Tuesday 30 December @ 17:14:10
by Tom Hallett
Ahhh...the very last ‘Round The Dial for 2003, and I’m happy to say what a quick year it was, too. I’m also thrilled that we can, as they say, go out with a bang this time ‘round. Last week’s column about an ancient Fleetwood Mac album (which I thought, frankly, would sorta just slip by most folks in the haze of the holidays—who knew some wankers would be sittin’ around on Christmas Eve obsessing about moldy ‘70s bands? But then agin’, bein’ that I’ve done the same, I shoulda known better) brought the kind of reader’s responses that I sit around all DAMN year waitin’ fer.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I think it’s easier to make somebody mad than to make somebody love. And seeing as how hate is the absolute negative of love, if you can evoke hate and it’s really there, you can polarize it, and then you could really have love.”
—Frank Zappa, 1967
SONG OF THE WEEK: “Trouble”
You know the kind—the author of the letter hasn’t REALLY read the column he/she’s writin’ in to bitch about, and, like as not, is usually less educated, less witty on, and generally less informed about the subject at hand than they’d like to believe. Man (and I’ve said this many times before), it’s like shootin’ frickin’ fish in a barrel.
Our most verbose whiner this week was John (no last name), who wrote in to complain that I hadn’t given the later-era Fleetwood Mac the respect he thought they deserved, even though I was writing a column about an EARLIER version of the band. Talk about missin’ the point.
Let me clarify here (before more Johns reach for their pens or mouses) that I totally encourage intelligent, informed responses to this column—I’ve learned more by making mistakes than I ever have by gettin’ it right the first time. And I’m more than willing to admit when I’ve made an error or misled my readers in any way. Hell, when you hang your ass out in the wind for over 200 weeks with a column like this one, you better be able to take a little constructive criticism from time to time, or just get the hell outta the biz. So I’ve taken my lumps when I’ve deserved ‘em, and hopefully I’ve become both a better writer and a better person for it.
But when I get letters from readers who are obviously not only total assholes but WRONG about the column they’re referring to, I just have to pull out the old verbal shotgun an’ start takin’ aim into the barrel.
The Fleetwood Mac column is the perfect example of this. My inimitable little letter-writer, in his haste to defend the current incarnation of the band, either brushed over or completely missed the pertinent facts in my article. So we’re gonna print his letter here and I’ll (sigh) walk him through the whole thing once more. I doubt he’ll understand, even after getting personal tutoring, but at least I’ll have made the effort. So here we go.
In my review of 1970’s Kiln House album, I made a few comments that, although obviously personal opinions of my own, were taken to be “official” proclamations about Fleetwood Mac. Let me start by saying that I’m not some dried out old hippie who was sittin’ around at the end of the sixties waitin’ for some new sign from the musical gods. I turned 13 the year Rumours went to number one, and THAT’S the Fleetwood Mac I grew up lovin’ the shit outta. I had a crush on Stevie Nicks for a helluva lot longer than I did Farrah Fawcett, The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, or Marianne from Gilligan’s Island. And I NEVER thought Peter Green was cute.
I can remember so many important (at least to me) moments in those years when the ‘Mac really held me together. When my dad remarried a woman with four kids, I remember walking down the beach in Alaska with an old school cassette deck, crankin’ up “Gold Dust Woman” and really, truly, honestly GETTING it. When I bowed to peer pressure and dumped a cute girl I had been seeing in Junior High, she wrote me a letter that was basically the lyrics to “Dreams.” It wasn’t until many years later, when I was dumped by someone else in precisely the same careless manner, that I would completely understand what that girl (and Stevie) meant when she’d written, “Thunder only happens when it’s rainin’/Players only love you when they’re playin’/Say women, they will come and they will go/When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know/You will know...” And boy did I ever.
Christine’s songs always soothed me when I was down. “Oh Daddy” was a great late-night fave, and her keys and vocals were a mighty strength for the band, even when all the attention seemed to be on Stevie and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Oh, and speaking of Lindsey (which I wasn’t last week; the article was on pre-Buckingham/Nicks ‘Mac, but since that’s all John and his fellow ‘Mac-sters seem to want to talk about, here we are), let me say that I think he’s a friggin’ AXE WHIZ!! And a great songwriter, and a kickass vocalist. From “Blue Letter” (on 1975’s self-titled ‘Mac album) right on through to killer solo stuff like “Trouble” (Don’t even get me started on his production/arrangement talents, or how much I dig the shit he and Stevie did with Walter Egan!), I’ve always been a huge fan.
I did say that the later version of Fleetwood Mac put out some albums over the years that were seriously overproduced. Did I say that was something that bothered me? Nope, I sure didn’t. Frankly, I would never have known they were overproduced if I hadn’t later developed a taste for artists who needed NO PRODUCTION at all, like The Carter Family, Leadbelly, and Doc Watson. But that’s neither here nor there.
Some folks love the shit outta super sugary pop rock (I’m one of ‘em) and others can’t stand it.
And let’s be honest—the two best ‘70s ‘Mac albums wouldn’t have been shit if they HADN’T been overproduced—get over it, kids. I also said I thought that many of the band’s ‘70s and ‘80s stuff was—and IS—massively overplayed by radio. And although John and his ilk are loathe to admit it, Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits have been played on the air so many times that they might as well be advertisements for retiring yuppies or background music to grow your plants to.
Sure, there are moments when “Sarah” or “Tusk” sound pretty fuckin’ cool, but do we really EVER need to hear “Don’t Stop Thinkin’ About Tomorrow” again? Ever? Nawww.
And finally, I mentioned that the band is not the same driving, creative force it was in its hit-writin’ heyday. I don’t think that’s a monumental announcement to anyone, least of all to the band members themselves. And there’s nothing wrong with that—almost all of my current favorite songs by other bands will never get within a country mile of a radio playlist, and that doesn’t take anything away from ‘em for me.
But each to his own, I guess. Remember that, John.
And now, without further ado, here’s my loveable little letter-writer, with my commentary in parentheses. I hope you all enjoy, and feel free to write in yourselves if you have anything to add. Me, I gotta get locked an’ loaded here ...
From John with no last name:
Some amusing stuff, but you’re a total jackass for dissing and dismissing the Nicks-Buckingham-McVie FM as overproduced trash.
(Like I said above, Johnny, you cannot deny the massive coat of honey on top of the most famous Fleetwood Mac albums of the ‘70s, but I didn’t say that was a bad thing, or that I didn’t dig the shit out of it. I did say they put out some crap-ola in the ‘80s, and I’ll stand by that statement. Also, like anybody else, I CAN be a total jackass, but I don’t think pointing out overproduced albums qualifies as one of those moments.)
Actually, they’re probably the finest, most influential band in the post-Beatles era—do I have to tell you about the Billy Corgan, Courtney Love, Casper Van Beethoeven, et al hosannas for the Mac?
(Wow. Where to start with THAT obviously well-thought-out little barb? Hmmm. Well, your first comment is a lot like the comments I made that you called me a jackass for writing last week. OPINION. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just have a hard time with folks who have big opinions but somehow think nobody else is entitled to their own. Is that how you are about everything, John? Secondly, no. No, you DON’T have to tell me anything about Billy Corgan (ho-hum) or Courtney Love—do you really think ANYBODY cares who Courtney claims as an influence? Especially since her biggest obvious influence is dead and a whole shitload of his lyrics went missin’? Argh. And what up with “CASPER Van Beethoeven”? Jesus, John-John. When you write a letter to the paper, you should at least do a spell check—hell, some computers have ‘em built right in, so you don’t even really have to know HOW to spell to write a letter. Not only did you misspell the name of one of the greatest composers in history, you also fucked up the monicker of David Lowery’s pre/post Cracker outfit, CAMPER Van Beethoven. CASPER is that friendly little ghost you see in them comic books you’re incessantly reading while you play RUMOURS over and over and jag off thinkin’ about Stevie Nicks, J.-man. But back to your wonderful little missive.)
Point is, critics...(I am NOT a critic—fer Chrissakes, man. Do you really think a modern-day critic would write a couple thousand words about a long-lost Fleetwood Mac album from 1970? I prefer to think of myself as a lucky music lover with a weekly outlet for these stray brain farts I call ‘Round The Dial. So call me a jackass all day, but critic is hittin’ below the belt, pal.)...can think what they want about the band, but composers and musicians have always regarded them more highly than the critics—mostly fat, lame, pretentious, overedcated, (Here we go again, John-a-roonie! Sheesh! Don’t use the word ‘overeducated’ in a sentence unless you know how to SPELL it. It makes ya look really, umm...UNDER-educated. Not to mention stupid. As for the rest, I do have a small beer belly, but my beautiful young girlfriend LOVES it, so there! The rest of me is about average, not fat. Pretentious? Hardly. Pretentious would be an article on why STING’S latest TV commercial is socially relevant. You obviously haven’t been readin’ this column for long, my cranky lil’ buddy. Most of my regulars know that my music collection starts with Abba an’ ends with ZZ fuckin’ Top—about as UN-pretentious as ya can get with a rock n’ roll writer these days. And I’ll tellyew whut—it’s gonna stay that way until I find other favorite bands like Abbracadebbie or ZzzTzzz...As for bein’ overeducated, the day you think you’ve had all the education you need is the day you should just put a plastic bag over your head and tie it off, Johnny.
LEARN, boy, LEARN! It can’t hurt, especially with your atrocious spelling)...talent-free white men...(You can call me talent-free all you like, J-ster, but what makes you think I’m white? That’s a bit presumptious, wouldn’t you say? Actually, I’m proud to be an Irish/Native American mix, but you’d have no way of knowing that from where you’re sitting, would you? Or are you a stalker, John? I thought I noticed a greasy-lookin’ cat in a Stevie Nicks T-shirt followin’ me around a few weeks ago...hmmm.)
...who couldn’t get a Stevie Nicks or a Christine McVie to bed.
(O.K., so that’s it, huh? Why does it always have to come back to sex for guys like John? Why the fuck would I WANT to get Stevie or Christine to bed? I mean, sure, I mighta had some Stevie fantasies when I was 13, but like I said above, J-dawg, I have a GIRLFRIEND. You might wanna try it sometime. Or a boyfriend. Whatever turns your crank. Ya know, Lindsey’s aged quite well ...)
(Yep, you really told me, man. I think I’m jes’ gonna have to give up the writin’ an’ go back to record store clerkin’, where I can help opinionated wankers like you find those CD re-issues of Stevie’s ‘80s albums and be forced to hear you expound on how GREAT the band was at their last Twin Cities concert. Yawn)
Watch what you say about the Mac.
(Is that a threat? Are you challengin’ me? Because if you are, I’ll meet you out in the street at high noon with my copy of Kiln House and your copy of The Dance and we can just watch Jeremy Spencer and Stevie duke it out once an’ fer all.)
They’ll outlast all of you.
(I have no doubt that they will outlast ME, anyway, my little John-a-bug. Writers rarely qualify for any kind of health care, and I’m bettin’ the millions the ‘Mac made left ‘em pretty well cared-for by the medical profession. But hey, good for them—I wish the band no ill will. Just because I didn’t like some of the sappy crap they did in the ‘80s doesn’t mean I want them to DIE. Chill out, ‘Mac-boy! And I don’t know who you mean by “all of you,” lil’ John, but I think you’re operating under the assumption that ALL music writers are in on some grand scheme to undermine Fleetwood Mac, and I gotta tellya, other than myself, I doubt many of ‘em are even givin’ the band a passing thought. Sorry to burst your bubble)
In meantime, listen to Tusk.
(Now that’s the first COOL thing you’ve said, J-rock! Tusk is a GREAT album, not chock fulla hits, but definitely a classic, and done up wonderfully not long ago by—er—CAMPER Van Beethoven. It translates well. Too bad your letter doesn’t do the same, Johnny-John. But thanks for writing—you’ve made my mid-Holidays column real easy to knock out, and I appreciate your opinions, even if you don’t appreciate my right to have my own. Keep readin’, and for God’s sake invest in a thesaurus, man)
And finally, as a special treat for our fun little letter-writer, I’ve included a short list of a few indispensable Stevie Nicks tribute songs no self-respecting latter-period ‘Mac fan should be without:
1) “Not Even Stevie Nicks”—Calexico. From Feast Of Wire, 2003.
2) “Sit On My Face Stevie Nicks”—Rotters. From Cupid’s Revenge: The World’s Most Romantic Punk Songs, 1995.
3) “Stevie’s Spanking”—Frank Zappa. From the album Them Or Us, 1984. (Actually, this song was written for Zappa axe man Steve Vai, but those horny lil’ Stevie Nicks fans can always pretend...)
That’s it for me this time around, girlz an’ boyz—until we meet again, make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or you’re the het-up lil’ letter-writer above and you’d like to cop to the fact that you’re REALLY Lindsey Buckingham, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.