Fleetwood Mac…Part 1 (History)

Who did the song “Black Magic Woman”?

You’re right if you say Santana, and in 1970.  But, it was first done by English band Fleetwood Mac in 1968.   The original is very good, but Santana’s is the definitive version.  The song was written by Mac founder Peter Green.  Green had replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, and decided to start his own band with fellow Bluesbreakers Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.  They were a blues band from 1968 into 1970, and were popular in Britain, with songs like “Oh Well”, “Albatross” (a #1 instrumental), and “The Green Manalishi”.  Unfortunately, Peter Green suffered from mental problems that may have been made worse by his taking LSD.  He left the band in 1970, and that was the end of phase one.

1970 to 1974 was a major switch for Fleetwood Mac to a Rock/Pop sound.  The lineup changed many times, except for Mick Fleetwood (drums), John McVie (bass), and Christine McVie (keyboards & vocals).  Christine had married John McVie in 1968.  It’s of note that prior to joining Fleetwood Mac, Christine Perfect (her real name) had twice been voted Britain’s Female Artist of the Year.  She left her band Chicken Shack (real name) to officially join Fleetwood Mac in 1970.  A major addition to the band was singer-songwriter and guitarist Bob Welch.  Fleetwood Mac had some minor success with their albums and songs like “Hypnotized”, but never really broke through.  (It’s my fault, I saw their albums, but never bought any.)  Bob Welch left the band in 1974.  End of phase two.

When Mick Fleetwood checked on Sound City Studios as a possible location to record (the band had moved to L.A.) he heard a track from the album Buckingham Nicks played as a demonstration of the studio.  Lindsey Buckingham happened to be at the studio, and was introduced to Fleetwood.  Eventually, Mick offered Lindsey a job, and he accepted as long as his girlfriend and partner Stevie Nicks could also join.  Prior to the final “yes”, Stevie met with Christine McVie, because Mick Fleetwood wanted her approval too.  The two women got along great, and Fleetwood Mac began their last major phase.

………..Mick………………John………..Christine…………Lindsey…..Stevie…….

Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks gave Fleetwood Mac an almost completely new sound.  It really was like a new band, so maybe that’s why they did what most new bands do…they titled their first album the name of the group.  (It had also been the name of the old blues band’s very first album in 1968.)

Fleetwood Mac came out in July of 1975.  Knowing that the album has “Monday Morning” (Buckingham), “Rihannon” (Nicks) “Over My Head” (McVie), “Landslide” (Nicks) and “Say You Love Me” (McVie), it might be imagined that it was an instant hit.  It wasn’t, but the band toured almost constantly, and after 15 months, the album finally hit #1.

All that touring can add stress to already tenuous relationships.  Marriages were ending for Mick Fleetwood and John & Christine McVie, as was the relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.  So, of course, it was time to make another album.

The members of Fleetwood Mac simply pushed through all their personal problems, and used them in their songwriting.  Stevie Nicks says they had worked too hard to achieve success, and they weren’t going to let anything break up the band.  Rumours is among the best albums ever recorded.

Released in February of 1977, it had four big hits…”Dreams” #1, , “Don’t Stop” #3, “You Make Loving Fun” #9, and “Go Your Own Way #10.  In addition, FM Radio played “Second Hand News”, “Never Going Back Again”, “Songbird”, “The Chain” and “Gold Dust Woman” nearly as much as the singles.  Rumors was a phenomenon,  spending 31 weeks at #1 during 1977, and ultimately selling over 40-million copies worldwide.  It won the Grammy for Album Of The Year over another phenomenal album, Hotel California (probably should have been a tie).  By the way, “Silver Springs” was recorded at this time, and was not included because of time limitations on vinyl (22 1/2 minutes per side, for best audio).  Maybe “Oh Daddy” could have been left off instead?

Once in a lifetime success can’t really be followed up at that level.  Fleetwood Mac allowed producer/arranger Lindsey Buckingham to be more experimental on 1979’s Tusk.  The double album probably should have been a single album.  It was considered a relative failure (#4 in Billboard) even though it went quadruple platinum.  The singles were Sara #7, “Tusk” #8, and “Think About Me” #20.  Other top cuts include “Brown Eyes”, “Beautiful Child”, “Never Make Me Cry” and “Walk A Thin Line”.  The video for “Tusk” featured the USC Marching Band, and the song became a staple at sporting events for years.

There’s a cool alternate version of “Tusk” (that accents the horns) on Mac’s 25th Anniversary Box Set.  There are other versions on various reissues.  Even though “Tusk” is unusual, I love it…the drums, the horns.  I made my own “extended version” by combining the original with the alternate version from the box set.

So, there’s a bit of a break for Fleetwood Mac.  In 1981, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham each do solo albums.

Buckingham’s Law and Order includes the single “Trouble” which was a #9 hit, and the album is mostly Lindsey playing all the instruments.  It reached #32.

Nick’s album, Bella Donna, includes four hits “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” (with Tom Petty), “Edge of Seventeen”, “Leather And Lace” (with Don Henley), and “After The Glitter Fades”.  The album was a #1 hit, and outsold Tusk.  Nicks wrote 9 of the 10 tracks.  She plays guitar and keyboards for songwriting, but not for performances.

By 1982, Mac is back with their album Mirage.  It’s considered more of a typical Fleetwood Mac album.  The hits were “Hold Me” (McVie), “Gypsy” (Nicks), and “Love In Store” (McVie).  The album Hit #1, but sold about half the copies of Tusk.

It was another 5 years (of solo albums) before they released Tango In The Night in 1987.  It had started out as a solo album by Lindsey Buckingham, but it morphed into a group album.  It had four hits, “Big Love” (Buckingham), “Seven Wonders” (Nicks), “Little Lies” & “Everywhere” (both McVie).  The album charted at #7, and sold over 3-million copies.

Then Lindsey Buckingham left the band.

That’s a big loss.  Lindsey was the major arranger/producer for their songs, he wrote, sang lead & harmony, and is a world-class lead guitarist.  You may not even remember, but he was replaced by two guitarists/songwriters/vocalists, Billy Burnette and Rick Vito.  The album, Behind The Mask, came out in 1990. It had no big hits, and went to #18 on the album chart.  The album received really mixed reviews, with some critics calling it a refreshing change.  It did include some good songs.  My favorite is a Burnette-Vito song “When The Sun Goes Down”, but except for the cool background vocals by Nicks & McVie, the song doesn’t sound like Fleetwood Mac.  The album is treated by the group as if it never existed.

Speaking of not existing.  Another Fleetwood Mac album, Time, came out in 1995.  It didn’t have Lindsey Buckingham or Stevie Nicks.  It didn’t even make the Top 200 album chart.  Fleetwood Mac Broke up.

Two years later (1997) came the reunion.  The full lineup of all 5 key members reunited for a live video concert broadcast on MTV, The Dance.  It was also released as an album…a #1 chart topper that sold over 6-million copies.

A year later (1998), and tired of touring, Christine McVie left Fleetwood Mac.

The last studio album by the group was in April of 2003, Say You Will.  It sold a low 218,000 copies on release.  The magic just wasn’t there.

Fleetwood Mac has been touring off and on for years, always successfully.  Christine McVie rejoined them in 2014.  There are plans for a 2018 “Farewell Tour”.

(Fleetwood Mac Part 2 is an analysis of the group.)

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