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Music

How a Fleetwood Mac cover shoot sparked a tempestuous affair

@josephtaysom

The life of Fleetwood Mac in the late 1970s was akin to an outlandish storyline from a Spinal Tap soap opera. They were an incestuous group who lived in a soft rock bubble that left their personal lives in turmoil but gifted the world with one of the finest albums of all time, Rumours. While their relationships were fraught with tension, they’ve always managed to persevere with a glittering career.

At the time of recording the seminal 1977 LP, the band couldn’t have been further apart in their personal relationships. The two couples of the group, John and Christine McVie, were on the brink of divorce and no longer on speaking terms, while Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, former High School sweethearts, could barely look each other in the eyes. The band’s heartbeat, Mick Fleetwood, was hardly having better luck with love, as he found himself battling through a divorce. It was a difficult moment personally but perhaps their crowning achievement professionally.

Somehow, they managed to deliver one of the most widely appreciated albums ever created and a mainstay of any best albums list. Still, the record’s promotion wasn’t any easier than making Rumours itself, and one photoshoot would spark an affair between two members of the group that would ripple through their career.

Annie Leibovitz was the photographer for Rolling Stone that day and later recalled to the publication: “In those days, for photoshoots, you just brought cocaine. I took it out, and they looked a little freaked out at first, but then consumed it in, like, 30 seconds. Then I learned they’d all recently been to rehab. So they were all a little jittery and tense.”

Nicks remembers the photoshoot well and the nervous energy that was in the room before the shoot. The singer recalled to the magazine, “When Annie said she wanted us to lie down together on a big bed, it was like, ‘Hmm, hope you have a backup idea.’ But she said, ‘No, you’re going to look great, this will be fun, have a glass of champagne.'”

Leibovitz’ initial creative vision was to capture the two couples together embracing. However, this was a no-go for Buckingham and Nicks. “For Stevie and me, the wounds and animosities were still very fresh,” Buckingham noted. “So the idea for the photo wasn’t all that funny.”

Rather than spend time in the presence of Buckingham, Nicks had another idea. She recalled: “I said, ‘OK, but I can’t be in bed next to Lindsey.’ So I curl up next to Mick for the next three hours while Annie is suspended over us on a platform. And Christine really didn’t want to be next to John, because they were just divorced.”

Fleetwood later wrote about how the shoot made him realise that he and Nicks had “definitely known each other in previous lives.” Nicks also admitted that the day’s events had “planted the seed for Mick and me, which happened a year later.” Nicks’ relationship with Fleetwood was never a conventional one. The pairing came when the Fleetwood Mac singer found herself painfully lonely despite dating Don Henley.

While on the surface, Nicks and Henley may have appeared as the perfect rock couple, their busy schedules meant that they weren’t much of a couple at all. The situation led to Nicks starting a cocaine-fuelled affair with her bandmate. She later opened up to Oprah about the ‘doomed’ affair, saying they were the “last two people at a party,” and that, “It was a doomed thing [that] caused pain for everybody.”

Fleetwood would later profoundly remark: “We just love each other in the true sense of the word, which transcends passion. I will take my love for her as a person to my grave, because Stevie Nicks is the kind of woman who inspires that devotion. I have no regrets and neither does she, but we do giggle together sometimes and wonder what might have transpired if we’d given that passion the space and time to blossom into something more.”

Both parties can see that their relationship was built on sand, and whilst they have a love for another, it wasn’t true romantic love. Their passionate relationship resulted from their close friendship coupled with crippling loneliness and the spark of rock star living, rather than love. Even though it was a short-lived romantic relationship, they’ve been bedrocks in each other’s lives for over 45 years.

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