I've never been a big fan of New Year's Eve. There's so much pressure to do something out-of-this-world fabulous, not to mention have someone out-of-this-world fabulous to do it with. I remember prix fixed restaurant dinners that weren't worth the money and too-big parties whose forced gaiety made everyone feel tense and champagne hangovers that wrecked me for days. And I remember occasions when my husband was suffering from flare-ups from Crohn's disease and was too ill to celebrate at all.
My favorite memories are of quiet evenings with him and a few close friends, and this past New Year's Eve was a case in point. He was in better-than-usual health and good spirits, so out we went.
Our hosts were Martha and Michael Collins, who had lost their house in the 2008 wildfire that destroyed over 200 homes in the Santa Barbara area. After living in a trailer for four years, Martha and Michael rose from the ashes, literally, and moved last month into the spectacular new house they built on the same site -- a meticulously-crafted beacon of resilience. Some people would have been thrown by the very notion of losing everything (short of the clothes on their backs and their laptops), but Martha and Michael thrived, their marriage and partnership more solid than ever.
We were in the midst of their scrumptious meal when Michael, a filmmaker whose specialty has been chronicling the lives and music of our most accomplished rock 'n' roll artists, mentioned that among the very few material possessions he'd been able to grab before a wall of flames drove him and Martha out of their house was the documentary footage he'd shot 35 years ago of Fleetwood Mac's 1977 Japanese tour to promote their "Rumours" album.
"I'm finishing up the documentary now," he told us.
"The public has never seen Fleetwood Mac like this before," Martha chimed in. "They were so young and it was such an innocent time, and the music is beyond great since they were in their prime."
I put down my knife and fork (not easy when your hosts have prepared a feast that would rival any restaurant), and said, "Can we see this documentary? Like, tonight?"
Michael hesitated. "It's still raw -- a work in progress. But I guess I could show you clips."
I was not taking "I guess" for an answer. Fleetwood Mac has always been one of my favorite bands and on this particular New Year's Eve, when I'd felt barraged by news of Kanye West, the Gangnam Style guy and Rihanna's latest Twitpic, I was so in the mood for a little boomer music.
Michael obliged. We adjourned to the Collins's living room with its 50" flat screen, professional-grade sound system and comfy chairs, and watched avidly as cameras swooped in on the youthful faces of Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Christine and John McVie. (If you liked the close-ups in Les Mis, you'll love this film.)
It's one thing to pop in the ear buds and listen to "Rhiannon" and "Go Your Own Way" on an iPod. It's quite another to see Fleetwood Mac at the height of their powers perform live in concert without pyrotechnics or cutesy crowd cutaways or even the requisite back-up singers. What was on screen was pure, unadulterated rock n' roll, as well as behind-the-scenes sequences of the band between sets. There's a wonderful moment, for example, that juxtaposes a Japanese Kabuki dancer applying makeup with painterly care with Stevie Nicks hastily drawing on her eyeliner before rushing on stage. (Seriously, can you imagine Lady Gaga doing her own makeup?)
Michael's film is still a work in progress, as he explained, but from what I saw audiences will be blown away by it. And not just for some retro thrill. Yes, there's nostalgia for a time when our top recording artists had messy personal lives but didn't make sex tapes; for a time when the biggest selling band in the world took public transportation like the rest of us; for a time when Stevie Nicks had more vocal range than she does now.
But there's a scene in Michael's film that's utterly relevant for today and strongly resonated with me. It's when Nicks holds the camera for "Landslide." She's still in her late 20's, fresh-faced and full-throated, and yet she sings with the uncanny wisdom of an over-50:
"Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you.
But time makes you bolder.
Children get older.
I'm getting older too."
Yup, we're all getting older and there are things about aging that really piss me off, but spending New Year's Eve with cherished friends and a much-loved husband and music that had me bolting up from my chair and dancing like a fool made me grateful to be exactly the age I am.