Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac

Class, for the next assignment you’ll need pen and paper and possibly a spreadsheet program to keep track of the tangled morass that is the story of Fleetwood Mac. Visual aids will be needed. Narrative threads will most likely get lost. Children will probably cry. But at least all of it will happen to a high-quality, bluesy rock soundtrack. Into the fray, then.

First of all, Fleetwood Mac is not a person. The band’s name is a composite of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie’s surnames and was thought up by yet a third guy, Peter Green. Green met Fleetwood and McVie when they were all playing in the English band The Bluesbreakers. All three musicians eventually left that band and formed their own, calling their new endeavor Fleetwood Mac. Two more players, Jeremy Spencer and Bob Brunning, also joined up and the shiny new band had its first public performance at Windsor’s National Jazz and Blues Festival.

They released a single the following year, called “I Believe My Time Ain’t Long” and then an album, Mr. Wonderful. At this time, the band was still known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and there was no doubt that Green was the leader and driving force behind their songs. Busily recording four albums in 1968, Fleetwood Mac made a splash with their mellow blues sound and became quite popular in the UK.

Romance blossomed among the members as well: John McVie married Christine Perfect, a piano player who had worked as a session musician on Fleetwood Mac’s albums. Peter Green’s outlook wasn’t so rosy. Mental illness aggravated—or caused— by drug use made him progressively unstable; he wanted to give all the band’s earnings to charity but his fellow band members vehemently disagreed.

Green left the band in 1970, on the eve of their big European tour. Bad timing, indeed. Christine McVie (see above) joined up and Spencer stepped into Green’s lead role. There must’ve been a curse on that position though, because Spencer soon left the band as well and his was a truly memorable exit. In Los Angeles, he stepped out to get a newspaper and joined a cult instead. No, really. You can’t make this stuff up. The band scrambled to replace Spencer and hired local musician Bob Welch to fill in.

Fleetwood Mac was becoming a favorite with American audiences even without Green and Spencer’s abilities. Another member left in 1972 and then another and all the while replacements came and went. One of those replacements added more stress to that hectic time by having an affair with Mrs. Fleetwood. Unsurprisingly, he was fired. Even more unsurprisingly, what was left of Fleetwood Mac didn’t quite feel up to a long tour after the maelstrom of hiring, firing and betrayal they had all just suffered.

They cancelled the tour performances but Clifford Davis, their manager, had a cunning plan: he dressed up another band as Fleetwood Mac and sent them on the road in place of the real band. No, really. The ruse was halted before the ersatz Mac could get too far and the original group moved to California in an effort to escape all the crazy that had befallen them.

The move turned out to be a good thing; Fleetwood Mac welcomed Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham into its beleaguered midst in 1974. Still, the crazy wasn’t far behind. John and Christine McVie were in the process of divorcing; Mick Fleetwood was also considering divorce from the scandalous Mrs. Fleetwood (see above); and even Nicks and Buckingham were having a tough time in their relationship. The band became a veritable cautionary tale against romance in the workplace.

Despite their personal difficulties, their albums were doing very well, including the chart-topping Rumours, released in 1977. The album stayed at the top for six months and gave us songs like “Don’t Stop”, “Go Your Own Way” and “Dreams”. It would eventually become their best selling album, going platinum over 20 times.

A long tour led to a live album in 1980 but after that the band slowly dispersed to work on personal projects. They came together for Mirage in 1982 and Tango in the Night in 1987. Both albums did well but the band went their separate ways again. They reunited for President Clinton’s inaugural party where they performed their signature piece “Don’t Stop”. They didn’t stop, not really. Even with multiple personnel changes, someone somewhere was playing under the name Fleetwood Mac.

The Rumours era lineup regrouped in 1997 to perform a live concert that was recorded and released as The Dance. It put Fleetwood Mac back on the top of the charts and sold a respectable 5 million units, proving that there were still legions of fans out there, many of whom lined up for tickets to the extensive reunion tour that followed.

More recently, a 2011 episode of Glee featured the band, and five songs from their iconic 70s album, which managed to put Rumours back on the charts again, 34 years after its original release. An extensive world tour followed in 2013, and as of this writing, the band is reportedly working on a new album for release in 2015. Tickets for their upcoming tour dates sold out in mere minutes.

The story of Fleetwood Mac is a long and sometimes sordid tale, one still being written over forty years after their debut. But, in a business where longevity is a rarity, it has served Fleetwood Mac well to never stop thinking about tomorrow – certainly not as long as there are still millions of fans willing to stand in line to witness a glimpse of yesteryear.

If you count yourself as one of Fleetwood Mac’s loyal fans, we’d love to hear all of your thoughts and memories of this iconic group in our comments section below.

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