Sarasota Herald-Tribune (07/14/2006), Jeremy Spencer Makes Comeback

Rod Harmon
Jeremy Spencer makes comeback

There are some artists you don't expect to ever hear from again. Syd Barrett was one of them. The mentally unstable Pink Floyd founder stopped making music in 1970, and was a recluse until dying last week at age 60.

Many assumed the same would happen to Jeremy Spencer. As a founding member of Fleetwood Mac in the late '60s, Spencer and co-guitarist/vocalist Peter Green recorded some of the most gorgeous blues guitar ever laid down on tape.

Long before the Mac was a darling of Top 40 radio, it rivaled Cream for the mantle of best blues-rock band with such classics as "Rattlesnake Shake," "Oh Well," "Show-Biz Blues," "The Green Manalishi" (later covered by Judas Priest) and "Black Magic Woman" (which became Carlos Santana's signature song.)

Then, in 1971, it all fell apart. Green and Spencer left the band -- the latter to, according to most rock historians, join a religious cult. Fleetwood Mac carried on with a revolving door of musicians until hitting superstardom with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

And Spencer? He was rarely seen or heard again.

So imagine my surprise when I opened up a package from Blind Pig Records last week and saw Spencer's face staring back at me. He has a new CD, his first in more than 30 years: "Precious Little."

The CD, which hits shelves on Tuesday, is an absolute delight. Spencer's slide glides like gossamer over the frets, and his lovely falsetto has only warmed with age.

Spencer, who lives in Europe, agreed to answer some questions via e-mail earlier this week:

Q:Your guitar-playing skills, especially the slide, sound better than ever. Have you been playing all these years in private since leaving Fleetwood Mac, or did you recently start playing again?

A:I haven't stopped playing guitar since leaving Fleetwood Mac, and I discovered new things over the years, and got a lot of musical ideas and melodies, songs and so forth, but I didn't really develop my slide playing until about eight years ago when I changed (guitars)from an SG to a PRS. I found the PRS a little hard to play slide accurately with a pick due to its narrower frets, so I dropped the pick and started to use my fingers to pluck the notes I wanted while deadening the ones I didn't. A whole new world opened up with phrasing, tones, figures, etc., and it was as though I was only just beginning to learn the slide ...

Q:Most of the Fleetwood Mac biographies I've read state that you joined a "cult" and indicated that your departure had something to with mental instability. Can you set the record straight on the reason for your departure?

A:Leaving Fleetwood Mac was a very clearly thought-through and prayed-through decision. It may not fit in with the popular idea of joining a "cult" and getting "brainwashed," but bottom line, I asked God to lead me and show me where to go with my life and he did. Maybe my method of leaving wasn't the best, but in a nutshell I was desperate. I needed answers, I needed a break and I needed inspiration, and I did need a mind cleansing as it was pretty dirty! Don't we all from time to time?

Q:Your love of the blues obviously hasn't faded over the years. Many assume that if you're religious, you must forsake all secular music. What are your thoughts on this?

A:Whoa! A tricky one, and my thoughts may go down sideways with some! I feel it is important to show your faith and lifestyle and not be ashamed of it, which I am not, and there's a time to "sing to the choir," but I believe there is a time to express emotions that non-church or religious people can understand. There are many beautiful secular songs including blues that express love, hope, sorrow, etc. I am reminded sometimes of what King Solomon said, that it's better to go into the house of mourning -- the "House of Blues" if you like -- than to go into the house of mirth, for in sorrow the heart is made better ...

Q:What convinced you to come back into the public spotlight after all these years, first at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway in 2005 (Spencer's first public performance since leaving Fleetwood Mac), and now with the CD "Precious Little"?

A:It was basically prayer. The Notodden promoters asked for me, and the festival was recommended to me through Peter Green (who made a comeback there in the late '90s). I felt it was the right thing to do after so long. It was a step of faith, really, as I wasn't sure on a lot of fronts if I wanted to get involved. I am glad I did. The Notodden team was supportive, humble and appreciative. That little town has almost become a second home musically!

Q:Have you re-established contact with any of your old Fleetwood Mac bandmates?

A:I have the occasional contact with Mick (Fleetwood) over the years, and it's always an enjoyable time. Through thick and thin, he's been very supportive. I met Pete and Danny (Kirwan) briefly in London about five years ago.

Q:Would you be interested in a reunion, either live or in the studio, of the original Fleetwood Mac?

A:The thoughtful studio idea could work, bearing in mind abilities, preferences, where we have all been during the last 35 years, etc. The choice of songs would be important -- the lyrics. No hymns to the dark side and its inhabitants! I would not want to do any reunion concerts. Overall, I have no desire to be a part of the publicity baggage and hype that would come with a reunion, studio or otherwise.

Q:Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?

A:I would say if you out there reading this are still a fan after all these years of hype and mud-slinging against me, my decision and faith ... I appreciate you more than I can say! Hope you like the new album.

Contributed by Livia