Fleetwood Mac, Behind The Mask, 1990
People either do not know this album – or they’ll tell you they wished that it never existed. But I reckon it’s, maybe ironically, the closest Fleetwood Mac came to ever sounding like an updated Rumours – ironic because, for a start, Lindsey Buckingham had left the band at this point. And in a move that possibly went on to become a legal precedent the band chose not one but two guitarists to try to replace him.
Behind The Mask features, I think, several gems. Maybe the only song you do know from this is Save Me – which is yet another tremendous Christine McVie song.
Christine is doing the heavy-lifting again, in the way she did when the band’s first guitar hero walked out two decades earlier. Her contributions here are better than anything on her solo records, as good as many of her moments on the band’s 1980s albums and there’s something of the overall sound of Rumours to me. Almost.
This is a 1990 album. And it sounds like a 1990 album.
A weird space where we were still in the 1980s but no-one thought to mention it. No one really knew what the 90s was going to be until at least 1992. The way it is with any decade. But yeah…
Where Fleetwood Mac had managed to be cool and interesting and “good” in the 1980s – something that wasn’t easy for a lot their contemporaries that started in the 1960s and 1970s it seemed the world didn’t want to care about them in 1990.
Billy Burnette and Rick Vito were good – and had done great work before and after this but no one seemed to care about them being in Fleetwood Mac. They both did strong work here. But no. It wasn’t the time to care about Fleetwood Mac.
But I’m saying all this because I bought this album when it came out. And in 1990 I was still absorbing everything the band had done up to this point, its Peter Green highpoints, the Buckingham/Nicks era and the in-between years.
I like Fleetwood Mac’s in–between years. I could make a case for any album they did between 1970-1974 (a busy period with their most line-up changes). I not only dig this one, from a similar time of tumult, but its eventual follow-up album in the Mac chronology, 1995’s Time. By then Vito and Burnette were long gone and another one-album-only Fleetwood Mac line-up was in place.
I don’t love these albums as much as the stone(d)-classics. But sometimes I feel like I love them more.
Of course all of this occurs, in my world, on the back of watching the 1988 TV documentary, Fleetwood Mac at 21. I lost count of the number of times I watched that film – ages ago. But I know I’ve seen it more than any other music doco, more than any other movie. I was obsessed with it. In turn it fueled my obsession with Fleetwood Mac.
What a fucking letdown this had to be – this album – to almost any and all FM fans. They would have hated it. All of that interesting stuff, all captured on record and in a film. And then this. A new album without Lindsey and with two randos in his place.
I dunno. I was just young enough. A music fan. Learning. And interested. I was excited about the chance to hear brand new music by my new favourite band. And so that’s how I hear Behind The Mask now when I put it back on (only ever now and then of course).
I hear Stevie killing it on Freedom and I dig the Vito/Burnette country/skiffle of When The Sun Goes Down (which would have been more at home on a Travelling Wilburys album than any Fleetwood Mac album) and I just remember the joy I had in discovering this record. In finding it. And adding it to my collection. New music by my new favourite band. And a new version of my new favourite band! That seemed cool and exciting and interesting too.
And I soon felt like I was one of the only people in the world ready to give them a chance. I still feel like I’m always ready to give this version of the band a chance.
I doubt they’ve ever played anything from the album live after the tour to support it. This line-up imploded. And the band would stay silent for half-a-decade. One quick change in direction after this. And then the classic line-up came back for a quarter-century of sporadic world-touring.
Am I going to tell you that, actually, Behind The Mask is a good album? No. It’s probably quite crap. It has to be shitty. Because it’s in this line-up. I’m choosing to write about it here. But do I love it? Fuck yes! I love it a great deal!
Shit That’s Good! Crap Albums I Love is an occasional series here at Off The Tracks