Classic Rock: A Spirited Look at the Sights and Sounds of the Sixties and Seventies
Gary Cee, September 1995
Introduction by Pete Fornatale

Fleetwood Mac (pages 44-45) Of all the classic rock bands, no other outfit underwent more personnel and personality changes than Fleetwood Mac. Theirs is a unique fairy tale: while lead singers and guitarists came and went, the rhythm section stayed the course. And on the road to releasing one of the classic rock's biggest-selling albums, Rumours, the trail was full of litigation, religious conversions, and in-house romances.

Peter Green was the guitarist who got the ball rolling in 1967. With drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist Bob Brunning, and second guitarist Jeremy Spencer, they were just another British blues band. Brunning was soon replaced by John McVie, who had been part of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers with Green and Fleetwood. What to call themselves? Green had it all figured out. They'd use his full name, and add Mick's last name and a variation of the first syllable in McVie's last name. Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac played their debut gig at the British Jazz and Blues Festival in August 1967. It won them a recording contract.

The moniker didn't last long. Their 1968 debut album was credited only to Fleetwood Mac. Ignored in America, it won a following in the U.K. based on the hit single "Albatross," more a sullen instrumental than a traditional blues number. Guitarist Danny Kirwin came aboard for the band's second American album, The Original Fleetwood Mac, which was followed by three releases in 1969. English Rose, which includes the original "Black Magic Woman" (later borrowed by Carlos Santana), is the most memorable of the bunch, while Then Play On marked Green's last album with the band. Citing religious reasons, he left the music business altogether, just as his composition "Green Manalishi" was gaining momentum for the band. Spencer was the next to find religion, and subsequently joined a group called the Children of God.

Enter singer/keyboardist Christine Perfect from the blues-rock band Chicken Shack. Actually, Perfect had performed uncredited on Then Play On, but couldn't legally join the band until 1971. By then she had married McVie. Her vocals on Future Games, especially on "Show Me A Smile," pointed the band in a fresh direction. Fleetwood Mac entered a muddled period at this point.

California guitarist Bob Welch was the next to join, followed by the ousting of Kirwin to make room for guitarists Dave Walker and Bob Weston. After the Penguin and Mystery to Me albums (both 1973), they, too, were history.

Here's where things get real sticky. A manager named Clifford Davies put together his own Fleetwood Mac with Walker and Weston and booked a U.S. tour. The real Fleetwood Mac filed an injunction against the band, eventually forcing them to change their name - they became Stretch. Protracted legal entanglements kept the original Fleetwood Mac off the road for most of 1974.

Fleetwood Mac relocated to California that same year, and in 1975, Welch tendered his resignation so that he could form his own group, Paris. Now Fleetwood and the McVies were on their own, until producer Keith Olsen played them the tapes for an album he had recently engineered for folk-rock duo Buckingham-Nicks. Fleetwood and the McVies were smitten, and hired singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and his girlfriend, vocalist Stevie Nicks, along with Olsen, who would produce the next record. The Fleetwood Mac lineup with the million-dollar sound was finally intact. Not only did they have three strong songwriters, they had a genuine sex symbol in the sultry Nicks.

The born-again lineup released Fleetwood Mac in 1976, actually the second album from the band to bear that title. The album sold multimillions on the beauty of Nicks' "Rhiannon" and Christine McVie's "Say You Love Me." The McVies divorced in 1976, and Buckingham and Nicks separated not long after. But these romantic tensions led to the band's true watershed, Rumours, in 1977. The album might have veered dangerously close to easy-listening fluff, but it soared to number one in America, where it sat for a whopping thirty-one weeks, sold more than ten million copies, and gave the Sex Pistols and a new breed of punk rockers something to rebel against. (That same year, Peter Green was committed to a mental hospital for allegedly firing a gun at a messenger who was attempting to hand him a royalty check.)

It wasn't until two years later that Fleetwood Mac issued their next album, the highly ambitious and artistic double album, Tusk. With a million-dollar budget and a guest appearance by the University of Southern California's Trojan Marching Band, Tusk, recorded at L.A.'s Dodger stadium, pointed Fleetwood Mac in yet another direction. The band closed the decade with another double set, this time a live album. Live was followed by Mirage in 1982, Tango in the Night in 1988, and Behind the Mask in 1989. By then, Mac's glory years were behind them.

Thanks to Tracy Garner sending this to us.