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SONGWRITING

In 1970 we all gave up our flats in London and moved to an old converted oast house in Hampshire. My boyfriend, and later husband, Mick Fleetwood, decided that as Fleetwood Mac’s founding member, guitarist, singer and songwriter Peter Green had left the band, the remaining members, Mick, John Mc.Vie, Danny Kirwin and Jeremy Spencer, plus their girlfriends/wives should all live together under one roof for the summer. It was Mick’s way of keeping the rest of the band in tact as well as giving them the opportunity to come up with new songs for their next album and up-coming U.S. tour.

With the absence of Peter the song writing now rested firmly on the young shoulders of guitarist, Danny Kirwin. I would often hear Danny playing his guitar and singing in the rehearsal room. His melodies were catchy and his melodic voice would reverberate around the house, endlessly singing La, la, la, la as he struggled to find words to each new song. John McVie’s wife, Chris, came to me one afternoon as I was sitting quietly in my room. “We need to write a song,” she said, obviously having heard from Mick that I enjoyed writing poetry. “Let’s do it together.” She brought in a pen and paper and between us, we came up with the lyrics and melody to ‘Jewel eyed Judy, a song that later appeared on their ‘Kiln House’ album.

Even though I had written poetry over the years this was the first time I experienced the merging of lyrics with melody. Although we came up with the words together, I’m sure it was Chris who created most of the tune. Even so, it was my first collaboration in songwriting and I loved it.

Chris joined Fleetwood Mac just before that U.S. tour, which gave a much-needed boost to the band. On their return the band plus wives and girlfriends moved to a large house in Hampshire where we continued to live as a commune. Danny ‘s wordless melodies and his la, la, la, la’s continued to waft out of the rehearsal room accompanied by his wailing guitar. One day he approached me, and, in his shy, nervous way, told me he’d heard I wrote poems and asked if he could see them. I was thrilled. No one had ever asked if they could see my poems! He picked out one called, Purple Dancer and turned it into a song.

It meant so much to me, hearing my poem put to music and to hear Danny singing it in the house and later on stage. It was recorded on the ‘B’ side of a Fleetwood Mac single.

A year or so later we moved to LA, John, Chris, Mick and me with our children, where we met two incredible songwriters, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who, together with Chris, created songs that made Fleetwood Mac world famous! Obviously, finding myself surrounded by the cream of the crop, the thought of songwriting didn’t enter my mind, and only then, many years later, when I wrote a book about musicians and their creative process.

The flame having never really died, recently motivated me to join a singing/songwriting group facilitated by a wonderfully inspiring musician, singer and songwriter, Sarah Warwick. One-day-a-month throughout most of the year culminated in each one of us creating our own song and recording it in a studio. I sang into a microphone for the first time in my life as a multi-talented musician played the backing track in another room. Even though it wasn’t the sexiest of songs, being one of protest, it mattered to me and I felt a strength to my core as I sang every word.

I had been in countless studios over the years, especially in the control room when Fleetwood Mac were recording their albums. Being a witness to their creative process was inspiring and very moving, and yet, I found, there is nothing as exciting as coming up with ones own lyrics, melody, and not only that, but actually singing and recording your own song, a song that is mine and deeply personal to me.

A SENSE OF COMMUNITY

I look out of the window on my way to visiting my niece in Devon. The London skyline gradually gives way to tall ancient trees and green fields with cattle and sheep grazing peacefully. The pastoral landscape is gentle. I breathe in deeply even though I know the windows in the train are tightly shut. I want to ingest this cool green vista, get it deep into my lungs before I allow myself to revisit thoughts of red scorching flames, raging fire with black and grey smoke eating its way across the hills and mountains towards the Ojai Valley where my daughter and granddaughter have their home. I feel as though I have a cold, heavy stone sitting deep inside my diaphragm, stopping me from becoming paralysed with fear. I look at the screen on my phone, sitting, waiting on the table in front of me, and again I see photographs of red and orange flames devouring land. It is very frightening and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this uncontrollable fire that in two seconds can bring a home filled with memories, love, and everyday life down to ashes. A loss that must be so devastating, that only a reminder that the most important things in this world is that our loved ones are safe. “At least they’re safe,” I tell myself over and over like a mantra as I think of my daughter and granddaughter, hoping beyond hope that their home is still standing when they come back after the fires have subsided and the animals are safe. I think of them now, tucked up in a strange bed, staying with friends close to Carpentaria having been evacuated from their home as the fire raged closer towards them. Everyone was taking their horses, dogs, cats, chickens, rabbits and whatever possessions they could lay their hands on in the shortest time allotted to them, just in case. And how must that feel; just in case? I scroll down the posts on Instagram trying to glean more information. Someone has posted a reminder to keep pets safe indoors but to leave water outside for the scared and thirsty wild animals. A wave of sadness takes hold of me at the thought of the terrified animals running for their lives amidst the blazing forest. Another post praises the courageous firefighters, asking people to donate freshly baked cookies for them. Replies to the streams of photo’s tell members of the Ojai community to be safe, replies that tell the unfortunate people who have lost their homes that their hearts are with them, their love, their prayers. I have witnessed first hand over the years while visiting my family the sense of community that takes place in this spiritual oasis. It is a rare gem; a valley with mountains on the horizon, mountains that last time I was there, earlier this year, were covered in wild flowers, yellow and purple and fresh grass, a result of the rains earlier in the year. I look at my phone again, reading more of the replies and seeing more of the photographs. This is the positive side of social media; hundreds, thousands of voices that are there, reminding those who feel scared that they are not alone. My stomach tightens as I read the weather forecast for the following day, that the winds are expected to be even stronger, possibly 80mph. I know what that means; it will wipe out the whole valley. I, amongst others who had also read the news, pray for a miracle because that’s what it will take. And that’s what happened the following day – It was a miracle. The predicted 80mph winds did not materialize, winds that would have blown a wild and ferocious fire throughout the valley, leaving behind devastation, did not happen. There was no wind that day.

THE APPLE BOUTIQUE 1967

I was offered a job in the Beatle’s new Apple Boutique, which opened fifty years ago this month, on December 7th‘67. The Beatles asked four friends of theirs, known as The Fool, to design a mural for the outside of the building. The Fool consisted of two young couples from Amsterdam. Marijke and her husband Simon, plus Joskje, and her husband Barry.

The Apple shop stood on the corner of Baker Street and Paddington Street, and a month before it opened The Fool and some students painted an enormous mural on the outside wall. A swathe of every colour from the rainbow; planets and stars, swept across the front and side of the building from the ground up to the fourth floor, including the chimney. Nothing like this had ever been seen before! It was shocking and wonderful and attracted all kinds of people to stop and peer through the window. Baker Street, up until this point, was basically 19thcentury conservative and the only thing it was famous for was the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

The publicity and curiosity brought crowds of people into the shop once it opened. Occasionally the Fool would arrive, their arms full of clothes and knick-knacks. Marike usually lead the way looking tall, proud and strong, with her piercing eyes, pale skin and flaming red hair. One behind the other they would stride across the shop floor as the crowds parted and every head turned. Together they looked like wandering medieval tradesmen carrying exotic clothes from the East; cloth from India, beads from Greece, jewelry and shoes from Morocco, and embroideries from second hand stalls. They were the beautiful gypsies in striking coloured clothes, made from velvets, silks and satin. They ignited the imagination of those who had taken LSD, people who could identify with the swirling colors and mystical meanings that surrounded everything they created.

The upstairs of Apple was filled with Indian posters of gods and goddesses, incense, bells, and anything else that was affordable and from the East. Down the creaky wooden stairs customers were greeted by a splash of colour, with every kind of garment hanging on rails in rows across the floor.

There was a lot of interest in the Apple Boutique from the general public, and, because I managed the shop along with John Lennon’s friend Pete Shotten, I was often asked by journalists to describe this new way of thinking that the boutique represented. I was happy to talk about our philosophy; our belief that through love we could change the world and bring colour into people’s lives. We were young, we were idealists and we were innocent, but even so there was more than a grain of truth in what we held onto.

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