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11 things we learned from Christine McVie’s Desert Island Discs

Christine McVie is a British musician who is best known as the keyboardist and co-lead vocalist of Fleetwood Mac. She joined the band in 1970 and has written many of the group’s signature songs – penning hits such as You Make Loving Fun, Don’t Stop, Oh Daddy, Little Lies, Everywhere and Songbird.

In a rare and remarkably honest interview, Christine speaks to Kirsty Young about the origins of her career as well as describing the highs, lows and excesses of rock superstardom. Here are 11 things we learned from her Desert Island Discs...

1. A sleepless night led to one of her best-loved songs

Songbird was written in half an hour at 3am when she couldn’t sleep. She says: "Fortunately, I had a piano in my room [but] nothing to record it on, but I had to play this song. The whole song [came out] complete: chords, words, everything within half an hour. I couldn’t go to sleep in case I forgot it, so I had to play it all night long."

"I had no idea where I was going, but it was better than being a window dresser"

2. Her mum held séances

Christine’s mother belonged to a psychic society in Birmingham and held séances with a group of friends. Once, while in a trance, she painted her spirit guide, "Silver Shadow" – she wasn’t usually a painter. Christine says: "That side of her life, I didn’t really want to hear about, I just wanted her to be an ordinary mum."

3. The origin of her "boogie left-hand" on the piano was Fats Domino

Christine’s father was a professional violinist, and she studied classical piano when growing up. "I was practising one day and there was a book of Fats Domino music… I hadn’t seen it before, so I picked it up and started sight-reading… I think that’s where my boogie left-hand has come from and that’s stayed with me throughout all my song writing years. There’s always been a little bit of that boogie bass."

Christine McVie: ‘The chemistry flowed’

Christine McVie on her fellow Fleetwood Mac band members.

4. She wrote her first song when she was 16

Christine didn’t think she was "any good" at writing songs and she didn’t have any confidence in songs she had written for her first solo album. It was bandmate Mick Fleetwood that encouraged her to continue writing music.

5. She used to be a window dresser, but quit to join Chicken Shack

While working for a London department store, she was invited to join a band. Despite claiming she wasn’t able to play blues piano, she listened to "tons and tons of blues records", "stole a few licks here and there" and, armed with her new repertoire, joined Chicken Shack. "I had no idea where I was going [but] it was better than being a window dresser".

6. She fled the stage during a solo show

During a solo performance in Nottingham, Christine left the stage. "The solo thing wasn’t for me – I’m part of a group – I’m comfortable in a two and I’m very happy within the framework of Fleetwood Mac."

7. It was love at first rehearsal when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band

During their very first rehearsal as the classic line-up that would go on to record the best-selling Rumours album, Christine brought a song she had written called Say You Love Me and both Lindsey and Stevie immediately chimed in with perfect harmonies. "We all just got goose bumps. It was a thrill. That first album we made, I remember [it] being the most fantastic time."

We all just got goose bumps. It was a thrill. That first album we made, I remember [it] being the most fantastic time."

8. She hid in a cupboard at an Everly Brothers concert

While at college, Christine and a friend managed to sneak in to an Everly Brothers show in Birmingham: "Somehow we managed to get backstage and hide in a cupboard. Finally, we decided we couldn’t take it, we got out and just mingled with a bunch of people… and there was Phil Everly standing there… years later I met him when I was Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac and we did a duet together."

Christine McVie: ‘We hid in a cupboard’

Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie on meeting Phil Everly.

9. Rumours bought her a Rolls Royce

When the money for the chart-topping Rumours finally made its way to the band, Christine called up her business manager and told him that she wanted to use one of the "big whopping cheques" to buy a Rolls Royce and drive it out of the showroom that day. "The first half hour was terrifying, I was afraid I was going to crash the thing. It was totally over the top, I didn’t need a Rolls Royce – I ended up getting rid of it and getting something smaller – but it was just the fact that I could."

10. When she left Fleetwood Mac, she moved from California to rural Kent

Christine had been living in America as a successful rock musician for almost 30 years when her father fell seriously ill in 1998. She returned to England to see him and settled in a manor house in Kent, leaving the band in the process. "I think I had some kind of wild image in my mind that I was going to become a country lady – the complete antithesis of somebody in the rock and roll world".

11. After leaving Fleetwood Mac she "barely looked" at a piano

Despite studying music from the age of 11 and writing such hits as You Make Loving Fun, Don’t Stop, Everywhere and Songbird, when she returned to England, Christine was reluctant to keep playing. "I had a beautiful piano in my study… but I never played it." She returned to the spotlight in 2013, after a 15-year break, when she began playing with Fleetwood Mac again. Her luxury item? The baby grand piano that she used to take on the road with her: "I don't know what happens when it goes out of tune though!"