Fleetwood Mac

 Fleetwood Mac

 Stevie Nicks – circa 1980

 “And if you don’t love me now / You will never love me again / I can still hear you saying / You would never break the chain” – ‘The Chain’ (Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood)

A married couple is in the throes of divorce.  The wife is having an affair with a soundman…who is consequently fired.  An unmarried couple’s long-term relationship is fraying apart.  A fifth person, who is also getting a divorce, has a brief affair with one of the four people previously mentioned.  Is this the plot of a daytime television program?  No, this is the real-life soap opera of Anglo-American soft rock band Fleetwood Mac.  And it is under such tumultuous conditions that, incredibly, they record their finest album.

The long, strange journey of Fleetwood Mac involves a large cast.  The group goes through so many changes that songs from different points in their history sound like completely different bands…which is actually pretty close to the truth.

In the beginning is the blues, a style of music popularised in the 1940s and 1950s by black American recording artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.  By the 1960s, there is a generation of white British musicians trying to emulate their blues heroes, playing songs of heartbreak and poverty and trying to transmute them through quavering guitar sounds, ‘blue’ notes, into something beautiful.  This is grafted to the aggression of rock music to become the hybrid blues rock.

In 1963, one of the foremost exponents of British blues rock is John Mayall.  This vocalist, pianist and guitarist forms his own group, The Bluesbreakers.  On bass is John McVie (born 26 November 1945).  Elsewhere in London, in July 1963 a group called The Cheynes is formed.  On drums is a lanky six foot six inch fellow named Mick Fleetwood (born 24 June 1942).  The Cheynes come to an end in April 1965.  That same year, Mick Fleetwood meets Jenny Boyd, the younger sister of model and actress Pattie Boyd.  Pattie is dating The Beatles’ guitarist, George Harrison, and goes on to marry him in 1966.  Mick Fleetwood is quite besotted with young Jenny Boyd and they begin a relationship, though it will be a bit off-and-on for the next few years.

Mick Fleetwood’s next group is The Bo Street Runners (April 1965 – February 1966).  He then joins Peter Bardens, the keyboards player from The Cheynes, in his group, Peter B’s Looners (February 1966 – May 1966).  In this outfit, the impressively talented guitarist is Peter Green (born Peter Greenbaum, 29 October 1946).  All four of The Looners are swallowed up into Shotgun Express (May 1966 – February 1967), a crew best remembered for the person who shares lead vocal duties, future solo star, Rod Stewart.

During this time, John McVie has steadfastly remained a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.  From spring 1965 to April 1966, The Bluesbreakers features Eric Clapton on guitar.  Already famed for his stint in The Yardbirds, Clapton’s presence draws a lot more attention to The Bluesbreakers.  John McVie is briefly replaced in The Bluesbreakers by Jack Bruce.  When Eric Clapton leaves The Bluesbreakers, he takes Jack Bruce with him as they form Cream.  John McVie is reinstated as bassist in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, but the more pressing problem is who will accept the daunting task of replacing Eric Clapton.  The man who wins the job is Peter Green, who departs Shotgun Express to take up his new post from 17 June 1966.  It is a measure of Green’s talent that he is viewed as ‘a perfectly adequate replacement for Clapton.’  In April 1967, The Bluesbreakers find themselves in need of a new drummer and, since Shotgun Express folded two months earlier, Peter Green’s colleague from that outfit, Mick Fleetwood, is available to take on the job.

Just as Eric Clapton left John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers to form his own blues trio, Cream, Peter Green decides to follow his example.  On 15 June 1967, he leaves the group, taking with him John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums).  And so is born Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.  The surnames of his back-up crew (Fleetwood & McVie) provide the band’s sobriquet.  Given that Mick Fleetwood and John McVie go on to be the mainstays of the band through many a line-up change, it may be thought they are in charge.  This is not the case.  Though Mick Fleetwood in particular assumes greater administrative control in later years, creatively, the duo is always at the mercy of whoever is standing out front of the band.  In 1967, it is Peter Green who is calling the shots.  He is the band’s founder, the vision is his, and McVie and Fleetwood are just his sidemen.

Actually, despite his name being (partially) used in the title, John McVie is almost a non-starter.  According to one account, McVie considers returning to The Bluesbreakers.  In another, he is ‘still under contract to Mayall.’  McVie himself recalls that ‘when he is asked to join Fleetwood Mac during the summer of 1967, he declines and takes a kif holiday to Morocco instead.’  Whatever the truth may be, it is Bob Bruning who stands in as bassist in this early period.

Peter Green also does a quick re-think about the band as a trio and drafts Jeremy Spencer (born 4 July 1948), a ‘diminutive vocalist and Elmore James-influenced slide guitarist.’  Though Peter Green remains the lead vocalist, lead guitarist and main songwriter, the addition of Jeremy Spencer gives the band more flexibility and extra options.

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (consisting of Green, Spencer, Bruning and Fleetwood) make their stage debut on 12 August 1967 at the London National Jazz & Blues Festival.  Bob Bruning plays on the B-side of the band’s first single, but then John McVie settles in as the regular bassist.  The band’s name abbreviates to, simply, Fleetwood Mac.

The debut album, ‘Fleetwood Mac’ (1968) (UK no. 4, US no. 198), is released in February and features ‘straight-ahead blues.’ In the U.K. it is ‘a steady seller’, while in America, it is ‘virtually ignored.’

Their second album, ‘Mr Wonderful’ (1968) (UK no. 10), issued in August, features a pair of quality blues songs Peter Green sings, ‘Stop Messin’ Around’ and ‘Love That Burns’.  Clifford Adams co-writes both these tracks with Green.  Also, they are both augmented with saxophone.

In August 1968, after a whirlwind courtship, John McVie marries Christine Perfect (born 12 July 1943).  Her father is a college professor and her mother is a medium, psychic and faith healer.  “There was always a piano in my home when I was growing up,” Christine recalls, “and my father wanted me to become a concert pianist – unfortunately for him, I discovered [the music of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer] Fats Domino.”  Christine Perfect went on to join Chicken Shack (from April 1967 to April 1970), a British blues rock band that rivals Fleetwood Mac.  Though vocalist and guitarist Stan Webb is the focal point of Chicken Shack, Christine Perfect is a featured player, best known for her later rendition of Etta James’ ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ in 1969.  A female British blues singer is fairly unusual at the time and Christine’s deep, earthy voice is highly distinctive.  Peter Green warns Christine that she barely knows John McVie, but the couple are resolute in their desire to marry.  Though Christine Perfect is, for now, committed to Chicken Shack, she goes on to toy with a solo career or settling into domesticity.  However, she is fated to be part of the Fleetwood Mac story later, under her married name as Christine McVie.

On 31 August 1968 an addition is made to the line-up of Fleetwood Mac, Danny Kirwan (born 13 May 1950).  Kirwin is a ‘young protégé’ of Peter Green.  This gives the band ‘a unique three-guitar front-line [counting Jeremy Spencer], all of whom could compose and perform their own material’, though it is still Peter Green who takes the leading role.

The Latin-flavoured ‘Black Magic Woman’ (UK no. 37) is twined about a sinuous guitar figure: “Yes, I’ve got a black magic woman / Got me so blind, I can’t see / That she’s a black magic woman / And she’s tryin’ to make a devil out of me.”

In December 1968, Fleetwood Mac have a surprise hit with the instrumental ‘Albatross’ (UK no. 1, US no. 104, AUS no. 12).  The loping guitars of this Peter Green composition are redolent of Santo & Johnny’s 1959 instrumental ‘Sleep Walk’.

In 1969 Fleetwood Mac visit the United States and record with authentic original bluesmen like Willie Dixon and Otis Spann on ‘Fleetwood Mac In Chicago’ (1969) (US no. 118).

Over the course of 1969 Fleetwood Mac drift away from straight-forward blues material.  Two more Peter Green songs keep the band in the singles charts.  ‘Man Of The World’ (UK no. 2, AUS no. 100) is a hushed, reflective piece.  ‘Oh Well, Pt. 1’ (UK no. 2, US no. 55, AUS no. 19) starts with the tickle of an acoustic guitar, but the melody is swiftly restated by electric guitars.  ‘Oh Well’ is really just a couple of humorous verses stapled to a guitar riff – but what a riff!  Mick Fleetwood taps and rattles around a cowbell at intervals.  In the second verse, Green cries, “Now when I talked to God, I knew he’d understand / He said, ‘Stick by me / And I’ll be your guiding hand / But don’t ask me what I think of you / I might not give the answer that you want me to’ / Oh well…”

Fleetwood Mac’s new direction leads to ‘Then Play On’ (1969) (UK no. 6, US no. 109) in September.  Peter Green’s fervent neo-blues, ‘Rattlesnake Shake’, is the highlight, but the album contains ‘composing contributions from Green, Spencer and Kirwan.’  Christine Perfect / McVie also plays on this album, but is uncredited due to ‘contractual difficulties.’

On 25 May 1970 Peter Green leaves Fleetwood Mac to devote himself to “what God would have me do.”  Green is growing ‘increasingly disturbed, due to his large ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs.’  He joins a ‘religious sect’ and ‘threatens to give all his money away.  His accountant doesn’t let him.’  In subsequent years, away from Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green lives a colourful life.  He works as a grave digger; joins a commune in Israel; finds a job as a hospital orderly in Southend, London; and, sporadically, pursues a solo career as a rock musician.  He reaches a nadir when he ‘fires a pistol in the general direction of a delivery boy’ who is attempting to pass along a royalty cheque from Fleetwood Mac’s record sales.  On 26 January 1977, Peter Green’s conduct in this instance, results in him being committed to a mental hospital in England.  He is later released, but it is painful to see the vastly talented guiding light of Fleetwood Mac’s first phase in such circumstances.

Though Peter Green may have departed, another song written and sung by him keeps Fleetwood Mac in the singles charts in 1970: the enigmatic ‘Green Manalishi’ (UK no. 10).  Dramatic guitar chords crash as Green, with barely restrained dread, alleges, “You’re the green manalishi with the two-prong crown / All my trying is up, all you’re bringing me’s down.”

It is officially announced on 17 August 1970 that Christine McVie (nee Perfect) will be joining Fleetwood Mac.

Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan ‘somewhat shakily’ assume control for ‘Kiln House’ (1970) (UK no. 39, US no. 69, AUS no. 26), released in September.  The album is named for the country dwelling to which the band decamps for some months, trying to get their act together.  The two guitarists co-write the album’s highlight, ‘Station Man’, with bassist John McVie.  Christine McVie augments the Mac during the sessions for ‘Kiln House’ but remains uncredited on this disc.

It is at this time in 1970 that Mick Fleetwood finally marries Jenny Boyd, with whom he has had an intermittent relationship since 1966.  They go on to have two daughters, Amy and Lucy.

Jeremy Spencer has ‘dominated the band’s musical direction’.  He has ‘also been undergoing mental problems due to heavy drug use.’  In February 1971, while on tour in the U.S., Jeremy Spencer goes missing.  He is ‘posted missing with the local police for several days until he is discovered in the Los Angeles headquarters of the religious cult, the Children of God.’  Like Peter Green, he decides to quit the band for a more spiritual existence.  Ironically, Peter Green is temporarily recalled to help the band complete its touring commitments.

In April 1971, American Bob Welch (born 31 July 1946) is brought in on vocals and guitar to replace Jeremy Spencer.  With Christine McVie now officially part of Fleetwood Mac, ‘Future Games’ (1971) (US no. 91) is released in September.  Welch’s ‘Lay It All Down’, seemingly a story about Moses, is the ‘spotty’ album’s best known song.  By this time, virtually all traces of Fleetwood Mac’s past as a blues-based group are gone and the album ‘could almost have been the product of a [U.S.] West Coast band.’

‘Bare Trees’ (1972) (US no. 70, AUS no. 37) shows the ‘heavy influence’ of Bob Welch on songs like his ‘Sentimental Lady’: “You are here today / But easily you might just go away / ‘Cos we live in a time / When paintings have no colour, words don’t rhyme.”  Fleetwood Mac begins to draw more notice in America ‘from this point on, rising almost in ratio to their decline from public attention in Britain.’

After this album, Danny Kirwan is ‘fired’ because of his growing disenchantment with life on the road.  In replacing him, Fleetwood Mac try to alter the balance by dividing his duties between vocalist Dave Walker and guitarist Bob Weston.  Significantly, both are Americans.

The new six-piece Fleetwood Mac gets an airing on ‘Penguin’ (1973) (US no. 49), released in March.  The album is named after the Antarctic bird John McVie uses as a personal symbol.  He has a tattoo of a penguin on his forearm.  The album includes the summery ‘Did You Ever Love Me’ co-written by Bob Welch and Christine McVie and sung by the latter.  New vocalist Dave Walker leaves in June 1973 to work with the exiled Danny Kirwan.

In September there is another line-up change.  Guitarist Bob Weston is sacked when it is discovered he’s been having an affair with drummer Mick Fleetwood’s wife, Jenny.

‘Mystery To Me’ (1973) (US no. 67) follows in October.  The tracks on this album include Bob Welch’s slinky ‘Hypnotized’ and Christine McVie’s ‘Why’.  Bob Weston still appears on the album since it was recorded prior to his dismissal.

With Fleetwood Mac in disarray, the situation is exacerbated when their manager, Clifford Davis, claims ownership of the group’s name on 20 December 1973.  He puts together an all-new ‘Fleetwood Mac’ consisting of: Elmer Gantry (vocals), [the mono-named] Kirby (guitar), John Wilkinson (keyboards), Paul Martinez (bass) and Craig Collinge (drums).  This unit is sent out on a U.S. tour until, after protracted legal wrangling, founder members, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, obtain an injunction against their bogus counterparts in 1974.  The false Fleetwood Mac change their name to Stretch and, in 1975, release a single, ‘Why Did You Do It?’ that purports to be about the whole sorry mess.

Mick Fleetwood splits from his wife, Jenny, in 1974 and begins to assume more control of the administrative side of Fleetwood Mac’s operations.

In September, Fleetwood Mac release the album ‘Heroes Are Hard To Find’ (1974) (US no. 34).  Christine McVie pens both ‘Come A Little Bit Closer’ and the title track, ‘Heroes Are Hard To Find’.  Singing both songs, she seems to be growing in confidence and influence within the band.  Towards the end of the year, Fleetwood Mac relocates to Los Angeles, California, a move that, geographically, brings them into line with, arguably, a move they made musically around 1971.

In February 1975, Bob Welch leaves Fleetwood Mac to form a new band called Paris.  Without their American-born member, this leaves three British expatriates, Fleetwood and the McVies, in L.A.  The band seems ‘doomed to perennial flux.’

Mick Fleetwood begins to shop around for a suitable recording studio in Los Angeles.  He meets producer Keith Olsen, who, as a ‘way of establishing his credentials’, plays an album he produced, ‘Buckingham – Nicks’ (1973).  Mick Fleetwood likes the studio and Keith Olsen, but he likes the duo on the record even more.  Obtaining their contact details from Olsen, he invites Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to join Fleetwood Mac.

Stevie Nicks (born Stephanie Nicks, 26 May 1948) enters the world in Phoenix, Arizona.  As a toddler, her grandfather, Aaron Jess Nicks, teaches her to sing.  A. J. Nicks is ‘an ardent but failed country crooner’, but Stevie loyally maintains he is the Father of Country Music.  He takes her out with him to appear on stage at ‘gin mills’ where he has gigs.  When Stevie is 5, her parents fall out with A. J. Nicks over such questionable activities.  “He went away for two years, and we never saw or heard from him,” she recalls.  “I was very upset.”  Stevie’s father holds jobs as the president of General Brewing, executive vice-president of Greyhound, and president of Armour Foods.  This means that the family moves house with each new position.  They live in New Mexico, Texas, Utah and California.  In Los Angeles, while at high school, Stevie joins a foursome of vocalists called Changing Times.  The family moves on to San Francisco.  When they head for Chicago in 1968, Stevie, now 20, remains behind.  The reason for this is her boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham (born 3 October 1947).  He is in ‘an acid rock band’ called Fritz and Stevie too becomes part of the group.  Fritz toil in obscurity while pragmatic Stevie Nicks holds down a series of menial jobs to make ends meet for her and Lindsey.  She works (for one day) as a dental assistant, a hostess at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant, and as a waitress.  Most importantly, for $50 per week, she cleans the house of record producer Keith Olsen.  With Fritz breaking up after four years, she and Lindsey record the fateful ‘Buckingham Nicks’ album with her employer, Keith Olsen, producing.

So, in 1975, Fleetwood Mac is reconstituted as: Stevie Nicks (vocals), Lindsey Buckingham (vocals, guitar), Christine McVie (vocals, keyboards), John McVie (bass) and Mick Fleetwood (drums).  The new Fleetwood Mac is basically a three-headed beast since Stevie, Lindsey and Christine all sing and write songs.  Stevie Nicks has ‘a husky voice and a sexy, hippie gypsy stage persona which gives the band a charismatic frontwoman.’  She is ‘a sex symbol and the most popular member of the group.’  Ironically, Lindsey Buckingham, the group’s only male vocalist, has the highest-pitched voice.  He combines a gift for pop music with the chops of a rock guitarist and the flexibility to musically stitch together the works of the band’s divergent songwriters.  Christine McVie’s earth-mother grounding influence and keyboards skills are already established, but she also proves to have an ear for a catchy tune, writing possibly a larger percentage of the band’s hits than her companions.

Fleetwood Mac’s most famous incarnation opens their new career phase with the self-titled album ‘Fleetwood Mac’ (1975) (UK no. 23, US no. 1, AUS no. 3), released in July.  (This is not to be confused with the debut, ‘Fleetwood Mac’ (1968).)  Stevie Nicks scores with the band’s all-time best song, ‘Rhiannon’ (US no. 11, AUS no. 13).  On joining the band, Mick Fleetwood gave her all the group’s previous discs with which to acquaint herself.  According to Stevie, the one common thread is magic; though apart from Peter Green’s ‘Black Magic Woman’, it’s hard to see where she got that idea.  In any case, ‘Rhiannon’ is a song about a Welsh witch: “Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night / And wouldn’t you love to love her? / Takes to the sky like a bird in flight and who will be her lover?”  Stevie Nicks is adamant that when she wrote it, ‘Rhiannon’ was not a rock song.  Lindsey Buckingham gets the credit (or blame?) for the arrangement.  On stage, Nicks practically lives the part of ‘Rhiannon’, ‘floating spacily across stages in gossamer black chiffon, midnight suede boots, and a top hat.’  Christine McVie contributes three especially strong songs, the languorous ‘Warm Ways’, the giddy ‘Over My Head’ (US no. 20) and the instantly catchy ‘Say You Love Me’ (UK no. 40, US no. 11, AUS no. 38): “Have mercy, baby, on a poor girl like me / Now I’m falling, falling, falling at your feet / I’m tingling right from my head to my toes / So help me, help me, help me make the feeling go / ‘Cos when the loving starts and the lights go down / And there’s not another living soul around / You woo me until the sun comes up / And you say that you love me.”  The song’s appeal is greatly enhanced by Lindsey Buckingham playing what sounds like a banjo.  The album proves ‘remarkably successful.’

This album also ushers in what Stevie Nicks describes as “the cocaine years”, 1975 to 1986.  She swiftly goes on to allege that “I did not do more coke than anyone else in that band.”  Whatever drugs may have been in use, the same period also charts Fleetwood Mac’s most commercially and creatively successful times.

Mick Fleetwood remarries his ex-wife, Jenny, in 1976.

Incredibly, the next album, ‘Rumours’ (1977) (UK no. 1, US no. 1, AUS no. 1), outstrips its predecessor.  ‘A landmark ‘70s pop album’, released in February, it is also the best Fleetwood Mac disc.  During the making of the album, Stevie Nicks’ long-standing romantic relationship with Lindsey Buckingham disintegrates.  John and Christine McVie get a divorce after she has an affair with one of the band’s soundmen.  Mick Fleetwood’s marriage, so recently reaffirmed, comes unstuck for the second and final time (though the divorce does not come through until 1978).  In a way, ‘Rumours’ owes ‘its success to Fleetwood Mac’s willingness to turn private turmoil into gleaming, melodic public art.’  The album’s title is ‘their reference to the rumours abounding about which band member was sleeping with which other band member.’  Stevie Nicks’ ‘Dreams’ (UK no. 24, US no. 1, AUS no. 19) pointedly appears to refer to Lindsey Buckingham when she sings “Now here you go again / You say you want your freedom” and “Thunder only happens when it’s raining / Players only love you when they’re playing.”  The song’s title is derived from lines in the verses: “Have you any dreams you’d like to sell? / Dreams of loneliness / Like a heartbeat drives you mad / In the stillness of remembering / What you had / And what you lost.”  “The reason that ‘Dreams’ is so special to me,” explains Stevie, “is that it is the only [U.S.] No. 1 single Fleetwood Mac has ever had.  It’s also the only one that I hang on my wall in Phoenix.  I am very proud of that…”  For his part, Lindsey Buckingham offers the fiery ‘Go Your Own Way’ (UK no. 38, US no. 10, AUS no. 20), wherein he asks “Lovin’ you / Is it the right thing to do?”  Stevie Nicks bristles at the line “Shackin’ up’s all you want to do,” but Lindsey concludes “You can go your own way / You can call it another lonely day.”  On this track, Buckingham also serves up a great guitar solo that buzzes like a bee in a bottle.  He shares the lead vocal on Christine McVie’s optimistic ‘Don’t Stop’ (UK no. 32, US no. 3, AUS no. 30): “Why not think about times to come / And not about the things that you’ve done? / If your life was as bad to you / Just think what tomorrow will do / Don’t stop / Thinking about tomorrow / Don’t stop / It’ll soon be here / It’ll be here / Better than before / Yesterday’s gone.”  [‘Yesterday’s Gone’ was the original title for the album before ‘Rumours’ was chosen.]  Christine McVie also contributes ‘You Make Loving Fun’ (UK no. 46, US no. 9, AUS no. 65) which, in an unusual move for her, is built on a compulsive synthesiser groove.  ‘The Chain’ is a rare group composition, acknowledging the ties that bind.

In the aftermath of ‘Rumours’, Mick Fleetwood has a brief affair with Stevie Nicks, but this does not become public knowledge until years later.  Stevie Nicks moves on to a relationship with Don Henley of country rock band The Eagles that lasts from 1977 to 1979.  Christine McVie has a turbulent romance with Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys circa 1979 to 1982.  In 1978, John McVie marries his second wife, Julie Ann Reubens and they later have a daughter, Molly (born 1989).

Fleetwood Mac’s next album, ‘Tusk’ (1979) (UK no. 1, US no. 4, AUS no. 2) is ‘a highly experimental album that costs the band nearly one million dollars to record.’  Released in October, it is also a double album with twenty songs.  Since Fleetwood Mac boasts three songwriters, filling the space is no problem.  Lindsey Buckingham is the driving force for the album.  Before the disc is released, he undergoes an image makeover, ditching his long, dark curly locks, beard, and white Les Paul electric guitar in favour of close shorn hair, a clean-shaven face and a woodgrain semi-acoustic guitar.  On ‘Tusk’, Lindsey Buckingham contributes songs of ‘scrappy, austere strangeness’ like ‘The Ledge’, ‘Not That Funny’ and ‘I Know I’m Not Wrong’.  Many of these are recorded on a portable home-studio.  If Mick Fleetwood has any qualms about being asked to play drums on a cardboard box, then, after the weirdness of Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer, the eccentricities of the Mac’s current guitarist seem relatively mild.  Buckingham also pens the title track, ‘Tusk’ (UK no. 6, US no. 8, AUS no. 3), allegedly named after Mick Fleetwood’s pet name for his own penis.  The song builds from a drum pattern that Fleetwood uses as a practice exercise before concerts to encompass the brass of the University of Southern California Trojan marching band and a hushed group vocal that demands, “Don’t say that you love me / Just tell me that you want me.”  While Lindsey Buckingham tunes into new wave music, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks have their own agendas.  Christine plunges into dark brown tones on songs like ‘Over And Over’ and ‘Never Make Me Cry’.  Stevie Nicks provides an interesting variety of songs including the tender ‘Beautiful Child’, witchy ‘Sisters Of The Moon’ (US no. 86) and pop-oriented ‘Angel’.  But it is ‘Sara’ (UK no. 37, US no. 7, AUS no. 11) that draws the most attention with its claim that “Sara / You’re the poet in my heart” and the image of “Undoing the laces” like the heroine of a historical bodice-ripper.

‘Fleetwood Mac Live’ (1980) (UK no. 31, US no. 14, AUS no. 20) is a concert recording from which the single, ‘The Farmer’s Daughter’, is released.

When Fleetwood Mac reconvenes for ‘Mirage’ (1982) (UK no. 5, US no. 1, AUS no. 2) the end product is a glossier, sleeker album that is ‘more conventional and accessible than ‘Tusk’.’  Christine McVie shares the lead vocal with Lindsey Buckingham on her song ‘Hold Me’ (US no. 4, AUS no. 12), where the lyrics coyly suggest “There’s nobody in the future / So, baby, let me hand you my love / A new step for you to dance to / So slip your hand inside my glove.”  Christine’s ‘Love In Store’ (US no. 22, AUS no. 96) is another highlight.  Stevie Nicks writes her own theme song with ‘Gypsy’ (UK no. 46, US no. 12, AUS no. 17).

In 1982 Stevie Nicks’ friend, Robin Anderson, dies of leukaemia.  Robin gives birth to a child only a week before her demise and Stevie is named as godmother.  On 29 January 1983 she marries Robin’s widower, Kim Anderson.  Since he is a member of the Hiding Place Church, there is some concern about whether the new bride shares his religious beliefs.  The trepidation expressed by the Minister who performs the ceremony proves well founded since the marriage lasts ‘only a few months’, though the divorce doesn’t come through until April 1984.

With most of the members of Fleetwood Mac busy making solo albums, Mick Fleetwood forms his own side project, Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, in 1983.  One of the members is a vocalist and guitarist named Billy Burnette (born 8 May 1953).

On 18 October 1986 Christine McVie marries again.  Her new husband, Eddie Quintela, goes on to be an occasional songwriting partner for her.

Fleetwood Mac’s next release is ‘Tango In The Night’ (1987) (UK no. 1, US no. 7, AUS no. 5), an album that, despite the delay, is similar in feel to ‘Mirage’.  The first single is Lindsey Buckingham’s ‘Big Love’ (UK no. 9, US no. 5, AUS no. 16).  The female vocalist exchanging breathy panting with Lindsey toward the end of the song is neither Stevie nor Christine; it is pop star Madonna making an uncredited guest appearance.  Stevie Nicks sings of ‘Seven Wonders’ (UK no. 56, US no. 19, AUS no. 23), while Christine McVie provides pop gems ‘Everywhere’ (UK no. 4, US no. 14, AUS no. 45), ‘Little Lies’ (UK no. 5, US no. 4, AUS no. 16) and ‘Isn’t It Midnight’ (UK no. 60), the latter two co-written with Eddie Quintela.  Lindsey Buckingham also contributes an impressive guitar solo to ‘Isn’t It Midnight’.

‘Tango In The Night’ puts an end to Fleetwood Mac’s most popular period.  This notion is underlined by Lindsey Buckingham’s decision to leave the band, ending the longest-running, most stable configuration of Fleetwood Mac.

A new Fleetwood Mac is assembled in 1988.  Two newcomers are brought in to replace Lindsey Buckingham: Billy Burnette (vocals, guitar), from Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, and Rick Vito (guitar).  They make a tentative start with two new songs, one from each of the Mac’s ladies, included on a ‘Greatest Hits’ (1988) (UK no. 3, US no. 14, AUS no. 3) package.  Christine McVie’s ‘As Long As You Follow’ (UK no. 66, US no. 43, AUS no. 35) is released as a single.

The real test comes with ‘Behind The Mask’ (1990) (UK no. 1, US no. 18, AUS no. 9).  The most successful cut is ‘Save Me’ (UK no. 53, US no. 33, AUS no. 41), the kind of effortlessly catchy tune Christine McVie regularly submits.  Again, new husband Eddie Quintela receives a co-writing credit on this song.  Billy Burnette co-writes with David Malloy the dramatic ‘In the Back Of My Mind’ (UK no. 58), which Burnette also sings.  Rick Vito lends a songwriting hand to Stevie Nicks for ‘Love Is Dangerous’, while she also sings her own ‘Affairs Of The Heart’.  ‘Behind The Mask’ is ‘the band’s first album since 1975 not to go gold.’

In 1990 Mick Fleetwood releases the autobiographical book, ‘Fleetwood: My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac’, co-written with Stephen Davis.  This discloses Mick’s post-‘Rumours’ affair with Stevie Nicks.  Ms Nicks is not pleased about this information becoming public knowledge.

Rick Vito leaves Fleetwood Mac in 1991.  Stevie Nicks, at least temporarily, also excuses herself from the group.

In 1993, after the death of her father, Christine McVie decides to leave Fleetwood Mac and return to England.  Her marriage to Eddie Quintela ends in the mid-‘90s.

So it is that the 1994 version of Fleetwood Mac again includes new faces.  Joining John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Billy Burnette are: Bekka Bramlett (vocals) (born 19 April 1968) and Dave Mason (vocals, guitar) (born 10 May 1947).  Bekka Bramlett is the daughter of Delaney Bramlett and his wife Bonnie, the duo who recorded as Delaney And Bonnie.  Dave Mason is a veteran of the British rock scene, perhaps best remembered for his stint in Traffic circa 1967.  The album this line-up records is ‘Time’ (1995) (UK no. 47).  It receives ‘little attention’ and ‘isn’t commercially successful.’  It is the last outing for Billy Burnette, Bekka Bramlett and Dave Mason.

Mick Fleetwood marries again in July 1995 and his wife, Lynn Frankel, delivers twin daughters, Ruby and Tessa (born 2002).

The five members of the classic Fleetwood Mac – Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood – reunite for the live album ‘The Dance’ (1997) (UK no. 15, US no. 1, AUS no. 4).

Lindsey Buckingham’s girlfriend, Kristen Messner, give birth to their first child, William (born 8 July 1998).  Lindsey and Kristen marry in 2000 and go on to expand their family with two daughters, Leelee (born 2000) and Stella (born 20 April 2004).

Fleetwood Mac release ‘Say You Will’ (2003) (UK no. 6, US no. 3, AUS no. 24), an album on which John McVie and Mick Fleetwood are joined by old colleagues Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham (though Christine McVie does not participate).

Mick Fleetwood and Lyn Frankel’s marriage ends in April 2013 as Fleetwood files for legal separation and joint custody of their daughters.

Christine McVie returns to Fleetwood Mac in January 2014.  “I was just rotting away doing nothing,” she says.  “I thought to myself that the only people I would want to play with again would be Fleetwood Mac.”

Fleetwood Mac were different things over the years: a blues rock band (1967 – 1971); a laidback soft rock outfit (1971 – 1974), a platinum-selling powerhouse (1975 – 1987); and old hands trying to find direction (1988 onwards).  It’s possible that some listeners will like one of these incarnations but others may leave them cold.  To some the only Fleetwood Mac they know is that of the platinum era.  It’s easy to see that as the band’s peak, and, in many ways, that is accurate.  However there may still be things to admire throughout the band’s career.  In particular, the early blues years seem noteworthy and substantial.  ‘The 1970s renaissance of Fleetwood Mac was one of the most dramatic turnarounds in rock.’  The music of Fleetwood Mac ‘was unabashedly pop, yet it touched on serious themes without being weighed down by them.’

Sources:

  1. ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 109, 113
  2. ‘Greatest Hits’ – Sleeve notes by Stephen Davis (Warner Brothers Records Inc., 1988) p. 4
  3. fleetwoodmac.net/penguin as at 28 January 2013
  4. ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 117, 131, 133, 171, 266, 221, 303, 317
  5. ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 82, 83
  6. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 82,83
  7. allmusic.com, ‘Fleetwood Mac’ by Stephen Thomas Erlewine as at 29 August 2001
  8. ‘The Chain’ – Back cover quotes (Warner Brothers Records Inc., 1992)
  9. wikipedia.org as at 28 January 2013
  10. ‘Rock Stars’ by Timothy White (Columbus Books, 1984) p. 252, 256, 257
  11. rockalittle.com/qmagazine (May 2001)
  12. ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’, ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 40
  13. ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Australia newspaper) (11 April 2013) p. 16
  14. ‘The History of Rock’ by Mark Paytress (Parragon Books, 2011) p. 170
  15. ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘The Sound of Southern California’ by John Rockwell (Plexus Publishing, 1992), p. 547
  16. lyricsfreak.com as at 8 September 2014
  17. ‘Herald Sun’ (Melbourne, Australia newspaper) ‘Don’t Stop’ – interview by Cameron Adams (9 April 2015) p. 36

Song lyrics copyright unavailable with the following exceptions: ‘The Chain’ (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group); ‘Oh Well’ (BMG Rights Management (US) LLC); ‘Black Magic Woman’ (Murbo Music Publishing Inc.); ‘Green Manalishi’ (BMG Platinum Songs obo Palan Music Pub Ltd); ‘Sentimental Lady’ and ‘Dreams’ (both Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC); ‘Say You Love Me’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ (both Universal Music Publishing Group)

Last revised 10 April 2015

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