Paying tribute to Fleetwood Mac legend, Christine McVie
Plus, a rundown of the books, TV, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency
Sunday 4 December By Matt d’Ancona
It was no accident that Bill Clinton chose Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop’ as his 1992 presidential campaign song. The track was perhaps the greatest anthem of collective optimism cherished by the Boomer generation. It was also one of the most famous songs written by Christine McVie, who died on Wednesday, aged 79.
Joining the band in 1970, McVie helped, as keyboard player, vocalist and songwriter, to oversee its transition from bluesy roots to a stadium-friendly embrace of soft rock. Precisely when Fleetwood Mac seemed to be on the point of imploding – torn apart by emotional crises and drugs – her professionalism helped to capture all the lightning in the bottle that became the classic 1977 album Rumours (which has sold at least 40 million copies to date).
Sadness overnight at her passing was matched by a celebratory argument over which of her many songs was the greatest: ‘Little Lies’, ‘Everywhere’, ‘You Make Loving Fun’, or ‘Songbird’? It was noticeable, too, that tributes were paid by younger bands such as Haim as well as McVie’s bandmates and contemporaries.
‘I enjoyed the storm,’ she said in June of even those most tempestuous times with the band. ‘Even though I am quite a peaceful person, I did enjoy that storm.’
RIP Christine McVie (12 July 1943–30 November 2022).
Here are this week’s recommendations:
Tulsa King (Paramount+)
Sylvester Stallone has never quite recovered from being rejected as an extra in The Godfather – and though Rocky Balboa was nicknamed the ‘Italian Stallion’, he has never been cast in a mob movie. Now, at last, aged 76, he has been granted his wish – albeit on the small screen. In the 10-episode series Tulsa King, New York capo Dwight Manfredi is finally released from prison after 25 years – only to be told by the bosses that his services are no longer required in the big city and that he is being exiled to the sticks to see what he can squeeze out of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Stallone brings real wit and humanity to the role of Dwight: in episode three, he is forced (having been in jail for so long) to take a new driving test and, just as things are going well, is shot at by a balaclava-clad assassin in another car. The scene quickly becomes a superb slice of action comedy, as bullets fly, cars crash and the bewildered examiner gibbers at Stallone’s side. It’s been quite a wait since that Godfather snub – but it looks as though it was worth it.
Life’s Work – David Milch (Picador)
The man who founded the golden age of prestige television in which we are lucky enough to live is not Aaron Sorkin, David Chase, David Simon or Vince Gilligan, but a former teacher of English at Yale University called David Milch.
Having written a script for Hill Street Blues in 1982, Milch, who is now 77, embarked upon a spectacular career in television and, as co-creator of NYPD Blue and the genius behind Deadwood, showed that the medium could still reconcile the sublime imperatives of art with the pressures of the mass market.
Television, according to Milch, ‘searches you out, and finds out what you’re capable of, or what you’re willing to settle for. Working in the medium requires an exotic combination of bravery and imagination – when you have a good imagination it can be very difficult to be brave.’ His own life has been one of picaresque adventure, addiction, recovery and a mesmerising capacity to capsize genres and fill them with astonishing artistic ambition (most fans of Deadwood probably don’t realise that much of it is composed in iambic pentameters).
Though now sadly afflicted by Alzheimer’s, he has written a book that is both a gripping account of a life lived to the full and a call-to-arms to those who still believe (as they should) that contemporary popular culture can scale extraordinary heights.
This Is What I Mean – Stormzy
The soulful introspection – the mellow vulnerability – of Stormzy’s third album may come as a surprise to some; but not those who have been listening. There has always been a poetic emotionalism to his music, however powerful the grime beat in which it is wrapped, and recurrent references to his faith.
From the wonderful opening track, ‘FIre + Water’, This is What I Mean explores the borderland between spirituality and the broken heart. There are still plenty of sharp allusions to the world outside the studio on Osea Island in Essex: to Michael Gove; to the Duchess of Sussex (‘please leave Meghan alone’); to Partygate (‘We got champagne bottles for them boys at Number 10’). But, by design, this is a more contemplative album than its platinum-selling predecessor, Heavy Is the Head (2019).
Approaching issues of isolation, mental health and encounters with despair with candour, he also recruits a wealth of talent to the project, enhancing a record that manages to convey both solitude and joyful communion. Stormzy’s first torch album, and his best to date.
Don’t forget to send in your own recommendations for Creative Sensemaker to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for now.
Enjoy the weekend and take care of yourselves.
Editor and Partner