But now he’s learned to live with it, he believes his “back to front” attitude is the only way he could ever perform his percussion duties.
The Fleetwood Mac icon tells Music Radar: “I approach my own work in a very emotional, personal way, and so I have to rely on one thing – the essence of feel.
“I didn’t always understand what it was and I used to be insecure about that. But now I truly know that I feel most comfortable when I’m emotionally involved.
“I don’t think about what I’m going to play until I feel a personal and emotional dynamic.”
That attitude has led to a style of performance which has been called “back to front” by some. Fleetwood explains: “The fills are usually not in the obvious places – it’s because I don’t really know what I’m doing. I just do it spontaneously. Through the years I believe I’ve honed it down to an accidental skill.
“I’m not technically profound. I know people have said, ‘That’s not true,’ but I really am happy doing something simple and getting a lot out of it. I knew, through listening to the blues, when not to play, and I became an expert at it.”
Another key factor in his art is the fact he doesn’t play piano or guitar. “I’m a frustrated harmonic musician,” he says. “Because of that I have a huge interest in the people that I play with and the songs they have written.”
Fleetwood cites 1968 Peter Green track Love That Burns and 1977 Lindsey Buckingham hit Go Your Own Way as prime examples of what he does best.
“Love That Burns is probably, almost, my favourite song,” he says. “It kills me. Peter kills me. When I hear this, it’s all about a young chap – me – knowing why Peter was so overjoyed to be playing the music he loved so much. A good shuffle on a slow blues is what I will take to my grave.”
He says of Go Your Own Way: “Lindsey realised that John McVie and I play in a certain way, which was compliant to the structures and aspirations of a songwriter. He was very soon to learn that I’m dyslexically connected to drum parts – I truly don’t know how to repeat anything. My playing tends to be this funny random stuff that, luckily, people like.
“I love playing this song – I get to kick the hell out of my drums. It’s got that wonderfully primal part. I can revert to my old animal ways and not be quite so polite.”
Classic Rock Magazine