Recipients of the Outstanding Contribution To Music BRIT Award reads like a who’s who of music. Since the first BRIT Awards ceremony, in 1977, the honour has gone to stars including The Beatles, The Police, Elton John, Queen, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, David Bowie, Oasis and Duran Duran. In 1998 it was Fleetwood Mac’s turn to be given the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution To Music, and the group gathered in London on 9 February of that year to be honoured in a way that, Stevie Nicks said, “really matters to us”.
The reunion that started it all
Fleetwood Mac were on a high following an eventful 1997. Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, and Christine and John McVie had reunited for two concerts at Warner Brothers Studios, in Burbank, California, at the end of May 1997, from which they culled the material for their US No.1 live album, The Dance. The hugely successful North American arena tour that followed ran from 17 September to 30 November, reaffirming the love that audiences had for the Rumours-era line-up of the group.
The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction
Celebrations continued into the following year. On 12 January 1998, Fleetwood Mac were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, in a ceremony held at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City. The band were inducted by Sheryl Crow and, after speeches, played a short set comprised of the Stevie Nicks-penned Landslide, Lindsey Buckingham’s Big Love and Christine McVie’s Say You Love Me.
The BRIT Awards ceremony
Just weeks later, Fleetwood Mac were in London, preparing to be honoured at the 18th BRIT Awards. The ceremony took place on 9 February 1998, at the short-lived London Arena. Performers that evening included All Saints; Robbie Williams and Tom Jones, duetting on a version of Steve Harley And Cockney Rebel’s glam-era hit Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me); and Spice Girls. The Verve won big on the night, taking home the British Album Of The Year award, for Urban Hymns, and Best British Group, while All Saints bagged the British Single Of The Year and British Video Of The Year awards, both for their chart-topping hit Never Ever. A spot of controversy was almost mandatory for BRIT Awards ceremonies of the time, and 1998 was no exception, as the then Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, had a bucket of water thrown over him by Danbert Nobacon, the drummer of anarcho-punk band Chumbawamba, who had enjoyed an unlikely hit the previous year with Tubthumping.
Fleetwood Mac receive the Outstanding Contribution To Music BRIT Award
As the BRIT Awards ceremony came to a close – and just when things couldn’t get any more 1998 – host Ben Elton was distracted from introducing the presenter of the Outstanding Contribution To Music award by an unscheduled appearance on stage from an enthusiastic Geri Halliwell, who generally just seemed keen to let Elton know he was doing a decent job. Eventually, Elton beckoned George Martin on to the stage, and The Beatles’ producer gave a historically inaccurate but well-meaning speech to introduce Fleetwood Mac.
“Every now and then – and not all that often – in our great music scene a group comes along that knocks everybody by the heels,” Martin said. “I remember in the late 60s, three Brits and two yanks got together to form a group that became one of the greatest rock groups in the world. I loved what they did then and I’m so delighted that they’ve got back together again now, proving that they can do exactly the same now as they did all those years ago.”
The acceptance speeches: “It’s been an incredible journey getting here”
After receiving the Outstanding Contribution To Music BRIT Award, drummer Mick Fleetwood thanked founding member and former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green for starting the band. “I better make a good speech, ’cause I’m dressed like Hamlet,” Fleetwood joked, before continuing, “A short one in terms of what this means to this band, Fleetwood Mac, that was formed way back in 1967 by Mr Peter Green; and thank you, Peter. It’s been an incredible journey getting here – ups and downs. And most of all I think the lesson we’ve learned is that the love for music is something that’s got us through a great deal of turmoil from time to time. And we’re here, we’re alive and well, but most of all really happy, so God bless and thank you.”
Christine McVie followed Fleetwood with a short and heartfelt speech of her own: “We’re usually quite happy to let Mick do all the talking, but I just wanted to thank the BRIT Awards and Great Britain for this great honour, and were so thrilled, we’re speechless. Thank you so much.”
Finally, Stevie Nicks underlined the importance of the award to the band: “And I just wanna say thank you for inviting us to England and thank you for giving us this award. It really matters to us. You’re so special, thank you so much.”
The performance: Go Your Own Way, Don’t Stop
After receiving the award, the road-honed Fleetwood Mac launched into a punky, tempestuous Go Your Own Way, singer Lindsey Buckingham delivering the lyric with a passion that suggested the song’s subject matter – his 1976 breakup with Stevie Nicks – felt as fresh as ever. Almost immediately, the audience were on their feet – a far cry from the staid atmosphere that can often hinder awards shows.
The gutsy, attitude-filled performance suggested that the reunited Fleetwood Mac were not particularly interested in coasting along on an easy victory lap. That was confirmed by a rollicking rendition of Christine McVie’s Don’t Stop, the three vocalists giving the lyrics “It’ll be better than before/Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone” extra emphasis before Buckingham’s thrilling guitar solo ups the energy levels even further.
Christine McVie leaves the group
Though the short set at the BRIT Awards was further proof that Fleetwood Mac could still deliver high-octane performances, and that audiences still adored the group, the high was short-lived. Soon after accepting the BRIT Award for Outstanding Contribution To Music, Christine McVie announced that she would be leaving the band, citing as her reason a fear of flying. McVie subsequently retreated from public life, and Fleetwood Mac went on a brief hiatus, broken when Buckingham initiated a reunion for 2003’s Say You Will, an album on which McVie earned a credit as a guest musician. And still, their story was far from over…
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