GET 20% OFF ALL CODA RECORDS RELEASES ON CD AND VINYL This eBook is brought to you by Coda Records Ltd. and entitles you to an exclusive 20% discount on all Coda Records releases on CD and vinyl purchased through Amazon. Please note this offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer. To obtain your 20% discount, simply enter the following promotional code on the payment checkout page:
CRPROMO20 Coda Records Ltd. is the home of rare and collectable performances by the greatest music legends of all time including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Queen, AC/DC, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and many moreâ€¦ Details of all Fleetwood Mac CD and vinyl releases from Coda Records Ltd. can be found throughout this eBook.
Click here to VIEW the FULL Coda Records CATALOGUE ON our Amazon store
Contents The Early Years ............................................................................................................... 5 A New Fleetwood Mac ............................................................................................. 35 The Cracks Begin to Show .................................................................................... 59 ‘Tusk’ and the Future .............................................................................................. 79 Track-by-Track Analysis ........................................................................................ 97
The Early Years
n January 1974, at the Academy of Music, New York City, a nervous manager, Clifford Davis, announced the arrival of the band Fleetwood Mac on stage, only not one of the original line-up appeared. It was a completely fake Fleetwood Mac. Unsurprisingly, the crowd was not amused. This scene highlights the incredible journey of a band that had more personnel changes than hot baths in the early days, and found themselves at one stage not even in the band at all. It’s a fascinating study in how a band can evolve through changes as extreme as this and still retain its music and its fans. Despite the turmoil, Fleetwood Mac would achieve platinum sales with several of their albums, and would eventually be enrolled in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They played a pivotal role in popularizing the blues in the late sixties, and certainly ‘Rumours’ and ‘Tango in the Night’ provided the backdrop to many people’s 5
lives and loves in the eighties. During the intervening years they turned out superb albums that have stood the test of time and were created using some of the most talented songwriter teams of the era. Amidst the band’s numerous changes, two of Fleetwood Mac’s main characters have been at the centre since day one, lending some continuity to the twists and turns of this story. They are Mick Fleetwood, providing the drums and the Fleetwood, and John McVie, adding the bass and the Mac. These two would occupy a strange role as band leaders, with Mick Fleetwood often being touted as the figurehead, whilst neither of them were the principal songwriters. As successful bands go, it’s an un unusual arrangement, because it’s often the band members who write the songs that determine the direction a group goes, and it pays credit to the strength of Fleetwood Mac’s rhythm section that they’ve managed to retain some of the original essence of the band throughout the years. The musical evolution of Fleetwood Mac is what makes their story so interesting. Having lived through the social changes that accompanied the music, I can attest that they were a credible reflection of what was happening in youth culture during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, but change is not always so readily accepted by the die-hard purist fans who want a band to remain as they were when they first discovered them. This was particularly true of the British fans of their early blues period, who wanted the band to stick with the blues and nothing but the blues. This might have been possible, except for the demise of the other key player in the genesis of Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green. He was the initial visionary who stamped the blues trademark riffs on the band’s first recordings. He was by far the most accomplished technical musician at the time, but, more importantly, he had the gift of really being able to get across the feel of the music, which is so important in the blues. He had an innate sensitivity in his 6
Fleetwood Mac – RUMOUR, TANGO & MASK 6 CD Set
This six disc anthology brings together the very best of the legendary live radio and TV broadcasts by Fleetwood Mac from 1968 to 1988, during which the ever changing line-up of the band released a string of amazing studio albums. DISC 1 – THE FORUM, INGLEWOOD, CA, 21 OCTOBER 1982 1. The Chain 2. Rhiannon 3. Eyes of the World 4. Gypsy 5. Love In Store 6. Not That Funny 7. Tusk 8. You Make Loving Fun 9. I’m So Afraid 10. Go Your Own Way 11. Blue Letter 12. Sisters of the Moon 13. Songbird Disc 2 – Checkerdome, St Louis, MO, 11 June 1979 1. Say You Love Me 2. The Chain 3. Dreams 4. Not That Funny 5. Over and Over 6. Sara 7. What Makes You Think You Are the Only One 8. Oh Daddy 9. Save Me a Place 10. Landslide 11. Tusk 12. Angel 13. I’m So Afraid 14. Sisters of the Moon 15. Songbird Disc 3 – Trod Nossel Studios & Capitol Theatre, Passiac, 1975 1. Get Like You Used to Be 2. Station Man 3. Spare Me a Little of Your Love 4. Rhiannon 5. Why 6. Landslide 7. Over My Head 8. I’m So Afraid 9. Oh Well 10. The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) 11. World Turning 12. Blue Letter 13. Hypnotised Disc 4 – Nuburgring, Nurburg, 5 June 1988 1. Say You Love Me 2. Dreams 3. Isn’t It Midnight 4. Seven Wonders 5. Stop Messin’ Around 6. Everywhere 7. Gold Dust Woman 8. Don’t Let Me Down Again 9. Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You 10. Another Woman 11. Brown Eyes 12. You Make Loving Fun 13. Go Your Own Way 14. Don’t Stop Disc 5 – San Francisco & Sausalito, 1968 & 1974 1. The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) 2. Angel 3. Spare Me a Little of Your Love 4. Sentimental Lady 5. Why 6. Believe Me 7. Black Magic Woman 8. Oh Well 9. Rattlesnake Shake 10. Hypnotized 11. Madison Blues 12. My Baby’s Gone 13. My Baby’s Skinny 14. Have You Ever Loved a Woman 15. Albatross Disc 6 – The Budokan, Tokyo, 5 December 1977 1. Monday Morning 2. Oh Well 3. Rhiannon 4. Oh Daddy 5. Never Going Back Again 6. Over My Head 7. You Make Loving Fun 8. Gold Dust Woman 9. Go Your Own Way 10. World Turning 11. Blue Letter 12. The Chain 13. Songbird
Click here to purchase from Amazon
guitar playing, and this gave the early incarnations of Fleetwood Mac the edge on other blues bands of that era, of which there were plenty. Peter Green was the captivating force that ignited Fleetwood Mac’s fire, but the heat of fame and stardom sadly just proved too much for him. Coupled with some disastrous experiences on hallucinogenic drugs, he buckled under the strain and was lost to the world for 20 years. Strangely enough, his story echoes that of Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones in that he provided that allimportant belief and direction at the start, only to be manipulated away from centre stage and left to lick his wounds. Luckily, Peter Green managed to escape the chemical monster that claimed Brian Jones, and he has carved out a solo career in recent years. The birth of Fleetwood Mac began, as did so many bands in the sixties, in the arms of another band. In April 1967 John Mayall, the keyboard player and singer-songwriter of the Bluesbreakers, brought Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie all together for the first time. Mayall had just lost his guitarist, one Eric Clapton, who had decided to pack all his troubles and a bunch of musicians and head off south to Greece for a while. This trip was always assumed to be a temporary departure, and the worship of Clapton’s followers was so strong that he resumed his place in the band on his return. His return did spell the end of Green’s temporary stint in the band, but Green had gone down well with the fans, and Mayall never forgot the favour. Peter Green was born Peter Greenbaum in October 1946. His first band, a covers outfit called Bobby Denim and the Dominoes, eked a living rolling out all the usual rock and pop hits of the time, but Peter’s real passion was the blues, in particular the blues guitarists and singers from the depressed southern states of America. His favourites were B.B. King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Howlin’ Wolf. These musicians inspired many of the great bands that came out of the sixties, including Brian Jones and 9
Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who have cited these blues legends as their guitar heroes. Green joined John Mayall, and together they recorded an album called ‘A Hard Road’. They were joined by Aynsley Dunbar on drums whilst John McVie held the bass. This album aptly demonstrates Peter’s skills on guitar, and one track, ‘Supernatural’, bears all the hallmarks of the Fleetwood Mac sound still to be incarnated. The arrival of Mick Fleetwood coincided with Aynsley Dunbar going off to work on solo projects two months after the album was completed. Fleetwood didn’t last long, though, as Mayall was a formidable taskmaster as band leader, and he sacked him for getting drunk. As if that wasn’t enough, an argument between Green and Mayall prompted Green to quit the band. He eventually followed Fleetwood into another band, which also acted as midwife to Fleetwood Mac. This was Peter Barden’s band, amusingly called The Looners. Still, all along the road – and it was a long bumpy road in the back of beaten-up old vans from gig to gig, with a mattress if you were lucky – Peter Green was dreaming of his own vision for a band, one that would better reflect his musical heritage and give him more prominence in the mix. Ironically, he latched onto the name of one of the instrumentals all three musicians had been involved with in the Bluesbreakers, which was called ‘Fleetwood Mac’. With typical humility, Green never angled for his name to be up there in lights. Whether it was part of his medical condition or not, Green’s humility and generosity towards other people was legendary, with it only needing a mention that somebody liked something for him to give it to them. This generosity came at a cost, though, as many of Green’s guitars disappeared to hangers-on and opportunists. The final place in this emerging quartet was provided by Mike Vernon, a producer for the Decca label who doubled up as a talent scout for the band. It was while he was on a jaunt to Birmingham 10
Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon & Other Tales Limited Edition On Purple Vinyl
Fleetwood Mac had, by 1975, become a more rock-oriented act and now featured the classic line-up of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. This limited edition vinyl album features a show from September 1975 when Nicks and Buckingham were just beginning to make their mark. At this point the band had released the ‘Fleetwood Mac’ album which formed a large part of the set but they were still also performing some of the hits from the blues orientated Fleetwood Mac. This is a rare opportunity to enjoy Buckingham’s take on the earlier material such as ‘The Green Manalishi’ and ‘Hypnotised’. Side 1 1. Spare Me a Little of Your Love 2. Rhiannon 3. Landslide 4. Over My Head 5. The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) Side 2 1. Oh Well 2. World Turning 3. Blue Letter 4. Hypnotised
Click here to purchase from Amazon
in search of talent that he came across a local blues outfit called the Levi Set Blues Band, most of whom were not yet up to London standards of playing, except for the diminutive guitarist, who had a penchant for sounding like Elmore James, the legendary bottleneck blues performer. When Vernon played the audition tapes of this band to Green, he nearly jumped out of his seat, grabbed the keys to the band’s van and went out to nab the guy. Less than a week later, Jeremy Spencer was fully enrolled in Fleetwood Mac and the band was officially born. Although Green had chosen the members of his band, he hadn’t quite managed to secure them all. John McVie was reluctant to give up the security of regular work with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, a well-reviewed band with plenty of gigs lined up, so temporary stand-in Bob Brunning was brought in on bass, and rehearsals began for an upcoming tour from September to December 1967. Before the tour kicked off, the band played its rite-of-passage gig, the first official Fleetwood Mac engagement, at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival. This weekend of unbridled frivolity would eventually move west to become the Reading Festival. As the tour progressed, McVie heard good reports and decided he wanted to join the band full time. Brunning graciously stepped aside and went on to carve himself a respectable career as a teacher, while still finding time to work on records. So, at last, the group assembled in the bleary dawn of 1968 and set about carving out their slice of musical history. The first album was recorded in a couple of days, on a budget that was not so much minimal as next to nothing. Called ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’, it was an unashamed attempt to capitalise on Green’s growing reputation as one of Britain’s outstanding blues guitarists, and for good reason. Without his remarkable playing, there is no reason why Fleetwood Mac should ever have popped their heads up above the parapet of mediocrity. Bands like the 13
Animals and the Rolling Stones, performers like Alexis Korner and Eric Clapton, had all played their part in a growing number of fans enjoying this white man’s version of Black American blues. Acts still had to be world-class to cut the mustard. Then there was that guy Jimi Hendrix, who, just when you thought you’d mastered the technique, came along and re-wrote the rules on playing the guitar, or rather, set fire to them. To some extent, Fleetwood Mac owed their early success to factors outside their control. Britain’s top bands were playing the blues, the phenomenon of Jimi Hendrix brought blues to the masses, and the whole blues genre was enjoying something of a popular revival in Britain at the time. Musicians are so often prey to what is actually happening in the wider spectrum of music that events way beyond their control can determine whether an album is going to be a success or not. It was definitely on the back of this rising tide of blues-inspired music that ‘Fleetwood Mac’ hit the
Click the above photo for a video link Ex-bass player Bob Brunning discusses Fleetwood Mac’s debut album. 14
Fleetwood Mac – Never Break the Chain 3 CD Set
This powerful three disc anthology brings together the very best of the legendary live radio and TV broadcasts by Fleetwood Mac during the halcyon years from 1975 to 1979, showcasing the formation and rise of the classic line-up from an early 1975 broadcast to a stunning broadcast from the 1979 Tusk tour. Disc 1 – WPLR-FM, Trod Nossel, Wallingford, CT, 23 September 1975 1. Get Like You Used to Be 2. Station Man 3. Spare Me a Little of Your Love 4. Rhiannon 5. Why 6. Landslide 7. Over My Head 8. I’m So Afraid 9. Oh Well 10. The Green Manalishi 11. World Turning 12. Blue Letter 13. Hypnotised Disc 2 – The Budokan, Tokyo, 5 December 1977 1. Monday Morning 2. Oh Well 3. Rhiannon 4. Oh Daddy 5. Never Going Back Again 6. Over My Head 7. You Make Loving Fun 8. Gold Dust Woman 9. Go Your Own Way 10. World Turning 11. Blue Letter 12. The Chain 13. Songbird Disc 3 – Checkerdome, St. Louis, MO, 11 June 1979 1. Say You Love Me 2. The Chain 3. Dreams 4. Not That Funny 5. Over and Over 6. Sara 7. What Makes You Think You Are the Only One 8. Oh Daddy 9. Save Me a Place 10. Landslide 11. Tusk 12. Angel 13. I’m So Afraid 14. Sisters of the Moon 15. Songbird
Click here to purchase from Amazon
charts with resounding results. The band members must have been aware that they were at the mercy of the fickle winds of change, for when the album was released in February 1968 and shot into the charts, no one was more surprised than the band itself. A combination of some positive music reviews and Peter Green’s awesome guitar work catapulted the album ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’ into the Top 5. It remained in the Top 10 for another fifteen weeks. With the lads doing endless rounds of gigs to plug the album, it would be a year before it eventually dropped out of the Top 20. In the late sixties, this was an incredible feat, as most albums in those days needed one or two chart toppers to bring the band into every radio playlist, and therefore into the public’s record collection. Fleetwood Mac had actually tried this conventional route the previous year, releasing their debut single, ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t Long’, just before Christmas. The title was certainly a premonition of better things to come, but the Jeremy Spencer version of this Elmore James classic just fell flat on its face. I think that had they put out a Peter Green original composition the first single might have done better. The problem with the Elmore James number was that it didn’t allow the talents of the whole band to shine through. Jeremy Spencer was renowned as an Elmore James devotee, and the group’s management might have been better advised to release this as a solo effort. When Mike Vernon, the band’s manager, sat down with Green to discuss the second single from the band, they unanimously decided that it had to be one of Green’s songs to display his burgeoning talent as a writer and to feature his guitar-playing up front. The resulting song was the awesome ‘Black Magic Woman’, which, although it only enjoyed modest chart success for Fleetwood Mac, went on to be a huge hit for Carlos Santana in the States. This success across the pond was the first of many for Fleetwood Mac, and foretold the way things would generally pan 17
out in the years to come, that releases which bombed in the UK would go stratospheric in the States, and vice versa. With the relative success of their first album, Vernon dipped into the coffers of his Blue Horizon record label and, utilizing the talents of the Gunnel Brothers, who did all his concert bookings, he sent the band off to Scandinavia on a short tour. He also began to secure them more radio airplay and their first TV broadcasts. Radio One recorded the band’s debut on Live Session in the Studio on 16 and 17 January, 1968. Fleetwood Mac had arrived, or more accurately, given their heavy gig schedule, it was more like, ‘Fleetwood Mac have just left the building.’ With the spring tour over and the band firmly ensconced back in beer-bleary Blighty, it was time to think about feeding the beast, the record label, which was baying for the next album. Although signed to Blue Horizon, Fleetwood Mac were under the wider umbrella of CBS, whose main aim was of course to maximize sales and distribute the merchandise as widely as possible. The question was, what would be the follow-up to ‘Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac’? The band was at a stage that nearly all bands find themselves – that is, they had been kicking around for endless years fine-tuning their sound, only to put all their best work into that all-important first break. Then, if it makes any headway, or, more importantly, any money, they find record company executives breathing down their necks crying out for the next hit. Unfortunately, a band doesn’t have the luxury of a lifetime on its hands, and has to turn out in six months what had previously taken six years. Fortunately for Fleetwood Mac, much of the first album had contained cover songs written by other artists, so it seemed good sense for their next album to be one that featured more of the group’s self-penned songs and that made better use of Green’s songwriting abilities. 18
Fleetwood Mac – Never Break the Chain Limited Edition On Blue Vinyl
The 1982 album, ‘Mirage’, was a return to the more conventional song writing. Buckingham had been chided by critics, fellow band members and music business managers for the comparatively poor commercial success enjoyed by ‘Tusk’. ‘Mirage’ was recorded at Château d’Hérouville in France and was an overt attempt to recapture the huge success of ‘Rumours’. In marked contrast to the mammoth Tusk Tour, the band only embarked on a short tour of 18 American cities, but ‘Mirage’ was nonetheless certified double platinum in the U.S. This is the live broadcast from Inglewood on 21 October 1982 and provides a powerful snapshot of the band at work on the Mirage Tour. Side 1 1. The Chain 2. Rhiannon 3. Gypsy 4. You Make Loving Fun Side 2 1. Tusk 2. I’m So Afraid 3. Go Your Own Way 4. Songbird
Click here to purchase from Amazon
The album was to be named ‘Mr Wonderful’, and in an attempt to recreate some of the authentic sound of the early blues musicians, the band, with producer Mike Ross, deliberately dumbed down the sound and ruffled the edges of the recording process to make it sound dirty, as if they’d just walked into one of those old Alabama studios with one dodgy microphone and too many cockroaches. They even committed such heresies as putting the vocals through a Vox amplifier before the mixing desk, and purposely distorting the guitars, turning the volume knob way past eleven, to get that edgy feel. Despite the band wading through these muddy waters, they still managed to cut it with their collective talents, and on its release in August 1968, ‘Mr Wonderful’ climbed steadily up the UK charts to peak at a nicely respectable number four. Again, this was a major achievement for any new band, especially one that was not mainstream pop and was definitely trying to hang on to its integrity and credibility as a blues outfit. Earning respect as a blues player was probably harder than in most genres of music because the blues audience demanded total authenticity. No charlatans need apply. However, having won the hearts of this discerning audience, it was to be the cause of much anguish later on when the band began to veer away from hard-core blues and into the murky mire of R&B, and onwards towards the slippery slopes of – dare I say it – pop. Those days were yet to come, however, so in the meantime Fleetwood Mac concentrated on the next hurdle they had to overcome, their first tour of America – the home of the blues. There was one guest artist, or perhaps artiste, who featured on ‘Mr Wonderful’, which was the Miss Wonderful, Christine Perfect. She was John McVie’s girlfriend at the time and quite a prodigious talent on keyboards and vocals. Her temporary inclusion was to become permanent a short while later when she eventually exchanged the title Miss Perfect for Mrs McVie. 20
Strangely, the summer tour of America wasn’t on this occasion the amazing trip they’d been hoping for. The first single and album had been released on the Epic label, but most members of the band felt they had done little to promote it successfully. The American management didn’t seem to grasp how well the band had been doing in England and gave them some lousy graveyard slots supporting bands that they would have run rings around back home. However, no visit to the States for any British band was a completely lost cause, as it gave the boys a chance to catch up with the real blues players of the day. So Peter Green was able to meet Buddy Guy and Howlin’ Wolf. He also met The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, all of whom made a tremendous impression on him. Despite their underwhelming tour of the US, they did return to some good news. Their third single, the Little Willy John song, ‘I Need Your Love So Bad’, had scored a reasonable hit and was getting airplay on some of the more mainstream pop radio programmes. Despite the success of their first two albums and the relative headway the singles were making, Green wasn’t one to rest on his laurels. He started thinking about ways to expand the band’s sound and make it more interesting. He also read the riot act to the Gunnel Brothers, as he felt they weren’t pushing hard enough to get them gigs, while at the same time he hijacked one of their employees, Clifford Davis, to be their manager. Green’s instinct was fairly astute, and having got Davis on his side, he sent him down to see the Gunnel Brothers to rattle their cage a bit. As it happened, he did rather more than that. Unfortunately, the discussions quickly escalated into an argument that Davis succinctly won – by delivering a knockout blow to one of the brothers. Luckily, Fleetwood Mac’s management also turned out to be a black belt in bargaining, which in practical terms meant that Davis had a reputation in the business that was 21
watertight and strong as titanium. His reputation would later prove a useful card to play when dealing with aggressive music-industry heavyweights. Green didn’t want to end his long love affair with the blues, but he had a prophetic inkling that if he wanted to avoid stagnating, he needed to expand the band’s musical territory. He achieved this by bringing in Danny Kirwan, whose previous incarnation had been with a band called Boilerhouse, on guitar. Realising that Kirwan had more talent than the rest of Boilerhouse put together, Green didn’t feel too guilty about poaching him for Fleetwood Mac. At only 18 years old, Kirwan’s wide musical tastes exceeded his years. He swung from the guitar playing of Hank Marvin to, perhaps more importantly, the famous French gypsy guitarist Django Reinhart. Bringing in somebody who wasn’t blues, born and bred, was an inspired leap of faith for Fleetwood Mac, and began the transition that would eventually catapult them out of the blues and into mega-stardom as more mainstream performers. Had any of the band members known what a fury their gradual shift from blues to pop would cause, they might well have dumped Kirwan in the nearest canal, no questions asked, but as it was, their naïvety protected them from such worries. For the time being, they bravely sauntered into whichever musical grove looked most appealing, the result of which was perhaps one of the most inspired lateral choices for a single any so-called blues band ever released. It broke most of the rules in the book, being an instrumental for starters. It was also about as far removed as they could get from anything the band had ever done before. It should have been a complete disaster. This, however, wasn’t any old ramshackle single; it was ‘Albatross’. Of all the million or so bird names the band could have chosen, they settled on ‘Albatross’, for whatever reason, perhaps utterly 22
Fleetwood Mac – Gold Dust Radio 6 CD Set
This six disc anthology brings together the very best of the legendary live radio and TV broadcasts by Fleetwood Mac during the halcyon years from 1975 to 1988, which saw the classic line-up of the band release five amazing studio albums. DISC 1 – WPLR-FM, TROD NOSSEL, WALLINGFORD, CT, 23 SEPTEMBER 1975 1. Get Like You Used to Be 2. Station Man 3. Spare Me a Little of Your Love 4. Rhiannon 5. Why 6. Landslide 7. Over My Head 8. I’m So Afraid 9. Oh Well 10. The Green Manalishi 11. World Turning 12. Blue Letter 13. Hypnotised DISC 2 – THE BUDOKAN, TOKYO, 5 DECEMBER 1977 1. Monday Morning 2. Oh Well 3. Rhiannon 4. Oh Daddy 5. Never Going Back Again 6. Over My Head 7. You Make Loving Fun 8. Gold Dust Woman 9. Go Your Own Way 10. World Turning 11. Blue Letter 12. The Chain 13. Songbird DISC 3 – CHECKERDOME, ST. LOUIS, MO, 11 JUNE 1979 1. Say You Love Me 2. The Chain 3. Dreams 4. Not That Funny 5. Over and Over 6. Sara 7. What Makes You Think You Are the Only One 8. Oh Daddy 9. Save Me a Place 10. Landslide 11. Tusk 12. Angel 13. I’m So Afraid 14. Sisters of the Moon 15. Songbird DISC 4 – THE FORUM, INGLEWOOD, CA, 21 OCTOBER 1982 1. The Chain 2. Rhiannon 3. Eyes of the World 4. Gypsy 5. Love In Store 6. Not That Funny 7. Tusk 8. You Make Loving Fun 9. I’m So Afraid 10. Go Your Own Way 11. Blue Letter 12. Sisters of the Moon 13. Songbird DISC 5 – NURBURGRING, NURBURG, 5 JUNE 1988 1. Say You Love Me 2. Dreams 3. Isn’t It Midnight 4. Seven Wonders 5. Stop Messin’ Around 6. Everywhere 7. Gold Dust Woman 8. Don’t Let Me Down Again 9. Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You 10. Another Woman 11. Brown Eyes 12. You Make Loving Fun 13. Go Your Own Way 14. Don’t Stop DISC 6 – TV MOMENTS 1. Second Hand News 2. The Chain 3. Dreams 4. Oh Well 5. Not That Funny 6. Tusk 7. You Make Loving Fun 8. Why 9. Over My Head 10. World Turning 11. Rhiannon 12. Gold Dust Woman 13. Don’t Stop
Click here to purchase from Amazon
unaware of the bird’s bad press with mariners ancient and new. Maybe they just felt invincible, riding the crest of stardom’s wave. As with most journeys through life, the initial reviews were relatively positive; actually, they couldn’t have been better. ‘Albatross’ scored the band’s first number-one in the UK chart in December 1968. Sadly, the band were in America on tour at the time and couldn’t enjoy the thrill of Christmas at the top of the charts, but as the band’s story unfolds, it’s tempting to speculate how things might have turned out if they’d just called that single ‘Seagull’, instead. While they were in Chicago, Fleetwood Mac received the highest accolade in blues terms, the chance to record at the legendary Chess Studios. Along for the ride were some top-class blues players, including Buddy Guy, Willie Dixon, Honey Boy Edwards, and Walter ‘Shaky’ Horton, to name but a few. The entire session, including all the out-takes, bum notes, and chat from the band, was released a year later on a double album entitled ‘Blues Jam at Chess’. They also recorded an album in New York without Mick or Jeremy, but using Otis Spann on keyboards and SP Leary on drums, called ‘The Biggest Thing Since Colossus’. This band wasn’t certainly one to underestimate itself. However, Fleetwood Mac had underestimated the reaction of their die-hard blues fans, who weren’t impressed by number-one hits and wondered just where the band were heading with a tune like ‘Albatross’. If Peter Green was worried, he certainly didn’t show it. He brushed off the fans’ speculation by declaring, ‘I’m going to play what I like when I like.’ Sadly, he and the band would later discover that any attempt to step outside the narrow confines of the blues territory would earn them catcalls and boos at concerts. This prospect troubled some of the band, but Mick Fleetwood was more stoic, realizing that the single had earned them a much wider audience and had opened the door to real experimentation 25
with their sound. The follow-up single was a tragic song by Green entitled, ‘Man of the World’, in which he pours out his frustration and disillusionment with the trappings of fame and fortune. Ironically, ‘Man of the World’ was just what Green wasn’t going to be in the future. If anything, ‘Man Off the World’ might have been a more pertinent title, considering the madness that was later to invade his entire persona. Even more sinister and prophetic was the single’s B side, called ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight,’ attributed to Earl Vince and The Valiants. Sadly it was Green who was to have his head metaphorically kicked in while on tour in Germany in 1969. One subtle point about this single, which the more diligent fans will have picked up on, is that it was released on Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records, rather than on Mike Vernon’s Blue Horizon. There was a cunning reason for this. Clifford Davis had been waiting for the date that Fleetwood Mac’s contract ran out with Blue Horizon, and the moment it did, he quashed their right to take up an option on the band and signed them to Immediate Records. All of this was a slap in the face for Mike Vernon, who had already negotiated a contract on the band’s behalf with CBS worth a quarter of a million. Needless to say, when Fleetwood Mac joined in with the notorious and nefarious Andrew Loog Oldham, they hardly received a penny. Clifford Davis had also arranged for the band to own their own publishing rights, but only by setting up his own company to do so. He also made sure they got an advance from Immediate’s parent company, Reprise, under Warner Brothers, to record Fleetwood Mac’s next project, which was their third album, ‘Then Play On’. The recording of this album triggered another line-up change in the band, as Jeremy Spencer bowed out to pursue his veneration of Elmore James. At the same time, Peter Green seemed to 26
Fleetwood Mac – RUMOURs IN CONCERT Limited Edition On Clear Vinyl
Fleetwood Mac had, by 1975, become a more rock-oriented act and now featured the classic line-up of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Fleetwood Mac’s second album after the incorporation of the Buckingham and Nicks duo, was 1977’s ‘Rumours’. That classic album produced four U.S. Top 10 singles and remained at No. 1 on the American album chart for 31 weeks, as well as reaching the top spot in many other countries around the world. To date, the album has sold over 40 million copies worldwide, making it the eighthhighest-selling album of all time. This limited edition vinyl album features the very best peformances of the classic songs from the ‘Rumours’ album. Side A 1. Go Your Own Way 2. Dreams 3. Never Going Back Again 4. Don’t Stop 5. Songbird Side B 1. The Chain 2. You Make Loving Fun 3. Second Hand News 4. Oh Daddy 5. Gold Dust Woman
Click here to purchase from Amazon
be gradually slipping away from the heart of the band and contributing less and less to the recording process. This left the songwriting demands pretty much up to Danny Kirwan, who shouldered the responsibility well enough. It’s odd that all this disruption and uncertainty didn’t prompt Fleetwood and McVie to get their heads round this creativity thing and start writing, themselves, but strangely they didn’t, and this has been one of the definitive characteristics of Fleetwood Mac as a band. Because Fleetwood and McVie have been the only consistent members of the band, but not the songwriters, it has been left to all the comers and goers to write the band’s material, and it’s probably this one aspect of the band’s evolution over the years that has most made it interesting to follow. Had we had 25 years of Fleetwood-McVie songs, we may not have enjoyed the diversity of style and the changes of musical direction that the use of itinerant band members has given us.
Click the above photo for a video link Ex-guitarist Bob Weston recalls Fleetwood Mac in the studio. 29
Meanwhile it was the same old story of another single being released while the public waited for the next Fleetwood Mac album to come along. Green was tasked with putting this one together and he came up with a song title that must rank as the direst eulogy to lethargy, ‘Oh Well’, to which he added the stunning afterthought, ‘Parts One and Two’. Even the rest of the band thought it was abysmal and bet Green some serious cash that it would nosedive, but with that characteristic effortlessness which all geniuses have for hitting the spot without so much as an atom of effort, it made number two in the UK charts and Green’s flabbergasted co-musicians had to pay up. Just as the band’s fame and wealth were really escalating, the gulf that had opened up between Green and the rest of the band was rapidly widening. In December 1969 the band were voted in the UK music press as the most successful in ’69, outgunning both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and Christine McVie, now officially John’s wife, picked up Best Female Vocalist. Despite the accolades, however, all was not well. Probably no one will ever really know the truth about the disastrous events that led up to Peter Green completely losing it, unless in the future they finally invent a machine that can read back all the brain’s files, including the ones labelled, ‘Top Secret – this file will self destruct in 10 seconds.’ The end result, though, was tragic and undeniable. Like Syd Barratt and Brian Wilson, Green lost his mind and to all intents and purposes disappeared off the face of the planet for the next 20 years. Stories abound as to the cause of all this, but the thread which keeps recurring in accounts of the period is that while on tour in Germany in late ’69, Green was hustled off after a gig to join a party with the Jet Set Freaks of Munich, from which he never fully returned. The rumour is that he had taken some super strong LSD, a potent hallucinogenic drug, and somewhere on that trip he blew some serious fuses in his head, and was never the same again. 30
Fleetwood Mac – SONGBIRDS KEEP SINGING 3 CD Set
This three disc anthology brings together the very best of the legendary live radio and TV broadcasts by Fleetwood Mac during the halcyon years from 1982 to 1988, which saw the classic line-up of the band release a string of amazing studio albums. DISC 1 – THE FORUM, INGLEWOOD, CA, 21 OCTOBER 1982 1. The Chain 2. Rhiannon 3. Eyes of the World 4. Gypsy 5. Love In Store 6. Not That Funny 7. Tusk 8. You Make Loving Fun 9. I’m So Afraid 10. Go Your Own Way 11. Blue Letter 12. Sisters of the Moon 13. Songbird DISC 2 – NURBURGRING, NURBURG, 5 JUNE 1988 1. Say You Love Me 2. Dreams 3. Isn’t It Midnight 4. Seven Wonders 5. Stop Messin’ Around 6. Everywhere 7. Gold Dust Woman 8. Don’t Let Me Down Again 9. Has Anyone Ever Written Anything for You 10. Another Woman 11. Brown Eyes 12. You Make Loving Fun 13. Go Your Own Way 14. Don’t Stop DISC 3 – TV MOMENTS 1. Second Hand News 2. The Chain 3. Dreams 4. Oh Well 5. Not That Funny 6. Tusk 7. You Make Loving Fun 8. Why 9. Over My Head 10. World Turning 11. Rhiannon 12. Gold Dust Woman 13. Don’t Stop
Click here to purchase from Amazon
LSD-induced psychosis is not uncommon; it can strike any time, whether it’s the first, the 31st, or the last dose. It’s not clear if Green had already inflicted the neural damage before that fateful trip to Germany, and that his pharmaceutical carnival with the Jet Set Freaks was the simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. No one will ever know except Green himself, and it’s likely that most of the memory from this time has been pretty much overwritten or erased. To be honest, though, it doesn’t really matter what caused it, for the end result was there for all to plainly see. And the first steps of his 20-year expedition into madness were noticeable. Apart from the usual claims to be God, Jesus, or Jimi Hendrix, there was his wish to give all his money away. Even for a generous man, this wish was without logic, and unfortunately it didn’t take long for many unscrupulous friends and hangers-on to realize this and grab their share of his fortune. Saddest of all was that as the ’60s departed and became the ’70s, something of Peter Green, and ultimately, something from Fleetwood Mac itself, was left behind. The ’70s were ushered in by pall-bearers. Music fans all over the world were mourning the demise of the Beatles, who officially threw in the towel on ever recording or gigging together again. The grave had already claimed Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison, and countless others had also fallen by the wayside. The Rolling Stones debacle at the Altamont festival, at which a fan was stabbed to death by the Hell’s Angels security, signalled the death knell for the hippie peace-and-love dream. Fleetwood Mac also suffered another casualty in the everchanging saga of their line-up, the only difference being this departure marked the end of the era of the band’s blues-oriented music, because the person leaving was Peter Green. Was it the bad acid, or just the coronary-inducing stress of keeping the hits coming and the endless touring? Who knows? It was whilst 33
on tour in Sweden that Green broke the news, first to manager Clifford Davis and then to the band. Green had had enough and was getting out. With his customary generosity and consideration, Green honoured all outstanding gigs and there were no ugly arguments with the other band members. He officially left on 31 May 1970, just as one of his final contributions to the Fleetwood Mac catalogue was climbing the charts, â€˜Green Manalishiâ€™. This was to be the last chart hit for the band for over five years, and just highlighted what an immense talent Peter Green was and the size of the gap his departure left behind.
A New Fleetwood Mac
any a lesser band might have agreed to call it a day, but not Fleetwood Mac. The burden of songwriting now fell to Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan. However, Spencer was also exhibiting signs of cracking at the seams, hanging on more and more to his extreme religious beliefs for inner strength, whereas Kirwan was just hitting the bottle in a band where drinking was something of a religion for a time. John McVie was always a willing drinking partner, giving Kirwan plenty of scope for boozy sessions. The next album was dominated by Spencer’s ’50s and early’60s- inspired rockers and Kirwan’s more soulful ballads. Called ‘Kiln House’, it was warmly received by fans and critics alike, but could not be heralded as a great success, as it yielded no hit singles. Although she was still contracted to Blue Horizon, Christine McVie came in as a session musician and provided some of that 35
classic style which had won her the vocalist of the year award from Melody Maker more than once. She would eventually become a fully-fledged member of the band in the autumn of 1970. In 1971 the band, now with its fifth line-up, set off on tour again to promote the album and to let the fans know they were still alive after Green’s very public departure. A mere fortnight into the tour, however, disaster struck again. It seemed as if the albatross was still flying over their heads. Jeremy Spencer just disappeared overnight. Initially, it looked as if he had been coerced into joining the American cult, the Children of God, but as more details emerged, it seemed as though he went willingly and had planned such an event for some time. All this took place in Los Angeles, as the band were due to play the Whisky a Go-Go, the venue made famous for being where Jim Morrison and the Doors got their first break. Just two weeks into the tour manager Clifford Davis was facing financial ruin, but he had a brainwave and called Peter Green. Initially, Green was reluctant to get involved with the band again, but seeing the predicament Davis was in, he joined the band to fill Spencer’s gap until they could get somebody else, in a gesture that demonstrated that he hadn’t taken total leave of his senses. Fleetwood Mac managed to honour all their tour dates and his arrival back in the band provided fans with an unexpected bonus. Green stressed that his inclusion in the band was purely temporary and urged his fellow band members to keep looking for a replacement. Meanwhile, they had moved together into a huge mansion, called Benifold, in Hampshire. There, John and Christine McVie inhabited one wing while Mick Fleetwood and his partner Jenny Boyd lived in another. Danny was in the attic with his girlfriend. This creative communal living in such an opulent setting truly epitomized the rock and roll dream. Into this fantasy world stepped the band’s newest recruit, Bob Welch. The band hired Welch for more than his songwriting ability and 37
guitar skills. At this stage Danny and Christine McVie were the principal songwriters, but they needed to expand their sound and looked to Bob to inject the Fleetwood Mac sound with that allimportant X-factor. So, with the band settled and re-grouped, manager Clifford Davis brought the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording unit down to Benifold and work started on the album ‘Future Games’. Once the album was complete, true to form, the band packed off to the States to promote it on yet another tour. The gigs were reasonably successful, but filling the chasm left by Green proved an uphill struggle for Welch. Under immense pressure to live up to Green’s standards, a situation made worse by his weaker vocals, it was only a matter of time before cracks started appearing in the band’s set. Unfortunately for Welch, his voice was the first thing to go when the band were on stage. The band returned to England to work on their seventh album, ‘Bare Trees’. Released in 1972, it was the least well-received of their work. The trouble was that Fleetwood Mac’s sound no longer fitted in with the popular music of the time. By 1972, Britain was in the grip of the legion of platformed, glitter-encrusted bands that made up the glam-rock movement. Arguably, only T.Rex showed any real signs of creativity, while the rest was just fun, cheap, throwaway pop. While younger music fans went ballistic for the sheer entertainment and spectacle of the glam rockers, older music fans, raised on Hendrix, Pink Floyd and the Doors, were simply left to gasp, despair, and wonder what on earth all the fuss was about. ‘Bare Trees’ was mostly a product of the songwriting duo of Danny and Christine McVie, but it was a Bob Welch composition, ‘Sentimental Lady’, that made the first release as a single. The band toured the States with the album, and yet again ended up losing one of their members in transit. The casualty this time was Kirwan. His drinking had worsened to such an extent that he 38
ended up throwing a wobbly at one gig, refusing to join the band onstage, and instead heckling them from the crowd. What a night that must have been for the other musicians, who promptly sacked him. It was becoming a cycle – record the album, tour the album, lose a band member, find another, record the next album, and so on. Dave Walker joined as a vocalist next, and then in the autumn of ’72, Bob Weston received a call from Chicago asking him to join the band. He thought it was an elaborate hoax at first but a call from Mick Fleetwood himself finally convinced him. The new line-up returned to Benifold in Hampshire to solidify themselves and to record some new material before heading off to Scandinavia for a tour specifically aimed at ironing out all the creases between the new members on stage. They could afford to make some errors and try out new material in front of this audience. The next album was ‘Penguin’, and as soon as it was in the can it was off to the States again to sell it. Even the lives of successful rock stars can seem predictable at times, but this album attracted fairly negative reviews across the board and seemed to be a filler album. Fleetwood Mac had not found their real personality yet. Of the new members, Dave Walker’s contribution was minimal, and it was Bob Weston who seemed to be settling in better. Eventually, by the summer of 1973, Walker was sacked, and Weston departed months later. Fleetwood Mac were definitely going through a phase of transition, and was yet to find its voice and sound. Bob stayed long enough to record ‘Mystery to Me’, the next Fleetwood Mac offering, which was again recorded on the Rolling Stones’ mobile unit at Benifold in Hampshire. Unfortunately for a band already at the breaking point, this album received far worse reviews than the previous one, and Fleetwood Mac’s woes were only just beginning. Despite hiking off to America for the 40
usual tour, it was the McVie’s marriage which would collapse en route this time. Christine had an affair with Martin Birch, the sound producer on the Rolling Stones’ mobile unit, while John was enjoying the delights of a debauched rock lifestyle without the stabilizing influence of his wife. It was a recipe for disaster. The saga didn’t end there. Bob Weston was sleeping with Jenny Boyd, Mick Fleetwood’s wife and sister to Pattie Boyd, who’d once been married to George Harrison. It was turning into more of a Shakespearean plot than the story of a rock band. All these traumas would result in the band disintegrating on tour and lead to the completely bizarre scene outlined at the very beginning of this biography, when Clifford Davis had to plonk an entirely fake Fleetwood Mac on stage in a desperate attempt to honour some gigs. The details of this would fill a book itself, but the basic premise was that Davis was convinced the band was finished, so he attempted to build a band around Mick
Click the above photo for a video link Ex-guitarist Bob Weston discusses his affair with Jenny Boyd. 41
Fleetwood. He thought he had Fleetwood’s approval in this, but he hadn’t, and eventually Fleetwood left him in the torturous position of trying to convince the world that Fleetwood Mac were on stage on a night where all the band members were nowhere to be found. The wrangles naturally resulted in the lawyers getting involved until an out-of-court settlement finally put the matter to rest. It was an ugly scene in the band’s history, and it’s a credit to their unbelievable resilience that they ever bounced back from that infamous episode. The fake American tour of 1974 must go down as the most brazen attempt by a manager to keep the semblance of a band alive. It would mark Davis’s swan song to the industry. After the whole show descended into a legal battle, he stopped all his dealings with the music business and refused ever to manage an act again, a vow to which he has sadly stuck. Though he might have been a bit of an East End London character, he brought some panache and verve to all his dealings with artists, management, and bookers. He also helped Fleetwood Mac realise their ambitions musically without trying to determine their direction with too strong a hand. A footnote to all this fakery was that apparently a Peter Green clone was doing the rounds of pubs and clubs in Europe and getting away with it. If that wasn’t enough, a guy passing himself off as Jeremy Spencer even managed to bluff his way through a concert with the band until he eventually cracked when faced with Spencer’s parents, who rumbled him immediately. Called Andrew Clarke, this Spencer wannabe had been at it for years, even getting to jam with Rory Gallagher at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland. These were strange days indeed and summed up the madness of the post-Hippie, pre-Punk era. It was also a difficult time for the great stadium bands that had been so popular in the late ’60s 43
and early ’70s. They now began to be seen as anachronisms. The days of massive productions somehow seemed out of place, an indulgence too far, particularly in a country then being shaken by strikes and economic uncertainty. The mid ’70s also witnessed the first wave of disco fever. It was a more of a tsunami, and really took off, with studios all over Britain and America kicking out single after single of up-tempo dancefloor mayhem. Combined with movies popularizing it, the whole disco movement left the folk-rockers looking decidedly jaded, compared with the spangly, mirrorball world of the clubs. Like the glam rock era preceding it, the age of disco was one dominated by the teenybopper market. Keen to tap into this younger, hormonefuelled audience, the music industry suits churned out bands like the Bay City Rollers and The Sweet, who lived at the opposite end of the spectrum from Fleetwood Mac. Alas, Fleetwood Mac found themselves in legal turmoil yet again, with the old problem of the fake band rearing its head. Part of the litigation was founded on the premise that Clifford Davis, not Fleetwood Mac, owned the name of the group. This raised fears at Warner Brothers, to whom the band were signed at the time, that they might end up in court for putting out an album with the band’s name on it. It was a plot twist too ridiculous even for the most far-fetched soap opera, and it could only have happened to Fleetwood Mac. Not only had a fake band done the rounds, but half of their members had clones running around the world impersonating them, and it had come to the point at which they didn’t even own their name, which was comprised of two of their surnames. The record-buying public was just as lost, and sales during this period were depressingly poor. Despite everything, Fleetwood Mac released ‘Heroes Are Hard to Find’ in 1974 on the Reprise label under Warner Brothers, and in their own name, before setting off on the usual tour of the USA. Who would get lost on this escapade? 44
Bob Welch stepped up to the microphone, saying, ‘“Heroes” was the fifth album I’d done with the band. It wasn’t all that wellreceived. It was apparent to me that something had to change. I didn’t really see myself as a front man any more in the context of Fleetwood Mac. I think the other members of the band were seeing me in a particular light. I wanted to do things they didn’t want from me.’ Which is a rather convoluted way of saying there were insurmountable artistic differences between him and the band and that he wanted to leave. Like Peter Green before him, however, Bob honoured all the gigs the band were contracted to do and didn’t let them down by any stretch of the imagination. He left officially in December 1974, and the band said their farewells from their new residences in Los Angeles. Without Clifford Davis and Benifold at hand, the band had less reason to remain in England. They always seemed to do better with stateside audiences, and the tax breaks were probably better. They certainly couldn’t have been worse than in Britain, where successful artists could find 90% of their earnings going straight into the Exchequer’s coffers. So, as 1975 rumbled in, Fleetwood Mac were on the prowl for more band members. This time the new recruits would make a difference the world would never forget, eventually releasing two or three of the most outstanding albums the band would ever record, and earning them fame and fortune that utterly eclipsed the Peter Green era. New Year’s Eve 1974 had found Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks at their lowest ebb for some time. Then the phone rang and their lives would never be the same again, but that’s rock and roll for you. Fleetwood met Buckingham and Nicks in Sound City Studios in LA on a random visit that had more to do with a trip to the supermarket than finding new members for his band. That’s the way real magic works. The pair were working on some songs for 45
a new album, but hadn’t really had any luck with their previous efforts and were on the point of calling it a day, when in walked Mick Fleetwood. He had been brought there by Keith Olsen, who really wanted him to consider the merits of the studio for rent, rather than the errant musicians who happened to be there, but in the process Fleetwood’s ears pricked up when he heard Buckingham play and he knew he’d found the next guitarist for the band. Unfortunately he wasn’t looking for any other musicians beyond a guitar player. However, when he got in contact with the pair it was obvious they lived, worked, and dreamt as a duo, so it would be both of them or nothing. Fleetwood made one of the best choices for the listening public when he decided to give the pair a break. He was already hoping to change the musical direction of the band, because the previous album had floundered, and here he had found new songwriting blood in the form of Stevie Nicks. So it was that the tenth line-up of Fleetwood Mac was given birth in a downtown studio in LA. What none of them could guess at the time was that this melting pot of musicians was to provide a dynamic chemistry on stage and in the studio that would propel the band to even greater heights than they had experienced during the Peter Green era. Mick Fleetwood would comment later on this. ‘The first time we played together,’ he recalled, ‘was in the basement of our agent’s office, and it was at that point the real, true excitement came. It was very apparent that something was really happening. It was very much like when the band first started.’ Christine McVie was slightly more reticent about having another woman in the band. Not that she was possessive or bitchy in any way, but she knew that one female amongst a band of rock and roll boys was complex enough, especially considering the band’s track record of incestuous relationships and general shenanigans. She summed up the situation quite succinctly, saying, ‘Mick and John 46
said to me, “If you don’t like the girl, then we can’t have either of them, because they are a duo.” The last thing I was thinking about at the time was to have another girl in the band. I had been so used to being the only girl.’ However, her concerns were soon assuaged. ‘We met them both.’ she recalled. ‘We all really got on well together. Stevie was a bright, very humorous, very direct, tough little thing. I liked her instantly, and Lindsey too.’ Mick Fleetwood still had his work cut out convincing Warner Brothers that this new incarnation of the band was the best thing yet, and that the next album was going to prove to the suits and to the fans that Fleetwood Mac were back. With hindsight, it’s easy to wonder what all the fuss was about, knowing as we do that the band were on the verge of a major breakthrough, but in the mid’70s, Fleetwood Mac were still just a rocking, folky, blues band that had by all intents and purposes passed their sell-by date and were trying to make headway in a music market that had already
Click the above photo for a video link Music journalist Chris Salewicz describes Nicks and Buckingham joining the band. 48
written off their particular genre of music as old, faded, worn-out, and highly unlikely to appeal to the kids. Up to this point, Fleetwood Mac’s major impact had actually been in the States, leaving Britain and Europe rather nonplussed about the whole deal. They’d had this bizarre see-saw effect with their record sales on either side of the Atlantic, where albums and singles that did well in the States hardly scored in England, and the one or two that sank without a trace on the US hit parade invariably did better at home. It must have been difficult to know where and to whom they wanted to target their next offering. One thing was certain, though; they weren’t going to waste any time debating the issues, so less than a month after the group first got together they headed back to Sound City Studios in LA to begin work on the album they would simply call ‘Fleetwood Mac’. I think all the hassles over the name and all the doubts as to whether Fleetwood Mac could rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of so many line-up changes encouraged them to state their name boldly as a gesture of solidarity. It perhaps also served to convince anybody who had any doubts, after the court case with Clifford Davis, over who owned the name. It was definitely Fleetwood Mac. The desire to get cracking in the studio and come up with an album meant the band didn’t really have a lot of time to get to know the new members, so the album was created by the bringing together of the individual units rather than the individuals all having gelled into one unit. Thus, Buckingham and Nicks added in their back catalogue of songs which made up virtually half of the material, while Christine McVie and the rhythm section covered the remainder of the tracks, except for one cover song of the Curtis Brothers’ number, ‘Blue Letter’. One song which served to prove Stevie Nicks had been a good addition to the band was the beautiful ‘Rhiannon’, a wonderfully crafted ballad about a Welsh witch, that was to become one of 49
the band’s most popular songs with the fans and always requested at gigs. Christine’s ‘Sugar Daddy’ also became one of the band’s staples, while ‘Over My Head’ and ‘Say You Love Me’ showed that she had by no means lost her talent for writing top-class lyrics and melodies. The album ‘Fleetwood Mac’ was released in July 1975 and didn’t take long to reach the prestigious number-one slot in the American album charts. Christine summed up their appeal simply enough. ‘I think we were just a product that everybody wanted at the time,’ she said. ‘It was a very versatile album, and on stage the band projected a kind of exciting image, a new sort of image which hadn’t been seen before. It was unique to have two women in a band who where not just back-up singers, or singers period… The five characters on stage became five characters, as opposed to just five members of the band.’ Personally, I think the band’s success at that time had a lot to do with what was happening with their audience. By the mid-’70s, the music-listening public from the ’60s had grown up. They were no longer a bunch of reprobate teenagers, all taking their clothes off for the first time and running around the festival fields while singing hymns to peace ‘n’ love, man. They had seen what war, and in particular Vietnam, had done to a lot of young people. They had witnessed the race riots and the protest marches. They had matured, and by that time wanted a kind of music and lyric that reflected that older viewpoint. The appeal of 20-minute lead guitar and drum solos was beginning to wane; they were looking for something a bit deeper and more melodic. This extrinsic element to the music scene is what keeps the X-factor in business. No matter how amazing the songs, or how well they’re produced, it comes down to public opinion in the end as to what sells, what doesn’t sell, and, most importantly, what goes platinum. Sometimes the oddest and most uncommercial albums can cut right through all the baloney of the music industry, and by 51
sheer public demand create a monster hit. At other times an artist can turn out an album that is at least as good as its predecessor, only to find the listening audience has moved on and doesn’t want that kind of sound any more. Punk rock, which was about to be born, provides a perfect example of this, when virtually overnight, courtesy of the Sex Pistols, a whole genre of ballad-writing, folky, bluesy artists found themselves to be classed miserably as last week’s news. The key aspect to Fleetwood Mac’s appeal was that their songs had an intelligence, a maturity of content, and style that reflected the mores and the lifestyle of their audience. This is why, when all the hype had died down and the record executives had retired to their beds, the album continued to get airplay on a diverse range of stations in America, therefore managing to stay in the Top 10 for well over a year. Meanwhile, back in Blighty, it was the same see-saw sales conundrum, with the band struggling to make headway in either the singles or album charts. It must have been a depressing situation for the Brits in the band, but Mick Fleetwood was characteristically forthright in his summation of it all. ‘We were primarily interested in getting out of England altogether,’ he said. ‘The band wasn’t working in England. At that point we were playing more and more over here, the States. Also, I thought England was very grey and full of depressed people. We just got out.’ The huge sales of the album went way beyond the band’s expectations. They had always sold comfortable amounts, but had never really ascended to platinum status. ‘We’ve always kept a low profile,’ John McVie explained, ‘away from hype. That’s the way we are. We never wanted to be viewed or reported as the biggest thing since sliced bread. Me, Chris, and Mick have been working together for a long time. We’ve eaten every day and always had money for smokes. I’m proud we pushed ahead. The success now makes some justification for the efforts of the past.’ 52
Following on from the band’s album success, Warner Brothers decided to go ahead and release one of its songs as a single. Christine’s ‘Over My Head’ was put out and made an immediate impact, which further broadened the band’s fan base in America. This was their first chart-topper in the singles market since Peter Green’s offerings in the late ’60s. This says a lot about how the way record labels used to look after their artists, compared to now. Today, if an act doesn’t have a steady stream of chart-topping singles, or at least a huge blockbuster album, it’s likely to find its contract has expired and won’t be renewed. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, the music industry took a longer-term view and nurtured its talent. Naturally, having produced such a fine album, it came to be time again to take it out on the road. You’re beginning to see a pattern emerging now of how all this music business works: get a new line-up of musos together, record the album, release the single, go on tour, go crazy, lose a band member or two, get a new line-up, record the album, and so on. Easy, really? Most surprisingly of all, this time Fleetwood Mac managed a tour, through the autumn of 1975, without any casualties. Buckingham and Nicks were keen to prove their worth, so they didn’t mind roughing it from time to time with all the rigours of being on the road. Meanwhile, the old hands were intent on showing them just what a professional outfit they were. The result was a stupendous tour with a fresh sound and image for the band. This irresistible combination went down a storm with the existing fans and won the band even more new followers. The tired and worn-out blues numbers were abandoned to the back catalogue while the bright, tight, West Coast production and delivery of rock and pop ballads had the fans filling the aisles. Any doubts the long-term blues devotees had of the band were instantly dispelled upon seeing the exciting stage show, which included not one, but two pretty women – always a real bonus with the 53
rock and roll gentlemen of yore. The thumping drums and bass of Fleetwood and John McVie just wouldn’t let your feet stay still; in between these thumps was the clean, proficient guitar work of Lindsey Buckingham cranking out some awesome riffs. The band had a short break in Hawaii to brush the studio dust off their shoulders before returning to the States to prepare themselves for – yes, you guessed it – another tour to promote the album. This first tour of the band with the definitive tenth line-up probably found them at their happiest and most dynamic for many years, but how long would it last before hairline fissures started appearing in the band’s make-up? Buckingham was already feeling the strain that playing somebody else’s guitar licks has on a musician. Being a decidedly independent man and wanting to retain his personal style made it hard for him to dovetail sweetly into playing Bob Welch songs without a second thought, but he persevered, probably because Nicks was apparently enjoying the trip and felt more at home in the group than he did. They started on 9 September, 1975 and didn’t return to LA until 22 December, gigging virtually every night and working hard to sell the new album, the new band, and the new look. It was hardly as lavish an affair as later tours would be, with the band still relatively roughing it; they hadn’t yet reached the stretchedlimo-for-every-member kind of indulgence that would inevitably accompany their increasing success. The tour was naturally a chance for the band really to get to know one another and to establish their core identity. It had the effect of smoothing out any glitches in their performances and creating that natural rapport which is so important between band members on stage. Having made that happen, though, could it sustain itself under the pressure that comes from the business side of the music industry? 54
Well, there’s nothing like good record sales to take some of that pressure away, and, with that in mind, Warner’s released ‘Rhiannon’ in early 1976. It was an instant hit for the band and did much to vindicate Stevie Nicks’s place in the band and to settle any doubts Christine McVie may have initially had about another woman being part of the crew. After ‘Rhiannon’, Christine’s ‘Say You Love Me’ was released to similar plaudits. Sadly this was only true of their sales in America. Up to that point in the mid-’70s, the band were finding it hard to get anywhere in the British charts. For example, when ‘Rhiannon’ was put out as a single in Britain it struggled lamentably to make the Top 100, let alone the Top 20; Its highest recorded place was a miserable 46. The difficulty the band experienced in Britain was more than likely due in some small measure to the loyalty showed by the fans to Peter Green’s version of the band, which was a blues and rock outfit rather than rock and pop. I’d hate to infer that the Americans are anything less than honest in their appreciation of music, so perhaps it’s better to say the Brits have a bit more integrity in where they hang their loyalties, and, once given, are slower to change. Back in ’75 and ’76, the music industry in Britain was turning out the last of the glitter bands before the murderous advent of punk came along to kill any musical speculation whatsoever. The listening public, of which I was one, were somewhat lost, to put it mildly. Having been raised on the Beatles and the Stones, having taken the seminal trips as we grew with bands like the Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, or Bob Dylan, we were now expected to lap up the Bay City Rollers and Donny Osmond. It was a tough time. Admittedly these bands were the teeny-bop chart makers, but we still had to listen to this pap regularly on the radio, and, worse still, watch it on the telly. Many musical aficionados were seen edging their way into the midnight sea at high tide, clutching their 56
Hendrix and Doors albums, with their heads suicidally pressed to their chests, never to look up again. Okay, so that’s a bit extreme, but for people with an ounce of musical taste, the British charts in the mid-’70s made tough listening. Punk could only possibly have followed this, because what went before was so paper-thin and soulless. At least Sid Vicious looked like he meant it. Into this mass culture, then, Fleetwood Mac were trying to sell what was seen as outdated arena pop-rock. The kind of people who were British blues music fans, and who had taken on board Peter Green’s immense talent, were not going to fall for what was seen as a less noble substitute. Whereas in the States, musical appreciation was a much more fluid thing and didn’t really have a countrywide basis. One thing could be kicking off in New York while an entirely different scene was breaking through on the West Coast. All of this meant the American audience was more open to what Fleetwood Mac were trying to achieve. It sounds odd by today’s standards, but to have two women providing the creativity and, more importantly, fulfilling the job of a front man was something of a novel concept in ’75-’76. Most rock bands are utterly devoted to the concept of having a male rock god out there fronting the group. Women performers were for the most part either successful solo singers or banished to the harmony department. For such macho figures as Mick Fleetwood and John McVie to relinquish this age-old status was revolutionary, and something of a revelation in the ’70s. More to the point, the approach proved highly successful. Christine McVie was not an unattractive woman, but Stephanie Nicks, as she was first named, was sexy and feisty. She was the foxy lady personified, and exuded that kind of passionate, fiery aura that Mick Jagger achieved with his lips and hips. Putting these two women together on stage gave the male audience something to 57
look at – and lust after. American audiences were also more likely to accept a good image even if the product wasn’t 100% ready, whereas the British fans wouldn’t be fooled, no matter how much glitter you sprinkled over it. Stevie Nicks must have felt like she was living in a fairy tale, going from rags to riches in less than a year. The one-time waitress and cleaner was propelled to the dizzy heights of rock’s royalty quicker than you can say ‘millionaire’. Many people might have lost themselves in such a rapid transition from anonymity to stardom. It says volumes about her character, and perhaps about how solid she was in her hippie ideals, that Stevie didn’t let it all go to her head.
The Cracks Begin to Show
s 1976 unfolded it became clear that the bandâ€™s success had clearly divided Stevie and Lindsey, while John and Christine were as usual living in separated dis-harmony; Mick, who was supposed to be the solid, father-type figure of the band, was pressed to the point of splitting with his wife and divorcing her â€“ before he remarried her again, and then divorced her again. It probably would have been worthwhile for them to have had a marriage guidance counsellor on the permanent payroll of Fleetwood Mac back then. He or she would have certainly had plenty of serious work to do. Despite all this emotional turmoil going on behind the scenes, all them seemed to have a loyalty to their marriage with the band that kept them going. Somehow, they never let personal problems supersede the demands of the group. No matter what, Fleetwood Mac and the fans came first and foremost in all their lives, and the 59
band members were intelligent enough to realise theyâ€™d never get such a great chance to make it big again. Amidst the soap opera, Warner Brothers were on their case looking for another album and the next string of hits. Rather than succumbing to the emotional divides in the band, the songwriters went off and put it all down in material that would make the next album. That this album would be the greatest breakthrough for the group and one of its all-time best sellers says something about the nature of the creative process and its relationship to trauma. It was Eric Clapton who admitted that there was nothing worse than being happily ensconced in a relationship to dry up all his creative juices. He went as far as purposely wrecking any stable relationship with his partner just so he could come up with a bit of angst and few good tunes for his next album. This was one problem from which Fleetwood Mac never suffered, for there was no shortage of stress and arguments between the couples in the band.
Click the above photo for a video link Ex-guitarist Bob Weston explains how Fleetwood Mac began to tire of the band. 60
Such troubled waters led them to produce some of their lifetimes’ best work in the shape of ‘Rumours’. The comings and goings of each band member had certainly given the West Coast press more than enough to chew on, and it was this capitalising on seedy, showbiz rumours that actually prompted the band to call the album ‘Rumours’. We certainly can’t berate them for not having a sense of humour – or was that just a healthy sense of irony? Christine McVie would later admit, ‘The outcome of the various separations and emotional upheavals in the band that caused so many rumours are in the songs. We weren’t aware of it at the time, but when we listened to the songs together, we realised they were telling little stories. We were looking for a good name for the album that would encompass all that, and the feeling that the band had given up, the most active rumour flying about. And I believe it was John, one day, who said we should call it “Rumours”.’ This time the band all withdrew to the Record Plant studio in Sausalito, California with producer Richard Dashut to record the songs that were coming out of this difficult period. However, it turned out to be so stressful that eventually Fleetwood Mac went out on the road just to relieve the tension that being cooped up in a studio brings to any band. This did give them an opportunity to test out any of the new songs they had been working on and provided a good level of feedback, so that when they returned to recording again they had some idea of what was working for the fans and what wasn’t going down so well. Instead of carrying on at the Record Plant studio, they shifted back to LA, and eventually would record the album in no less than four different studios as it progressed. The services of Keith Olsen had been discarded, not through any major problems with him, but because the band wanted to take greater control of what was happening at the mixing desk. They now exhibited the kind of 61
confidence in themselves that favourable record sales encouraged, and were prepared, at the risk of disappearing up their own proverbial backsides, to stamp their character firmly on this album called ‘Rumours’. Taking this desire to have greater control over all the aspects of producing the albums and touring the band, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie set up their own managerial company, rather amusingly called Seedy Management. It was obvious that despite any niggles in the band they certainly hadn’t lost their sense of humour. The bulk of the responsibility for this enterprise fell on Mick’s shoulders, ‘We’re much less insulated,’ he said, explaining their ethos, ‘because I make sure everybody knows what’s going on. An outside manager has a tendency to try to make it look as though everything is going smoothly even when it’s not. I think we’ve got complete peace of mind. I think, for instance, that if someone from outside had been handling this band we would have probably broken up when there were problems. This band is like a highly tuned operation, and wouldn’t respond to some blunt instrument coming in. There’s a trust between all of us that would make that a problem.’ John McVie was particularly proud of their efforts and was keen to point out that, ‘The hardest thing for people in the business to accept is the fact that the band achieved all that it has without professional help. Some people still think that Mick’s just a dumb drummer and I’m a dumb bass player.’ Most of the work the band had done in the studio in the past had been recorded mostly live, with the necessary overdubs going on later, but with ‘Rumours’ the band didn’t work as such a cohesive whole, preferring instead to build up the songs layer by layer. They still, however, did everything they could to retain some verve and vibe in the process. ‘The way we approach it,’ Lindsey added, ‘is more like the way the Beatles used to approach their 63
thing in the studio; having a general idea and then going into the studio and letting the spontaneity happen. There was nothing specifically worked out when we went into the studio. We didn’t have demo tapes like the last time. The whole thing just happened. That’s where you capture the magic.’ Of course, such luxury in the recording process is only accorded to extremely successful bands, and even though Fleetwood Mac could warrant these expenses, the moguls at Warner Brothers were getting jumpy at the huge costs involved. This was usually where the band’s manager would take the brunt of the flak, so unfortunately it fell to Mick Fleetwood to go to Warner’s and assure them that a product was on its way and would be worth the wait. He didn’t even allow them to hear any of the rough mixes, preferring instead to let them sweat a bit. Had they known what was going down in all these several studios and with all these diverse songwriters, they may have been less worried, but Fleetwood was never one for having massive sympathy with the business side of the music industry, and I think he enjoyed having them over a barrel for once. Meanwhile Christine had been having a few doubts and the odd downright moment of panic because she was finding it hard to come up with any new material. It seemed as if for once her muse had deserted her. Then one day, ‘In Sausilito,’ as she later recalled, ‘I just sat down and wrote in the studio, and the four or four and a half songs of mine on the album are a result of that.’ This was an incredible statement; just as well she wasn’t having her hair done that day, or the world might only have had half of the masterpiece that was to become ‘Rumours’. Lindsey was also having a few doubts about the whole situation, feeling that his songs weren’t coming out how he wanted them to sound once the band got a hold of them. However, faced with Mick’s take-it-or-leave-it attitude, he settled down a bit and agreed to take it for the betterment of the whole enterprise. 64
Meanwhile, Nicks summed up her way of writing songs by saying, ‘All my songs are personal. They are all about things which did happen. The only way I can be is honest. I can’t make up a song. I can’t make up a story. I promised myself from when I was 16 years old and wrote my first song about the break-up from my boyfriend Steve that I would never lie in my songs. I would not say, “I broke up with him”, if the truth was he broke up with me. I would stay clearly truthful to the people.’ This may or may not have been a good philosophy to have, depending on where a person stood in the lifeline of Stevie Nicks. With her relationship to Lindsey still hanging precariously in the balance, we can bet that most of her love songs on ‘Rumours’ concern their past, particularly ‘Dreams’. In a reflection of this from the other side of the mirror, Lindsey’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ was a subtle slap with a sledge hammer on how he felt about the whole thing.
Click the above photo for a video link Ex-bass player Bob Brunning discusses the hit ‘Go Your Own Way’. 65
Ironically when the Warner’s men in black suits finally demanded to hear something, that was the track that Fleetwood offered up. Six and a half minutes later there was a stunned silence from the suits, and they never bothered to hassle the band again. On the strength of that one listening they knew the band were onto something really special. All in all, it took 14 months to complete the recording of ‘Rumours’, plus a further five months just mixing it. Warner Brothers were eventually able to release it in February 1977. ‘Go Your Own Way’ had been released as a single just before Christmas ’76, first as a taster of the forthcoming album for the fans, and also to mop the fevered brows of the men in suits. It’s also likely that the band wanted to remind them not to forget their Christmas bonus. The single nudged its way swiftly into the Top 10 and was a portent of the gold dust yet to come when the album struck the streets – and boy, never mind the gold dust, Fleetwood Mac could have paved the streets with gold blocks from the awesome sales this album would net them. Within a year, Fleetwood Mac had managed the amazing feat of having sold nearly 10 million copies of ‘Rumours’, with the album sitting pretty at the number-one slot for over six months. At the height of the fans’ feeding frenzy, up to a quarter of a million copies were being sold every week. It is difficult to imagine such impressive sales figures, but any band that sells 100,000 copies of an album in total are usually moderately satisfied with that as a result. Considering that some of Fleetwood Mac’s earlier albums in Britain were only shifting a maximum of 10,000 copies, it’s easy to see what a real achievement ‘Rumours’ really was. It must have been an incredible time for the band, with each of them rushing out to buy houses – well, mansions – and fleets of top-of-the-range sports cars, or vintage cars, which was Fleetwood’s particular weakness. Christine summed up the wealth issue and how it had affected the band by saying, ‘It’s enabled all 66
of us to realise a few dreams that we never thought would happen, but I haven’t egoed out. I’m pretty much of a recluse, as it happens. What has this done, though? Well, the doors have just opened. Now I have the money to get my studio sculpture together, and the whole way of looking at my life has expanded over the last six months.’ Naturally, the music industry were keen to heap awards on this fine achievement; among them were best album of the year 1977, best single, best band, and artist of the year. Perhaps the only downside to all this phenomenal success was the old conundrum – how on earth do we follow that? Although it probably seemed superfluous to requirements, the band gathered their old gigging heads together and prepared for another tour to promote ‘Rumours’. This goes to show how dedicated the musicians were to their fans. With albums flying off the shelves faster than they could be replenished and records being broken right, left, and centre, many less-committed bands might have just rested on their laurels and left the promotion to the executives and sales teams. Not Mick Fleetwood and his crew. Despite the reservations of Lindsey, who was never mad for the live tours, and Stevie, who always seemed to be suffering from some throat bug or virus, they prepared for what must have been a tumultuous reception from their fans at every concert. With much greater financial security, the band were able to do it in style this time. No more sleeping on the speaker cabinets for Christine. No more dirty scrubby vans with no seats in the back careering down endless miles of motorway madness. No more greasy-spoon cafes. This was the high life now, and like many musicians before them they took to all this luxury like ducks to water. Of course there were always a few problems to surmount; one being Nicks’s medical weaknesses, which meant several of the early gigs being postponed. Buckingham’s wisdom teeth were 68
giving him hassle, so he had to have them removed, but once these problems had been sorted, the band hit the road for six months’ solid touring, attracting rave reviews wherever they went. The band would usually play an hour-and-a-half-long set, with Nicks prancing around like a bewitched angel in satins and silks, while Buckingham looked the suave debonair rock and roll gent in his crushed velvet loons and swanky jackets. Christine was just as attractive and alluring as Stevie, but in an entirely different way. Audiences could imagine her being the one in control of any relationship and having that more mature edge to her, while Nicks was the perpetually flighty teenage spirit that they wanted to wrap up in their arms and protect. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the swarthy Fleetwood beat hell and heaven out of the drums, appearing at one point in the gig with a load of electronic pads all linked up to his body, which he hammered and battered with demonic force, filling the auditorium with a sound and spectacle second perhaps only to Keith Moon in its electrifying energy. He also used an African talking drum to great effect, striking up a rhythmic conversation with the audience. The bass player in any band is usually the more reserved of the bunch and John McVie was no exception. He wasn’t one for extravagant displays of musical epiphanies. He just played some of the most pumping and memorable bass licks to ever come out of the ’70s. How many times have we heard those same riffs backing up some commercial or TV programme? He really knew how to play his instrument for maximum effect and there was no need to stage dive into the mosh pit just to prove it. Of course, back stage there were still emotional ripples from the relationship fallouts of the individual band members, but every one of them knew and accepted that the momentous success of the band was more important than their petty squabbles, and so it was a case of let’s-get-on-with-the-job-in-hand-and-for-God’s-sakelet’s-not-screw-it-up-for-everybody. In this band, as in many, the 69
total sum of the group added up to far more than all its individual musicians. Nicks summed up the precarious nature of relationships in regard to any fairly successful band that had commitments to go on the road and work hard in the studio, ‘How can you have a relationship with somebody who is in a band, and yet how can you have a relationship with somebody who isn’t? How many doctors or lawyers are going to look at you and say, “Sure Stevie, I’ll see you in three months; I’ll read about you in the papers every day.” Then, when you come home on vacation, you’re doing an album which means you’ll be in the studio all day and half the night, until four in the morning, when you roll in and say, “I’m so tired.” Then, when you finish the album, you get a call saying you’ve got two weeks off. Then you’re going on the road to promote the album!’ She wasn’t far wrong in her appraisal of the situation in regard to her own life, and really hit the nail on the head as to why so many showbiz relationships fall by the motorway roadside as the tour bus rolls and rocks and rolls on. Indeed, within the next couple of years, all the Fleetwood Mac members would have changed their partners for better or for worse. It’s a sad side-effect of success that the more people have of it in the public gaze the more likely it is to ruin their private lives. It takes a strong character to resist all the temptations that the fans and the road have to offer without completely losing sight of what’s important in personal affairs of the heart. In a bizarre reversal of what normally happens when bands try to break both the American and the British music markets, it was now down to Fleetwood Mac to replicate the gains they had made in the States with a similar level of sales in Europe, and in particular England, where three of the five current members hailed from. Most British-based bands achieve a degree of fame in Britain and then try to crack the American market. For Fleetwood Mac it had become a case of could they do this the other way round? 71
In the spring of 1977, the group returned to the UK to try and achieve this aim. They already had some impressive sales figures with ‘Rumours’ to back them up, and nobody in the British press corps could be left in any doubt that they were determined this time to make a creditable impression on British fans. The concern that Fleetwood and John McVie had was that they would be dogged by the legend of Peter Green and that most of their audience this side of the pond saw them as a blues-oriented band. Fleetwood reflected on this at one of their early press conferences, saying, ‘We are all worried about being labelled as the blues band gone wrong… We’ve been in a whole different world over in the States. Perhaps people will say, “What about Peter Green, then?” We hope not.’ Luckily, they needn’t have worried themselves too much because the first Fleetwood Mac concert was a positive breakthrough. It seemed as if the fans appreciated that the band had kept some of the original Peter Green material in the set and had liberally interspersed this with the new songs. After the poor results of their previous visits to Britain, Nicks was well aware of the importance that success in the UK meant to at least three fifths of the band. Speaking about that first night’s concert, she candidly said, ‘Tonight was a challenge, an ego challenge, which is healthy. We don’t need England from a financial point of view. I didn’t want to come, but we need to do well in England for our hearts. Because this is home for John, Mick, and Christine. And if it’s home for them, it’s home for us, too. It’s our proxy home.’ One of the surprises on this tour was the reappearance of Peter Green backstage at one of the gigs. However, it was a bit of a shock to see how much he had changed over the intervening years, to the point where the band members didn’t recognise him at first. ‘I didn’t recognise him!’ Christine reported of the meeting. ‘He was fat and flabby and looked slept-in. He was carrying a big 72
cassette machine blaring out disco music. I heard this voice say, “Hello, Chris.” I turned round and saw this rotund little guy with a big beer gut and a pint in his hand. I couldn’t believe it. ‘I said, “Aren’t you embarrassed?” ‘“Naw,” he said. “Fuck it – what the hell.” We gave him a room at the hotel for a few nights. He’d knock on your door, come in, and just sit there on your bed, not saying anything. He wouldn’t volunteer anything. He’d just sit there and laugh.’ It shows some self-awareness that Green made the effort to contact the band at all, but what was he hoping to achieve from it? Did he still harbour hopes that he might be reinstated in the band? Did he just want to hear his songs done by the new line-up? Was it a gesture of friendship, or was it purely a case of curiosity? Whatever the reasons were that prompted his arrival at their hotel that night, it must have been an unnerving spectacle for Mick and John in particular. However, their short sojourn in Britain was soon over and the band flew back to America to start rehearsing for a further round of gigs and the inevitable return to the studio to start work on the next album. The biggest problem facing the band in the spring of 1978 was how on earth they were going to follow the incredible sales of ‘Rumours’ with anything nearly as impressive. Success in the music industry is a bit of a double-edged sword; it can cut through to greater things for a band, but it can also cut backwards on the individual members, who shoulder the responsibility of coming up with the goods again. In the case of Fleetwood Mac, this burden fell to Buckingham and Nicks, who had written the majority of the songs on ‘Rumours’. The tendency of the moguls behind the desks in the upper echelons of Warner Brothers would be to ask the band to come up with an album that was, in essence, ‘Rumours’, mark two. The tendency of the musicians behind the mixing desks is to avoid precisely that syndrome. There is nothing worse for a creative 74
person than to be dogged by the success of one particular artwork to the point that it excludes the opportunity to develop freely in any direction. Furthermore, creative people tend to be sensitive to pressure being put on them to produce the goods according to some prescribed method. Creativity and strict accounting formulas just don’t make good bedfellows; the danger is further compounded by any undue coercion to perform to somebody else’s agenda having the danger of completely strangling artists’ muses, leaving them bereft of any ideas at all. This was probably how Buckingham and Nicks were feeling, bearing in mind that Christine had already suffered a severe case of drying up creatively while working on ‘Rumours’. If it hadn’t been for her one afternoon of unbridled inspiration she might not have had any songs on the album at all, and what a great loss of balance that would have meant to the work as a whole. Buckingham had no doubts that he wanted to avoid falling into a creative rut. ‘One of the things I’ve always tried to do,’ he said, ‘is go against the grain of what the group as a whole represented at a given point of time. When “Rumours” was running rampant, with sales of sixteen million, I had a real problem with that scene.’ In other words, he wasn’t happy with the idea that he would have to replicate the musicality of ‘Rumours’; he, like any true artist, wanted to move forward. The music business side of the industry, however, would be happy if he just kept on churning out the kind of songs that made ‘Rumours’ so appealing and so saleable. Fleetwood added a positive note to the discussion. ‘We’ll start recording when we finish this tour,’ he said, ‘probably about March. Everybody’s already got quite a lot of material loosely together… So, basically we’re gonna get down and so some very extensive rehearsals before we go into the studios this time, and pick material that we feel is strong. You never can tell… But that’s an exciting thing at least to attempt. It stimulates everyone and it’s 75
a challenge. You don’t just knock out another album. It’s like a real commitment.’ Another positive aspect of the band’s ever-changing soap opera of members was that this would be the first time they had actually managed to keep the same roll call for more than two albums in a row. It would be the third album for this particular quintet, which might not seem important, but considering the emotional wrangles that had been going on behind the scenes with relationships disintegrating right, left, and centre, it was an achievement that the band were all still communicating with each other. Luckily for the fans and for the suits at Warner’s, all of the band were certainly aware that the sum of their efforts far outweighed their individual wants. Having discovered a winning formula, they were only too happy to stick with it. During 1978, some of those personal issues were finally settled, much to the relief of the other band members. Lindsey, Christine, and John found happiness in new relationships. Mick at last admitted that his marriage wasn’t going to go the distance, and in ’79 he finally divorced his wife Jenny, who, with his two daughters, Lucy and Amy, returned to England shortly afterwards. Stevie was still in the courtship phase with Don Henley from the Eagles, and seemed quite content at the status quo they had achieved. Unfortunately, marital or connubial bliss isn’t always the greatest provider of creative inspiration. It would be a sad betrayal of all the things we hold dear as human beings if we judged the failure of the next album to be down to those involved actually being happy in their personal lives. Heaven forbid, but the overriding principle is the same, and unfortunately for Fleetwood Mac, it was to be proved on this occasion. With three songwriters in full flood, the band had made the collective decision, spearheaded by Fleetwood, to release a double album. Being made aware through the recording of ‘Rumours’ that they definitely weren’t the fastest band to get in and out of a 77
studio, Fleetwood proposed to Warner’s that it might be a good idea if they bought and set up their own recording unit. Sadly, the businessmen didn’t go for this and the band trooped off to Village Recorder Studios with Richard Dashut in tow to start work on the opus that would be called ‘Tusk’. Just to prove that they had fresh initiative, the title track, an instrumental, included the services of a brass band to some good effect. Meanwhile Buckingham was playing about with state-ofthe-art technology, cutting up small drum parts and looping them together to create the sort of methodology that would become so popular with techno bands in the ’80s. Arguably he was years ahead of the game with this technique, but such a laboured and unspontaneous way of doing things certainly came at a cost, and it wasn’t long before the recording started to become alarmingly expensive. On top of this, the band had got accustomed to the high life and the riders, which are the basic requirements of a band while in the studio or at a gig. Fleetwood Mac’s riders were starting to look decadently indulgent, with regular deliveries of crates of champagne and all the necessary ingredients for a five star picnic. Such is the rock and roll lifestyle, but everything comes at a price, and cheap it certainly wasn’t.
‘Tusk’ and the Future
s Buckingham had assumed half of the responsibility for ‘Rumours’, it fell to him to soak up the duties for ‘Tusk’. What actually happened showed his dedication to the studio side of making albums and something of his tenacious spirit, because he began to take over the entire project. Whether the band saw this as a good aspect of their working relationship or a threat is hard to tell. He went as far as making many of the tapes at home in his basement studio, using all kinds of weird instruments, including the classic cardboard drum kit. Some of these aural experiments worked, but some didn’t. A double album can be dangerous, in that sometimes too much available space can allow for self-indulgence. Then again, if we didn’t have musicians pushing at the limits we’d have none of the moments of genius inspiration that we find on so much modern music, especially that which is freer in its format. What counts as 79
genius and what comes down as self-indulgent is sometimes a hard line to draw. The general feeling about the album says much about the everchanging dynamic of the relationship within the band. ‘Tusk’ feels as if it was made by a collection of song-makers. Yes, for sure they are talented song makers, but the group synthesis is missing. The warm aura of five musicians melting at some point between them, which occurs on ‘Rumours’ for several great moments, just didn’t seem to be as evident on ‘Tusk’. The real problem was trying to following ‘Rumours’ with anything better. To attempt this with a double album was asking for more trouble, because the critics had double the amount to prey on, simple as that. Also word had inevitably got out that the costs had been upwards of a million dollars, which was a lot of money in 1979. The intense media interest was heightened by any delays, and there was a lot of new music about. The industry had
Click the above photo for a video link Music journalist Matt Snow describes the legacy of Fleetwood Mac. 80
definitely had the cobwebs blown out of it by punk, and where was Fleetwood Mac going to fit into the other chart-topping acts of the late ’70s? Unfortunately, whatever the critics did or said, whatever the record company tried in the way of advertising, it came down to the listening public. Would it sustain an interest in the music? The answer was no. However, you have to consider whether ‘Tusk’ would have made it without the burden of ‘Rumours’ to bear. I don’t think it would have fared much better, but it’s a question worth pondering. One thing which showed the dominance ‘Rumours’ of over ‘Tusk’ was that it was still getting airplay long after ‘Tusk’ was withdrawn from the all-important radio playlists. Buckingham was under no illusions about the way his work had been received. ‘In a way,’ he said, ‘this is a difficult time for us as a band. People are still making their minds up about the album. That goes for the radio stations, too. It has only been out a few weeks and most people just haven’t heard a lot of it on the radio. I think when we put out another single or two they will respond to what we’ve done.’ Meanwhile, Fleetwood, as the band’s frontman, was getting stick from the suits at Warner Brothers about the need for a double album when the economy was looking peaky and people didn’t have much disposable cash. ‘The record company did point out the state of the economy and tell us how much more difficult it would be to sell a double album than a single album,’ he admitted in a candid moment. ‘The important thing to us was that we should be pleased with the album, and we are.’ As pleased as Fleetwood and the rest of the band were with the end result, Buckingham took the criticism personally and felt the most responsible for it because he had dominated the work. ‘It’s been a strain for me personally,’ he admitted, ‘in that I can’t believe in myself as much as when I put the album out. I was just busting out to do something that didn’t have a lead guitar solo in it like 81
every other song you ever hear, but then over a period of time you realise that people aren’t really getting the message.’ This record’s story wouldn’t be complete without some completely crazy, unforseen anecdote, the like of which seemed to follow Fleetwood Mac’s steps like bloodhounds. This time it was Nicks who suffered the indignity of some lady claiming to have written the song ‘Sara’. Although there was some slight similarity, the level of Nicks’s reaction proves to me that ‘Sara’ was a song she wrote. Had she been in the wrong, she would have hidden behind the lawyers. As it was, she led the battle to its eventual conclusion almost a year later. With a flashing neon sign reading, ‘There’s no such thing as bad press’, the single and the album gained some headway in the charts. ‘Sara’ was a Top 10 hit in its own right, while the album peaked at a respectable eighteen. In the usual way, the British market reacted in the opposite way to its American counterpart and ‘Tusk’ made it to number two, an unprecedented success. Perhaps the fans in Britain were just glad of some respite from the nihilism of punk and the spangly jangle of disco, which was enjoying a renaissance courtesy of the 12-inch record. By the time the new decade had kicked off, Fleetwood Mac had to live with ‘Tusk’ being a flawed project. Something had gone wrong in the process. In comparison to ‘Rumours’, it was a lead balloon in a sludge pit. The relentless machine of the music industry takes no prisoners, though, and the band were put through their paces and assembled to begin a world tour. This would last almost a year and see them in Japan, Australia, Europe, and the UK, not forgetting the States. It was a mighty undertaking, and could have reflected the record company’s uncertainty about the band’s future; they probably put them out to tour the world to consolidate the legendary status of ‘Rumours’, and, they hoped, widen the fanbase. They may have thought that the band had peaked with ‘Rumours’ and that it 82
was downhill from there on. Regardless, they capitalized on the momentum. The band’s dedication deserves credit. It speaks volumes about what they wanted to achieve with Fleetwood Mac, for they got on with their business like true professionals. One side-effect, which they all must have realized, was that this was a chance for them to get the spirit of the band really back together again. Instead of playing like five band members, they needed to play as a group. One thing for certain was that the relationship dynamics within the band were certainly being shaken up and stirred into action. While they were out on the road, it made sense to capture a live album, so the band had the added adrenalin on several nights throughout the tour of it all being recorded. Whether it was Buckingham’s perfectionism or whether it was some form of band psychosis, they eventually recorded around 400 performances over a period of years which eventually were whittled down to the 18 songs on the ‘Fleetwood Mac Live’ album. During the tour they even recorded the sound checks from time to time, with one or two songs on the album being taken from these: ‘Dreams’ and ‘Don’t Stop’. Like all live albums, the main problem the technicians and the band had to solve between them was how to create the atmosphere of being on stage without the usual gremlins and the different demands made on the mix for a live setting. A live mix and a studio mix differ mainly because some instruments, like the drums, are acoustic, thereby giving off an audible sound, whereas others, such as the keyboards, don’t. Also, the stage mix has to take into account the auditorium and the crowd position for acoustics, whereas a studio mix deals with a flat aural space that is preset to given coordinates. ‘Fleetwood Mac Live’ does manage as well as most to get the balance right. It’s never going to suit everybody’s taste, but in general they gave it greater depth where it needed strength and 84
airbrushed the gaffes. The album came out in November 1980 and managed to break into the Top 20 in the States and the Top 40 in Britain, which, for another double album, was a good result and must have helped to keep the champagne flowing backstage. With the tour over, the band were in need of some serious rest and recuperation. It wasn’t just from the physical demands, but also from the cumulative strain of going through the emotions of each song, which played havoc on the band members’ reserves of strength. Christine summed it up by saying, ‘After the Tusk tour we were just flattened and exhausted, physically and mentally. We felt that we deserved a break, and we took that break. We took a long break!’ Some of the more scurrilous members of the press, touted the story that the band was finished, using ‘Rumour’ as the headline, but they underestimated the pull that success has, and the mystery of magic that happens when four or five musicians play music together. That can never change. However, the individual band members did take the opportunity of some disappointing reviews to take some time to work on their own projects, whether it was music or, in Christine McVie’s case, sculpture. Fleetwood, Buckingham, and Nicks would all release albums within a year. The most interesting of these ventures was probably Mick’s excursions into Africa to seek out the rhythms and beats of Zambia and Ghana. As well as learning a lot from the African drummers, he was able to bring a little bit of Western finance and aid along with him. Some of these trips can be seen as slightly patronising, but this was done in the early ’80s before the glut of stars seeking charity status really took off. Fleetwood just approached it as an opportunity to share and to give. ‘I went there hoping to leave something behind, not just rip off the African musicians. I wanted to put something into the country, not just take out.’ 85
The resulting album was called ‘The Visitor’ and included George Harrison in the credits as well as Buckingham and Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac. Unfortunately, the creative projects Buckingham was working on were all destined never to realise the potential he had. He worked just as hard on these solo efforts, and they certainly don’t lack anything in content or style, but it’s as if he always tried a wee bit too hard and overproduced the initial emotion so that it became diluted. It’s a mistake stars often make when they have access to endless facilities. Sometimes they would be better off to retreat to the garage with a tape deck and rediscover the raw energy of each song. Nicks approached her recordings with a completely different agenda and was to be by far the most successful of her peers. She always retained the emotional part of every song, and was quick to use the alluring sensuality of her feminine nature to good effect. The result was that by September 1981 her album, ‘Bella Donna’, had reached the coveted number-one spot in the American charts. How crushing a blow this must have been for Buckingham in particular is hard to judge, but it must have bruised his ego. Fleetwood, I feel, was far less precious about his efforts. After all, he never classed himself as an outright songwriter, but more of a drummer expanding his artistic horizons. The incredible sales of Nicks’s album meant she had to do a tour to support the fans’ need to see this music in action. Meanwhile, back at base, the rest of the band fretted about their next step. It had to be good; it had to be another blockbuster album. As soon as they could, they grabbed Nicks and headed off to a chateau just outside of Paris in order to regroup their energies. They would spend two months at Herouville and record the material for the ‘Mirage’ album. The move to France was an obvious ploy by the management, and probably by Fleetwood, to get the band away from their friends and endless hangers-on in LA so they could concentrate on each other. This tactic worked to a 87
degree, but resembled to some extent a reality TV show where they dump ten contestants on an island and see what happens, and the drastic change of scenery did indeed drive up the band’s emotions. Although they were all brought to the melting pot, it still felt a bit forced and manufactured. The magic just didn’t flow quite so smoothly. The tapes and the band all flew back to the States, and work began at the Record Plant to produce the final mix and polish up any overdubs that were needed. Listening to the album, it’s obvious that the band were more together on this one. Where ‘Tusk’ seemed like five different musicians collaborating on a project, ‘Mirage’ at least made them play as a band again. ‘One common bond on “Mirage”,’ Christine summed up, ‘is that the band is actually playing on everybody’s songs the whole way through.’ Then she added something which revealed a bit more about the underlying politics of the band. ‘Also, there are no messages to one another on this album. This is not a diary like “Rumours”. It seems like a happy record to me. We all enjoyed making it. The tracks are self-explanatory in that way. “Mirage” is more cohesive than “Tusk”.’ However, at the business end it comes down to record sales and, to a lesser degree, how much merchandise has been shifted. Neither of these were cause for jubilant celebration. Fleetwood Mac were still searching for anything that could come close to the early magic when they had first settled in this format. At least the same line-up had done three albums in a row, which was something they’d never managed before, but in the light of Nicks’s unprecedented success, the rest of the band must have felt like licking its wounds and retiring to a place in the country. The truth of the matter was that sales of ‘Mirage’ weren’t a total disaster by an average band’s standards; they were completely respectable, but not with the albatross of ‘Rumours’ hanging around their neck. 88
Of course, there was the usual tour that would promote the album and further intensify the emotional dramas, as some pretty big egos were all trying to squeeze into one small limo. However, by Fleetwood Mac standards it was a short-lived affair, the bulk of the dates being done in September and the rest completed in October. Neither Buckingham nor Nicks really wanted to go out on that tour. John McVie had been having police troubles over a mysterious package containing cocaine that had been sent to his house in Maui. All of this was compounded by the discovery of guns on the property, which naturally put him under suspicion, but the lawyers and a convincing lie-detector test took the heat off, and he was allowed to stay in America, which had been his greatest worry. One of the more bizarre issues which marked the beginning of Nicksâ€™s gradual transition to a new place in her head was her brief
Click the above photo for a video link Ex-guitarist Bob Weston recalls Fleetwood Mac beginning to fracture. 90
marriage to Kim Anderson. She married him on the premise that his wife had died of cancer, leaving a baby behind and Nicks, being her best friend, did the honourable thing of stepping in as a surrogate mother. Such a basis for any relationship, let alone a marriage, was pretty much doomed from the start, and within a year it was all over. It is an odd equation that somehow too much success will inevitably bring havoc to one’s personal psyche and therefore one’s private life. The number of stars who have fallen prey to the monster of their great achievements is too many to mention. Stevie Nicks would begin from that point to retreat into another quasi-reality she had perhaps built for her own protection. Whatever it was, this alternative reality would make working with her increasingly difficult. Nicks would also spend time at the Betty Ford Clinic getting treatment for alcohol abuse. Meanwhile, Mick Fleetwood, who had been there since day one, found that although he had earned a small fortune, he had also spent a slightly larger fortune on real estate, much of which was ill-advised speculation. The age-old problem of yes-men came back to haunt Fleetwood in a major way. For years he had speculated without the benefit of some honest financial advice. The problem was, this absence of some financial know-how meant he had speculated himself into bankruptcy. Fleetwood was only too happy to admit that it wasn’t frittered away on drugs. ‘I’ve no idea how much I spent on drugs,’ he said, ‘but it was definitely not enough to have made me bankrupt. I bought too many properties and made too many investments. I was earning two million pounds a year and wanted to do something with it. It was my fault, but there were also a lot of people around who had not given me their best advice.’ The years after the ‘Mirage’ album became the lost years for Fleetwood Mac. Their spirit had soared with ‘Rumours’, rising on the heated thermals of their emotional tangles, but then it lay 91
dormant among the more contented and less fraught relationships of the band. It wasn’t until 1986 that Fleetwood Mac would resurface, giving in finally to pressure from the industry for some product. Most fans had presumed ‘Rumours’ to be the peak and were happily replaying those numbers when the band went back into the studio. The problems that Nicks was experiencing socially were immediately apparent. Buckingham stated, ‘We had a very hard time getting her into the studio, and when she did arrive, she would be in a world of her own.’ Time was also wasted on getting in another producer. Christine McVie took up the story, saying, ‘It ended up taking longer to record than most of the others! The people at the record company, lawyers, and people on the periphery thought it might be a good idea to bring in an outside producer. I don’t know how we got lulled into believing them, but we did. It just didn’t work out. He lasted about three weeks. It was a disaster.’ Buckingham was happy to contribute to the album’s recording, but his days as a fully-fledged Fleetwood Mac member were already numbered. Richard Dashut took over the desk, and for once Buckingham didn’t dominate the mixing process. He worked with Dashut rather than taking over, which was a better balance, as the record itself shows. In April 1987, ‘Tango in the Night’ was released to an ecstatic public. Whether it was the wait or whether it was just another supreme bit of craftsmanship, the album took the charts by storm and for the first time Fleetwood Mac could boast number-one slots on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a triumph, a case of the phoenix rising from the wilderness years. At last the albatross of ‘Rumours’ could be laid to rest. They had nailed it again. The work, however, is never quite over. Naturally there was the small matter of a world tour to follow, to capitalize on this moment before it passed, but one member of the band, Lindsey 92
Buckingham, was adamant that he wouldn’t be sharing in the escapade. He’d made it clear during the recording of ‘Tango in the Night’ that he was on his way out. He enjoyed the recording and mixing process, but could do without the rigours of the road, and the band could all appreciate where he was coming from. How many tours had cost them the obligatory casualty in the past? At least this player was leaving the field before the match started. The band hired two, not one, guitarists to replace him, which must be a fine compliment to how much he added to the band. Rick Vito took over the lead aspect of his playing and Billy Burnette handled the more rhythmic sections. The new line-up quickly settled down and there were less ructions than when new members had joined previously. Even Nicks seemed to be enjoying the whole experience. ‘Every night I feel more comfortable!’ she exclaimed. ‘Every night you feel better about it! Every night it sounds better! Every night it’s more fun because the easier it gets to play, the more you can actually just have fun playing and singing!’ Isn’t that what it’s all about, having fun playing and singing? One of the highlights must have been for Mick, John, and Christine to play ten sold-out shows in a row at Wembley 1988. They had finally returned to their homeland triumphant to the very last song. In April 1990, they released the ‘Behind the Mask’ album to great acclaim in the UK, where it reached number one, while in the States it made a comfortable 18. In the autumn of that year, though, Fleetwood Mac were faced with the biggest disaster since Peter Green left, in that both Nicks and Christine McVie decided they’d had enough and wanted to call it a day. Why they both went at the same time is a curious question, but whatever the answer, it left a gaping hole for the band to fill. Christine had been in the band longer than Nicks and had been married to John. It had consumed the best years of her life, and 94
having had enormous success twice over it probably seemed a good time to see what else life had to offer. Nicks wanted to concentrate on her solo career again, which had proved so profitable in the past. Both women were slightly miffed by the autobiography that Fleetwood had published earlier in the year, which had revealed a bit too much of what they felt was personal and deserved greater respect. The final straw for Nicks was over a song called ‘Silver Springs’, which Fleetwood didn’t include on the ‘Greatest Hits’ album. She announced publicly that she was never going to work with the band again. The only time they all came together in the next few years was at the request of Bill Clinton, who had used ‘Don’t Stop’ in his political campaign for the White House. He specifically asked for the original line-up to play the track, and I guess even presidents have some privileges worth having. After all, Bill got what he wanted, but for the estranged band members, it was definitely a one-off. Dave Mason on guitars and Bekka Bramlett on vocals were added to the roster of the band, but it seemed to many fans and outsiders that Mick and John were clutching at straws here, and it might have been better to admit the glories which were ‘Rumours’ and ‘Tango in the Night’ were past and to give it a break for a while, but they soldiered on with true British grit still evident in their characters, no matter how long they had spent in the USA. This formation of the band released ‘Time’ in October 1995, but it had no real impact on the US or UK charts. Eventually they coerced the original quintet to do an MTV unplugged session, which yielded the album ‘Dance’. This was much better than many unplugged efforts, and revealed the band at its most poignant. The sales were sky-high. It came at an opportune time, because in February 1998 Fleetwood Mac received a Lifetime Contribution to Popular Music award at the Brits Awards in 95
London. At last their royalty status was confirmed in their home country. They also took to the road for a series of concerts, buoyed up by the wave of nostalgia for the good old days that was sweeping through their fans, as the recession was starting to bite them hard. Mick was asked why they had finally decided to get back together. ‘We’ve been asked many times over the years to reform,’ he answered, ‘but the time was never right. I think we were all still in the process of growing up and discovering that the things that had once pulled us apart didn’t seem nearly as important anymore. The level of success we had together was, quite simply, overwhelming. We’ve had the opportunity to step back and get some perspective, to realise that what was important all along was the music.’ With the turn of the new millennium, Fleetwood Mac had much to ponder along with everybody else in America, after the tragic events at the World Trade Centre. In 2003 they released a new album written in the main by Nicks and Buckingham, entitled ‘Say You Will’. It achieved a fair measure of success and was no doubt bolstered along its way to platinum status by the tour which followed it, as with every album, which followed every break-up and new addition, which followed every brief hiatus in Barbados or thereabouts, which followed the whole soap opera starting off again at GO. I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip aboard the Fleetwood Mac train. We’ve stopped at many, many stations along the way and certainly changed passengers often, but the direction was always the same: ‘To realise that what was important all along was the music.’
have not ‘starred’ these albums or songs because I believe songs are like flowers, and it’s difficult to judge a daisy anything less than a rose, and by whose criteria?
Mr Wonderful (23 August 1968) Tracklisting: Stop Messin’ Round / I’ve Lost My Baby / Rollin’ Man / Dust My Broom / Love That Burns / Doctor Brown / Need Your Love Tonight / If You Be My Baby / Evenin’ Boogie / Lazy Poker Blues / Coming Home / Trying So Hard to Forget
Stop Messin’ Round The album kicks off with a rousing blues, featuring the blistering vocal of Peter Green. This is standard up-tempo 12-bar blues. It is gutsy and has plenty of grit; if we didn’t know better we might think the vocalist was black, as he has so much edge. I’ve Lost My Baby Slide guitar dominates from the first blow and doesn’t let go. ‘I’ve Lost My Baby’ is a perfectly acceptable blues number about yet another relationship that’s gone down the Delta and won’t be coming back. Rollin’ Man This is a rocking number that features Green’s electric guitar work. He absolutely rips through this number, sometimes fast, then breaking it down masterfully. The song is a bit of a light-hearted romp with a back-room atmosphere to it. Dust My Broom This takes the band into a mid-tempo blues with a Bo Diddley slide riff thrown in for good measure. It has a blues lyric and format, but definitely wants to rock as far as the guitars are concerned. Nice slide work from Spencer.
Love That Burns This track finds the band at their slowest and most soulful. A plaintive, bleeding blues measured out in doses expected to kill you slowly. Beautiful by its minimal simplicity. A lovely long outro sees Green gently caressing the blues and makes great listening. Doctor Brown This is something a bit more up-tempo. ‘Doctor Brown’ makes no excuses for being anything other than a mid-speed blues with slide guitar breaks at every vocal break. It’s a lot of fun. Need Your Love Tonight You could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to the same song as ‘Doctor Brown’, with the same beat and the same slide break coming at the end of every vocal line. This was where Spencer’s critics found meat for their argument, inasmuch as he was hardly pushing the boundaries. If You Be My Baby The lead guitar break grabs the listener from the opening bar and doesn’t let go. A superb slow-to-mid-tempo blues made simply wonderful by Mr Wonderful himself, Peter Green, doing his thing. A lesson in how white men can play the blues and get it to work. Evenin’ Boogie ‘Evenin’ Boogie’ utilises horns to give it a club atmosphere, while some manic slide guitar work creams all over the track. This instrumental is a bit overpowering at times, and the lead sax break comes as a welcome relief to all that dizzy slide. Lazy Poker Blues This song follows the slightly naughty innuendo theme of some gentle rockers. The poker game in question sure doesn’t need much 99
in the way of cards to get it started. These songs were great crowd pleasers and serve to lighten the blues load. Coming Home This is a really slow blues featuring the slide guitar work of Jeremy Spencer. It has a beautiful and yet mournful quality to it. Spencer deserved more credit for his guitar work than this album earned him. He was often put down for taking too much inspiration from Elmore James. Here he displays a fine mastery of the basics. Trying So Hard to Forget The album ends with a subtle harmonica added to this track. Just vocals and harp cut the verses to good effect, with just the lightest touch of guitar air-brushed in the background. This is a brave end to the album, showing the merits of the band stripped back. Classic.
Fleetwood Mac in Chicago (5 December 1969) Tracklisting: Watch Out / Ooh Baby / South Indiana (Take 1) / South Indiana (Take 2) / Last Night / Red Hot Jam / I’m Worried / I Held My Baby Last Night / Madison Blues / I Can’t Hold Out / I Need Your Love / I Got the Blues / World’s in a Tangle / Talk With You / Like It This Way / Someday Soon Baby / Hungry Country Girl / Black Jack Blues / Everyday I Have the Blues / Rockin’ Boogie / Sugar Mama / Homework
‘Fleetwood Mac in Chicago’ was the result of a recording session in early 1969 at Chess Records in Chicago. The band were joined by a number of famous Chicago blues artists from whom they drew inspiration. The Chicago blues musicians who played at this session were Otis Spann (piano, vocals), Willie Dixon (acoustic bass), Shakey Horton (harmonica, vocals), J.T. Brown (tenor saxophone, vocals), Buddy Guy (guitar), Honeyboy Edwards (guitar), and S.P. Leary (drums). Watch Out A nice mid-tempo blues gets the album off to a fine start. There were naturally few misdemeanours on this album, with such a prestigious line-up of backing musicians. Peter Green’s vocals are superb here; he knew he was on the spot and responded well to the challenge. Ooh Baby This begins with a nice bit of studio chat in the background while the musicians warm up. Eventually it kicks of with a J.J. Cale foot-stomping shuffle beat. Not pretending to be anything except simple Southern rock, it works beautifully. Great bass and drums. 101
South Indiana (Take 1) / South Indiana (Take 2) Written by Walter Shakey Horton, who also plays harmonica on this classic number. The harmonica defines the sound from the opening bars. Played with pure class, this old-style blues instrumental goes at a rocky pace driven by the guitars, and works beautifully. Last Night This is another slow blues opened up by the harmonica. It just about broke my heart before I even found out what the trouble is. This time it’s love and friendship issues, just for a change. ‘What is the world coming to?’ Masterfully delivered in its restraint. Red Hot Jam ‘Red Hot Jam’ is simply that, a full studio participation session, kicked off by Green, who is put on the spot by the backchat on the studio monitors. It all serves to give the laid-back impression of joyous music-making in progress, which it achieves admirably. World’s In a Tangle A slow blues that just meanders nicely along. A traditional format to this number, but it could have been better driven with a stronger vocalist than Danny Kirwan. It needed a bit more guts and grit. Talk With You This is another Kirwan composition. This time the vocals are better, but still not top-notch by any sense of the blues. ‘Man gotta give a woman everything she needs!’ Well, I feel she’s going to be a bit disappointed by this effort. Kirwan’s voice carries no authority. Like It This Way This time it’s an out-and-out rocker, but Kirwan’s vocals still lack definition for me. Some great piano and guitar work save the day. 102
Someday Soon Baby More studio chat peppers the interlude before the track eventually rocks out of the blocks for a split second before slowing into a blues lick. Otis Spann’s song works well with the band. Hungry Country Girl Otis Spann’s next selection contains some of that bittersweet chocolate humour that provides some relief from the blues. All that said, it’s a slow chunky beat that serves to set off his powerful vocal. How they let Kirwan and Spann on the same side is beyond me, when we compare the real vocal mastery of Spann to Kirwan’s plaintive tone. No match.
Kiln House (18 September 1970) Tracklisting: This Is the Rock / Station Man / Blood on the Floor / Hi Ho Silver / Jewel-Eyed Judy / Buddy’s Song / Earl Gray / One Together / Tell Me All the Things You Do / Mission Bell
This Is the Rock This is the first album without Green in the mix and the change in sound is instantly noticeable. This sounds like a ’50s shoe-shuffle band playing in Fonzy’s Café. It comes across as strikingly middleof-the-road compared to their gutsy blues from earlier albums. Station Man ‘Station Man’ starts with an unbelievably long fade-in that leaves listeners wondering if either their ears or their stereos have had a malfunction. Once afloat, the song drifts along with almost a country refrain on top of an odd broken-rock beat that repeats itself. It almost sounds like a song that has a chorus but no verses. It’s at least interesting and not unpleasant to listen to. Blood On the Floor This slow blues is delivered with an Elvis-like croon. The outstanding thought is how different this all sounds to Green’s incarnation of the band. Any blues fan who took their music seriously wouldn’t be moved by this whiteboys’ ’50s treatment of their medium. Hi Ho Silver ‘Hi Ho Silver’ is, as its name suggests, a bit of fun. This number rocks along at a pub-rock speed and is definitely one the band would have used live as a crowd sing-along, but it seems a bit thin here amongst a collection of other slim songs. 104
Jewel Eyed Judy At last a track which seems to bring all the experimentation together into something plausible. By far the best song on this part of the album, it combines a lilting melody with the occasional burst into raunchy rock. At once mesmerising and then shocking. Brilliant. Buddy’s Song You could be forgiven for thinking you’d put the wrong album on; it really sounds like Buddy Holly and Crickets until you listen a bit closer. An admirable tribute, but quite why they felt so enamoured of Buddy to include a song for him is an interesting question. Earl Gray This instrumental had the same mesmerising atmosphere to it as Jewel Eyed Judy in its quiet moments. There’s a lovely interplay between the guitar and the piano which is executed to the note. This is the sort of track to come out of a free-form jam session, a true born-and-bred in the studio. One Together ‘One Together’ opens with that unmistakable riff that Steve Miller made so famous on ‘The Joker’. It turns into a West Coast folkrock acoustic-guitars-and-harmonies song, if you can manage that in one mouthful, then you’ll be fine with this one. It’s well-crafted, but a bit predictable. Tell Me All The Things You Do It’s at this point in an album that most bands let their hair down, and this is certainly true with ‘Tell Me All the Things You Do’, which rocks and rolls along at an unashamed pace without trying to be overly clever in any direction. It’s rock ‘n’ roll, pure and simple, but hardly rewriting the format. 105
Mission Bell Where this song falls in relation to the others is difficult to understand. Itâ€™s just too sickly sweet to warrant the effort the band put into the rock side of their sound. The best place for this would have been on a single released for the Christmas market and never to be seen again.
Fleetwood Mac (11 July 1975) Tracklisting: Monday Morning / Warm Ways / Blue Letter / Rhiannon / Over My Head / Crystal / Say You Love Me / Landslide / World Turning / Sugar Daddy / I’m So Afraid
Monday Morning From the very first chords the new unmistakable sound of the quintet made of Mick, John, Lindsey, Stevie, and Christine was there. This would be the mix that carried them through to their greatest triumphs. A folk-rock blend, with the accent on the rock. Warm Days This gentle song by Christine lilts along at a leisurely pace. It’s a soft ballad that wraps its message in soothing harmonies and plenty of reverb. Her vocals are cleanly delivered in what is essentially a love song. How far from the blues of yesterday. Blue Letter As if they needed to prove they could rock after the previous ballads, the band kick this one off at full tilt and never miss a beat. A pleasant enough song, but hardly anything new. Rhiannon Then the real magic started with Nicks’s haunting ‘Rhiannon’. The song carries that unique Fleetwood Mac sound beautifully. This is the band at its best in its new incarnation. Over My Head As if to answer the call of Nicks’s song, ‘Over My Head’ comes as Christine McVie’s response. It works beautifully. 107
Crystal This brings us back to the mystical, mesmerising planet that is Stevie Nicks. It’s hard to sum up the quality except to say that it’s ethereal and utterly magical. The whole production of the song envelops the listener in its spell. Say You Love Me A beautiful Christine McVie song commencing with a strong line on the piano. After some extremely pleasant singing the song takes off. Sadly, the lyrics are hardly ground-breaking, the inevitable lead guitar break from Buckingham smooches in and out with that West Coast neat production. Landslide A sweet guitar-lead ballad. As always with Stevie Nicks numbers, there is a magical quality to the whole production. Her voice has a wonderful croak to it as she laments the passing of time. Just when you think it’s all over she adds a lovely outro which complements the song. World Turning This song comes from the pens of Buckingham and Christine McVie, which is an odd duo in Fleetwood Mac terms. Buckingham usually only wrote with Nicks. The result is a slick country-boy guitar riff overlaid with a bit of slide. Rousing chorus and a good message. Sugar Daddy Thumping piano chords make this a particularly strong song, but the vocals are lost in the mix, particularly through the verses. A bit predictable, a definite crowd-pleaser at live shows, but not likely to rewrite the song book. ‘You give me all the love I need.’ Well, yes. 108
I’m So Afraid The album closes with a Buckingham composition. Again we can sense he’s worked this one to death in production, layering guitars and goodness knows what else to good effect, but rather too plush. The looped drums give it a disjointed rhythm, but at least he’s pushing a bit at the limits. There are moments which touch the mix ‘Rumours’ would make so successful.
Rumours (4 February 1977) Tracklisting: Second Hand News / Dreams / Never Going Back Again / Don’t Stop / Go Your Own Way / Songbird / The Chain / You Make Loving Fun / I Don’t Want to Know / Oh Daddy / Gold Dust Woman
Second Hand News From the first chord this album kicks off at full pace. The beautifully twinned guitars and pounding rhythm make it an unmistakable foot-tapper. The refrain rather dumbs down the whole experience for me, too many doo dahs, and the old trick of having half a lead break at the end so you want more. Dreams The incredible Stevie Nicks has an unearthly ability to add a sheen of magic to her songs; they wrap you up in their plush chords and her lush voice, which beckons any man to lose his senses. One moment strong, the next she hangs a vulnerable note on high. A masterpiece by a mistress. Never Going Back Again A slick little finger-picking guitar tune that would have many a singer-songwriter pondering its pure beauty and its relevant simplicity. Buckingham had obviously been taking lessons. The harmony vocal serves to give the whole track a folky feel, guaranteed to lull you into a false sense of security. Don’t Stop The lull from the previous track acts to set this number off as it powers in from the quiet space left by ‘Never Going Back Again’. This is the boys doing their guitar thing to great effect. Sweet vocal harmonies complete another rousing crowd-pleaser of a song. 110
Go Your Own Way This for me is the Fleetwood Mac sound when the whole band finally come together and didn’t allow any single member to dominate the sound. It’s perfectly balanced bliss. A full-on, noholds-barred kind of rocking number. The best part of it is in the restraint shown by Buckingham with the guitar work, which only serves to make it all the more powerful when it finally kicks off. Songbird After the stomping fury of the last track, Fleetwood Mac play their finest card. Christine’s ‘Songbird’ is a classic love song; it melts the piano and vocal in your heart. With this song Christine lays back her vocal strength to add a greater delicacy to it. Awe-inspiring. The Chain One of their concert classics, ‘The Chain’ builds its whole format on crescendo and its brother, diminuendo. It’s the pauses that make the music, and this song makes masterful use of this philosophy. Again it sounds like the band as one unit; this is the Fleetwood Mac genre. Oh, I nearly forgot – that bass line which has probably sold more cars than Ford is here too. You Make Loving Fun A pump-action rhythm section kicks this song along with a great groove, which is only broken by the misty harmonies of Christine McVie. A plaintive love song, but one that really takes the format to its limit; it’s so well constructed and produced it’s bound to win over hearts. I Don’t Want to Know A bright guitar chord structure underpins this song, giving it a real rhythmic pulse which is backed up by a simple but effective pumping bass line. Great harmonies from both the girls show how 111
well their voices combine tonally. A rather banal guitar break is all that dims it. Oh Daddy Here it seems as if Christine McVie has taken a leaf out of Nicksâ€™s production book, because she manages to add that ethereal quality which men in particular find so entrancing. A song which beautifully outlines the womanâ€™s predicament in a relationship with a stronger man. Gold Dust Woman Fleetwood Mac round the album off with a track which reflects the new-found sound they had developed. Crisp guitars, harmonies using both male and female voices, the understated rhythm which is held back like a best until finally unleashed at the exact moment. This makes for compelling and stunning music. A brilliant end to an album marking out the territory for the new line-up and the unmistakable sound they had discovered.
Tusk (12 October 1979) Tracklisting: Over & Over / The Ledge / Think About Me / Save Me a Place / Sara / What Makes You Think You’re the One / Storms / That’s All for Everyone / Not That Funny / Sisters of the Moon / Angel / That’s Enough for Me / Brown Eyes / Never Make Me Cry / I Know I’m Not Wrong / Honey Hi / Beautiful Child / Walk a Thin Line / Tusk / Never Forget
Over & Over The album begins, as it continues, with a rather lacklustre effort from the pen and voice of Christine McVie. ‘Tusk’ reflects a time when Fleetwood Mac could do no wrong, with the success of ‘Rumours’ behind them. Consequently nobody mentioned the music had lost its most vital ingredient, inspiration. Listen on at your peril. The Ledge It was Buckingham who took over the majority of the studio work on ‘Tusk’, and if this first offering of his is anything to go by I’d throw the album in the nearest canal. Dire rhythm and soulless vocals which deliver banal lyrics over pointless refrains. No, I didn’t like it. Think About Me Christine saves the day momentarily with this rocking number. Upbeat, well-delivered vocals hold the passion of the romantic lyrics well. Still, nothing to write home about. Save Me a Place Sorry, but this is one of the most depressingly hopeless, senseless, mindless bits of nihilistic creativity to come from Buckingham. 113
It evokes a dirge being sung by an Irish choir boy and his mates who’ve all just got drunk. Sara Just when you thought you couldn’t take it any longer, Nicks saves the day and provides the only track which merits saving this vinyl from the recycling bin. Sadly, Buckingham still manages to muffle her awesome voice with too much reverb and echo. Nicks stands out here as a songwriter whose talents leave even Christine struggling. What Makes You Think You’re the One This is so embarrassingly bad we can only marvel that nobody in Los Angeles at the time had the guts to tell Buckingham that this was a bad song, sung with a particularly affected bad vocal. What was the guy hoping to achieve? Dreadful. Null points! Storms Then along comes Nicks and we all sigh with relief as her magical voice lilts through the imagination like an angel. A gentle song performed beautifully. Her prowess is only highlighted by the poor efforts that surround her compositions. Where is the band? Where is the collective beast to hear? Nicks saves the day once again. That’s All For Everyone Instantly we recognise this as another Buckingham effort. The vocals have been super-produced to the point they become a thin mist. The problem is that underneath there just isn’t a strong song dying to get out. Album filler. Not That Funny It’s not that funny; to be honest, I paid 15 quid for this bollix. I just fail to comprehend that nobody took him to one side and said, 114
‘Lindsey, that is just not working,’ or words to that effect. We have backward guitars, endless overdubs of pooh on top of pooh. Ugh. Sisters of the Moon I almost wonder if Buckingham didn’t sandwich his songs in between Nicks’s just so we’d listen to them. Unfortunately, the comparison between the two songwriters is as about as wide as the Grand Canyon at this point, not to say they don’t find form elsewhere. An unusually fiery rocker from Nicks. At least a ripping solo from Lindsey ends it. Angel Christine just tries slightly too hard on the vocal here, and it sounds taut. Not a bad song, but not one that really lives up to its title. Oddly it’s a Nicks composition she gave to Christine to sing. At least the band seems better balanced on this one. That’s Enough for Me Another utterly embarrassing song from Buckingham. This can only be described as the cowpoke blues gone mad and played at the speed of a 45 when its a 33. Lord help us. Brown Eyes This is indeed one of the better songs from Christine. It has a warmth to it which is truly palpable. Her soft delivery of the vocals suits the band’s laid-back treatment of the music. Only the refrain, ‘Sh la la, sh la la,’ sounds a bit twee at the end. Never Make Me Cry Christine completes a duo here with another low-key, slow-tempo ballad played on a muted Hammond organ. A finely crafted song about love that resurrects some hope that this album will still hold some secrets. 115
I Know I’m Not Wrong Perhaps I spoke too soon, as Buckingham again turns out a strange offering. It could be described as an up-tempo ballad which has been slightly tweaked in the hope it might be single material. Definitely one of his better efforts, but still not convincing. Honey Hi A nice guitar break starts this song by Christine. Minimal bongos add a subtle backing to what is essentially a sweet love song. That’s about the level of it. Two sugars, please. Beautiful Child For the last time on this album we experience the unique magical quality of Nicks’s vocals and her supreme songwriting ability. She always manages to be unusual when we expect a cliché and straightforward when we expect a mystery. Beautiful. Exquisite. Walk a Thin Line A slow, laboured drum loop casts an instant mood of despondency on this song. Every note seems to be double in length. Buckingham’s attempt at falsetto singing, albeit swathed in plenty of reverb, makes for interesting listening. Pleasant enough, but as a Fleetwood Mac fan who had loved their blues and enjoyed the ‘Rumours’ trip, I felt let down with ‘Tusk’. Tusk Although ‘Tusk’ starts with a bongo drum beat that, unfortunately, Shwaddywaddy or Adam and the Ants made famous, it does develop into an exciting mix of horns and refrains. The rousing mood of the lyrics and the uplifting horns made it popular at concerts.
Never Forget The album ends with a Christine McVie composition, led by her vocal. Certainly it is a pleasant song, with jangly acoustic guitars and that ‘Everything will be all right’ sort of folky feel to it. Just as it seems to be entering a final section Buckingham cuts the mix too quickly and we can still hear her singing. All in all, not a fine follow-up to ‘Rumours’, but then, we have to admit, what could follow that kind of unrivalled success?
Mirage (18 June 1982) Tracklisting: Love in Store / Can’t Go Back / That’s Alright / Book of Love / Gypsy / Only Over You / Empire State / Straight Back / Hold Me / Oh Diane / Eyes of the World / Wish You Were Here
Love in Store This has much more of a group sound, far more together, and therefore much stronger. From the first chords this upbeat, refreshing song by Christine really sounds like Fleetwood Mac again, playing as a band, rather than five successful musicians collaborating in studios. Can’t Go Back Buckingham kicks off his offerings on this album in a much more congenial mood. His vocals are much better placed in the mix, and with a bit of harmony sound reasonable. What you can’t gloss over is the twee overall sound of this song. Was it destined for a single? That’s Alright The first of Nicks’s numbers is by far her most up-front country sounding song. Suddenly she exchanges the gentle, mystical quality of her voice for a southern belle’s twang, complete with a banjo thumbing away in the background. Perfectly presentable – but country? Book of Love It starts to become painfully obvious from the first chords which songs are Buckingham’s, as soon as you hear two guitars where one would do. I admire his attention to getting everything right, but often in music less is more, and with this song he’s cramming way too many layers in. 118
Gypsy Back to her majesty, Stevie Nicks, to entrance once again with this fabulous song. For once the band are perfectly balanced behind her and create that full Fleetwood Mac sound that would emerge later with ‘Tango in the Night’. Lovely duets with Christine’s harmonies. Only Over You Christine sings this romantic, slush-puppy of a song. It sounds as if it was made for the Christmas market, it is so full of held vocal notes and drippy lead guitar. It doesn’t really add much to the Fleetwood Mac catalogue. Empire State Buckingham works his fingers to the bone with the production of this little humorous ode to the Big Apple, or, more exactly, the Empire State Building. ‘Flying high on the Empire State.’ It makes me wonder how much flying high was colouring his vision. Straight Back A strong, up-tempo effort from Nicks. Not the most focused of lyrics, and the band are working hard behind her to deliver a full backing. This is a fairly good exposition about the life of the superstar in a relationship that comes down to fleeting meetings. Hold Me A Christine McVie song about love from her point of view, again coloured by life as a superstar. It seems as if there’s never enough time for love in between the studio and the stage. All through this album the band sounds far more cohesive than they ever displayed on ‘Tusk’, and it’s good to hear them on form.
Oh Diane This is pitched as a ’50s crooner song by Buckingham. He attempts to sing it the way Buddy Holly might have, and it’s not a bad effort, but I never was convinced by this kind of so-called straight music; it’s a bit too clean and white collar. Eyes of the World This song starts with a gorgeous overlay of acoustic guitars, which obviously took Buckingham hours in the studio, then he belts it out like an early rocker. It’s an odd combination, the sweetness of the guitars contrasted by the gruff vocals. Catchy, to say the least. Wish You Were Here No, not the Pink Floyd classic, but one of Christine’s strongest songs on the album. It suffers from being a bit predictable in its format, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-mid break, and so on. Colin Allen’s lyrics add a twist to the Fleetwood Mac formula. Much better.
Tango in the Night (13 April 1987) Tracklisting: Big Love / Seven Wonders / Everywhere / Caroline / Tango in the Night / Mystified / Little Lies / Family Man / Welcome to the Room… Sara / Isn’t It Midnight / When I See You Again / You and I, Part II
Big Love The album kicks off at a roaring pace, and from the outset it’s plain the band’s sound has moved on considerably. There is no fragmentation and no disparate components; everybody was working as one unit. The song’s amazing melody, twinned with foot-stomping rhythm, wins. Seven Wonders For this wondrous song, Nicks teams up with Sandy Stewart in the composition. A fine, coordinated band drives the vocals along at a brisk pace, and the chorus breaks into beautiful layered harmonies. Fleetwood Mac in prime form. Everywhere Whatever took place between ‘Mirage’ and ‘Tango in the Night’ was miraculous. Even Christine’s songs, that were world class, seem to have reached another level. Sublime in its simplicity, just bass and vocal holding the verses. Caroline Even Buckingham, after all his previous excesses in the studio, finally finds the perfect balance between overproduction and understatement. Again, the band cleverly hang much of the vocal against a solid bass beat, which gives them more impact in the chorus. 121
Tango in the Night One of the best songs Buckingham ever wrote, with one of the best lead guitar breaks. Its pure brilliance is in the way it’s kept back and held before a long pause, like a clock ticking, and then the detonator goes off and bang. Awesome – sheer perfect guitar ecstasy. Mystified A sweet number, fans hearing this for the first time had their hearts in their mouths wondering what the rest of the album could do to top this. Buckingham and Christine duetting well on their own composition. Little Lies Christine McVie teams up with Eddy Quintela on this song, and it makes for a good, rousing performance. The beauty of this song is in the appeal of the lyrics. They speak of something we’ve all had experience of, and Christine touches a nerve here for her fans. Family Man Where Buckingham would have overproduced this in the past, he gets the balance right here. At last, all the near-misses are bang on target. The rhythm is a pulsing beat that has half of a shuffle in it, so it always seems to be toppling forward. Brilliant. Welcome to the Room… Sara Another infectious classic from Nicks who, having held up the side for the previous two albums, continues to delight here. Her voice attained a stronger timbre over the years, and some of that vulnerable edge of youth has gone. Her lyrics are much deeper. Isn’t It Midnight A rocking number from the pen of Quintela, Christine, and 122
Buckingham, it features a brilliant use of synthesizer overlays through the chorus, and is a foot-stomping winner with a blistering guitar outro. When I See You Again Nicks returns for once to her gentle, magical voice on this album. ‘What’s the matter baby?’ has such a universal appeal it’s a mark of her genius that she delivers it without any cliché. This is a beautiful love song that requires our respect. Brilliant. You and I, Part II Christine and Buckingham round off the album perfectly with a catchy end song that has just enough schmaltz to make us want to spin back to track one and start all over. Without a doubt, ‘Tango in the Night’ was the theme to many an ’80s relationship, as all classics should be. It is an utterly wonderful album that really marked the third and perhaps the final peak for the superb, worldclass band, Fleetwood Mac. Not bad for a couple of British lads!
This special edition of Music Legends Magazine is the ultimate companion guide to the lives and work of Fleetwood Mac. Featuring video link...
Published on May 29, 2019
This special edition of Music Legends Magazine is the ultimate companion guide to the lives and work of Fleetwood Mac. Featuring video link...