“Oh my God! You are well informed,” laughs Mick Fleetwood when I ask about his wooden balls.
Really? I figured it was a standard topic. Fleetwood is, after all, seen displaying the precariously hung pair on the cover of the 10th best-selling album of all time: Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 release, Rumours. In the black-and-white photo, the legendary drummer assumes a Captain Morgan-like stance—toilet chain balls proudly dangling from his belt, a dewy Stevie Nicks draped over his leg.
A few minutes into our conversation, I grasp Fleetwood’s style: effortless, humble, carefully informative and surprisingly unpretentious. He’s gracious with his rolling anecdotes and seems to enjoy telling them with humorous tonal inflections. Take, for example, the history of his wooden balls.
“The original, original ones I do not have—but the ones that I have are very, very old. I won’t say they’re as old as me. But—it starts getting into X-rated commentary here—my balls are quite old.”
Fleetwood confirms that the original pair were “lavatory chains.” Though we’re conversing over the phone, I imagine him pantomiming the vandalism as he narrates: “I came out—and I must admit I had a couple of glasses of English ale—and came out of the toilet with these, I ripped them off the—you know, I was very destructive—I ripped them off the toilet and had them hanging down between my legs.”
As for what happened to those originals—the “juju” good luck charm he never performs (specifically) Fleetwood Mac shows without? “I lost them at a gig,” he says. “Eventually somewhere they got ripped off.” After that, he visited a carpenter to get a replacement set.
“In truth, I started off as a blues player. The whole ethic of a lot of blues music is slightly suggestive, might I say. And suitably, I walked out on stage with these two lavatory chains with these wooden balls hanging down, and after that it just stuck.
“Now that we’ve talked about my balls, let’s talk about the evening we’re going to be having.”
Fair enough. That “evening” would be two upcoming gigs, benefits for Hospice Maui. “It should be a lot of fun and really I’m drawing on players that are part of two bands that I have,” says Fleetwood. “The Mick Fleetwood Band—which is basically The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band. Rick Vito, my old partner from Fleetwood Mac, is gonna be there and Lenny Castellanos on bass and Mark Johnstone. It’s sort of a cross blend—Eric Gilliom and Gretchen Rhodes from the Island Rumours band [and] Barry Flanagan of HAPA, a great friend, incredible vocalist and an unbelievably talented guitar player. They’re people that I’ve met and really admire as players and as singers and as writers here in Hawaii, and I’m vested in that and increasingly trying to become part of [the] rich musical heritage of Hawaiian music.
“I’d love to think that as the years tick by I’m really part of something that can be vibrant and meaningful in terms of being a proper citizen of the Hawaiian Islands,” he continues. “Specifically here on Maui. And that’s the way I’ve always thought, from the time I stepped off the plane, probably about 1973. I just fell in love with being here.”
Even with all his aloha for the Valley Isle, in the midst of a world tour with Fleetwood Mac, two Maui gigs might seem like more work for a man that needs none.
“I’m basically someone that loves to play and perform” says Fleetwood. “So we should have some musical sparks happening—it’s definitely a rocking night, if nothing else.”
Naturally, our chat is heavily influenced by his passion for blues. “Once a blues player, always a blues player,” he says simply. I prod the topic of the digital age of music—his take is that while “the downside is certainly on the business level, things have changed a lot,” creatively and in the industry. Ultimately, he feels it’s been a boost of sorts, and “a reminder that we are blessed as musicians [to] go out and do what we did in the first place. What we have done is go out and play and no one can take that away.”
Fleetwood left school at the age of 15 to pursue a career in music, a move he credits to his “two wonderful parents” who supported both he and his sisters in their pursuit of arts.
One of his sisters provides a link to what I (and any other Trekkie worth the Starfleet emblem on her chest) really want to know about: his guest alien appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
“You want to know how I got that?” Fleetwood laughs. I salivate with anticipation, as if over the gooey vermicula his Antedean character devours in the episode in question, “Manhunt.”
“[A]n agent phoned me up and said we’ve got this little part on The Next Generation,” he says. “And I forget the name of the chap, but the chap with the bald head, was a friend of my sister, the English actor…” he trails with a rare pause.
“Patrick Stewart?!” I pipe with dorky glee.
“Yeah,” says Fleetwood, “he was a great friend of my sister Susan. [They] went to acting school together.
“So I have a beard, as you know,” Fleetwood continues, before I excitedly interject, confessing to knowing all about how he had to shave it off for the full, fish-like makeup and prosthetics.
“Right,” he continues, “so I only had like three or four lines, so I said, ‘Look, you know, I’d love to do it, [but] I’m going to play hardball here: as long as you can guarantee me—I’ve always wanted to beam down or beam up, it doesn’t matter which. So I got to beam down onto the starship and I’m still there, apparently, as the Antedean, on Deck D, in jail.”
So Mick Fleetwood’s alien character is permanently in the brig of the starship Enterprise. And in real life, he’s a down-to-earth dude who, through his decades of cosmic fame and beyond-extensive travel of planet Earth, has come to call Maui “absolutely” home, passionately enough to grace us Mauians with two star-packed gigs amidst his Fleetwood Mac world tour, balls and all.
Speaking of which: “Maybe I should have a couple of coconuts hanging down—who knows?” Anu Yagi, Maui Time Weekly
Upcoming Gigs: Fri., Sept. 11, 9pm at Stella Blues Cafe, Kihei, $25 advance/$30 door, 874-3779; Sun., Sept. 13, sunset at Royal Lahaina Resort, $35 advance/$40 door, 661-3611