It’s raining in London and Christine McVie is at home, enjoying a cup of afternoon tea. Home these days is an apartment in Belgravia – she pronounces it “Bel-gray-vee-yah”, giving it the requisite posh spin – complete with a roof garden well decorated with big pots and tubs. Since her last stage appearance, on February 25, 2020 at the Peter Green tribute concert, McVie has spent more time at home than perhaps she anticipated. There has been Covid, of course, but more recently she’s been at the mercy of a minor back ailment, which has curtailed her activities. Not that this has dampened her spirit, mind. “You get the cortisone in your back and all of a sudden you feel like a spring chicken again,” she laughs, her warm, unhurried delivery undercut with a faint Brummie burr, a gentle reminder of her West Midlands childhood.
Today, though, we are here to discuss Songbird, a collection of material drawn from two albums in her lesser-spotted solo career. Unlike her fellow songwriters in Fleetwood Mac, McVie has always preferred to serve as part of collective rather than manage a parallel enterprise with her name above the door. Part of that comes from a dislike of fuss and unnecessary attention, but she thrives in collaborative situations – even during the early days, playing the Midlands pub circuit as part of a duo with Spencer Davis, or in Brumbeat bands like Sounds Of Blue and Chicken Shack, she found creative equanimity in the company of like-minded players.
When she finally recorded a solo album, 1970’s Christine Perfect – her maiden name – it was well received (she won a second Melody Maker award for Best Female Vocalist), but she’s dismissive about it today: “There’s maybe a couple of good songs on it.” She didn’t release a follow-up for another 14 years.
Whatever she may think of her solo work – some of it later recorded in a studio-cum-pub in her converted garage – her early songs for Fleetwood Mac were critical in helping the band find a way forward following the departure of founder Peter Green. Getting it together in the country during the early ’70s – first at Kiln House and then Benifold, both in Hampshire – McVie and the band’s other songwriters from this period, Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch, took the blues to surprising new places. The albums they made at this time – including Future Games and Bare Trees – capture the band in transition. The arrival of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, meanwhile, pulled the band in yet another direction entirely.