Few groups in the history of rock have undergone as many line-up changes and stylistic, musical, and geographical shifts as Fleetwood Mac. Beset by the most unusual misadventures, they have drawn fifteen different formations in more than 50 years of experience.
At first, it was the most renowned blues-rock band in London, almost a musical extension so that the great guitarist Peter Allen Greenbaum (better known as Peter Green) could explain all his virtuosity to pierce. However, ten years later, already settled in California, they ended up composing languid “pop” pages to comfort the tired post-horse racing tribes.
Curiously, through its many incarnations, only two of the original members of Fleetwood Mac remained “putting their chests to the bullets”: drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, the legendary rhythm section, from whose surnames derived the title of an unreleased song (composed when they played with John Mayall) that would later give the name to the band. An irony of fate, since Fleetwood and McVie would be (over the years) the members who had the least influence on the sinuous musical direction of Fleetwood Mac.
More paradoxes: in the late 1960s, guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer created a neo-psychedelic sound mixed with blues-rock, which characterized the band’s early productions. Unfortunately, both guitarists suffered in a short time mental disorders that would make them descend into a hell from which they could not escape, and that ended up destroying the original Fleetwood Mac. This was the case of Green, who went too far with his excesses with narcotics until he became a cartoonish, stupid, and paranoid character; almost a vegetable that could not take charge of its own life. Without a doubt, a terrible loss for rock music, since Green was one of the best guitarists of his time. Its quality would be recorded forever in gems like the instrumental “Albatross” or the tasty “Black Magic Woman” (later popularized by Santana).
After the departure of Green and Spencer, the group begins to lean towards the realization of a sound bordering on pop-rock, due to the inclusion of pianist and composer Christine McVie, John’s wife. This was the beginning of a musical mutation that would culminate in the mid-1970s, when Fleetwood Mac, already established in California, switched to the soft-rock vein of AOR (an acronym for Adult Oriented Radio, the typical style of FM stations) with the inclusion of the duo formed by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, a marriage that would take center stage in the new musical direction of the group. Obsessed with the meticulous pop arrangements of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, Buckingham would turn Fleetwood Mac into one of the most successful groups of the late 1970s. The apotheosis of this new formation would come with the album Rumors (1977), a commercial orgasm with several million copies sold worldwide, becoming the third most successful album in rock history.
However, despite its British success, the group’s first production was its best-seller in the US. Also in ’68, Danny Kirwan, a talented teenage guitarist, joins the band. The following year, Fleetwood Mac records in Chicago with a lineup of legendary bluesmen, including the likes of Willie Dixon and Otis Spann. These sessions would later be released under the name of Blues Jam At Chess. While in the US, the group signs a contract with Reprise/Warner Bros.
Following his departure from Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green is replaced by Christine Perfect, a vocalist, and pianist who had worked with Spencer Davis and been a member of Chicken Shack. However, contractual differences prevented Perfect from being a full-time member of Fleetwood Mac until 1971; in that year, she marries John McVie. Because of this, Christine McVie did not participate in the 1970 record Kiln House, the first album the band recorded without Peter Green. In this production, Jeremy Spencer begins to dominate the musical direction of the group. Unfortunately, this guitarist was also beginning to suffer from mental disorders due to his addiction to heavy drugs. Thus, during a North American tour of the group in early 1971, Spencer disappeared without a trace. It was later discovered that, in reality, he had left the band to join, along with his wife, the controversial religious cult Los Niños de Dios. Later, Spencer’s delusions would grow in an unusual way, coming to make a catechist album, and then settle, retiring from music, in Italy.
Fleetwood Mac already had a set musical direction, but Spencer’s departure plunged the band into complete disarray. Then, Christine McVie and Danny Kirwan take over the reins of the group, beginning to develop a musical vein much closer to conventional rock. This was noted on the 1971 album Future Games. Later a new guitarist entered Californian Bob Welch on the album Bare Trees (1972). Welch incorporates his somewhat “heavy” style into the band’s music and goes out of his way to be a poor Peter Green impersonator. After the release of Bare Trees, Kirwan, neurotic and uninspired, is kicked out and replaced by guitarists Bob Weston and Dave Walker, who appear on Penguin (1973).
They wouldn’t last long. Walker ends up leaving the group after this album, and Weston would follow the same path after the completion of Mystery to Me (1973). Now completely removed from blues, the group continues to experiment with an approach to the country. However, none of these latest albums was successful, perhaps because they were far from the taste of the English public and because of the almost total indifference of the Americans.
In 1974, Clifford Davis, the group’s former manager, forms an apocryphal version of Fleetwood Mac and spins them on a North American tour. The real Fleetwood Macs find out about this mess and sue the imposters; These, after losing in court, continue to appear live under the name of Stretch until a judge forces them to definitively stop their actions. Meanwhile, the real Fleetwoods released Heroes Are Hard To Find. Later, they move to California in hopes of restarting their career from scratch. Shortly after, Welch leaves the band to move to Paris.
In early 1975, Fleetwood and McVie were adding sound engineers for the group’s new album, when they overheard the Buckingham-Nicks album, a married couple with a failed recording debut, which moved in the vein of typical Californian soft-rock. . So, the duo was invited to join the band. At that time, no one imagined that this incorporation would revive the group’s musical career and give it the greatest commercial success in its history.
The debut of this new formation of Fleetwood Mac was reflected in the recording, in 1975, of a self-titled album that would be the first success of the band in many years, being number one in 1976, thanks to the famous singles “Over My Head” , “Rhiannon” and “Say You Love Me”. This work would end up selling, only in the USA, more than five million copies. The success obtained would lead them to sign with Reprise, a subsidiary label of Warner Bros Records for the production of their next album, which they hoped to release in 1976. However, due to the internal conflicts caused by the separation of Christine and John McVie and the rupture sentimental between Buckingham and Nicks, there was soon speculation in the media that the band could disintegrate, even going so far as to say that Stevie Nicks practiced witchcraft. As if this weren’t enough, Mick Fleetwood also broke up his years-long marriage to Jenny, Pattie Boyd’s sister, by falling in love with Stevie Nicks, with whom he would have a fleeting romantic relationship. However, in an unusual event in the rock scene, the members of the band remained artistically united, and to silence the news of their supposed dissolution, they named this new album, released in the spring of 1977, Rumors (Rumors). This production would remain on the Billboard magazine charts for 31 weeks, winning, in 1978, the Grammy, in the category Best Record of the Year.
By 2003, Rumors (gold and platinum in several countries) was already one of the most successful albums in the history of modern music, with a percentage of copies sold in excess of thirty million units. In addition to “Dreams” (the band’s only No. 1 single on the Billboard charts), Rumors contained other songs that would also become classics: “Go Your Own Way”, “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun”. . However, the commercial success hid the serious personal problems between the members of the group. Not only because of relationship problems but also because of cocaine. The record company even came close to not releasing Rumors, as the group demanded that the dealer supplying them have a thank you note between the credits on the album. But the provider died and the problem ended with him. However, the devastation
Rumors was followed by Tusk (1979), a more experimental and playful double album that also went multi-platinum thanks to songs like “Sara” or “Tusk”. On that album, an old friend visits Peter Green, who participates in the recording as a guest. During this time, Christine McVie had moved in with the ill-fated Dennis Wilson, drummer for the Beach Boys. After carrying out several solo projects, at the beginning of the 80s, the members of Fleetwood Mac got together to record Mirage in 1982. More conventional and accessible than Tusk, it had a lot of repercussions thanks to the well-remembered “Hold Me” or ” Gypsy.” After Mirage, Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie return to their solo work. Later, after the making of a new album, Tango in the Night (1987), Buckingham decides to throw in the towel and leave Fleetwood Mac.
The rest of the group replaces him with a duo of guitarists formed by Billy Burnette and Rick Vito. This new group recorded Behind the Mask, in 1990, the first album since 1975 that did not become a gold record. Vito left the group in 1991. At the beginning of 1993, the classic group of Fleetwood Mac (with the McVie, Buckingham and Nicks) got together to play at Bill Clinton’s celebrations for his obtaining the US presidency, but the meeting it wouldn’t last long. At the end of the year, Nicks leaves the band and is replaced by Bekka Bramlett, daughter of the couple formed by Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett, of the famous duo Delaney & Bonnie. Also joining the group around this time is legendary guitarist (ex-Traffic) Dave Mason. This curious new Fleetwood Mac group began a tour in 1994, releasing Time the following year. Despite their good intentions, this album was a flop. Because of this, Christine McVie also leaves the group shortly after, while Bramlett and Mason are ejected into the stratosphere. Then, when nobody expected it, Buckingham, Nicks, and McVie return to Fleetwood Mac, in 1997, to make a special (unplugged) for MTV. In 1998, Fleetwood Mac is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Later, and despite Christine McVie’s definitive departure, the recording of a new album is announced. In this way, in 2003, the line-up of Nicks, Buckingham, Fleetwood, and John McVie released Say You, Will, to then go on a tour, in the 2004 season, which would lead to the recording of a new live album: Live in Boston, edited in 2005.
After that, the band took a hiatus that lasted five years. During those years the press rumored the possible return of old members to the band, such as Green, Spencer, or Kirwan, to reform the blues lineup of the early ’70s. However, that never happened. Only in 2008 Fleetwood Mac announce that they would go on tour again at the beginning of the following year and that they planned to perform songs that had never been included in previous tours. This was titled Unleashed Tour, but it did not feature Christine McVie, since according to the other members she did not want to participate.
During the following years, Fleetwood Mac suffered the loss of some of its former members. In October 2011 founding bassist Bob Brunning died, and three months later, in January 2012, guitarist Bob Weston was found dead. However, the death that captured the most impact in the press was that of Bob Welch, who committed suicide by gunshot in June 2012.
Finally, in 2013 they released new material, a mini-cd appropriately called Extended Play. To promote it, they toured Europe and North America. Finally, on January 11, 2014, Mick Fleetwood confirmed Christine’s return, and a future studio album and a world tour were announced in the near future. The long wait again was over when Stevie Nicks rejoins the band in 2017, just, as the life of one of the longest-lived and most changing groups in rock history continues…