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Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks: How the two friends’ pact helped Fleetwood Mac survive chaos, sexism and cocaine | Culture

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In 1975, when Fleetwood Mac was seeking a new guitarist, Mick Fleetwood told keyboardist Christine McVie that “there’s another girl involved. You’re going to have to meet her and see if you like her.” Lindsey Buckingham, the main candidate for the guitarist position, would only join the British-founded group – then made up of Mick Fleetwood and spouses John and Christine McVie – if his artistic and romantic partner at the time, Stevie Nicks, could participate as well. The drummer’s comment to Christine reflected the clichés and sexism of the music industry at the time. Within an overwhelmingly male-dominated space, the idea that two talented women (both songwriters and singers) who didn’t know each other would share a stage seemed potentially dangerous to some. But that was not at all the case for the women themselves. Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks’s alliance and mutual support as they battled egos and clashes with their soon-to-be exes saved them and the band itself from the chaos that accompanied Rumours (1977). The title of their best-selling album – which made history and sold around 45 million copies – references the many headlines about the band’s romantic dramas and the heavy alcohol and cocaine consumption that defined the 10 months they spent recording in Sausalito, California.

After learning about Christine McVie’s sudden death on November 30, Stevie Nicks took to Instagram to express her grief. “A few hours ago I was told that my best friend in the whole world, since the first day of 1975, had passed away. I didn’t even know she was ill …until late Saturday night. I wanted to be in London; I wanted to get to London – but we were told to wait,” Stevie wrote. Nicks also posted the lyrics of a song that she said had been “swirling around in my head” since she heard the news, “Hallelujah,” the song that Alana Haim, of HAIM, dedicated to her best friend who died in a car accident.

“We met and I instantly liked her. She and I are not competitive in any way at all. We’re totally different, but totally sympathetic with each other. We are dear, dear friends. We don’t have any competition on stage,” McVie told Rolling Stone of her bandmate Nicks in 2014; that was but one of the many compliments the two artists have exchanged in public over the years. “We made a pact, in the very beginning, that we would never be treated with disrespect by all the male musicians in the community. And we really stuck to it. I think we did the pinky swear thing that, if we ever feel like we’re being treated like that, we would just get up and walk out – and we did. We would just say, ‘Well, this party is over for us,’” Stevie told The New Yorker earlier this year.

Barely two years went by between the day the five artists first met in a Mexican restaurant in 1975 and the release of Rumours. In the meantime, they had recorded their first album (Fleetwood Mac, 1975), which began the group’s commercial success and ended their romantic relationships with other bandmembers. By the time they returned to prepare the next album, John McVie, the bassist, and Christine were separating after eight years of marriage. She had begun a relationship with the lighting director who accompanied the band on tour, for whom she wrote “You Make Living Fun”; the song was included on the new album. “When they found out I was seeing him he got fired shortly after – because of it! I didn’t really bring fellas on the road with me after that,” the keyboardist told The Guardian in 2014.

Stevie Nicks (l) and Christine McVie during a recording session in 1975.
Stevie Nicks (l) and Christine McVie during a recording session in 1975.Foto: Getty

Nevertheless, McVie told the same newspaper that her in-studio tensions with John were more manageable than the ones between the group’s other couple, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. She was never “as melodramatic” as her American colleagues, who called it quits during the same period and drifted into a complex love-hate relationship, the tension of which never quite dissipated. In 2018, Lindsey was fired from the band for good. The work of one or the other was featured in hits like “Dreams” and “Go Your Own Way.” Things became even more tense when Nicks and Mick Fleetwood, the drummer, had an affair. Mick Fleetwood had not come out of recording Rumours unscathed, either; around that time, he discovered that his partner, with whom he had just had a baby, was cheating on him with his best friend.

Disappointment and pain mixed with copious amounts of alcohol and cocaine and did not help calm the spirits in Fleetwood Mac, which earned the popular nickname “the rock soap opera.” The recording sessions began at 7pm and lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Taking drugs was the order of the day; it was almost a prerequisite for the profession. “You could go shopping and buy beautiful little coke bottles that you would hang around your neck: gold, turquoise, all kinds of colors, with diamonds, and a little spoon. Stevie and I would wear them, it was very aesthetic,” Christine explained to the British newspaper. She said that the boys “were given cocaine in Heineken bottle caps on stage, but Stevie and I just did it with the teaspoons.”

Despite considering herself a moderate drug user compared to the rest of the bandmembers, McVie acknowledged on the Desert Island Discs radio show that “I don’t know if I would have written Songbird had I not had a couple of toots of cocaine and a half bottle of champagne …or written any of the songs that were on that album because I think we were all pretty loaded.” In any case, she fared better than Stevie. McVie got clean during her retreat to Switzerland to record her first solo album in 1984, while two years later Nicks checked into the Betty Ford Center for rehab and subsequently developed an even stronger dependence on Klonopin (a sedative).

“We were cool onstage,” Nicks says. “But offstage everybody was pretty angry. Most nights Chris and I would just go for dinner on our own, downstairs in the hotel, with security at the door,” Stevie Nicks recalled of the band’s post-Rumours tours in a 2014 interview with The Guardian, which McVie and Nicks did together for their first reunion tour with the whole band. The tour took place 15 years after Christine McVie left Fleetwood Mac to pursue what she called her “delusion that I wanted to be an English country girl” and retired to her mansion in Kent.

At that time, the two women also reflected on the professional and personal disparities of life on the road. They decided to leave their boyfriends at home to avoid behind-the-scenes drama with their exes. That situation made planning a family difficult. “There were never any children [for me],” she says. “There was always a career in the way. It was a case of one or the other, and Stevie would say the same. The lads went off and had children but for Stevie and I it was a bit difficult to do that. So that was never able to happen. And I never found the right man. Not through want of trying.” As Tim Jonze, the journalist who interviewed Nicks and McVie for The Guardian, observed, “Pragmatism, and a sense that they really were above such petty things, seems to have kept the two women sane, and quite probably the band together.”

Moreover, the 1988 release of Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits demonstrated that the women were the songwriters behind the band’s most successful songs. The album contained 16 songs, eight of which were authored or co-authored by McVie and four by Nicks, compared to Buckingham’s three.

Between 2018 and 2019, McVie joined Fleetwood Mac on a second reunion tour, this time without Lindsey Buckingham’s participation. In one of her last interviews, speaking to Rolling Stone in June upon the release of her album Songbird (A Solo Collection), Christine explained that distance had affected her relationship with the band and Stevie: “I don’t communicate with Stevie [Nicks] very much either…When we were on the last tour, we did a lot. We always sat next to each other on the plane and we got on really well. But since the band broke up, I’ve not been speaking to her at all.”

McVie’s sudden death after a brief undisclosed illness caught Fleetwood Mac’s other members by surprise and prompted Nicks to dedicate the following words to her friend: “See you on the other side, my love. Don’t forget me.”

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Danish shipping giant Maersk ‘lobbied’ to be excluded from global tax deal

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BUSINESS

The Danish shipping giant Maersk held meetings with Denmark’s tax and maritime authorities to advise them on how best to shield the shipping industry from the OECD’s global minimum tax deal, according to a Danish media report.

Published: 8 February 2023 16:21 CET

The revelations, reported by broadcaster DR, come as the company on Wednesday reported record profits of 203 billion kroner, on which it paid just 3 percent in tax. 

They are particularly damaging to the company because of the claim last year from Maersk’s then CEO Søren Skou that his company was open to paying more tax, so long as it was through a global agreement via the OECD, precisely the sort of agreement the company was behind the scenes trying to exclude itself from. 

“It seems as if Maersk is playing a double game,” Lars Koch from the poverty charity Oxfam, told DR after he was presented with the evidence. 

“We can see from the access to documents the number of meetings and close and confidential dialogue”, he added. “Here they agree and inform each other about what Denmark should argue in these international negotiations on a tax agreement and they work actively to safeguard Maersk’s interests by exempting the shipping companies.” 

The broadcaster report was based on internal documents obtained from the Ministry of Taxation and the Danish Maritime Authority. 

The documents show that in June 2020, representatives of the company held a meeting with the Ministry of Taxation in which they they discussed strategies on excluding shipping from the OECD agreement on minimum tax. 

Soon afterwards, the industry lobby group Danish Shipping (Danske Rederier), where Maersk plays a leading role, wrote to the Ministry of Taxation and the Danish Maritime Authority warning that the OECD proposal “creates considerable uncertainty in our hinterland”.

Then in June 2021, a representative from ​the Danish Maritime Authority thanked Danish Shipping for supplying it with arguments it could use to push for shipping to be excluded, saying, “it was extremely well done. A thousand thanks for your efforts.”

Finally, when shipping was exempted from the OECD agreement in July 2021, a representative from Danish Shipping thanked the Danish Maritime Authority for “the orientation and for being aware of the special challenges of shipping”. 

Mette Mellemgaard Jakobsen, Maersk’s head of tax, admitted that her company had tried to influence the process.

“We were specifically concerned about how these rules would be implemented, and we had a concrete concern that it would create an increased distortion of competition,” she told DR. 

“For us, it is absolutely crucial that we are not put at a disadvantage compared to other shipping companies around the world. That is why global agreements are the most important thing for us.”

Rasmus Corlin Christensen, a researcher in international tax at Copenhagen Business School, said that Maersk’s double game was quite “striking”.

“On the one hand, you support and work for global solutions, the shipping industry included. But at the same time you can see that, at least when it comes to the global reforms that have been discussed in recent years, they did not want the shipping industry to be covered.” 



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The Whale: Fatphobia on the screen: Society ‘would really prefer for fat people not to exist in public’ | Culture

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Contemporary TV fiction does not shy away from polarizing topics. From the capitalist nightmare of Severance (2022) to the mental health issues of Euphoria (2019,) shows increasingly incorporate social debates into their plot lines in response to a growing interest. Gone are the years of the 1990s escapism of Friends and The Office’s controversial canned laughter. Now, for a show to succeed, it must actively participate in the cultural conversation.

This trend is particularly reflected in awards like the Golden Globes, which recently recognized socially engaged productions such as Abbott Elementary or The Bear. Despite this progress, most of these shows haven’t yet broken one of the last taboos in fiction: the lack of body diversity and representation of fat characters.

Anti-fatness is an accepted, widespread discrimination – tiny airplane seats, body-related comments – and fat people remain culturally marginalized. Society “doesn’t like talking to fat people, looking at fat people, believing fat people [and] listening to fat people,” says Lyla Byers, a researcher at Virginia Tech. “We would really prefer for fat people not to exist in public.”

As a result, obese people can suffer serious health consequences. “When I was a child, I suffered medical violence; I was very thin but a pediatrician put me on 18,000 diets,” says Spanish actress Laura Galán Montijano, who starred in the award-winning Piggy (2022). “She was obsessed with my weight, she used to weigh me every week.”

Even some medical terms like “obesity” or “overweight” are problematic, based on a non-inclusive metric: the body mass index (BMI). “BMI was never meant to be used to measure individual health,“ says Byers. “It’s way too simple a measurement for way too complex an issue,” adds Jennifer Graves, author of Framing Fat, a book that challenges the dominant weight discourses. “There are still significant civil rights issues that fat people face in terms of lack of protection against discrimination in the medical system.”

Laziness, stupidity, gluttony or having low sexual capital are some of the concepts associated with fat people, according to Jeanine Gailey, a sociology professor at Texas Christian University. “The cultural messaging is that fat is the worst thing one can be,” Gailey says. These stigmas are internalized by producers, who fail to include diverse perspectives. “When [women] are not desirable according to beauty standards, we’re not featured on screen,” says Montijano.

Laura Galán Montijano in a scene from the movie 'Piggy.'
Laura Galán Montijano in a scene from the movie ‘Piggy.’

And, when fiction does introduce fat characters, they are often reduced to old-school stereotypes, from the bullied girl of Debby Ryan’s Insatiable (2018) to the idiotic, slothful Homer Simpson. “Many people in society watch these shows or these movies, internalize these portrayals and believe these things about fat people,” says Ariane Prohaska, a researcher at the University of Alabama. “It leads us to treat fat people differently and to treat ourselves differently, in a way that makes us believe that we have to constantly be improving our bodies.”

Reducing obese people to caricatures especially affects traditionally marginalized minority groups, such as women, people of color and the LGBTQI+ community. “Body size intersects with other dimensions of oppression,” says Prohaska. “So, women of color, particularly Black women, face a lot of stigma.” Big Shirley, a recurring character on the television show Martin, is a classic example of a problematic portrayal of fat Black women on TV, as is America Ferrera’s character on Ugly Betty.

Fat white women have managed to diversify their roles in American fiction thanks to the work of actresses like Melissa McCarthy or Lena Dunham. But “Hollywood Fatness” is not representative of the US a whole. Chrissy Metz, for example, said in 2016 that as part of her This is Us contract, where she played a woman struggling with eating habits, she had to lose weight. Later, however, she retracted her comments. “Gatekeepers, the people who are behind the scenes deciding what stories Americans are going to buy, tend to be white, wealthy and male,” says Virgie Tovar, a writer and expert on body discrimination. “This creates a cycle of the same kinds of stories being told over and over again.”

When it comes to queer men, fiction narrowly focuses on the body cult that characterizes part of the community through masculine, beefy characters such as those in Élite (2018,) Smiley (2022) or in the last season of American Horror Story. “It really is paradoxical that the diversity the LGBTQI+ community demands is not practiced within it,” says Roberto Enríquez, critic and creator of Queer You Are (2021.)

In the show, Enríquez self-fictionalizes his own youth through Gabriel Sánchez and Carlos González, who embody the double discrimination the director has suffered because of his sexual orientation and his body. “I was clear that, if I was going to do the show, I was going to do it my own way,” says Enríquez. “They had to be fat characters because that was the story I was telling, how they face life with those bodies, how they face rejection and desire.” In an interview for ICON, Sánchez spoke of the danger of stereotyping fat people. “If you’re fat, they make you do fat things. ‘I fall down and break the chair because I’m fat; I’m fat and I eat four pastries in 10 minutes.’ The fat guy always has scenes where he is binge-eating.”

Actors Gabriel Sánchez and Carlos González.
Actors Gabriel Sánchez and Carlos González. Pablo Zamora

If LGBTQI+ stories are still disruptive, triggering far-right censure, those that incorporate artists with non-normative bodies, away from the imposed canon and with plots beyond those of physical obsession, have an even greater subversive impact. “Queer bodies and fat bodies are seen as excessive, so when you have queer fat bodies, they are doubly destabilizing,” says Jason Whitesel, a sociologist at Illinois State University and author of Fat Gay Men, which examines fat stigma within gay male communities. “Most of our shows are put together by people who think the queer community is best represented by thin or muscular people.”

Even though fat suits are still employed by the entertainment industry, fiction has progressed from the rather cringeworthy “Fat Monica” episode of Friends. In The Girls at the Back (2022,) Mariona Terés plays Leo, a millennial woman who plans a trip with her friends after one is diagnosed with cancer. Terés, with a leading, cliché-free role, believes that many things have changed in recent years, albeit slowly. “We are seeing different bodies on screen, but we have to keep changing the clichés,” she says. “The next step is a fat woman playing a sexy character, in a romantic relationship with someone, and normalizing that her body is beautiful, that she can eat whatever she wants and fuck whoever she wants.”

María Rodríguez, Mariona Terés, Itsaso Arana, Mónica Miranda and Godeliv van den Brandt in the opening episode of 'The Girls at the Back.'
María Rodríguez, Mariona Terés, Itsaso Arana, Mónica Miranda and Godeliv van den Brandt in the opening episode of ‘The Girls at the Back.’JULIO VERGNE/NETFLIX (JULIO VERGNE/NETFLIX)

Besides expanding the narrative complexity of fat characters, fiction must increase their range of roles away from one-dimensional supporting characters haunted by their physical appearance.

“What I hope is that diversity is broadened in all senses,” says Carlota Pereda, director of Piggy. Without financial support from production companies, projects with leading fat characters will struggle to be developed. “When you’re looking for funding, some people won’t support you because they consider it a personal project just because you’ve put a non-normative character in the leading role.”

Although fiction lags behind a society that is largely critical of negative representations of fat characters in productions like The Whale, the industry will eventually accept that non-Hollywood bodies exist and deserve to be represented, with complex storylines and free from humiliating fat suits. “I do think we’re going to see more and more diverse people on screen,” says Terés. “It’s a slow road, but we’ll get to the other side.”

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German defence minister makes surprise Kyiv visit

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The brinksmanship has won plaudits from some who argue that by holding out, the German leader managed to get the United States to reverse its stance and send Abrams tanks — bringing about a bigger win for Ukraine.

But other analysts warn the weeks of delay may have left a deeper mark on Scholz’s international reputation, while also hurting Kyiv’s chances against Russian troops on the battlefield.

“The SPD chancellor has achieved one of his biggest aims: delivering battle tanks only in step with the Americans,” wrote Die Zeit weekly.

READ ALSO: Fact check: How much help has Germany given Ukraine?

Scholz’s “unusual and risky move… worked”, it added.

Conservative broadsheet Die Welt called it a “coup” for the chancellor. “Scholz has managed to get the US to change course,” it said.

‘Won’t be pushed’

In recent weeks, as allies and Kyiv alike harangued him for tanks, Scholz stressed the need for international coordination and ruled out going it alone on the heavy military equipment.

With an eye on public opinion, Scholz has been careful not to appear to be hawkishly leading the charge when it comes to military supplies to Ukraine.

Fielding questions at the Bundestag following Wednesday’s announcement, Scholz pointedly avoided playing up the powerful Leopards’ capabilities and how they could affect the outcome in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: What difference could Germany’s Leopard 2 tanks make in Ukraine?

Rather, he repeatedly underlined that it was and is “right that we did not let ourselves be pushed into this but that we rely on and also continue on
close cooperation”.

It was perhaps not a coincidence that Scholz’s announcement came after public opinion shifted slightl in favour of sending tanks, with 46 percent for and 41 percent against on January 19.

Directly addressing fears of Germans, who have favoured treading lightly around conflict zones since World War II, Scholz pointedly said he would ensure that any support for Ukraine would be provided “without the risks for our country growing in the wrong direction”.

Asked later on ZDF public television whether his hesitation had led to a “loss of trust” among allies, Scholz rejected the criticism.

“Everyone knows we are making a big contribution, also compared to other countries, in terms of support for Ukraine — not only financially and with humanitarian aid but also with weapons.”

But some analysts said his concern for domestic politics may have cost Ukraine on the frontlines.

‘Embarrassing’

In the meantime, “several months” had been lost in the defence of Ukraine, while Scholz was “more concerned with domestic politics” and an issue he did not see as a “big vote winner”, Chatham House analyst John Lough told AFP.

Fears that moving too rashly would lead to an escalation in the war were exaggerated, too. Even without tank deliveries, “the Russians have escalated anyway”, for example by targeting critical infrastructure in Ukraine, Lough said.

Amid the ruckus, particularly with neighbouring Poland accusing Scholz of dithering, analysts point to the damage done to Germany’s reputation.

Bild daily piled on the pressure at home, accusing Scholz of cowardice. But a day later, a high-profile defence ministers’ meeting of Ukraine allies last Friday still failed to break the deadlock on tanks.

The delay was “embarrassing for the German government”, said Lough.

READ ALSO: Germany gives greenlight for Leopard tank deliveries to Ukraine

Olaf Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) comments on the Russian attack on Ukraine during a press conference at the Chancellery on February 24th, 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

Sudha David-Wilp, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Berlin office, said moving in lock-step with the United States gave Scholz the “political cover he needed” to say “yes” to German tank deliveries.

But his short-term win was not “necessarily good for Germany because it has lost a lot of trust” with key partners, David-Wilp said.

The way the tank drama played out “clearly shows that the US needs to play a leadership role in Europe” and its security, while German leadership remained “elusive”, she said.

Yet, for all the apparent damage to Scholz, there might be a winner.

The unexpected US tank commitment means that officials in Ukraine have “all kinds of different kit now”, David-Wilp added.

By Sebastien Ash



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