My Playlist: Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac has been making headlines lately. Yesterday, they announced a big North American tour, which will kick off in October, include more than 50 cities, and stretch all the way into the beginning of April 2019. This comes in the wake of news that longtime vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Lindsey Buckingham is out and has been replaced by Mike Campbell and Neil Finn. The band also announced The Fleetwood Mac Channel on SiriusXM, which will launch on May 1st and run throughout the month. All these latest developments have triggered this post and playlist.

I’m most familiar with the classic line-up of Fleetwood Mac, which spans the periods from 1975 to 1987, 1995 to 1997 and 2014 to April 2018. I find it very hard to imagine the band without Buckingham. His vocals and guitar-playing were a major part of the Mac’s distinct sound. At the same time, I’m intrigued about the addition of Campbell, the former guitarist of Tom Petty’s band The Heartbreakers, and Finn, the previous lead vocalist and frontman for Crowded House, who also co-fronted Split Enz.

Of course, Fleetwood Mac’s 50-year-plus story started long before Buckingham came into the picture. It also continued following his first departure in August 1987 after the release of the band’s 14th studio album Tango In The Night. In fact, the band’s history is characterized stylistic shifts and numerous lineup changes. Before exploring some music, I’d like to highlight some of Fleetwood Mac’s stages. This is not meant to be a comprehensive history, which would go beyond the scope of the post.

Fleetwood Mac Initial Line-up

Fleetwood Mac was formed in July 1967, when guitarist Peter Green left John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers and asked fellow Bluesbreakers Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass) to form a new band. Fleetwood who had been fired from the Bluesbreakers agreed right away while McVie was hesitant. Jeremy Spencer (vocals, slide guitar, piano) and Bob Brunning (bass) completed the initial lineup. But Greene continued to pursue McVie as a bassist and named the new band after his preferred rhythm section of Fleetwood on drums and McVie on bass, i.e., Fleetwood Mac. After a few weeks, McVie agreed to join the fold.

The band released its eponymous studio debut in February 1968, a hard-charging blues rock album featuring a mix of blues covers and original tunes written by Greene and Spencer. And even though the record didn’t include a hit, it became a remarkable success in the U.K., peaking at no. 4 and remaining in the charts for a whooping 37 weeks. The sophomore album Mr. Wonderful, which already appeared in August 1968, was similar in style.

Fleetwood Mac_Then Play On

First changes started to emerge on Then Play On, the Mac’s third studio release. Danny Kirwan had joined the band as a guitarist and vocalist. Stylistically, the music started to move away from an exclusive focus on blues rock. The band’s transition continued between 1970 and 1975. In May 1970, Greene who had started taking LSD and was not in good mental health, left. Christine Perfect, who had married John McVie, did her first gig with the band as Christine McVie in August that year. In February 1971, Spencer left to join religious group Children of God. Bob Welch and later Bob Weston entered as guitarists.

Fleetwood Mac’s next big transition happened when Buckingham and then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks, who had performed together as a duo, joined the band at the end of 1974 after the departure of Welch. The classic line-up was in place and recorded the band’s second eponymous album. Also known as “The White Album,” it appeared in July that year and became the Mac’s first no. 1 on the Billboard 200. The follow-on Rumours not only was another chart-topper but also catapulted the band to international mega-stardom. The classic line-up released three additional successful studio albums.

Fleetwood Mac 1975

The period between 1987 to 1995 brought additional changes. Buckingham left in August 1987, and guitarists and vocalists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito joined the line-up -apparently, it takes two artists to replace Buckingham! Nicks and Vito departed in 1991. In 1995, following the release of the unsuccessful album Time, the Mac’s classic line-up regrouped. A performance in Burbank, Calif. in May 1997 resulted in the excellent live album The Dance, which was released in August that year. In 1998, Christine McVie left and returned to her family in England, where she lived in semi-retirement.

The remaining members recorded one more studio album, Say You Will, and continued to tour occasionally. In January 2014, Christine McVie officially rejoined the band. Subsequent efforts to make another Fleetwood Mac album were derailed when Nicks decided to focus on her solo career. While Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were involved in the recording, the record appeared last June as a collaboration between Buckingham and Christine McVie, titled Buckingham/McVie. You can read more the album here. Let’s get to some music.

I’d like to start off this playlist with My Heart Beat Like A Hammer, a nice blues rocker from the Mac’s first album, which is also known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. The tune was written by Jeremy Spencer.

About a month after the release of the debut album, Green’s Black Magic Woman was released in March 1968 as the band’s third single. Long before the original, I had heard the excellent Santana cover sung by Gregg Rollie, which became that band’s first big hit peaking at no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Green’s version climbed to no. 37 on the UK Singles Chart, not a bad showing either.

Fleetwood Mac’s first and only no. 1 song on the U.K. Singles Chart was the beautiful instrumental Albatross, another Green composition that appeared in November 1968.

Kiln House was the band’s fourth studio album and the first record without Green. Released in September 1970, it featured new guitarist and vocalist Danny Kirwan. By that time, the Mac had moved away from blues and sounded more like a straight rock band. While not being credited, Christine McVie provided backing vocals and keyboards. Here is Jewel-Eyed Judy, which was co-written Kirwan, Fleetwood and John McVie. It also became one of the record’s singles – great tune!

In October 1973, Fleetwood Mac released their eighth studio album Mystery To Me. At that time, the line-up included Bob Welch and Bob Weston, in addition to Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Christine McVie. Welch and Christine wrote most of the songs. Here is Hypnotized, a nice tune penned by Welch with a relaxed feel.

Fleetwood Mac from July 1975 was the first album of the classic line-up. One of the songs on the record is the Stevie Nicks composition Rhiannon, which is among my favorite Mac songs.

When it comes to Rumours, which is packed with many great tunes, it’s tough to decide which one to select. Here is Go Your Own Way, which was written by Buckingham and became the album’s lead single in December 1976.

The follow-on Tusk, the band’s 12th studio album, sounded quite different from Rumours. This was exactly the intention. “For me, being sort of the culprit behind that particular album, it was done in a way to undermine just sort of following the formula of doing Rumours 2 and Rumours 3, which is kind of the business model Warner Bros. would have liked us to follow,” Buckingham told Billboard in November 2015. ” While opinions about the album were divided at the time is was released, it still peaked at no. 1 on the Billboard 200, though it “only” sold four million copies compared to 10 million for Rumours. Here is the title track.

Tango In The Night from April 1987 was Fleetwood Mac’s 14th studio album and the last with Buckingham prior to his first departure. It became the band’s second-best selling record after Rumours. The opening track is Big Love, a tune written by Buckingham. Here is an incredible live version captured during a show in Boston in October 2014. It illustrates Buckingham’s impressive guitar skills.

I’m fully aware that capturing the Mac’s long recording career in a post and playlist of no more than 10 songs without skipping stuff is impossible. For the last tune I’d like to highlight, I’m jumping to band’s most recent studio album Say You Will, which was released in April 2003. It was recorded by the band’s classic line-up minus Christine McVie. Here is Throw Down, a tune written by Nicks.

Fleetwood Mac’s next chapter just started, and it remains to be seen how the story continues after the 2018/2019 tour. The current schedule is here. In the band’s first interview since Buckingham’s departure with Rolling Stone, it appears they are ready to soldier on and excited about Campbell and Finn. “Why would we stop?” asked Nicks. “We don’t want to stop playing music. We don’t have anything else to do. This is what we do.” Referring to the band’s new members, Christine McVie said, “I immediately felt like I’d known them for years,” even though we’d only just met.”

“There’s no doubt that my instincts, for better or worse, have always been to gravitate towards going forward,” Fleetwood stated. About Buckingham he added, “Words like ‘fired’ are ugly references as far as I’m concerned. Not to hedge around, but we arrived at the impasse of hitting a brick wall. This was not a happy situation for us in terms of the logistics of a functioning band. To that purpose, we made a decision that we could not go on with him. Majority rules in terms of what we need to do as a band and go forward.”

According to Nicks, Buckingham’s departure occurred over timing differences about a world tour. The band wanted to start rehearsals this June while Buckingham wanted to put that off until November 2019. Apparently, Rolling Stone tried to reach him for comment without success.

Sources: Wikipedia, Billboard, Rolling Stone, YouTube

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13 thoughts on “My Playlist: Fleetwood Mac”

  1. I agree with you Fleetwood Mac without Buckingham is unimaginable. I am a huge fan of Neil Finn and Crowded House and I don’t blame him for signing on with this tour for the money and exposure but I wouldn’t be interested at all in seeing this band without Buckingham in it. I am NOT a Stevie Nick’s fan. I don’t think I’d walk across the street to see their latest ‘money grab.” My bet is the lack of Buckingham will not effect ticket prices at all- the Fleetwood Mac tag is on the tour- pay up folks!… This is just a touring group now anyway in the past twenty-eight years two studio albums- but the tours roll on $$$$$$. Buckingham should shadow tour them- I’d go see him in a second.
    As far as their music I am like you more familiar with their music after Buckingham and Nicks signed on in the mid-70’s. Rumours was a career maker that they still cash in on but my favorite Fleetwood Mac is the follow up Tusk. My two favorite Fleetwood Mac songs- Buckingham songs from that album- What Makes You Think You’re The One and Not That Funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did see Fleetwood Mac during their tour that preceded Christine McVie’s return and thought it was a great show. While I actually like Stevie Nicks for both her writing and her distinct vocals, it was Buckingham who was the true standout.

      Once the new line-up starts performing, I’m sure there will be YouTube videos, which I’m curious to watch. I think very highly of Mike Campbell. I’m less familiar with Neil Finn. Until then, I certainly wouldn’t consider going to another Mac show. Plus, to your point, given high ticket prices, I would probably rather go to somebody I haven’t seen.

      In fact, I just coughed up the money for a ticket for Jackson Browne in May. He’s one of my favorite American rock artists, together with John Mellencamp, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. Admittedly, it was a bit of an impulse purchase!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I saw the cheap seats are $66 plus. I would rather go see a couple up and coming artists for that price. I agree with Mike Campbell- and I am a big Neil Finn fan but what is he going to do? I can see them letting him play “Don’t Dream It’s Over”- but is he going to to Buckingham’s songs? I really do think this is a money grab. If they had a new album out I would buy into it but… I dunno. I am a big Lindsay fan and this ticks me off.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Obviously there’s more to the story than a few quotes, but I find it interesting that they aren’t willing to accomodate Buckingham’s schedule but they waited a couple years for Stevie to come back into the fold from her solo stint. It’s a shame they didn’t do a quality album, then take it on the road and mix it in with the classics. When it comes to this group, on one hand we can say “The more things change…,” but on the other they’re getting up there in age and I don’t see them having another Kumbaya reunion tour with all five.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree there is probably more to the story than what Rolling Stone reported.

      It sounds strange to me that Buckingham supposedly wanted to wait until November 2019 to start rehearsing for a world tour. He must have had a reason for it, which wasn’t included in the story. At this time, he doesn’t seem to be willing to tell his side of what happened.

      Unfortunately, I’m very skeptical we will see another Fleetwood Mac album. I recall reading an interview with Stevie Nicks last year, in which she bluntly said that making an album nowadays is no longer worth the effort of spending hours and hours in the studio.
      Touring is much more lucrative.

      It’s a pretty sad statement that also reflects the sorry state of the music industry!

      Like

  3. Nice article, Christian. You discussed recent Fleetwood Mac well. But I think you could have included more biography of pre-Buckingham/Nicks-era Mac.

    While the vast majority of Mac fans focus on the band after 1975, based on its chart-topping hits, many older music heads like me prefer the earlier Peter Green and Danny Kirwan years. Their music then was bluesier and more “heady” (for lack of a better word). Green was a brilliant blues guitarist, and many axemen consider him even better than Clapton. Kirwan was a gifted songwriter, in my opinion the best songwriter the band ever had. The band was constantly changing and progressing, much more so than after the money started rolling in. There was also a lot of drama and tragedy (Green’s mental health problems, the “fake” Fleetwood Mac of 1974, Kirwan’s alcoholism and ultimate disappearance, etc.).

    I urge you to check out “Bare Trees” from 1972, my personal favorite LP of theirs. Kirwan’s songs are gorgeous (he also made several good solo albums, which few people have heard… although they’re now available on YouTube).

    That being said… thanks for including links to those early Mac songs, from “My Heart Beats Like a Hammer” through “Hypnotized.” Getting ready to hear the first one right now!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! It’s hard to do a band justice that has a 51-year history in one post. Initially, I was considering to focus on the classic lineup only. I’m afraid I‘m one of those folks who are much more familiar with that side of the Mac. But I realize the band‘s early history, so I wanted to capture at least some of it!

      But if anything, while doing background research for the post, I realized there is lots of good music for me to explore from the pre-1975 era. I‘ll be sure to check out “Bare Trees” and other early albums.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’ve listened to “Bare Trees” and like that album – thanks again for the tip!

      I’m also going to take a closer look at the band’s other pre-Buckingham and Nicks records and Kirwan’s solo albums. It’s a pity what happened to him!

      Like

  4. I’m a fan in one way or another of all eras of the band. I love the early, bluesy Mac. The Boston Tea Party album is outstanding. Small club, ’60’s, ravenous crowd. As a blues guitarist myself, I am a huge Green fan. But I like the “Hypnotized” stuff, the Bob Welch era. And then the Mac of the ’70’s are and were outstanding for different reasons. A different feel, a different head but still a terrific rock band. I like that “White Album” as much or more than “Rumours.” As to Buckingham, yeah, whatever. There’s always been some friction. But another outstanding musician and guitarist. I used to be able to play a version of “Big Love” on acoustic. (I stopped playing at one point for something like two years so I completely forgot it.) Anyway, had a chance to see them years ago for what seemed like an outrageous 75 bucks. Should have done it. Pity. I’m not paying these prices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m with you, Jim. I’ve started to further explore the pre-1975 phase, which I know much less than the period thereafter, and really like what I’ve heard thus far.

      I actually did see Fleetwood Mac a few years ago, though I don’t remember exactly how much the tickets were – definitely less than $100.

      That show, which was about six months before Christine McVie rejoined, was great. It would have probably even been nicer with her.

      I do feel that Buckingham was a key member who significantly impacted the band’s sound. That being said, I’m withholding judgment on the new lineup until I’ve seen some footage. Given high ticket prices, I probably won’t see them again.

      Like

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