20 years ago, Fleetwood Mac released a song that proved they still had it 1 month ago

20 years ago, Fleetwood Mac released a song that proved they still had it

'Something in you brought out something in me that I've never been since.'

Stevie Nicks may have insisted that Say You Will was largely inspired by a Cuban-American trumpet player, but anyone that knows Fleetwood Mac and the characters involved will tell you another story.


By 2003, Fleetwood Mac had not released a studio album in eight years and had not featured Lindsey Buckingham on a full record since 1987's Tango in the Night. The main members of the band were all in their 50s and Christine McVie, who was about to turn 60, had left the band, citing a fear of flying.

Although there had been some real musical peaks in their three 1980s albums - notably Little Lies, Seven Wonders, Sara, Hold Me and Gypsy - the band's true pomp was the mid 70s [the Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums]. However, there was enough encouragement from a live album release, and tour, to suggest an appetite for new music was there.

The Dance, which premiered on MTV and was followed with an arena tour, was wildly successful and bled into a 20-year anniversary of Rumours. McVie was involved in that production but stepped away after that and would not return for another 16 years.

Following on from that Rumours reunion buzz, the band started to consider a new album in the early 2000s but it took a while to get there. Nicks was off working on a solo record that would become Trouble in Shangri-La, but she left parts of 17 songs [lyrics, ideas, melodies, half-formed compositions] with her band-mates to kick around and develop. They ended up getting five finished songs out of that, including the title song, and leaned on Buckingham for the rest.


As they had so often done over the years, it was the push-pull-powderkeg of the Buckingham and Nicks relationship that would inspire the album's title track, a song that proved they still had it.

Fleetwood Mac Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac pose for a portrait, in 1977. And (right) Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham perform together in 2003. (Credit: Getty Images)

Fleetwood Mac: Creativity through personal chaos


To this day, the band Fleetwood Mac has released 17 studio albums. There are, however, a whole heap of Fleetwood Macs around. The line-up many of us associate with the band [pictured below] only recorded five studio albums together.

Fleetwood Mac sprang into existence back in 1967, led by Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood and, soon after, permanently joined by guitarist John McVie. By the time Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were co-opted into the band, there had been nine line-up changes in eight years.

Buckingham and Nicks brought a tonne of creativity, musical talent and magnetism to the band, and two sensational studio albums were put together and released in just under three years - Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. The band went from jobbing musicians with decent tunes to global superstars, selling tens of millions of albums, going on world-wide tours and picking up a stack of awards, and critical acclaim.

In the middle of it all, the marriage of band-mates Christine McVie and John McVie fell apart and the tempestuous relationship shared by Buckingham and Nicks severed. Fleetwood, who was married to Jenny Boyd at the time, began an affair with Nicks in 1977. There was drama at every turn.


Drugs and alcohol were tossed into the mix, too, with major parties going on in the studios and nearby accommodation during epic, bleary recording sessions. Nicks and Buckingham have both written about that period of life as being a haze, with many moments in there they half remember and fully regret. It made for personal toil and tumult, but inspired a creative outpouring the band would only fleetingly reach again.

Over the years, though, the band would return to the Buckingham and Nicks relationship, and that wistful want for days gone by. The 1982 song Gypsy, written by Nicks, is her pining for simpler times when she was an aspiring musician, dating Buckingham, with life full of promise, penny-pinching and second-hand clothes. In 2009, she said:

"In the old days, before Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey and I had no money, so we had a king-size mattress, but we just had it on the floor. I had old vintage coverlets on it, and even though we had no money it was still really pretty… Just that and a lamp on the floor, and that was it - there was a certain calmness about it. To this day, when I’m feeling cluttered, I will take my mattress off of my beautiful bed, wherever that may be, and put it outside my bedroom, with a table and a little lamp."

Fleetwood Mac Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie pose for a group shot in Australia, in 1975. (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

Fleetwood Mac go back to what they do best

Some of the best ever Fleetwood Mac songs are when the band members were writing about their own, complicated relationships, often with each other.

Sara, for example, is a song that was originally 16 minutes long and extremely personal to Stevie Nicks, before being cut down to just over six minutes for the album, Tusk. "It's about myself, and what all of us in Fleetwood Mac were going through at the time," Nicks explained, in 1990. "The true version of that song is 16 minutes long. It's a saga with many verses people haven't heard."

I often find it bizarre and fascinating that these people could all go into the studio, and up in front of thousands on the stage, and perform such wonderful music that dips deep into their own personal trauma, love affairs, spats and heart-breaks. It is almost as if each gig was a therapy session. Reality becomes unreal through sharing it over and over and over again.

For Say You Will, the two peaks of the album are those highly personal and auto-biographical Thrown Down - although this version of the song is much richer, and better - and the title track. This is the Fleetwood Mac that many of us recognise and admire - catchy, bit of a country edge, sweeping and with great lyrics.

"That song is not just about Lindsey," Nicks told Performing Songwriter Magazine, on the year of the album's release. The pair had got back with each other on a few occasions, down through the years, and despite all the flare-ups - public and private - they just couldn't seem to quit each other. Crucially, they both were reminders of better times, back in their 20s when they were just finding their feet in the world.

'Something in you brought out something in me, that I've never been since.

'That part of me that was only for you, that kind of romance.'

Nicks claimed the song was also inspired, in part, by the musician Arturo Sandoval but the overriding sentiment is trying to capture that sense of better times and just cutting loose together.

By going back to what they did best, and tapping into that incredible inter-personal drama within the group, Fleetwood Mac scored their biggest studio album hit in 21 years. With Christine McVie featuring on two of the album's tracks, it was a success for that quintet that drove the band to their highest heights.

That album was also the final one the band would make in the studio, for now anyway.

Christine McVie passed away in late 2022, left a huge chasm and had Buckingham pay tribute to a 'musical comrade, a friend, a soul mate, a sister'. "Though she will be deeply missed," he wrote, "her spirit will live on through that body of work and that legacy."

It truly was the end of an era but, as Buckingham stated, the music lives on.

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