Fleetwood Mac Biography

The original Fleetwood Mac was formed in July 1967 by Peter Green (b. Peter Allen Greenbaum, 29 October 1946, Bethnal Green, London, England; guitar) and Mick Fleetwood (b. 24 June 1947, Redruth, Cornwall, England; drums), both of whom had recently left John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. They secured a recording contract with Blue Horizon Records on the strength of Green's reputation as a blues guitarist before the label's overtures uncovered a second guitarist, Jeremy Spencer (b. 4 July 1948, Hartlepool, Cleveland, England), in a semi-professional group, the Levi Set. A temporary bass player, Bob Brunning, was recruited into the line-up, until a further Mayall acolyte, John McVie (b. 26 November 1945, London, England; bass), was finally persuaded to join the new unit. Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, as the group was initially billed, made its debut on 12 August 1967 at Windsor's National Jazz And Blues Festival. Their first album, Fleetwood Mac, released on Blue Horizon in February the following year, reached the UK Top 5 and established a distinctive balance between Green's introspective compositions and Spencer's debt to Elmore James.

Fleetwood Mac

A handful of excellent cover versions completed an album that was seminal in the development of the British blues boom of the late 60s. The group also enjoyed two minor hit singles with "Black Magic Woman", a hypnotic Green composition later popularized by Santana, and a delicate reading of "Need Your Love So Bad", first recorded by Little Willie John. Fleetwood Mac's second album, Mr. Wonderful, was another triumph, but while Spencer was content to repeat his established style, Green, the group's leader, extended his compositional boundaries with several haunting contributions, including the heartfelt "Love That Burns". His guitar playing, clean and sparse but always telling, was rarely better, while McVie and Fleetwood were already an instinctive rhythm section. Mr. Wonderful also featured contributions from Christine Perfect (b. 12 July 1943, Grenodd, Lancashire, England), pianist from Chicken Shack, and a four-piece horn section, as the group began to leave traditional blues behind. A third guitarist, Danny Kirwan (b. 13 May 1950, London, England), was added to the line-up in September 1968.

The quintet had an immediate hit when "Albatross", a moody instrumental reminiscent of "Sleep Walk" by Santo And Johnny, topped the UK charts. The single, which reached number 2 when it was reissued in 1973, was the group's first million-seller. Fleetwood Mac then left Blue Horizon, although the company subsequently issued Blues Jam At Chess, on which the band jammed with several mentors, including Buddy Guy, Otis Spann and Walter Horton. Following a brief interlude on Immediate Records, which furnished the hypnotic "Man Of The World", the quintet made their debut on Reprise Records with "Oh Well", their most ambitious single to date, and the superb Then Play On. This crafted album unveiled Kirwan's songwriting talents and his romantic leanings offset the more worldly Green. Although pictured, Jeremy Spencer was notably absent from most of the sessions, although his eccentric vision was showcased on a self-titled solo album. Fleetwood Mac now enjoyed an international reputation, but it was a mantle too great for its leader to bear. Peter Green left the band in May 1970 as his parting single, the awesome "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Prong Crown)", became another Top 10 hit. He was replaced by Christine Perfect, now married to John McVie, and while his loss was an obvious blow, Kirwan's songwriting talent and Spencer's sheer exuberance maintained a measure of continuity on a fourth album, Kiln House. However, in 1971 the group was rocked for a second time when Spencer disappeared midway through an American tour. It transpired that he had joined a religious sect, the Children Of God and while Green deputized for the remainder of the tour, a permanent replacement was found in a Californian musician, Bob Welch (b. Robert Welch, 31 July 1946, Los Angeles, California, USA).

The new line-up was consolidated on two melodic albums, Future Games and Bare Trees. Neither release made much impression with UK audiences who continued to mourn the passing of the Green-led era, but in America the group began to assemble a strong following for their new-found transatlantic sound. However, further changes occurred when Kirwan's chronic stage fright led to his dismissal. Bob Weston, a guitarist from Long John Baldry's backing band, was his immediate replacement, while the line-up was also bolstered by former Savoy Brown vocalist, Dave Walker. The band, however, was unhappy with a defined frontman and the singer left after only eight months, having barely completed work on Penguin. Although not one of the band's strongest collections, it does contain an excellent Welch composition, "Night Watch". The remaining quintet completed another album, Mystery To Me, which was released at the time of a personal nadir within the band. Weston, who had been having an affair with Fleetwood's wife, was fired midway through a prolonged US tour and the remaining dates were cancelled. Their manager, Clifford Davis, assembled a bogus Mac to fulfil contractual obligations, thus denying the "real" group work during the inevitable lawsuits. Yet despite the inordinate pressure, Perfect, Welch, McVie and Fleetwood returned with Heroes Are Hard To Find, a positive release that belied the wrangles surrounding its appearance. Nonetheless, the controversy proved too strong for Welch, who left the band in December 1974. His departure robbed Fleetwood Mac of an inventive songwriter whose American perspective had helped redefine their approach.

It was while seeking prospective recording studios that Fleetwood was introduced to Stevie Nicks (b. Stephanie Nicks, 26 May 1948, Phoenix, Arizona, USA) and Lindsey Buckingham (b. 3 October 1949, Palo Alto, California, USA) via the duo's self-named album. Now bereft of a guitarist, he recalled Buckingham's expertise and invited him to replace Welch. Buckingham accepted on condition that Nicks also join, thus cementing Fleetwood Mac's most successful line-up. Fleetwood Mac, released in 1975, was a promise fulfilled. The newcomers provided easy, yet memorable compositions with smooth harmonies, while the British contingent gave the group its edge and power. A succession of stellar compositions, including "Over My Head", "Say You Love Me" and the dramatic "Rhiannon", confirmed a perfect balance had been struck giving the group their first in a long line of US Top 20 singles. The quintet's next release, Rumours, proved more remarkable still. Despite the collapse of two relationships - the McVies were divorced, Buckingham and Nicks split up - the group completed a remarkable collection that laid bare the traumas within, but in a manner neither maudlin nor pitiful. Instead the ongoing drama was charted by several exquisite songs; "Go Your Own Way", "Don't Stop", "Second Hand News" and "Dreams", which retained both melody and purpose. An enduring release, Rumours has sold upwards of 25 million copies and at one point was second to Michael Jackson's Thriller as the bestselling album of all time.

Having survived their emotional anguish, the band was faced with the problem of following up a phenomenon. Their response was Tusk, an ambitious double set that showed a group unafraid to experiment, although many critics damned the collection as self-indulgent. The title track, a fascinating instrumental, was an international hit, although its follow-up, "Sara", a composition recalling the style of Rumours, was better received in the USA than the UK. An in-concert selection, Fleetwood Mac: Live, was released as a stopgap in 1980 as rumours of a complete break-up flourished. It was a further two years before a new collection, Mirage, appeared, by which point several members were pursuing independent ventures. Buckingham and Nicks, in particular, viewed their own careers with equal importance and Mirage, a somewhat self-conscious attempt at creating another Rumours, lacked the sparkle of its illustrious predecessor. It nonetheless yielded three successful singles in "Hold Me", "Gypsy" and Buckingham's irrepressible "Oh Diane".

Five years then passed before a new Fleetwood Mac album was issued. Tango In The Night was a dramatic return to form, recapturing all the group's flair and invention with a succession of heartwarming performances in "Little Lies", "Family Man" and "You And I (Part 2)". Christine McVie contributed a further high point with the rhythmic singalong "Anyway". The collection was, however, Lindsey Buckingham's swansong, although his departure from the band was not officially confirmed until June 1988. By that point two replacement singer/guitarists, ex-Thunderbyrd Rick Vito (b. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) and Billy Burnette (b. William Beau Burnette III, 8 May 1953, Memphis, Tennessee, USA), had joined the remaining quartet. The new line-up's debut, Behind The Mask, ushered in a new decade and era for this tempestuous band that gained strength from adversity and simply refused to die. In recent years the release of The Chain, a box set compiled by Fleetwood, gave the band greater critical acclaim than it had received in several years. In September 1995, Fleetwood self-promoted the excellent Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac: Live At The BBC. This was a project that was dear to his heart, as during the promotion it became clear that Fleetwood still had great emotional nostalgia for the original band and clearly regretted the departure of Green and the subsequent turn of events.

A month later a new Fleetwood Mac album was released to muted reviews and minimal sales. The addition of ex-Traffic guitarist Dave Mason (b. 10 May 1945, Worcester, England) and Bekka Bramlett (b. 19 April 1968, USA, daughter of Delaney Bramlett and Bonnie Bramlett) for the album Time failed to ignite any spark. The dismal reaction to Time must have prompted Fleetwood to reconsider the band's direction. He had made no secret of the fact that he longed for the days of Green and the latter-day line-up of Nicks and Buckingham. Some diplomacy must have taken place behind closed doors because in the spring of 1997 it was announced that the famous Rumours line-up had reunited and begun recording together. A live album was released in August on the 20th anniversary of Rumours. Bramlett and Burnette formed a country/rock duo in 1997.

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Fleetwood Mac Biography