Fleetwood Mac is a blues and rock band from England. They are unique in this countdown, a rhythm section with the brand name, Fleetwood the drummer and McVie the bassist, that attracted singing and songwriting talent for a long time. They are difficult to justify as a top ten band; as hard as I tried to trim the songs and ratings down, they remain so. They have a long history, first as a blues band and then as a popular mainstream rock band, and the early work with Peter Green, the band’s founder, is an underrated chapter.
Let’s look at Fleetwood Mac’s songwriting collaborators one at a time.
Fleetwood Mac Personnel:
Fleetwood and McVie established the beat for these well known collaborators:
Peter Green (b. 1946), guitar, singer, songwriter
Jeremy Spencer (b. 1948), guitar, singer, songwriter
Danny Kirwan (b. 1950), guitar, singer, songwriter
Christine McVie (b. 1943), keyboards, singer, songwriter
Bob Welch (1945-2012), guitar, singer, songwriter
Stevie Nicks (b. 1948), singer, songwriter
Lindsey Buckingham (b. 1949), guitar, singer, songwriter
Peter Green is a guitarist from East London, England. He met Mick Fleetwood and John McVie through their membership in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers; Mayall selected Green to follow Eric Clapton in the popular blues combo. Green quickly established himself as a worthy successor and soon wanted to form his own band, convincing Fleetwood and McVie to follow him.
Over the years, Green has achieved a cult status during his three years as the leader of Fleetwood Mac. He was a wonderful blues guitarist, perhaps the second greatest bluesman of the British Invasion period, behind Eric Clapton. He was considered to be less technically gifted than his predecessor in the Bluesbreakers, but blessed with outstanding tone. He was notably unselfish, naming the band after his rhythm section and incorporating the talents of guitarists Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan. His early songs are obsessed with loving women, but as he struggled to handle fame and the drug-fueled culture that accompanied the lifestyle, he started to withdraw, and his songs became darker and more foreboding. A bad acid trip in Munich, Germany, is cited by Fleetwood and McVie as the final blow to Peter Green’s psyche; shortly afterwards, he left the band and descended into schizophrenia, which hospitalized him for many years. He eventually recovered, and returned to composing and performing music on a much smaller scale.
Here Green riffs on Danny Kirwan in “Like It This Way”:
In the lead, Peter Green:
A technical discussion of Peter Green’s guitar playing:
Recollections of the Munich LSD incident:
The beautiful “Man Of The World”:
I guess I’ve got everything I need,
I wouldn’t ask for more.
And there’s no one I’d rather be,
But I just wish that I’d never been born.
I could tell you about my life,
And keep you amused I’m sure.
About all the times I’ve cried,
And how I don’t want to be sad anymore,
And how I wish I was in love.
— Peter Green
Green became obsessed with the idea of giving the band’s wealth away. “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown)” is his ode to money:
Can’t believe that you need my love so bad,
Come sneakin’ around tryin’ to drive me mad.
Bustin’ in on my dreams,
Making me see things I don’t wanna see.
‘Cause you’re the green manalishi with the two prong crown,
All my tryin’ is up, all your bringin’ is down.
Just taking my love then slippin’ away,
Leavin’ me here just tryin’ to keep from following you.
— Peter Green
Jeremy Spencer is a slide guitarist and songwriter from south London, England. Part of the original Fleetwood Mac quartet, Spencer was a devotee of Elmore James, as well as a notable mimic of other musicians, and a very popular performer. After Peter Green left the band in 1970, Spencer soldiered on for one more album, and then unexpectedly left the band in 1971 to pursue religion.
You can hear Spencer’s mimickry on display on a couple of songs from the Fleetwood Mac Live At The BBC compilation, represented here by “Linda (Live)” and “How Can We Hang On To A Dream? (Live)”.
Danny Kirwan is a guitarist and songwriter from south London, England. Kirwan was only eighteen years old when he joined Fleetwood Mac; Peter Green wanted to add another guitarist willing to work on guitar duets. Jeremy Spencer was less interested in that role.
The tempermental Kirwan grew as a musician, and persevered through the departure of Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer. Battling alcoholism and his inability to get along with his band mates, Kirwan was fired by the band in the fall of 1972. He contributed many fine songs, including “Without You”, “Sands Of Time” and “Coming Your Way”, as well as adding lead guitar to songs like “Future Games” and “Show Me A Smile”.
Bob Welch is a guitarist and songwriter from Beverly Hills, California. The son of a screenwriter and movie producer, Welch had dropped out of college and was living in Paris, France when he was suggested as a replacement for Jeremy Spencer. Welch changed the sound of the band in the early seventies, adding a jazz-inflected, spacey sound to the music.
I can only find one YouTube video of the Bob Welch era, this Midnight Special performance of “Miles Away” from 1973. The lead guitarist in this clip is Bob Weston (1947-2012), who played with the band for a couple of years:
One of my favorites by Bob Welch is “Hypnotized”, featured on the album Mystery To Me. Back in high school, I had a high school friend who landed a job as a late night disk jockey on KZSU, the Stanford University radio station. One night I decided to join him at the station during his 2-6 AM program. I remember hearing “Hypnotized” for the first time that night. It was 4:44 in the morning, and the song, plus the fatigue of being up all night, put me into a trance.
Welch left Fleetwood Mac at the end of 1974, once again with some controversy. He went on to a modestly successful career as a solo artist, propelled by a remake of the fine “Sentimental Lady”, and also created two albums with his band Paris. In 1998, when Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, Welch was the only primary contributor left out of the celebration.
Christine McVie is a pianist and songwriter from a small village in Cumbria, in northern England. The daughter of a concert violinst, she began her education as a concert pianist, but became enamored with Fats Domino and rock and roll. She was playing in a blues band called Chicken Shack when she met and eventually married bassist John McVie. She joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970.
Although she made a few important contributions to the band (“Spare Me A Little Of Your Love”, “Show Me A Smile”, among others) in the early seventies, she emerged as a rock star when the band moved to Los Angeles, to rekindle the band’s flagging career. When Bob Welch left the band and was replaced by guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks, the quintet found enormous worldwide success with their first two albums, Fleetwood Mac and Rumours.
Lindsey Buckingham is a guitarist and songwriter from Palo Alto, California. He and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks met in high school, and joined the band in 1975 to complete the most famous lineup. This core unit stayed together on and off until Christine McVie left the band in 1997, although Nicks, Buckingham and Christy McVie all took extended breaks to pursue solo careers. Despite the relative permanence of the band, the three young men and two young women quickly experienced problems of infidelity and mistrust, which became public knowledge after the release of Rumours. Buckingham was always the band’s conductor, producing and overseeing the creation of their studio music. Songs like “I’m So Afraid”, “Go Your Own Way” and “Big Love” are laced with palpable emotion; his voice cracks under the weight of the underlying tensions. While not a great guitar soloist, Buckingham is a fine fingerstyle picker whose mostly focuses on augmenting the song, rather than rising to the foreground to make the guitar sing on its own. There are exceptions; the fade guitar solo on “Go Your Own Way” is short and powerful, and a precursor of a similar solo by Mike Campbell on Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream”.
Of all the contributors, Buckingham is my second favorite, behind Peter Green.
Stevie Nicks is a singer from Phoenix, Arizona, though her family moved often during her childhood. She settled into the San Francisco Bay Area to finish high school in Atherton, California, where she met her lifetime musical collaborator Lindsey Buckingham. Joining Fleetwood Mac with Buckingham in 1975, Nicks made immediate strong contributions, adding songs, style, and a deep, sexy voice to the band. She is by far the most popular member of the band; between Fleetwood Mac albums plus her solo efforts, Nicks has sold over 140 million records worldwide.
Stevie and Lindsey revisit “Landslide” in later life:
Stevie Nicks has always been my least favorite of the Fleetwood Mac songwriters, which says more about me than it does her. I perceive her to be the most ambitious and the biggest “sellout” to pop stardom, and perhaps that’s true. Interview footage with Nicks show her to be serious, and exasperated with the band when progress is not positive and consistent. It’s been great to review her best songs with the Mac; the quality of her songs on Fleetwood Mac and Rumours is obvious. An unknown favorite is “Crystal”, which Buckingham sings, on the first “White” album. I have no doubt her drive helped them succeed.
Fast forward to late 2013. Fleetwood Mac just cancelled their world tour; lifetime smoker John McVie has cancer and needs treatment. Bob Welch committed suicide a couple years ago; he was in great pain and did not want to be a burden on his wife. All other important members of the band are alive.
Back in 2009, before I had the grand idea of counting down the common artists in my collection, I wrote a pair of blog posts about Fleetwood Mac. You are welcome to analyze these to see how I chopped the list from almost a hundred songs down to about seventy. I still see the first album of the Buckingham/Nicks era as the superior effort; it’s typical for me to see things that way.
One last story. In the spring of 1975, my senior year in high school, I went to a Day On The Green concert at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. For this one, we showed up at 11 PM the night before and waited to get a ticket the next morning. By 9 AM the next morning we were in the stadium; the concert began sometime between 10-11 AM. The lineup was: Gary Wright, Fleetwood Mac, Dave Mason, Peter Frampton, and Robin Trower. We left during Robin Trower; everything before them was so good. Gary Wright sang the new “Dreamweaver” and “Love Is Alive”, Fleetwood Mac debuted their new lineup with Buckingham and Nicks, and Peter Frampton performed the music set that would become his famous Frampton Comes Alive double album. Dave Mason was good, too. Me and my friends took some chances in early life, and this one was memorable.
Fleetwood Mac Song Notes:
1. Many of the selected songs are not available on either iTunes or Amazon. Several albums released during the early seventies are not represented. They can all be found, but it will take a bit of work.
“Sentimental Lady” and “Spare Me A Little Of Your Love” can be found on Bare Trees.
“Future Games”, “Sands Of Time” and “Show Me A Smile” can be found on Future Games.
“Oh, Well, Part 2”, “Coming Your Way” and “Fighting For Madge” can be found on Then Play On.
“Miles Away” and “Hypnotized” can be found on Mystery To Me.
“The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) (Alt)” can be found on The Vaudeville Years Of Fleetwood Mac.
2. “Madison Blues (Live)”, “Trying So Hard To Forget (Live)” and “I Loved Another Woman (Live)” can be found on Helsinki Carousel, an unauthorized compilation of two early concerts. “I Loved Another Woman (Live)” features Paul Butterfield on harmonica.
3. “Black Magic Woman (Live)” and “Jumping At Shadows (Live)” can be found on Live In Boston, Vol. 1. “Got To Move (Live)” can be found on Live In Boston, Vol. 2.
4. “Over My Head (Single)”, “Say You Love Me (Alt)” and “Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win) (Single)” can be found on the deluxe version of Fleetwood Mac, and are also not current available on iTunes. All three of these single versions are superior to the album mixes.
5. “Never Going Back Again (Live)”, “Dreams (Take 2)” and “Rhiannon (Live)” can be found on Rumours (Deluxe Edition).
Fleetwood Mac Songs:
Black Magic Woman, Fleetwood Mac ★★★★
Black Magic Woman (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★★★
Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win) (Single), Fleetwood Mac ★★★★
Hypnotized, Fleetwood Mac ★★★★
Sentimental Lady, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win), Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Over My Head (Single), Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Over My Head, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Crystal, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Landslide, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Without You, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
A Fool No More (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★★
I Loved Another Woman, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Need Your Love So Bad, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Need Your Love So Bad (Version 2)(Remake), Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Go Your Own Way, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Dreams, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Albatross, Fleetwood Mac ★★★
Spare Me A Little Of Your Love, Fleetwood Mac ★★
How Can We Hold On To A Dream (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Oh Well, Part 1 (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Albatross (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Say You Love Me (Alt), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Say You Love Me, Fleetwood Mac ★★
I’m So Afraid, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Future Games, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Trying So Hard To Forget (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
I Loved Another Woman (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Long Grey Mare, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Shake Your Moneymaker, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Got To Move, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Don’t Stop, Fleetwood Mac ★★
The Chain, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Dreams (Take 2), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Oh Well, Part 1, Fleetwood Mac ★★
The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown), Fleetwood Mac ★★
Tusk, Fleetwood Mac ★★
Only You (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★
Linda (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★
Like Crying, Fleetwood Mac ★
Like Crying (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★
World Turning, Fleetwood Mac ★
Show Me A Smile, Fleetwood Mac ★
Madison Blues (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★
Bermuda Triangle, Fleetwood Mac ★
Miles Away, Fleetwood Mac ★
My Heart Beats Like A Hammer (Take 2), Fleetwood Mac ★
The World Keep On Turning, Fleetwood Mac ★
Second Hand News, Fleetwood Mac ★
Never Going Back Again, Fleetwood Mac ★
Never Going Back Again (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★
You Make Loving Fun, Fleetwood Mac ★
Gold Dust Woman, Fleetwood Mac ★
Rhiannon (Live), Fleetwood Mac ★
Coming Your Way, Fleetwood Mac ★
Oh Well, Part 2, Fleetwood Mac ★
The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) (Alt), Fleetwood Mac ★
Big Love, Fleetwood Mac ★
Everywhere, Fleetwood Mac ★
Little Lies, Fleetwood Mac ★
Rattlesnake Shake, Fleetwood Mac ★
Man Of The World, Fleetwood Mac ★
Fighting For Madge, Fleetwood Mac ★
Gold, John Stewart ★
Magnet And Steel, Walter Egan ★★★
Need Your Love So Bad, Little Willie John ★★★★
Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen, Santana ★★★★
Sun King, The Beatles ★★
Black Dog, Led Zeppelin ★★★★
How Can We Hang On To A Dream, Tim Hardin ★★★
Shake Your Moneymaker, Elmore James ★★★
Dust My Broom, Elmore James ★★
Got To Move, Elmore James ★★
Madison Blues, Elmore James ★★
A Fool No More, Peter Green ★★
Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around, Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty ★★
Edge Of Seventeen, Stevie Nicks ★
Time Precious Time (KBCO Studio C Sessions), Lindsey Buckingham ★
Trouble, Lindsey Buckingham ★★
Big Love (Live), Lindsey Buckingham ★★
Holiday Road (Live), Lindsey Buckingham ★★