Fleetwood Mac

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Murray: You can't have relationships when you're in a band, you see what it did to Fleetwood Mac. Mind you, it did help them produce some of their best music.
Bret: "Rumours".
Murray: No, it's true. They did.

Forget Limp Bizkit, this is the band that should've had an Anger Management tour.
Wilson & Alroy

Fleetwood Mac have had about as many musical lives as a cat through their long and varied career, being as famous for their stylistically-varied-yet-catchy music as their troubled, chaotic behavior, marked by heavy drug abuse, violence, breakups, more personnel changes than you can shake a stick at, tell-all bios and more.

Having had so many incarnations and such a tumultuous history since its formation in 1967, for the sake of readability this page will be split according to periods.

Playin' the Blues[edit | hide | hide all]

Fleetwood Mac-Pg.jpg

Band members:

  • Peter Green - vocals, guitar (1967-1970)
  • Jeremy Spencer - vocals, guitar (1967-1971)
  • Danny Kirwan - vocals, guitar (1968-1972)
  • John McVie - bass
  • Mick Fleetwood - drums

Fleetwood Mac was formed by Peter Green after leaving John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers in 1967, alongside his Bluesbreakers bandmates and rhythm section Fleetwood and McVie. Green named the band after them, which proved kind of prescient in a way since they turned out to be the band's only constant members. Green completed the lineup by recruiting talented slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer.

The band's style so far was straightforward, no-frills blues-rock largely similar to what Green had been doing with John Mayall. This proved to be okay with the British public, which sent its debut album Fleetwood Mac up to #4 on the charts in early 1968 and provided them with a hit single in "Black Magic Woman" (later Covered Up by Santana). Their second album, Mr. Wonderful, followed on the heels of the self-titled debut (literally: it came out in summer 1968), boasting a more vintage production and the first appearance of Christine Perfect, future member of the band and John's wife, as a session keyboardist.

Frustrated by Spencer's creative apathy, Green added 18-year old guitarist Danny Kirwan to the lineup after Mr. Wonderful, whose signature vibrato complemented the band's blues-rocking very well and helped them gain their first #1 single in Europe, the mellow instrumental "Albatross". Around this time, the band suffered some predictable discography-hacking through the release of the patchwork English Rose in the USA (half of Mr. Wonderful + new songs with Kirwan), and they put out a compilation of singles and B-sides in Europe named Pious Bird of Good Omen.

After a quick vacation in the USA where they recorded many blues songs at Chess Studios with some legendary Chicago bluesmen (Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann), Fleetwood Mac moved from a small blues-only label to Reprise Records, where they've remained since[1], and began diversifying away from pure blues-rock. Once again with Christine around as a session musician, the band recorded Then Play On, a critically-acclaimed album that gave them their early Signature Song: "Oh Well", a heavy riff-driven blues-rocker that transitioned into a Morricone-styled sparse instrumental for a grand total of 9 minutes runtime. All the songs on Play On were recorded solely by Kirwan and Green, with Spencer barely present since he was working on a solo album of fifties-style retro-rock 'n roll songs. They also scored another non-album hit a year later with "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown), later Covered Up by Judas Priest.

Despite being popular in Europe, all was not well within the band. Green's experimentation with LSD had contributed to the onset of his schizophrenia, and his mental stability steadily deteriorated. After a conflict over finances, Green left the band, playing his last show on May 20, 1970.

Oh Crap, We're in a Dork Age[edit | hide]

Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Bob Weston, John McVie, and Bob Welch

Band members:

  • Jeremy Spencer - vocals, guitar (1967-1971)
  • Danny Kirwan - vocals, guitar (1968-1972)
  • Dave Walker - vocals (1972-1973)
  • Bob Weston - vocals, guitar (1972-1974)
  • Bob Welch - vocals, guitar (1971-1974)
  • Christine McVie - keyboards, vocals (1970-present)
  • John McVie - bass
  • Mick Fleetwood - drums

Green's departure proved to be the first sign of the later chaos that Fleetwood Mac would become infamous for. The band seemed to cope well enough with his departure at first, releasing Kiln House in 1970. Kiln showed a big divide between the two now-bandleaders, with Kirwan pushing the band towards folky, mellow bluesy rock while Spencer devoted his songs to Homages and parodies of fifties rock 'n roll.

In the meantime, John McVie had married Christine, who was officially brought on board as a member shortly after Kiln's release. However, things got worse. While on tour in February 1971, Jeremy Spencer said he was going out to "get a magazine", but never returned. After several days of frantic searching, the band discovered that Spencer had joined a religious group, the Children of God. The bandmembers convinced Green to come on board temporarily to finish the tour, and a new guitarist was recruited, Bob Welch.

Future Games proved to be a New Sound Album - sans Spencer, Fleetwood Mac drifted futher and further away from their blues roots and into a mellow, folky pop-rock sound that they would fully embrace and do better later. Christine began establishing herself as a songwriter here, writing her first trademark pleasant ballads and catchy pop songs, while Welch and Kirwan did their folk-rock thing. Their followup, Bare Trees, continued the formula but with a better reception and a hit single, Welch's sappy ballad "Sentimental Lady".

It wouldn't last - Kirwan left the band in 1972 due to alcohol dependence and strained relationships with Welch and the McVies. For two and a half years afterwards, the band entered its nadir, suffering from constantly shifting lineups, reflected in the poorly-received, tepid Mystery to Me (which still managed to get some airplay with the single "Hypnotized"), internal tension (John and Christine's stressful marriage, John's alcohol abuse, Weston's affair with Fleetwood's wife) and found itself on the receiving end of probably the weirdest event in rock history (and that's saying a lot).

The band's manager claimed that he owned the name Fleetwood Mac and put out a "fake Mac". Nobody in the "fake Mac" was ever officially in the real band, although some of them later acted as Danny Kirwan's studio band. Fans were told that Welch and John had quit the group, and that Fleetwood and Christine would be joining the band at a later date, after getting some rest. Fleetwood Mac's road manager, John Courage, worked one show before he realised that the line being used was a lie. Courage ended up hiding the real Fleetwood Mac's equipment, which helped shorten the tour by the fake band. A lawsuit soon followed over who owned the name "Fleetwood Mac" that dragged out for almost a year but eventually was solved in the band's favour.

During their forced hiatus, Fleetwood Mac relocated to Los Angeles at Welch's suggestion and recorded Heroes are Hard to Find with the pared-down lineup of Welch-the McVies-Fleetwood. Welch resigned shortly afterwards, burned out by the touring and the lawsuit. Still, Heroes reached higher on the US charts than any previous releases and the band was in a very good position, having cleared up all the mess and eager to get back to music.

Pop-Rock and Success[edit | hide]

Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham

Band members:

  • Lindsey Buckingham - guitar, vocals
  • Stevie Nicks - vocals, occasional guitar and keyboards
  • Christine McVie - keyboards, vocals
  • John McVie - bass
  • Mick Fleetwood - drums

While searching for somebody to replace Welch, Fleetwood heard a song by the American duo Buckingham Nicks courtesy of a studio engineer in Van Nuys. Impressed, Fleetwood met guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and asked him to join. Buckingham said he would if his girlfriend Stevie Nicks could also join, something which Fleetwood quickly agreed to.

With its best-known lineup now in place, the band made another New Sound Album, Fleetwood Mac. The new album showcased the band reimagined as a Californian pop-rock band filled with catchy hooks and lush vocal harmonies, slightly mellow overall but kept away from outright soft-rock by Buckingham's restlessness (which saw the band sneaking blues, folk and country influences into their sound) and a straightforward production, sounding closer to a relaxed Beatles circa Abbey Road than the smooth, lifeless sound that made the term "soft-rock" so hated by many. Buckingham by now had completely seized creative control of the band and became one of the three main songwriters besides Nicks and Christine, leading to a very clear group dynamic: Buckingham being the driven, sorta experimental weirdo, Christine providing the catchy pop songs/ballads and Nicks being the mystical, slightly Cloudcuckoolander but charming folkie (proto-Kate Bush?).

The band were rewarded for the change with a blockbuster album that went up to #1 in the USA and a few big hits like Christine's "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me" and Nicks' "Rhiannon" and "Landslide". They never got around to celebrating it due to messy personal troubles - John and Christine ended their marriage in 1976, Buckingham and Nicks split up and Fleetwood divorced from his wife. All this combined with pressure to produce a successful follow-up and huge consumption of drugs and alcohol.

Fleetwood Mac recorded a new album for around a year in five separate studios with Record Producers and engineers Richard Dashut and Ken Caillat, a process marked by personal tensions, long working hours and cocaine abuse - Caillat admitted that he found cocaine littered across the mixing board or thrown under it on at least one occasion. The resulting album, the emotionally stark Rumours, became their biggest success both critically and commercially, staying at #1 for 31 weeks in a row and spawned bigger hits with "Go Your Own Way", the optimistic "Don't Stop", and "You Make Loving Fun," as well as the band's only US number one hit, "Dreams." Another song, "The Chain", credited to all five band members, won fame in another context as the theme song for the BBC's Formula One TV program Grand Prix.

Drained by the production of Rumours, the band's followup was the weirder double album Tusk. Once again produced by the band with Dashut and Caillat, Tusk split its time between mellow Christine and Nicks songs and weird, paranoid Buckingham experiments with New Wave and Punk Rock (he notoriously recorded several songs in his own bathroom), all wrapped in a complex yet messy production. Greeted with general confusion that not even an 18-month tour and the singles "Tusk" (a weird, tribal song featuring the USC Trojan Marching Band), "Think About Me" and "Sara" could redress, Tusk has since been Vindicated by History as a pretty much completely coked-out insane yet compelling and catchy pop album. Their old mate Green also showed up in the studio to play guitar on "Brown Eyes", but wasn't credited for some reason. Tusk's initial sales may also have been hurt by a legendary goof Warner Brothers committed when they released the album to be played in its entirety by radio stations the day before release, providing a golden opportunity for home tapers.

After some time off to recover and for Nicks and Buckingham to release solo albums (Nicks would eventually release four solo LP's and Buckingham two over the course of the decade, with Fleetwood also releasing two and Christine Mc Vie putting out one), Fleetwood Mac returned with Mirage, their first album of The Eighties. Replacing the whacked-out-on-coke-insane-paranoia with accessible pop melodies and replacing the simple, muscular sound Dashut and Caillat gave to previous efforts with a shiny production, Mirage sold better than Tusk, propelled by a few successful singles - Christine's "Hold Me", "Love in Store", Nicks' poppier offering "Gypsy" and Buckingham's "Oh Diane". The band celebrated this by partying hard, shoveling more cocaine up their noses and continuing their excessive lifestyle, which came back to bite them in the arse - Nicks had to go into rehab to get rid of her addictions (and had to go into rehab again in the early 1990's to get rid of an addiction to the medication she had been prescribed to help overcome her cocaine addiction), John suffered a seizure due to his alcohol abuse but got better and Fleetwood declared bankruptcy.

Dissatisfied with Mirage and wanting to close on a high note, Buckingham initially began working on some solo material before bringing it to the band and making it a group effort after all. Adding synthesizers to the mix but managing to avoid bland Synth Pop hell or soft-rock anemia, Tango in the Night turned out to be another massive success, becoming their second biggest-selling album after Rumours. With the band in very good standing, Buckingham then left the band after an acrimonious confrontation over his reneging on a commitment to tour, which led to a fight with Nicks (Fleetwood claimed in his 1990 autobiography that Buckingham had physically assaulted Nicks, though he later retracted the allegation).

Oh, Christ, Not The Dork Age Again[edit | hide]

Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Billy Burnette, Stevie Nicks, John McVie, Rick Vito

Band members:

  • Rick Vito - guitar, vocals (1988-1993)
  • Billy Burnette - guitar, vocals
  • Stevie Nicks - vocals (1988-1993)
  • Bekka Bramlett - vocals (1992-1997)
  • Dave Mason - guitar, vocals (1993-1997)
  • Christine McVie - keyboard, vocals
  • John McVie - bass
  • Mick Fleetwood - drums

Fleetwood Mac brought in two guitarists to replace Buckingham: Billy Burnette, who was chosen for his vocal skills, and Rick Vito, who was chosen for his lead guitar skills. Unfortunately, these didn't show much on the new lineup's first album, Behind the Mask. Another New Sound Album, Mask saw the band move away from the mellow yet catchy pop-rock sound that they had been steered towards by Buckingham, but they instead replaced it with a bland adult contemporary sound that did them no favours and earned them a big trashing from critics, who still see it as probably the band's lowest point. This may be somewhat unfair to Burnette and Vito, who, while not at Buckingham's level, were charming, accomplished live performers who developed a following among the band's more dedicated fans. The band received a further blow when Nicks and Vito left in 1992.

The old Buckingham-McVies-Nicks-Fleetwood reunited to play "Don't Stop" at the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1993, who had made it his campaign song and personally requested the band's one-off performance. After this, they went back to business and brought in new members: guitarist Dave Mason and vocalist Bekka Bramlett (Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett's daughter). The resulting album, Time sank without a trace - it didn't even make the Billboard charts, a telling sign of its abysmal quality given that Fleetwood Mac had been mainstays on the charts the past two decades.

We're Back... Well, Sort Of...[edit | hide]

Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie and John McVie, all over again.

Band members:

  • Stevie Nicks - vocals
  • Lindsey Buckingham - guitar, vocals
  • Christine McVie - keyboard, vocals (1997-1998)
  • John McVie - bass
  • Mick Fleetwood - drums, percussion

The old lineup reunited in 1997, started a successful tour and managed to see themselves get in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before Christine retired from the band in 1998. Her retirement was notably free of the bad blood that marked earlier lineup changes, and she's retained good relations with the band since (we're just as shocked as you are). They've recorded a new album, Say You Will, and have been chugging along pretty well ever since, free of all the insanity they were known for in the past and going on sold-out tours once every few years. Nicks and Buckingham have kept their solo careers active on the sidelines as well, and have even become good friends again (yes, we're just as stunned as you are about that too).

They're currently working on a new album. Remains to be seen whether they've mellowed out James Cameron-style with old age or are just waiting for someone to press the right Berserk Button.

Discography:
  • Fleetwood Mac (1968)
  • Mr. Wonderful (1968)
  • Then Play On (1969)
  • Kiln House (1970)
  • Future Games (1971)
  • Bare Trees (1972)
  • Penguin (1973)
  • Mystery to Me (1973)
  • Heroes Are Hard to Find (1974)
  • Fleetwood Mac (1975)
  • Rumours (1977)
  • Tusk (1979)
  • Mirage (1982)
  • Tango in the Night (1987)
  • Behind the Mask (1990)
  • Time (1995)
  • Say You Will (2003)
Fleetwood Mac provides examples of the following tropes:
  • AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: "Dreams". "When the rain waSHES you clean you'll know."
  • The Band Minus the Face: They've had this a few times, to the point that it's difficult to tell what their Face even was at those moments.
  • Badass Beard: All of Them during the Seventies (with the exception of Christine and Stevie), though Mick Fleetwood's "ZZ Top" Beard definitely stands out.
  • Bald of Awesome: Mick Fleetwood, again.
    • Mixed with his long Hair down the back, making Him look like an older and much taller Bill Bailey
  • The Big Guy: Mick Fleetwood at 6"5".
  • Bishonen: For some reason, Buckingham spent a few years in The Eighties looking... rather androgynous.
  • Break Up Song: Actually, a whole breakup album with Rumours.
  • Broken Aesop / Unfortunate Implications: From Don't Stop: "If your life was bad to you/Just think what tomorrow will do."
  • Conveyor Belt Video: "Big Love".
  • Creator Breakdown: The story of Rumours creation.
  • Creator Couple: The McVies, Buckingham and Nicks.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: "Rattlesnake Shake"
  • Epic Rocking: "Oh Well". Some "World Turning" jams also work. There are longstanding rumors that "Sara", in its early versions, ran for 20 minutes or more before being shaved down to its final version; in her solo shows, Nicks traditionally does an Epic Rocking version of "Edge of Seventeen" at the end of the set while she wanders up and down the edge of the stage greeting her fans and collecting gifts (at one point she was said to have the biggest collection of stuffed toys in North America!)
  • Fake Band: The "fake Mac".
  • Garfunkel: Fleetwood and John, ironically enough.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: At 6"5" Fleetwood is nearly a foot and a half taller than 5"1" Stevie Nicks, a fact Photographers often have to work around. (Nicks' iconic platform-soled boots may also be, in part, a practical way to deal with the problem.)
  • Intercourse with You: "Big Love".
  • Long Runner
  • Love Ruins the Realm: "Gold Dust Woman".
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Even in their mainstream 1975-1987 period, they managed to throw blues, folk and country influences into their mellow pop-rock.
  • New Sound Album: Future Games, Fleetwood Mac (the 1975 one), Behind the Mask.
  • One Head Taller: Drummer Mick Fleetwood. It's pretty evident in group portraits where everyone is standing.
  • The Pete Best: It's probably safest to say everybody who was in the band but left before 1975. And everyone who joined the band but left between 1987-1997.
  • Revolving Door Band
  • Self-Titled Album: Twice. To differentiate it from the 1975 version (which is probably better known worldwide) the 1968 one is referred to as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac or occasionally Dog and Dustbin.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll
  • Shout-Out: Stevie gives one to the Velvet Underground in "Gypsy".
  • Signature Song: "Albatross", "Oh Well", "Rhiannon", "Don't Stop", "Sara", and a few others.
  • Take That: Rumours is absolutely loaded with Take Thats from one bandmember to another. Lead single "Go Your Own Way" is probably the most obvious - the Packing up, shacking up is all you want to do line is Buckingham insulting Nicks. Nicks responded with the single's B-Side "Silver Springs" - which features the line I'll follow you down 'till the sound of my voice will haunt you/you'll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you. The last-named song was, for many years, one of the rarest and most sought-after of Fleetwood Mac tracks because it appeared only on the B-side of the single of "Go Your Own Way"; it had been left off the album because of lack of space, much to Nicks' displeasure, and wasn't officially released on a Mac album until their 1992 retrospective boxset. It's also been added to the reissued and remastered editions of Rumours, for what that's worth.
    • Saying that Nicks was "displeased" about "Silver Springs" being left off Rumours is a classic understatement. She once recounted in an interview that when Mick Fleetwood gave her the bad news, she went out into the parking lot and literally shrieked in rage.
    • "Gold Dust Woman", which did make the final cut, is a Take That at the groupies who hung around the male members of the band, particularly Mick and Lindsey.
  • Vocal Tag Team
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Nicks and Green could do this occasionally. Tried making sense of "Oh Well"? "Rhiannon"? The whacked-out half of Tusk?
    • Nicks is famous - or notorious - for her Word Salad Lyrics in general. Interpreting the meanings of her lyrics has long been a popular pastime among her fans; she's helped the process along by commenting on more than one occasion that virtually all her songs are autobiographical in one way or another, so fans have long amused themselves by matching up Nicks' often-cryptic lyrics to events and people in her life.
    • Case in point: much of her 1983 solo album The Wild Heart, particularly the title track and the single "Nightbird", make more sense if you know that the album is in significant part part of the process of Nicks working through her grief over the death from leukemia of her closest friend in late 1982 (which led to a very weird incident in which Nicks, out of a misplaced sense of duty to her friend's newborn son, married her friend's widower. The marriage, as might be expected, only lasted a few months.)
    • By Nicks' own explanation (in the interview accompanying her 1981 cover story in Rolling Stone), "Edge of Seventeen", one of her solo Signature Songs, is largely a reaction to the deaths in close succession of a favorite uncle and of John Lennon.
    • Buckingham's lyrics can be even more cryptic, and downright minimalist. This is in part due to the fact that he often prefers perfecting the instrumental parts of a song to writing lyrics.
  • Working with the Ex: around the time of the Rumours album, consisted of two broken relationships and a drummer (who had a fling with the singer.)
  1. with a few releases on Reprise's parent label, Warner Bros.