Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



UK blues band in the 1960s; AOR/rock band '70s. The band took its name from a 1967 unreleased instrumental track by John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, whose lineup included John McVie (b 26 November 1945), bass; Peter Green, guitar (see his entry); Mick Fleetwood (b 24 June 1942), drums. Green and Fleetwood had played together pre-Mayall in Peter B's Looners (with Peter Bardens), with Rod Stewart in Shotgun Express until '67; they left Mayall together, recruiting Jeremy Spencer (b 4 July 1948) and Bob Brunning, bass (soon replaced by McVie). A purist blues band for albums Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and Mr Wonderful, both '68; following top 30 singles ('Black Magic Woman', 'Need Your Love So Bad') their scope was broadened when third guitarist Danny Kirwan (b 13 May 1950, d 8 June 2018) was added: his guitar influenced by B. B. King against Spencer's bottleneck inflluenced by Elmore James resulted in a pop flavour. They had a surprise UK no. 1 late '68 with a haunting instrumental, 'Albatross' (no. 2 on reissue '73); Green's sensitive, acoustic 'Man Of The World' no. 2 early '69; a band established for blues feeling was conveying commercial material. They went to the Reprise label for Then Play On '69 (WB in USA, later in both countries); there was a sales threat from the Blue Horizon compilation The Pious Bird Of Good Omen: latter made no. 18, new LP no. 6. As power-chorded 'The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown)' made UK top ten '70 and after recording Kiln House Green left, replaced by McVie's wife, Christine Perfect, ex-Chicken Shack (sang lead on their hit 'I'd Rather Go Blind' '69).

A period of aimlessness ensued, their momentum lost; Spencer joined a religious cult, temporarily replaced for a U.S. tour by Green; LPs Future Games and Bare Trees with California replacement Bob Welch (b 31 July 1946 L.A.; d 7 June 2012 Nashville) were flops in UK, though charted in USA; Kirwan was fired. A lineup with Bob Weston on guitar, ex-Savoy Brown vocalist Dave Walker (first frontman in the group's career) made Penguin '73; Walker left, then Weston after Mystery To Me '74. Welch contributed most of the songs to Heroes Are Hard To Find '74, then departed to form hardrock band Paris.

Having relocated to West Coast USA, the band met Lindsay Buckingham (b 3 October 1947, Palo Alto) and Stephanie 'Stevie' Nicks (b 26 May 1948, Phoenix), boy/girl guitar/vocal duo (made Buckingham Nicks for Polydor after meeting in a group called Fritz): it was a marriage made in heaven. LP Fleetwood Mac '75 melded sweet harmonies with Fleetwood's drums, McVie's solid bass; Christine contributed songs/vocals too; with Buckingham's distinctive acoustic and electric guitars new success was immediate. There were three chart singles from USA 'debut' LP, but Rumours '76 eclipsed it with four top ten hits (two entered UK chart in the heyday of punk) and by selling 25 million world-wide: both albums were no. 1 USA, latter for 31 weeks; 134 weeks in USA chart, 271 UK. Next LP Tusk '79 'only' sold four million: cost $1m in studio time but had none of the feel that made a successful mix of three different singer/ songwriters; title track (helped by a marching band) was no. 8 USA, 6 UK; Nicks's 'Sara' was no. 7 USA, but experiments by Buckingham as producer in mixing and song structure lost fans and airplay. A live two-disc set was a stopgap '80 until the real follow-up Mirage '82 was no. 1 again with several hits; but members were busy with solo projects, Nicks most successfully with Bella Donna '82, The Wild Heart '83, Rock A Little '85. Relationships in the band failed (McVies, Buckingham/Nicks), fuelling rumours that would suit a glossy West Coast soap opera; but various combinations of these wrote twelve songs for Tango In The Night '87 including single 'Big Love'; perhaps their best since Rumours.

Buckingham left '87 (never liked touring), replaced by Rick Vito, Billy Burnette on guitars, vocals. After Behind The Mask '90 McVie and Nicks quit touring; Vito left '91. Time '95 included Fleetwood, the McVies, Buckingham, Dave Mason and others. Compilations and live albums included continually reissued Fleetwood Mac In Chicago '69 (aka Blues Jam At Chess) with guests Willie Dixon, Otis Spann, 'Guitar Buddy' and Honeyboy Edwards (the last survivor of the original generation of Delta blues singers: b 18 June 1915, Shaw MS; d 29 August 2011 Chicago). They re-formed for live The Dance '97 on Reprise on the 20th anniversary of Rumours, with four new songs, the girls sounding as good as ever. Buckingham's solo albums included Under The Skin 2006 and Gift Of Screws 2006. They re-formed again for a world tour in 2009 called Unleashed, followed by Stevie Nicks's solo album In Your Dreams, then Buckingham's sixth solo Seeds We Sow 2011.