Stephen Pennell ©
When I was too young to know better, I was firmly in the Mel and Kim camp… I’d rather Jack… than Fleetwood Mac. They were seventies monoliths that punk existed to destroy, they wore their hair long and their trousers flared, and millions upon millions of ‘normal’ people liked them. But that was no recommendation to me in those days, when I was determined to never trust a hippy.
Things started to change a few years ago when I saw Shiraz Hempstock live at the o2 Academy in Birmingham, and she did a stunning cover of The Chain, a Fleetwood Mac banger from the Rumours album. I knew Rumours was one of the best selling albums of all time, and decided that, having never heard it, I should investigate further. Johnny Rotten and Joe Strummer had long since stopped dictating my listening habits so I gave it a go and soon realised that I’d heard the album hundreds of times. The songs were so familiar, so omnipresent, I’d heard them all before without actually realising who they were by.
Further delight came when I found out that the writer of some of the best songs on the album was a daughter of Birmingham - Bearwood’s Christine McVie. Vocalist and keyboard player in the mighty Mac, she was an alumni of Moseley School of Art like my dad and half of UB40, and a veteran of Birmingham blues band Chicken Shack, when she still went under the name Christine Perfect.
She was responsible for some of the Mac’s finest and biggest tunes, including Don’t Stop, Little Lies and Everywhere, as well as their ultimate show closer and Christine’s signature tune Songbird. I became quite a fan and was hoping to see them live one day, but that dream died along with Christine last night as she passed away in hospital aged 79. She was gorgeous, multi-talented and a genius songwriter, and fully deserves her place among Birmingham’s greatest musicians and songwriters with the likes of Nick Drake, Joan Armatrading, Kevin Rowland and Stevie Winwood.
Rest in Glory Christine, and thanks for all the wonderful music.