Poor Mick seems to feel deserted, discouraged by the absence of so many good friends from the past. The first part obviously refers to Peter Green, whose song "Man of the World" is overtly referred to here. Peter's "Green Manalishi" is indirectly referred to with the lines "I too, my friend, find the devil/Trying to make me do things I don't want to do" that echo the "Green Manalishi" that's "making me do things I don't wanna do." The references to "daddy" in the context of Mick's inner struggle against depression may be his conscience telling him he DOES have bright spots life in his life - his family - and it's not the end of the world.
I think the "dreams that make me wonder" is again a reference to the dreams Peter Green sings about in the "Green Manalishi", who's "bustin' in on my dreams" to haunt him. However, he could also be referring to the famous song Dreams by Stevie. Of course, "Walk a Thin Line" brings to mind Lindsey, whom I believe he also feels deserted by, hence the negative context of the term. I think he might be referring to himself instead of Lindsey as "dying alone", because he may blame himself for driving Lindsey away by stifling his creative impulses, a conflict which originated in earnest over the direction of Tusk. Perhaps I'm giving Mick too much credit there, though, and it is a condemnation of Lindsey.
At least the song does end on a positive note, and Mick was to be reunited with his friends at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, after a highly successful tour with the Rumours lineup that had come back together in 1997. It does pay to "have faith."
By the time the whole Time era line-up had finished its tour and started work on their only studio album (which they didn't support by touring afterwards) Mick Fleetwood must have felt pretty disillusioned. The tour had seen Fleetwood Mac playing to 2,000+ audiences at max, even supporting acts that at least this writer does not see worthy of licking FM's boots. The possible attempt to replace Stevie Nicks in the people's minds with Bekka Bramlett had failed. Mick obviously wanted Fleetwood Mac to be commercially successful again (and most fans have their own guesses of what his true motivation might be) and he set his only hope on the possible reunion of the Rumours line-up (which had happened temporarily during Clinton's inauguration).
I don't know when exactly the song/poem that is "These Strange Times" was written but it's natural to assume that it emerged somewhere in between 1990, the year when the BTM line-up fell apart, and 1995, when Time was released. Lindsey invited Mick and John to work on Gift Of Screws somewhere around 1995, possibly even before the Time sessions. This is the road that eventually led to The Dance.
I have no idea whether "These Strange Times" is typical of the style of music Mick was pursuing at the time simply because I haven't heard the 1992 Shakin' The Cage album that his band The Zoo made. It does have a similar approach to "Lizard People", a spoken word track that was released in 1990 on the b-side of the "Skies The Limit" single. That track was a poem enhanced by minimal musical backing and voice effects with some attempted humour. Yet "These Strange Times" has no humour in it, except perhaps unintentionally.
It is almost a deadly serious track in approach. Mick plays everything here, except for the keyboards which are the dominant instruments in their occasional mimicry of cellos and violins, trying to set up a gloomy classical mood. At times you can hear Bekka Bramlett singing "faith, have faith"; she's possibly trying to provide some relief to the overall proceedings.
Lines "Daddy, daddy, hold on/God is now here, God is now here" (note how a simple gap can change the meaning of "nowhere" into its opposite) and "I love you, I love you" are spoken by Mick's daughter Lucy Fleetwood. It is not necessarily just mere father - daughter dialogue; Mick could also be communicating to his own deceased father who he obviously very much cared for, anyone who had read Mick?s book should attest to that. Thus the generational cycle continues.
So how does this all relate to Stevie and Lindsey? Let's see.
I believe Mick refers to a Peter Green era FM classic in the first stanza and also to the man himself: "These strange times I think of a friend/They said was a man of the world/When all the time he was in the fight/Between the dark and the light". This could hint to Peter Green's psychological problems.
Sidenote #1: There is no reference to Bob Welch even though his period in FM was just as significant as any other. Possibly Mick's long quarrel with him (that has now supposedly been settled) is the main reason to that.
In the third stanza, then, Lindsey and Stevie appear. "These strange times I too have dreams/Things that make me wonder/If to walk a thin line is like dying alone/And I'm trying to find my way home". That's Stevie's "Dreams" in there, and so is Lindsey's "Walk A Thin Line". If Mick is saying that Lindsey's "dying alone" because he walked a thin line, an artistic path filled with public ignorance and isolation (since we do know Lindsey has never truly enjoyed the public eye) then it does appear cynical. But I do not wish to insist on that interpretation. It's better to think of the entire FM as a huge happy family, doncha think? ;)
Sidenote #2: Mick obviously thinks highly of "Walk A Thin Line" because he covered it on his first solo album The Visitor.
So what to make of this? I do not wish to claim that this is Mick Fleetwood all deserted by the talents that made Fleetwood Mac the artistic and financial success that it was/is. It is a man reflecting on his past and despite occasional depression he sees his future as bright. I don't know what he is referring to with "God", I have never heard of Mick being religious. In the Time liner notes the phrase "God Bless" appears under his credits and there it would stay during The Dance shows.
I personally find it odd that I should suddenly take Mick Fleetwood entirely serious as "These Strange Times" seems to suggest. This is a man who pulled weird faces during his drum solos, posed naked for album covers and does very unsubtle sexual hints during his "vesturbation" on stage. And now he wants to be taken seriously?! Yeah right. To those who think that the song and this speculation are both too serious; you've been fooled around with, maybe once, maybe twice. ;)