,'” McVie described nonchalantly. Although McVie knew how to play the piano beautifully, she was unfamiliar with the blues. Despite this, she was offered a position in the group. Like any smart muso, the pianist proceeded to get a bunch of blues records and listen to them non-stop. “I stole a few licks here and there and got myself a little library of stuff to play. That’s when I joined Chicken Shack, and god knows, I had no idea where I was going.”
How McVie found her way into Fleetwood Mac, was by opening up for them at various little clubs around London, with Chicken Shack. “I started talking to John and I fell head over heels for him,” she said referring to John McVie, former husband and current bandmate.
Due to conflicting schedules, McVie decided to leave Chicken Shack and retreated to a life of domesticity for a time. She wouldn’t join Fleetwood Mac until original member, Peter Green, while in Germany, “took a tab of acid, and kind of never came back”. When she joined the band, Fleetwood Mac began steering in a different direction; things really took off.
In 1974, Fleetwood Mac sojourned to the States, and this is where they met Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, completing their set. At the time, Mick Fleetwood had said to McVie that their inclusion in the group would, ultimately, be up to her and whether she would get along with Stevie Nicks, because as of up to this point, McVie was the only woman in the band. Luckily, the chemistry between the two would be clearly palpable. “I just thought she was charming and funny. I just remember her sense of humour, which she still has to this day, and I adore her. Plus, Lindsey was the god, he was such a good looking guy, and then the chemistry flowed from there.”
McVie was in Fleetwood Mac as a co-vocalist and keyboard player and was one of their greatest songwriters. Over the years, she has penned songs such as ‘You Make Loving Fun’, ‘Little lies’, and the haunting ‘Songbird’.
In 2017, while on BBC’s Desert Disc Islands, a show that puts you on a fictional but inescapable desert island and asks for the essential luxuries you would take with you, McVie talked about the eight songs she cannot live without. “This one always reminded me of my father,” she began about her first choice. Her father was a concert violinist and “he was often playing Vivaldi,” she added. The fact that she would include a Vivaldi song, the ‘Second Movement of the Four Seasons Number 4 in F minor’, on her list and not start with an obvious pop song, says a lot about McVie as a songwriter. She approached blues and pop music with a classical background.
Her next song wouldn’t follow suit as she paid homage to Fats Domino. “Even when my songwriting style had changed, there’s always been a little bit of that boogie bass, so that’s what that’s all about,” McVie said about her Fats Domino influence. ‘Ain’t that a Shame’ by Fats Domino is McVie’s second choice, and its influence came at a strange time when all she was practising and listening to was classical music.
“My parents bought me this album for Christmas, and it was during Beatlemania. I was one of the Beatlemaniacs. I must have been about 19-20; oh, I played this record until there was nothing left of it,” McVie said about her third choice. ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ by Chuck Berry, performed by The Beatles, was, and still is, a classic. “It was all about the melodies, the songs, the harmonies. The voices were so upfront and crystal clear. I think their use of space was so crucial.”
Her fourth choice is an absolute haunting song and one of the best of the ’60s. Funny enough, it is by one of the original members of Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green, his beautiful song ‘Man of the World’. “This was towards the end of his musical career with Fleetwood Mac. You can hear that, it is kind of a reflective song.”
One of the more incredible aspects of Fleetwood Mac is that, for a time, the band was almost made up almost entirely of two couples, which, around 1975, began falling apart. Despite this, they still recorded their instantaneous hit album, Rumours. The McVies had split, and Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were constantly fighting. The only time they didn’t argue was when they were working on music together, which shows how professional the band really were.
McVie also chose The Beach Boys’ ‘Angel, Come Home’, written by Carl Wilson and featuring Dennis Wilson on lead vocals, who, thanks to his drug addiction, “didn’t make it through the cracks”. McVie revealed the two were seeing each other for a time. When Dennis passed away, McVie retreated from her lavish lifestyle in California and fled back to England. “I wanted everything to be really English,” she said in regards to having had enough of the States. “I had some wild image in my mind that I was going to become some country lady. The complete antithesis of somebody in rock n’ roll. I think I wanted to settle in a nest. Every single band member, collectively and individually, tried to persuade me from leaving.”
Christine McVie left the band and semi-retired from music in 1998.
“When I left the band, I left my ego behind as well,” McVie continued. “People used to ask me ‘are you ever going to go back?’ Stevie used to bend my arm to try and get me to come back.” McVie jokingly said that she would normally reply with “I would rather lick the bottom of my car.”
As if a solemn soundtrack to a sad farewell, McVie picks a sad piece of music for her last choice, ‘Lark Ascending’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams. As a playlist, we’d argue there is no more accurate reflection of an artist than the eight songs selected below: classical, rock, pop and jazz, but all with a timeless class.
You can find her full list below as well as aperfect playlist and the original episode of Desert Island Discs.
Christie McVie’s favourite songs of all time:
- Antonio Vivaldi – ‘Concerto No. 4 in F Minor’
- Fats Domino – ‘Ain’t That a Shame
- The Beatles – ‘Roll Over Beethoven’
- Fleetwood Mac – ‘Man of the World’
- The Everly Brothers – ‘Cathy’s Clown’
- The Beach Boys – ‘Angel Come Home’
- Ralph Vaughan Wiliams – ‘The Lark Ascending’
- Etta James – ‘I’d Rather Go Home