The lyrics of the chorus are deceptively straightforward: “The river goes on and on and the sea that divides us is a temporary one and a bridge will bring us back together.” So sings Christine McVie in the song “Temporary One,” recorded for the “comeback” album “The Dance” by Fleetwood Mac. On the surface the song seems easy enough to understand. Here the band was welcoming back two of its more famous members who had left after personal disagreements with the band and whose songwriting genius had been important in its success–Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. But is that what it means? And what is the song’s relevance?
While “Temporary One” would make a pleasant track about reconciliation, it appears that upon closer analysis that the song is about longings of a different kind. As the song opens, this longing is shown : “Where are you darlin’ when my moon is rising and your sun is shinin’ down? What are you doin’ are you missing me the way that I’m missin’ you now?” The song was written by Christine McVie and her husband, Eddy Quintela, and appears to be about the sad separation that took place because of Fleetwood Mac’s tours, of which “The Dance” was one, ironically enough.
Continuing on, the lyrics maintain the sense of longing: “What are you doin’, goin’ down to Soho as I get my rest tonight? What are you doin’, are you busy with your world? Well I wish you were busy with mine.” Here Christine McVie sings about her loneliness as she goes to bed thinking about how her husband is hanging out with friends in Soho in London while she is on tour. The loneliness of the separation wears on her as she wishes they were together.
What ended up happening? She sang for years on tour with a song that most people seem to have thought was about her missing bandmates joining the fold again when she was actually singing about her own marriage and the strains of distance that she faced. When the tour ended, the band joined together to record an album, an album marred by bickering and conflict and years and years of time, and Chrstine McVie left and went home to her husband and family. Five years later, in 2003, the band finally came out with their album, “Say You Will,” but Christine McVie was no longer an active member of Fleetwood Mac.
What does it mean? It means that Christine McVie, who had been in a band for thirty years, no longer thought the bickering and the wasted time was worth the strain it put on her family life. She longed for the love and intimacy of her husband and not for the stress and strain of a dysfunctional band family. I can’t fault her for her decision. What it signifies is something that we can all learn from. For one, even the fame and glory of being part of a band like Fleetwood Mac wasn’t necessarily worth the loneliness of years spent apart from one’s husband or the pressures of dealing with such a famously dysfunctional group of people as one’s ex-husband (John McVie), a bipolar genius on the guitar (Lindsey Buckingham), and an attention magnet lead singer (Stevie Nicks). Sure, they all made good music together for the better part of twenty years, but Christine McVie had earned her right to have moved on from that part of her life.
It is odd that if her band members had mellowed out with age and become less of drama queens, she might not have felt forced to choose between her own personal peace and harmony and the union of the band as a whole. But they were who they were and so she had to make her own choice. She chose happiness over the continued life of fame. Sometimes it’s better to be apart rather than be around people who simply cannot work together and get along. Sometimes we must choose our own happiness and sanity because a situation is too dysfunctional and has no hope of getting better. At least it leaves one with a good song to hum along to as you’re thinking about such bittersweet matters.