If Fleetwood Mac taught us anything, it was the importance of not looking back. Disregarding the pep-talk advice from the Don't Stop band is Ted Dykstra, the Canadian theatre veteran behind Toronto's Coal Mine Theatre's presentation of an intimate concert version of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, an album made more than 40 years ago, amidst a deliciously hedonistic backdrop. Dykstra, who co-founded the Coal Mine Theatre, spoke to The Globe and Mail about dipping back into yesterday.
Coal Mine Theatre is presenting a concert version of Fleetwood Mac's classic 1977 album. Why?
There's no profound reason behind it. I was driving in my car, which is where I seem to get to listen to the most music. I dialled up Rumours and put it on. I seemed to know every note, even though I hadn't listened to it in years. I was listening to the complexity of it and the different styles. It has English blues influences and American twangy vocals, and it all came together in this incredible perfect storm. I thought it would be so cool to see this album done live, and a great thing to give an audience.
So, the idea began with the album itself. It wasn't a concept in search of an album or an artist?
No. We run a theatre. This wasn't on our radar. The impetus came from the album.
And this isn't the Art of Time Ensemble interpreting an album or a Soulpepper cabaret concert with narration, right? Just the album played straight through, live?
That's it. There was never any plan for a jukebox musical and to link these songs together with a dramatic narrative. There will be no theatre to this at all, other than people in a room watching other people perform. I don't want to teach people about Fleetwood Mac in the 1970s. I'm not remotely interested in that. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe people will think, "What the hell is that?"
To be honest, that was my initial reaction.
Well, I'm banking on the fact that we're almost sold out already that I'm not alone in thinking, "Wow, I'd really like to see that."
It's just that the recording of Rumours is one of the most drama-ridden in rock history. It's worthy of a film. My instinct is that a performance of the album cries out for context.
The music is the document of what happened. And, yeah, I could see a movie of that. But I don't have the resources to do that. I don't have the rights to their story. My own instinct is that when I listen to Rumours, I do respond to what's behind it as well. It's arguably one of the great albums of all time, and there's always magic to those stories. But the magic of Rumours comes through in the songs themselves. It doesn't have to be a linear explanation.
Because the drama is baked into the lyrics already?
That's the whole point. You're exactly right.
There's some nostalgia at work, with your ticket sales going well. But Fleetwood Mac was literally telling us, with the song Don't Stop, to move forward. Aren't you doing the opposite?
I never thought of it that way. I don't think the message of the song dies because it's old. Anyone can experience the message of that album, and of each song, in real time now, even though they may harken back to when it came out. People like to make connections with their former selves. And sometimes you can say not to look back, while looking back.
You and I are in our 50s, and I bet we listened to a lot of the same albums in the 1970s. That's no longer the case. Young music fans today are exposed to much more music than we were, which is great, but it's disparate. Should we lament that the monoculture of the past is gone, and with it the galvanizing effect of certain albums?
I don't think we should ever lament change. Change is evolution. But I hear you, on albums. I do think the disappearance of the album as a concept, where you took 40 minutes to listen to something, that's definitely gone. We can be sad about that.
Music today is as good as ever, but because listening habits have changed, do you think albums today will be worthy of a concert version 40 years from now?
I think 40 years from now, my son and daughter will remember whatever musical era this is. I do think the attention span is getting small. The memory bites are smaller. But I don't know if that will have a good effect or a bad effect. Only time will tell.
Rumours by Fleetwood Mac: A Coal Mine Concert runs Feb. 4 to 25, at Toronto's Coal Mine Theatre.