There is a greatness about Fleetwood Mac that one just can’t write about or put in words. They have worn so many hats, succeeded in so many things and the list of people who have been with them reads like a page out of Who’s Who in the Music Industry. I put it that way because they were not just pop sensations. They were rock greats and yet, they started strictly as a blues band and made a name for themselves in that genre first.
The story begins in the mid-60s when Mick Fleetwood was playing with a band called Peter B’s Looners along with a guitarist named Peter Green. This band morphed into the Shotgun Express and had a young singer named Rod Stewart as a member. In 1966, Peter Green left the group to replace Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s band, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Later, when the Bluesbreakers needed a new drummer, Peter Green suggested Mick Fleetwood who now became a member of the Bluesbreakers.
They recorded an instrumental piece and Green named it after both the drummer, Mick Fleetwood, and the bassist for the Bluesbreakers, John McVie. He called it Fleetwood Mac, “Mac” being McVie’s nickname based on his last name. At this point it was the title of a song and nothing more.
Green and Fleetwood broke away to form their own band in 1967. They invited McVie to join and when he refused, they named their new band Fleetwood Mac in order to further persuade him. He wouldn’t budge. The band began touring and recorded their first single without him. He eventually relented but he was not a part of the band from the very beginning, despite it being indirectly named for him.
They released their first album, the self-titled Fleetwood Mac, in early 1968. It made it to #4 on the British charts and Fleetwood Mac had become a blues band to be reckoned with. They followed it up with a couple of successful singles, including one written by Green called Black Magic Woman. This song would later become a big hit for Santana but was originally a Fleetwood Mac tune. They continued to come out with albums and tour. They were a success by any standard and the story could end here and be considered happy, but there is much more.
Let me introduce you to Christine Perfect. She began playing keyboards for Fleetwood Mac early on as an uncredited session musician. She had played with a band called Chicken Shack, and during this period, came out with an album on her own simply titled Christine Perfect. She was a successful musician in her own right and even sang lead vocals for Fleetwood Mac, despite not being a member of the band. She wound up marrying bassist, John McVie, and joining Fleetwood Mac officially in 1970. Christie McVie would become a familiar name and member we all associate with the Mac
Fleetwood Mac continued to steadily tour, turn out albums and chart. There were personnel changes and by 1975 the band consisted of Fleetwood on Drums, John McVie on Bass, Christie McVie on Keyboards, Stevie Nicks on Vocals and Lindsey Buckingham on guitar. This is the classic lineup that most people recall from the 70s and the one depicted in the photo above. (l to r: Buckingham, C. McVie, Fleetwood, J. McVie and Nicks)
They released a self-titled album in 1975 and it went to the number one position on the charts. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning a couple of years ago and was taken aback by their piece on Fleetwood Mac. It stated that the band formed in 1975 and that this was their first album. Their version of history completely removed their first nine albums and all their success on the charts since 1968. To be fair, not many bands have two self-titled albums and the fact that the Mac did as their first and tenth did confuse things. The 1968 album has since been referred to as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.
Their next album, 1977’s Rumours, was one of the most successful records of all times. It hit #1 on the charts (and held #1 for 31 weeks in the USA!) around the world and had four singles in the top 10 in the United States. It remains one of the ten best top selling albums of all time. Behind the scenes, this album was fraught with personal angst. Nicks and Buckingham had broken up and Buckingham’s song, Go Your Own Way (#10 on the Billboard charts), was a result of that. In 1976, the McVie marriage started to fall apart and they divorced in 1977 as Rumours was released. Christie McVie’s Don’t Stop (#1 on the Billboard charts) was part of her efforts to put that behind her. Many have said that it was this emotional turmoil that Fleetwood Mac drew upon and directed into the music that help to make this album great.
Through the years, they have continued to record and tour. There have been personnel changes but the members of that late 70s superstar lineup continue to return and there have been concerts and even an album by that particular group. In 1997, Fleetwood, J. Mcvie, C. McVie, Buckingham and Nicks took to the stage together in front of an audience. This performance resulted in the album, the Dance. After they had finished Go Your Own Way, each member of the band came to the microphone to say good night and good bye. They left and the houselights were down. Everyone knew that an encore would follow. Soon a hypnotic drum beat was emanating from the stage and as the lights came up, Mick Fleetwood was at the drums. Lindsay Buckingham strummed a loud chord on his guitar and band was playing Tusk, one of their old hits from the 70s.
Part way through, Mick Fleetwood when into a wild drum solo and as he did, the USC Trojan Marching Band marched down the aisles and joined the Mac on stage. Tusk was originally recorded with the Trojans backing them in 1979. The end result was incredible and everyone’s hairs stood on edge. As a second encore, they did their only #1 hit, Don’t Stop. The Trojans remained on stage dancing with the Mac and part way through the song, joined in. You had Fleetwood Mac and the USC Trojans playing Don’t Stop and producing a sound that can only be described as awe inspiring. Towards the end, the members of the Mac quietly each left stage. The Trojans finished the number on their own… The band played on.Today I will be doing a set of Fleetwood Mac. I plan on ending it with that performance of Tusk/Don’t Stop.