Life as the Girlfriend of Fleetwood Mac

Sandra Vigon, now a successful therapist, was once close to many a rock great, and the girlfriend of both Peter Green and John McVie. She reflects on the troubled past of the Mac

When I was in my early teens and living in Windsor, England, the Sixties had barely started. The ‘free love’ and casual relationships that became so popular – and the naive search for expanded consciousness through drugs – were all to come.

So was the notion of a ‘rock star.’ They were just musicians. My sister’s boyfriend started one of Britain’s first R&B clubs – The Ricky Tick, in Windsor – which has now entered the annals of pop-culture. It was here that I first met such young blues enthusiasts as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and John Mayall.

Sandra Vigon model 19 magazine
Sandra on the cover of 19

Although my mother suffered from bouts of mental illness – my interest in psychology probably started with a need to understand what made her tick – she loved music and was very social. My parents’ place became an open house. And back then, since everywhere was closed after 9pm, many of the bands who played at the club ended up at our home after their gigs, partying and jamming together.

When I was a little older, I moved to London and became a fashion model. After gigs we’d all hang out together in clubs like the Scotch of St James’s and the Bag o’ Nails. Which is how I first met Mick Fleetwood, when he was still with the Cheynes.

In those days, we were a pretty small group of kids hanging out together, like in college, going out with this one and that one.

I had a short relationship with Eric Clapton, whom I had known since his days in The Roosters, and dated Andy Summers.

Black magic woman

I first met Peter Green [Fleetwood Mac’s troubled, genius, blues guitarist] at a club called the Cromwellian, where I also first saw Hendrix play. Peter wrote ‘Black Magic Woman’ about me (his nickname for me was Magic Mamma) as well as ‘Sandy Mary’ and ‘Long Grey Mare’. For me, it was the deepest and most soulful relationship of my youth.

He was a very dedicated, brilliant, soulful musician, and a very kind and humble man. But he had some pretty deep issues.

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We were all getting pretty loaded on the flight over, and something sparked between me and John

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I think he’d suffered a lot as a child. He once opened up to me about the pain of the discrimination and bullying he’d suffered as a Jewish boy living in the East End. I think he drew heavily on that pain in his music.

He was a sensitive soul, and shouldn’t have messed around with mind-altering drugs. That’s what really activated his psychosis. I remember, when he came home from Fleetwood Mac’s first US tour, how the drugs were starting to have a bad effect on him.

I begged him not to experiment more. And at the Wells festival, I had a big fight with him because he was hanging out with Carlos Santana and being plied with everything and anything.

Still, things between us were great in the early years. We were on a spiritual quest together.

Once, we went to a Buddhist retreat in Scotland, to meditate and learn how to raise our Kundalini energy. This required periods of sexual abstinence – but they didn’t always coincide for us. He makes a reference to that in ‘Black Magic Woman’: “Don’t turn your back on me, baby.”

A painful break-up

In the end, it took several painful years for us to break up, and I was very unhappy and lost. Peter had left the band, and they had invited me to stay at the house in Hampshire on the southern coast of England that Mick and his wife shared with John and Christine McVie. I had become disillusioned with modeling and was searching for my own identity and creativity.

In retrospect, I can see that I’d been living a creative life vicariously through Peter. Subconsciously, I was looking for a way to express myself.

It was a long and winding road, but now I see my work as a creative process and I help others connect to theirs. For myself, I find joy in sculpting clay and doing collage. People confuse the term ‘creative’ with ‘artistic’, which is a narrower definition.

Anyway, I still had a long way to go in the early Seventies. First there was Fleetwood Mac’s emigration to America. They invited me along, and I said I’d come just for a couple of weeks’ holiday. I stayed 33 years!

‘Lightning bolt’ affair

On the flight over, something strange happened. It was as if lightning hit the plane.

I’d known John McVie since he first joined the Blues Breakers. He was like a brother. Well, we were all getting pretty loaded on the flight over, and something sparked between me and John. We began an affair almost immediately,

Even though John and Christine’s marriage was in trouble, I became persona non grata and was kicked out of the nest.

When Christine later left John, he and I got together officially. This was during the writing and recording of Rumours – a weird and wonderful time – though John was not easy to be with, and his drinking was a big problem. In retrospect, I think our year together marked a transition for all of us.

Oddly enough, Christine (or Chris) and I have remained very close friends. When John and I eventually split up, she asked me to move in with her, into a house she’d bought above Sunset Strip. I stayed for the next two years, and we had a lot of fun.

Yes, it was a bit strange – but hey, it was the Sixties (OK, the Seventies). And actually, when people ask how the band could have made Rumours with all the craziness, ‘incest’ and intense feelings, I say: “It’s because they are artists, and the combined talent of these five people was bigger that any individual.”

John and Mick certainly have a deep, brotherly bond that arises from their mutual love of music. But really, when you’re in a relationship with a musician, you will always be their second love. It’s instinctual, it’s their nature: they have to express themselves. Maybe that’s why so few musicians manage to have long, successful relationships.

As for the chemistry of Rumours, I liken the process to putting the right ingredients in a pot on a high heat. It’s intense and transformative and very creative. Those guys had the ability to stay in the pot.

Meeting ‘my rock’

My adventures with Fleetwood Mac didn’t quite end there, though. In 1977, while the band was on tour in Japan, I met the artist Larry Vigon, who did the hand-drawn lettering on the Rumours album sleeve.

After our first date, we were an item. Larry moved into Chris’ house, and entered the crazy world of rock’n’roll.

But after two years of this, he said to me: “If we don’t move, I think I’ll die!” Maintaining his day job as a designer/art director and staying up all night partying was too much.

Larry and I got our own place in the Hollywood Hills (though he still went on to art-direct Fleetwood Mac’s next five album covers). We got married, and we’ve been together ever since, returning to the UK about five years ago, via Italy.

Larry has been my rock. With his support, I went back to school to study psychology and Jungian analysis, which I have been practicing for 25 years.

Through personal and professional experience, I now help others find themselves and their creativity.

You see, many of us are born into environments, cultures or families that cause damage or distortion to our natural beings. And though there are many emotional wounds that can be healed through therapy, there are often deep scars that can’t.

For those, however, we can develop others parts of our personality to compensate.

I wish I’d known back in the 1970s what I know now. I wish my friends had, too.  But then, perhaps, we wouldn’t have had the magic of Rumours.