Nearly 40 years ago, writer Sam Graham began work on a book about the suddenly very hot rock group Fleetwood Mac. He spoke with each of the five musicians -- Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks -- and accompanied them to some gigs in suburban Detroit. His book, Fleetwood Mac - The Authorized History, was published in 1978.
Graham's work didn't turn out to be quite as successful as that of the band, whose Rumours album, released in 1977, has sold in excess of 40 million copies. A few years ago, around the time of the 35th anniversary of that landmark record, he began rummaging around in his basement to see if he'd kept any of the materials he'd gathered all those years before.
Graham, whose work I had the privilege to edit when he served as an editor and columnist for Record World magazine from 1977-'82, says, "Hopes weren't high, as I am neither a hoarder nor much of an archivist, but it turned that I'd held on to a surprising amount of stuff -- enough, I figured, to combine into something that would be a lot more colorful and entertaining than simply a rehash of what I'd written years earlier."
The possibilities for an interactive, multi-media eBook inspired Graham, with designer-illustrator Kirsten Huntley's help and expertise, to put together a 42-page eBook, Before the Beginning: A Personal and Opinionated History of Fleetwood Mac.
The text is new, though parts were adapted from Graham's earlier tome.
What makes the package extra special are the added features, including 31 audio clips, most of which feature the band's current configuration -- the same one that recorded Rumours. Former members Jeremy Spencer and the late Bob Welch, and their first producer, Mike Vernon, also weigh in.
The book also contains images that can be enlarged by clicking or tapping, and several galleries with letters and other documents that readers can enlarge and scroll through.
It's no bulletin that plenty of people -- like the local L.A. news anchors who breathlessly announced that "the original lineup" was reuniting for a tour starting this autumn - are unaware that there was a Fleetwood Mac before Lindsey and Stevie came along.
But the band has a complex, compelling history -- and Before the Beginning has material devoted to their two very distinct earlier eras: '67-'70, when they were fronted by charismatic guitarist Peter Green and morphed from a blues band into a pop group via the hit singles "Albatross," "Man of the World," and "Oh Well" in England; and '71-'74, a five-album stretch after Green quit, during which time the group struggled to find itself commercially and artistically.
Of particular interest, Graham notes, is a letter from Clifford Davis, Mac's manager in the '60s and early '70s, who, when the real band was on hiatus, took it upon himself to put a bogus Fleetwood Mac on the road, which resulted in years of lawsuits (Davis lost). His letter was accompanied by a cassette featuring Davis himself crooning a couple of Fleetwood Mac songs -- including "Man of the World," on which he removed Peter Green's vocal from the band's original instrumental track and replaced it with his own! An excerpt from this bizarre performance is included in the eBook.
As for the "new" lineup, Graham says, "I'd gotten the gig to write The Authorized History in 1976, the year after the Fleetwood Mac album and the year before Rumours. So 'Rhiannon' and 'Over My Head' had made them stars; they were also starting to get some attention for the internecine romantic turmoil that would inform so much of the new album. But at that point they had little idea of what was in store. Looking back on it now, I have to chuckle at Nicks' remark that 'I never, ever let myself believe that this is forever... I'm adjustable enough that I could go back to being a waitress if this whole thing fell apart.' "
And then there was bassist John McVie's prediction that "this format could happen for maybe another two or three years." Asked why he thought this new lineup was doing so well, he said, "(It)seems to cover things from every angle. Three very strong writers, a well-established and, I hope, well-respected name... And it seems the time was right for a rock band with two girl singers -- a real rock band, not like ABBA or the New Seekers, where the girls act as if they've never seen a tampon in their lives."
During the four decades since Graham began work on his first Mac book, Nicks, Buckingham, and Christine McVie have left and rejoined at various junctures. Three years from now, they'll mark their 50th year as an entity, and John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood have there been since pretty much the first note (there was another bass player on the first couple of singles, but he was soon replaced).
Meanwhile, the Rumours lineup of Fleetwood Mac recently embarked on a reunion tour that recently added enough dates to take them well into 2015.
(Before the Beginning was created via the iBooks Author application, an Apple platform. It can be downloaded through iBooks or iTunes and viewed on Apple computers or iPads.)