The Fleetwood Mac story is an episodic saga that spans more than 30 years. It is the saga of a British blues band formed in 1967 that became a California-based pop group in the mid-Seventies. In between came a period where Fleetwood Mac shuffled personnel and experimented with styles, all the while releasing solid albums that found a loyal core audience. Despite all the changes, two members have remained constant over the years: drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie, whose surnames provided the group name Fleetwood Mac.
Although most rock fans are familiar with the lineup that includes Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – by far the longest-running edition of the band, responsible for the classic albums Fleetwood Mac and Rumours – the group possesses a rich and storied history that predates those epics. Earlier Fleetwood Mac line-ups included guitarists Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch.
Fleetwood Mac emerged when Green, Fleetwood and McVie, who were all expatriates from British bandleader John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, decided to form a band. McVie and Fleetwood had been playing with Mayall, a British blues legend, since 1963 and 1965, respectively, while Green replaced Eric Clapton (who exited to form Cream) in 1966.
Initially a quartet, the original Fleetwood Mac also included guitarist Jeremy Spencer and then expanded with the addition of Danny Kirwan prior to their second album.
Not surprisingly, the group’s first two U.K. albums – Fleetwood Mac (1968) and Mr. Wonderful (1968) – were heavily blues-oriented. “Black Magic Woman,” a Peter Green song from the latter album, later became a major hit for Santana.
In 1969, Fleetwood Mac recorded at Chess studios with American blues musicians, including Willie Dixon and Otis Span; it was released as the two-volume Blues Jam in the U.K. and as Fleetwood Mac in Chicago in the U.S.
By decade’s end, however, Fleetwood Mac had begun moving from traditional blues to a more progressive approach. Around this time, the group adopted its distinctive “penguin” logo, based on zoo-lover and amateur photographer McVie’s interest in the birds.
There are arguably three “definitive” Fleetwood Mac line-ups. One of them is the blues-oriented band of the late Sixties, which arrayed three guitarists (Green, Spencer and Kirwan) around the rhythm section of Fleetwood and McVie. They are best represented by 1969’s Then Play On, a milestone in progressive blues-rock.
After Green’s exodus in mid-1970, the remaining members recorded the more easygoing, rock and roll-oriented Kiln House. Early in 1971, a born-again Spencer abruptly left the band during a U.S. tour to join the Children of God.
The second key configuration found Fleetwood, McVie and Kirwan joined by keyboardist Christine McVie (born Christine Perfect, she’d married bassist McVie) and guitarist Bob Welch, a Southern Californian who became the group’s first American member and a harbinger of new directions.
This configuration produced a pair of ethereal pop masterpieces, Future Games (1971) and Bare Trees(1972). Kirwan, who was having personal problems, was asked to leave in August 1972.
The remaining foursome, joined by new recruits Dave Walker (vocals) and Bob Weston, recorded Penguin (1973); sans Walker, they cut Mystery to Me (1973). Again reduced to a quartet with Weston’s departure, they released Heroes Are Hard to Find in 1974.
Finally, the platinum edition of Fleetwood Mac came together in 1975 with the recruitment of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The San Francisco duo had previously cut an album together as Buckingham-Nicks. Drummer Fleetwood heard a tape of theirs at a studio he was auditioning, and the pair were drafted into the group without so much as a formal audition.
This lineup proved far and away to be Fleetwood Mac’s most durable and successful. In addition to the most solid rhythm section in rock, this classic lineup contained strong vocalists and songwriters in Buckingham, Nicks and Christine McVie. Male and female points of view were offered with unusual candor on the watershed albums Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumours (1977).
Fleetwood Mac introduced the revitalized group with such sparkling tracks as “Over My Head,” Fleetwood Mac’s first-ever Top 40 single in America; “Rhiannon,” which became Nicks’ signature song; “Say You Love Me,” which showed of the group’s three-part harmonies; and “Monday Morning,” the driving album opener and FM-radio favourite.
Rumours was written and recorded as three long-term relationships-between Buckingham and Nicks, the married McVies, and Fleetwood and his wife-publicly unravelled. The album is a virtual document of romantic turmoil, and its timing reflected the interpersonal upheavals of the liberated Seventies.
Resonating with a mass audience like no other album in rock history, Rumours yielded a bumper crop of songs with enduring appeal, among them the Top 10 hits “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” “Don’t Stop” and “You Make Loving Fun.”
Fleetwood Mac toured for seven months behind Rumours and reigned as the most popular group in the world. Rumours has to date sold 40 million copies worldwide, making it the ninth best-selling album of all time.
As a group, Fleetwood Mac has sold more than 70 million albums since its inception in 1967. Under the creative guidance of Lindsey Buckingham, whose skill as a producer and pop visionary became increasingly evident-Fleetwood Mac grew more emboldened with the double album Tusk, released in 1979.
A more experimental album, Tusk didn’t match its predecessors sales, but it did earn two more Top 10 hits – “Sara” and “Tusk” – while extending the group’s longevity by forswearing formulas.
Solo careers commenced during the three-year layoff that followed another extensive tour. Stevie Nicks, in particular, nurtured a career that rivalled Fleetwood Mac’s for popularity.
Fleetwood Mac released two studio albums in the Eighties – Mirage (1982) and Tango in the Night(1987) – but its front-line members were increasingly drawn to their solo careers.
Disinclined to tour, Buckingham announced he was leaving Fleetwood Mac shortly after Tango in the Night. He was replaced by guitarists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito, who appeared on the 1990 album Behind the Mask.
Eventually, both Nicks and Christine McVie revealed they, too, would no longer tour with Fleetwood Mac. Nicks officially left the band a month after Fleetwood Mac regrouped to perform “Don’t Stop” at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in January 1993. The indefatigable core of Fleetwood and the McVies recruited guitarist Dave Mason and singer Bekka Bramlett, but the proverbial link in Fleetwood Mac’s chain had been broken one too many times and this line-up’s one album, Time (1995), fared poorly.
Then, in 1997, Fleetwood Mac’s classic lineup set aside their differences for a reunion that marked the 30th anniversary of the original group’s founding and the 20th anniversary of Rumours’ release. A concert was filmed for an MTV special and saw release on video and audio formats as The Dance, which found the group revisiting old material and premiering new songs. A full-fledged reunion tour followed.
On 14 March 2008, the Associated Press reported Sheryl Crow as saying that she would be working with Fleetwood Mac in 2009. Crow and Stevie Nicks collaborated a great deal in the past and she has stated that Nicks has been a great teacher and inspiration for her.
In a subsequent interview with Buckingham, he said after discussions between the band and Crow, the potential collaboration with Crow “lost its momentum”. However, in a June 2008 interview, Nicks denied that Crow would be joining Fleetwood Mac as a replacement for Christine McVie. According to Nicks, “the group will start working on material and recording probably in October, and finish an album.”
On 7 October 2008, Mick Fleetwood confirmed on the BBC’s The One Show that the band were working in the studio and also announced plans for a world tour in 2009.
In late 2008, Fleetwood Mac announced that the band would tour in 2009, beginning in March. As per the 2003–2004 tour, Christine McVie would not be featured in the line-up.
The tour was branded as a ‘greatest hits’ show entitled Unleashed, although they played album tracks such as “Storms” and “I Know I’m Not Wrong”. The first show was on 1 March 2009, and in February they announced a slew of new dates.
According to Billboard, Mick Fleetwood said during a teleconference with reporters on 12 February 2009, “This is the first time we’ve gone on the road without an album. This is truly a new experience for Fleetwood Mac to go out and play songs that we believe and hope people are going to be familiar with and love.”
Stevie Nicks stated that, with regard to a new Fleetwood Mac album, “There isn’t any plan at this point… for any album. We’re going to get through this tour before deciding what to do with an album.”
During the concerts mentioned, Buckingham stated, “the time is right to go back to the studio—but only after a tour. I think maybe there was even a sense that we would make a better album if we went out and hung out together first on the road … Maybe even sowing some seeds musically that would get us more prepared to go in the studio rather than just going in cold. It takes the pressure [off] from having to go in and make something cold.”
During their show on 20 June 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Stevie Nicks premiered part of a new song that she had written about Hurricane Katrina.
In October 2009, the band began a tour of Europe which carried on into early November, followed by a tour of Australia and New Zealand in December.
Also in October The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac was re-released in an extended two-disc format (this format having been released in the US in 2002), premiering at number six on the UK Albums Chart.
On 1 November 2009, a new one-hour documentary, Fleetwood Mac: Don’t Stop, was broadcast in the UK on BBC One, which featured recent interviews with all four current band members. During the documentary, Nicks gave a candid summary of the current state of her relationship with Buckingham, stating “Maybe when we’re 75 and Fleetwood Mac is a distant memory, we might be friends…”. It also included outtakes from the Tusk recording sessions, not seen for many years since their availability on VHS cassette in 1981.
On 6 November 2009 Fleetwood Mac played the last show of the European leg of their Unleashed tour at London’s Wembley Arena. Christine McVie was present in the audience, so Stevie Nicks paid a tribute from the stage to a standing ovation from the audience, stating that she thought about her former bandmate “every day”, and went on to dedicate that night’s performance of “Landslide” to McVie.
On 19 December 2009, Fleetwood Mac played the second to last act of their Unleashed tour to a sell-out crowd at what was originally intended to be a one-off event at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth, New Zealand. Tickets, after pre-sales, sold out within twelve minutes of public release, and another date (Sunday 20 December), which also sold out, was added.
On 19 October 2010, Fleetwood Mac played a private show at the Phoenician Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona for TPG (Texas Pacific Group).
On 3 May 2011, the Fox Network broadcast an episode of Glee
On 13 May 2011 Stevie Nicks announced that Fleetwood Mac would go out on tour again in 2012 (not mentioning the scale) and talked of a possible new album.
In an April 2012 interview with Playboy magazine, drummer Mick Fleetwood expressed doubt at Fleetwood Mac ever reuniting for a tour, blaming Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham for years of delays due to commitments to solo projects. “I played drums on most of Stevie’s album (In Your Dreams), the one she is still out there supporting and the one that is the reason that, for now, she refuses to do a Fleetwood Mac tour,” Fleetwood stated.
Despite these claims, in a July 2012 interview, Nicks confirmed that the band will reunite for a tour in 2013.[Original Fleetwood Mac bassist Bob Brunning died on 18 October 2011, at the age of 68.Former guitarist Bob Weston was found dead on 3 January 2012, at the age of 64.Former singer and guitarist Bob Welch was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on 7 June 2012, at the age of 66.