Fleetwood Mac

Prior to starting the band Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood’s first played in a band called the Cheynes, together with their band leader Peter Bardens. Between December 1963 and February1965 the Cheynes cut 3 singles with Columbia, before quietly disappearing into the blue beyond. Just after their last single ‘Down and Out’, Peter Barden disbanded the group and joined Van Morrison’s Them. Mick then joined the winners of the British Television’s show Ready Steady Go band competition, The Bo Street Runners for a brief time. He then rejoined Peter Barden’s new  group the Peter B’s Looners, which later became known as the Peter Bees.

One of the band members was none other than Peter Greenbaum  (known as Green), a guitarist from London’s East End. Eventually Rod Stewart and Beryl Marsden, a female vocalist, were added to the groups number and the band was renamed Shotgun Express. Beryl Marsden and Peter Green were romantically linked and when they broke up, Peter left to replace Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s band Bluesbreakers. Mick Fleetwood remained with Shotgun Express for the remaining 7 month of its existence, after which he joined John Mayall’s band. John Mayall was autocratic and difficult to work with, the steady changing of members with a steady flow of new and incredibly outstanding musical talent which passed through his band, included Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, John McVie, Aynsley Dunbar and Rick Vito, four of the five names later to become members of Fleetwood Mac. Mick Fleetwood did not stay long with Mayall as his excessive drinking was a problem.

During the cutting of tracks for ‘Double Trouble’ in April 1967, Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood cut a few tracks without the involvement of Mayall, two of which, ‘First Train Home’ and an instrumental piece ‘Fleetwood Mac’, later appeared on the first Fleetwood Mac album a few years later.

The three band members, Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, that first worked together in 1967 was to be the catalyst forming the nucleus members of  what eventually was to become Fleetwood Mac.

When Green quit in June 1967, after Fleetwood had been fired, they recruited bass guitarist Bob Brunning as John McVie was not happy about leaving his steady job with Mayall and joining them then. Green managed to get a recording contract with Mike Vernon’s ‘Blue Horizon’ label and to check out another new band, The Levi Set that had as member Jeremy Spencer, an Elmore James fan, and he was persuaded to join their new band. Together they recorded: ‘I Believe My Time Ain’t Long’; ‘Long Grey Mare’ and ‘Rambling Pony’. ‘I believe My Time Ain’t Long’ was Fleetwood Mac’s first single that went nowhere. It was only in September 1967 that purist John McVie reconsidered joining the band. It was at this stage that Bob Brunning agreeably left the band. It was at this stage that John McVie started dating Christine Perfect of Chicken Shack, a well-known vocalist and keyboard player.

1968 shepherded in the age of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac in Great Britain, it was the first year that they experienced commercial as well as success with the critics. Largely attributed to the success of the British Blues Boom which was sweeping the UK. It was also the first time that they made an impact on the American charts. Their debit album ‘Fleetwood Mac in America’ remained on the charts for thirteen months, peaking at Number Four and breaking for a brief period into the Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart, but was largely ignored by the audiences in America. It was during this period that Need Your Love So Bad; Black Magic Woman; Stop Messing Around and Mr. Wonderful.

1969 was the year that Fleetwood Mac reached its commercial peak, and was the creative turning point for their band, they had a phenomenal output that year. ‘Albatross’ made #1 on the British charts, and a string of hit singles. This kept Peter Green at a creative pinnacle, this and his popularity he struggled to come to terms with. Several albums were released: Mr Wonderful; English Rose; The Pious Bird of Good Omen; a double album Fleetwood Mac in Chicago; Then Play On,  and several singles.

The year 1970 was nearly the end of Fleetwood Mac, at a time where bands like the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin amongst many more came into being. Peter Green found it difficult to reconcile the fact that he was becoming increasingly wealthy while in the world there were children dying of starvation. In a guilt ridden feeling he literally gave away thousands of Pounds and possessions and wanted the band to work solely for charity, keeping only enough to cover expenses and living costs. His use of the drug LSD increased and only made the situation worse. After his last recorded single with the band ‘Green Manalishi’departed from the band. Even though sorely hit, the band did not disband.Spencer and Kirwan taking over the slack. Their next album was ‘Kiln House’ was successful, with the contribution of Christine McVie (Perfect) now also an official band member.

1971 raised its own problems, what started out as a good year turned sour, when Jeremy Spencer disappeared just before a gig and only resurfaced two days later, informing them that he had joined the Children of God a prominent LA religious cult. The ironic twist of fate resulted in Green drafted into replacing Spencer on the tour dates, but resulting in Green refusing to play any of his famous pieces. It was after this that the single Dragon Fly was released only in the UK, on flip side was The Purple Dancer.

With the departure of Spencer, they were again down to four members in the band, so after holding auditions for a substitute, they decided on a Californian guitarist Bob Welch to fill the spot. One of his first contributions was the song Future Games, heralding the bands move towards the blues. It was during this period that Kirwan wrote some his best music and lyrics. Christine McVie was now a fully integrated member of the band. It was on the cover of this years album that the iconic Penguin appeared for the first time and on subsequent albums they also appeared. The original Fleetwood Mac appeared for the first time this year.

In 1972 the American with Van Morrison opening for them, sold out at various venues throughout the country. Then they toured Europe, opening for the likes of Deep Purple and Savoy Brown. During a break in their frenetic schedule they recorded their second album in six months: Bare Trees, coming out in April 1972. Then they took to touring again. This album has a series of wonderful songs: Spare Me A Little Of You love; Dust and Sentimental Lady. Danny Kirwan being lead guitarist was forced into the limelight and trying to cope with this he resorted to hallucinogenic drugs and alcohol. Which seemed to make his problem worse. He became withdrawn and resorted to displays of explosive rage. Once before a show he flew into a rage and stormed off, then hurt his head against a wall and refused to go on stage and the band was forced to continue without him. After this he was fired and the tour was canceled forthwith. Dave Walker, Savoy Brown’s vocalist took his place. Long John Baldry’s Bob Weston also joined them at this time as lead guitarist. In Sept 1972 the new Fleetwood Mac band took to the road with six members.

January 1973 saw the band from these tours and they began recording again. The album Penguin showed that America was more their trend, where it climbed to 49th on the USA Billboard Album charts than in Britain where the album was a dismal failure. Christine McVie produced such memorable songs such as Remember Me and Dissatisfied, while Welch came up with Revelation and Night Watch. There was also the rare collaboration by McVie and Welch on Did You Ever Love Me. Released as singles, neither Remember Me or Did You Ever Love Me made their mark. Nothing seemed to be working for Fleetwood Mac and it was at this stage that it was decided that Dave Walker had to go, as he did not in any way fit in with the concept of the band and was not providing any material for the band. The five member band now continued with the making of the album Mystery To Me, with such songs as: Just Crazy Love; Why; Emerald Eyes and Miles Away. This album and the single as well, were ignored by the UK, but in America it remained on the Top 100 list.

1974 Proved to be a year of ups and downs for Fleetwood Mac. Jenny Fleetwood had an affair with Bob Wesson, Mick tried to ignore it but in the end when Jenny confirmed the fact, Weston was fired in October 1974 and the tour had to be canceled. Clifford Davis secretly hired a group of musicians  from an unknown band to perform as Fleetwood Mac for the remaining gigs. This resulted in months of legal battles between Fleetwood Mac and Davis and the real Fleetwood Mac obtained an injunction to prevent the phoney band from performing under their name, but they in return were also stopped from performing while the legal fight continued, a fact that they were now prevented from earning their living. All plans for their new album were shelved. American sales superseded those of the UK and the band relocated to America. In March Epic records in a brazen move re-released the album Old Black Magic Woman under a new sleeve and retitled it Fleetwood Mac English Rose. The ultimate outcome of the legal saga favored the Fleetwood Mac, the real band, as belonging to the two men whose names partially appeared in the name of the band: Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. They then decided to manage their own band under the newly formed company Seedy Management and their new album Heros Are Hard To Find was recorded and released with the support of their recording company label Reprise (Warner Brothers) and they went on a tour to back it. The band was now back to a quartet and Bob Welch and Christine wrote a string of good songs for the band: Come A Little Bit Closer; Born Enchanter; Hypnotized. The album reached #34 on the US Billboard charts. Two singles were also released in the UK one of which was Don’t Let Me Down, but neither were a success, but were brought out again later in 1977 on an album. Bob Welch, exhausted and feeling he was of no further use to the band left in December 1974. It would be his replacement in 1975 that would bring the band back to its former glory. For four years the band existed in a hiatus.

The band achieved more modicum of success in the ensuing period between 1971 and 1974, when the line-up included Bob Welch, during the 1990’s in the period between the departure and return of Nicks and Buckingham. During the 2000’s with the departure and return of Christine McVie. In 1998, and certain members of Fleetwood Mac were to receive the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fleetwood Mac has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide, making them one of the bests selling bands of all time. Christine McVie rejoined the band in 2014.