Allan Cosgrove

With five shows in our region in Ipswich, Southend, King’s Lynn, Cambridge and Norwich we couldn’t ignore the opportunity to chat with the musical director and drummer with Rumours of Fleetwood Mac, Allan Cosgrove.

How would you describe Rumours of Fleetwood Mac – is it a tribute band or is it a Fleetwood Mac show?

At street level it definitely a tribute show. What is interesting about it is that it was more by chance than design that it fell together. Fifteen years ago I assembled a group of musicians for a studio session. We were recording an original track for an American root beer and we had to sound like a band from the 70s called Heart. I got the right musicians together to cover that session and on the playback the producer said “that sounds like Fleetwood Mac”. It was tongue in cheek, but it really did sound like Fleetwood Mac to me as well and I thought “Hell, that’s a great sound!”

So fifteen years later…

Yep, fifteen years later we are still out there because as soon as I heard that noise I took it straight into theatre as the promoter, the first promoter of the show. Had a load of association with Fleetwood Mac from other life on Warner Brothers, the keyboard player and I so I got Mick Fleetwood involved right a the top and sent him some demos and asked him was it a cool thing to do. He could have sent us to the lions but he actually gave us the thumbs up and has played in the show a couple of times which is crazy but it is true!

Not many tribute acts have had members of the original act play on stage, because its nit just Mick but Rick Vito has also played.

Yes, Ricky will be playing with us on this tour. But I think, yes it is tribute but there are some great grade A players on stage, though I say it myself, ’cause I play drums in it, and we’ve had our careers, playing behind original artists… everyone from Chuck Berry to Cliff Richard so we have paid our dues and its a great band. The core five members that were on that recording session are still together in the band but now there are eight on stage because I’ve brought youth to it so we’ve got some great young players in it as well. But it lives or dies on the sonics of the gig which means what it sounds like. I don’t go on stage with high heel shoes and a stick on pony tail, its not about that, its about the music that we grew up with, that we’ve been highly influenced by and again, both the girls that perform the music of Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie in the show, they sound like the original artists not my mimic, by trait, because they were highly influenced by them. So its a cool gig to do, we don’t really have to do anything other than switch the amplification on and play their great music which is a great privilege to do.

From what you are saying, I presume the acoustics of the venue must be important to you?

Yes, there are eight on stage but there are also ten off stage and they are dedicated to, like you know with some of these bigger shows, they are dedicated to the lighting, the media and the sound because they are the other three elements that have to fall together for us to let you loose yourself and think that you are sitting with Fleetwood Mac after ten minutes.

Given the variety of venues throughout the country there must be some good places and some bad places to play?

You know, there used to be but now with the aid of technology, everything is digital, we have digital desks and computers and things that do analytic s on the night and all the band wear “in ears” so we get the same sound every night, there’s no monitors on stage like in the old days. It is high tech, like most shows now, and it really hard with tech to get sound wrong these days. Yes there’s a great differential of venues – and its the older ones, like you most probably can appreciate Tony that cause a bit of problems – but they are lovely and you wouldn’t miss them for the world. They always have a shelf of about forty foot where you have audience under a “shelf”, we call them the “muppet theatres” but some of theses places are great to go and see a proper rock show.  There is always red velvet seating, carpet and gold trim, they are just lovely theatres.

Any chance, given that Fleetwood Mac themselves are about to embark on a European tour, that any of you will be making guest appearences, as understudies perhape?

Hah (laughs), ah, the other way around? No, not at all, no! There is noway I would be going anywhere near Mick Fleetwood’s drum kit! Although we shared a beer the other night, because he’s on a book tour, he always hooks up so we had a good old catch up. To think that Christie McVie is back there is just amazing because no one ever thought that they’d see the day but she is back!

The Fleetwood Mac story is probably the best known band story in the world, their troubles have been well and truly documented. Do Rumours suffer tensions on tour?

No, because its a great thing for us to fall together, we do about a hundred dates together across the world, we break that down into three tours, three tours usually takes us six months so you have six months to do whatever else you are doing so we really look forward to falling together. Some of us have been behind major players, I can’t name anybody for you, but they’ve been sitting on the gig thinking what the hell is all this about, this is crap, this isn’t my memory of what all this is about. SO when we fall together as a tribute band.. the challenge for the musician in a tribute band is… we are not allowed any poetic licence. Its not just lets go play these songs ’cause we can its about not letting a fan down. The fan’s point of reference is to an album so if we play “Dreams” it is a lá the Rumours album and their compositions, their arrangements.

Do you get fans coming up to and pointing out bits you have missed or played slightly differently?

Of course, you will always get that. I call the the “carrier bags” because they usually have carrier bags with a load of albums in them. And they will come and say “Why don’t you do the extended version that goes on for seven minutes?” And my answer to that is that the great catalogue of Fleetwood Mac spans nearly forty, nearing fifty years now, and we have two hours to play you a set. We are not there to indulge, we are there to play you a greatest hits type set. We haven’t got the ability to go off piste like Fleetwood Mac could.

Do you ever get tempted to play, off stage perhaps, other people’s music in the style of Fleetwood Mac?

Yeah – because I’m a producer and I have a couple of original artists sometimes when we sit down its about… well, you know, I’ll take you back to a 1980’s album and to a Rick Vito track and I’d like the guitar to sound like that.

Do any of the Rumors tour or play as themselves?

Yeah. You’ve got young Ben Hughs is touring and supporting some major artists. You’ve got Louise Rogan who is a big country fan, she performs the music of Stevie Nicks, Louise is currently on a new album, coming out soon. And Dave Goldberg my keyboard player, Dave and I used to be in the Mersybeats many years ago and latterly that rolled into Liverpool Express in the 70s. My rols is drummer and co-promoter and I have my own stable of young artists back here in Liverpool.

We all have to diversify, the music industry has changed drastically. The worth isn’t in record sales, it is in actually performing, which is great because it is bringing the old days back.

Do you ever get tired being asked questions about Mac?

Not all, no. Here’s my take on it. Music is stronger than the written word on the page for me… when you bring lyrics and music together it can make you cry. A good book can make you cry, don’t get me wrong, but there is a different vibe about spirituality to music and Fleetwood Mac, God love them, there have been so many different versions of Fleetwood Mac, across the years to the fan base. But what a great thing that was because every time the band had to re-invent itself there was a new outpouring of great creativity and spirituality in the music. So to me, I love talking about Fleetwood Mac, like I said I was with Mick the other night and the last thing we want to do is talk about a tribute band and Fleetwood Mac, you know, but you can’t help but say “She’s back!” and how the hell did that happen? And what was the minute she thought she wanted to come back all of a sudden because you know, Christine McVie makes money while she sleeps! It is not about the money, you’ve got one life, we are all sort of in our dotage now and what a great thing to do?

You must have a favourite Fleetwood Mac song, what is it?

From a drummer’s point of view the percussionist in me lets rip and I do my “animal” bit, my Mick Fleetwood Animal bit on “Tusk” because it is so energetic.

Do you have a pet hate when you are on tour?

Yes I do – if there is no ironing board! All my life, regardless of who I’m with or what I’m doing I have a glass of wine and I iron my shirt.

When you are relaxing at home with your feet up, who’s music do you listen to? Assuming its not Fleetwood Mac.

All brand new stuff, you know. I’d give you names that you have most probably never heard of like “Taken by Trees”, “Death Cab for Cutie” these are all brand new emerging artists but my old favourites are everyone from John Martin in Folk through to Vaughan Williams in classical to Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Brown, The Eagles.

How difficult is it for new musicians to break into the market?

Very, very difficult. As a producer of new artists I have a take on that, we are now in the world of digital distribution unfortunately. I say unfortunately, but it does have great benefits – artists can easily profile themselves on line. But guess what? They are profiling themselves with a billion other artists. In a way it is still old fashioned, front end, get out there, get yourself in front of an audience, even if its a coffee bar for twenty people, it doesn’t matter. Get out there and sell your product to the person in front of you. We haven’t re-invented the wheel, we were doing this in the 70s we would record an album and we would have to go out pay back the record company a billion pounds and it would only cost ten grand to make!

Allan, its been a pleasure chatting with you, thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy day to talk to GrapevineLive.

You can catch Rumours of Fleetwood Mac in the region at:

  • Ipswich Regent Theatre – Monday 24th Novemver 2014
  • The Cliffs Pavilion, Southend – Saturday 7th February 2015
  • The Corn Exchange, King’s Lynn – Saturday 14th February 2015
  • The Corn Exchange, Cambridge – Friday 27th February 2015
  • The Theatre Royal, Norwich – Thursday 26th March 2015

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