how fleetwood mac taught me the tragedy of love

2:44 PM

9.12.2017




No one told me how awful love was. My parents never really explained that it could paralyze you. Nazareth told me that Love Hurts, J. Geils Band tried to warn me that Love Stinks, but I ignored all of the signs and had to figure it out on my own, the hard way. I was fortunate enough to have a slight glimpse at the fact when I was forced to view a recording of Fleetwood Mac’s reunion concert, formally titled The Dance when I was ten.

My mom, Marian, had this thing with recording any concert on television she could, and then routinely played them on weekend mornings when she cleaned the house. I knew all of the lyrics to Honky-Tonk Woman when I was five because of a Rolling Stones concert she’d taped (with blow up dolls, I might add) and upon my suggestion, we had a few Garth Brooks concerts as well.

I didn’t know who Fleetwood Mac was. I honestly didn’t know a single song or any of their controversial history. Over time I was able to pick up the songs and recognize them before I groggily dragged myself out of bed at ten a.m. Rhiannon was a staple because Marian liked the name, Say That You Love Me had some fun humming in the background and Don’t Stop made me want the tape to break.

On this Saturday morning I had made it into the kitchen before she had hit play. She was standing at her perch, nestled in the corner sucking on her Virginia Slim so that the smoke blew out the window. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and went directly to my notable spot, on the counter on the opposite side of the sink, my back up against the microwave. This is where we had some of our best talks, my feet inside the sink.

We talked about everything and it was good when we weren’t fighting. We had a rather rough relationship growing up but one thing I could always count on Marian for was her passion for rock and roll. She taught me about the Moody Blues and REO Speedwagon, she had so many mix tapes made by bikers she had met that I was able to become fluent in Cheap Trick before middle school. I once came home from school early after a fire alarm went off to her on her hands and knees scouring the kitchen floor to the Carpenters. This was my mom.

After I’d replaced my feet in the sink with my cereal bowl I wandered out onto the couch to inevitably wait for the Fleetwood Mac tape to begin to play. I wrapped myself in this threadbare multi-colored afghan that I loved dearly and I would just sit there lazy while Marian did all the work. She came out, cigarette still in mouth and hit play on the VCR. I rarely woke up before this started so I decided to lay my head back and let it all soak in. I thought maybe this could be an education and I could finally put faces to voices that I’d been hearing muffled in my bedroom for the past several weeks.

I watched the familiar songs and thought Christie McVie was stunning. I remember hearing Landslide for the first time and thinking how hauntingly beautiful Nicks sounded, almost groaning out those final verses. It wasn’t until Silver Springs began that I actively sat up from my horizontal position and focused. I don’t know what possessed me besides the fact that Marian had stopped dusting and I noticed her eyes fixed on the screen as well.

Stevie sang. The lyrics were beautiful and personal and I was ten and had no idea what they were talking about.

“Time casts its spell on you but you won’t forget me. I know I could have loved you but you would not let me.”

Okay, so that sucks for Stevie, but she was pretty, she had options, right? After an incredibly long guitar solo, Nicks started up again and turned her gaze straight to the curly haired guitar player I now know as Lindsay Buckingham...and she growled.

She actually growled at him as she sang these words, over and over. He looked at her and almost growled back. The tension was so strong it was as if I was directly in the middle of their fight and wasn’t allowed to look away, in the same way as when someone in your family starts talking politics at Thanksgiving and no one is allowed to leave the table until your uncle calms down.

I didn’t want to feel that way. I didn’t want to get the look that Lindsay gave Stevie, I knew it meant trouble, even then. It was heartbreaking to watch and I still had no idea of their history, I just knew that something really fucked up had happened and they were forced to sing about it.

“I’ll follow you down ‘til the sound of my voice will haunt you. You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.”

I still get chills when I watch that video, though now it’s a lot more accessible thanks to YouTube. You can’t help but notice the intensity and it’s impossible to not feel uncomfortable, but you absolutely cannot look away. Now that I’m older and have experienced my own broken heart many times over, it all makes so much more sense. I’ve looked at someone that way and I’ve had someone growl back at me. I’ve listened to that song on repeat when in the middle of figuring out my feelings for people and I forced my younger sister Kennedy to listen to Rumors with the Silver Springs B-side when she went through her own struggles. Kennedy also serenaded an empty karaoke bar with her own rendition of the song that brought her to her knees in sadness and my lighter to my hands in unity.

I don’t know what my life would be like without those pained glances and angry words between me and whoever I’m involved with. It may be gut-wrenching, but it also has a sort of beauty to it. When you love someone so strongly that it actually hurts you physically to be in the same room as them, that’s amazing. It may not feel that way at the time, but to have that knowledge, that I loved that deeply, I feel privileged. If Stevie and Lindsay (and pretty much the rest of the band) can survive a reunion tour and perform songs literally written about their entire romance and escape only with a few scathing looks, I can probably survive being dumped and possibly only having to face the person again if we run into each other at the grocery store.

It’s easy to say that Fleetwood Mac is a love story on it’s own, but on that particular Saturday, and with many viewings after, THAT is where I learned that love is horrible and awful and that it’s not worth putting in the effort for. That is, until I fall in love again next time.

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