Strictly speaking, there were really several versions of Fleetwood Mac. But in reading about them, you can really break them down into three phases – Peter Green (blues-based), Bob Welch/Christine Perfect McVie (pop and rock), Buckingham/Nicks (rock, soft-rock.) I’m calling the Bob Welch version Mark II.
I’ve already written about the Peter Green version way back when I first started blogging. In this post, I’m going to start by showing the transition and then in the next one deal with the Welch (and Bob Weston) years.
Fleetwood Mac had been a very successful blues band both in the States and especially in the UK. They were very true and very faithful to blues and the late Sixties were a very fervent time for that genre. There was no reason to believe that they wouldn’t or couldn’t continue in that vein for a while.
But if you read Mick Fleetwood’s autobiography, while Peter Green was a great blues guitarist, he was also a highly sensitive man who was never quite comfortable either with the trappings of fame or even with material possessions.
According to Fleetwood, when they’d be on the road in a hotel or even when they were in the middle of playing, he would try to harangue the band into giving all their material possessions away. “I had conversations with Peter Green around that time,” said Fleetwood, “and he was obsessive about us not making money, wanting us to give it all away. And I’d say, ‘Well you can do it, I don’t wanna do that, and that doesn’t make me a bad person.”
Even though the guys in the band didn’t know it at that point, Green’s days in the band were numbered. Now, the following song was released several years prior to Peter’s departure. But I am including it here not only because it’s a cool, dreamy song but also because it begins to point the way to a different, non-bluesy Mac
“Albatross” was a success in several countries and remains Fleetwood Mac’s only number-one hit in the UK Singles Chart, spending one week at the top in January 1969:
Wikipedia: “Green’s bandmates began to notice changes in his state of mind. He was taking large doses of LSD, grew a beard, and began to wear robes and a crucifix. While touring Europe in late March 1970, Green took LSD at a party at a commune in Munich, an incident cited by Fleetwood Mac manager Clifford Davis as the crucial point in his mental decline.”
The last Mac single with Green in the band was called “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown).” Mick Fleetwood: “A sinister throb, majestic blues chords, a howling banshee guitar powered this appalling song about the temptation to descend into madness – the relentless hellhound on Peter Green’s trail.
This descent into the maelstrom was written after a terrifying nightmare, Pete told me. He had woken up in the middle of the night transfixed with fear, unable to move or breathe. It was Peter’s awesome valedictory, his way of saying goodbye to Fleetwood Mac.”
After a final performance on 20 May 1970, Green left Fleetwood Mac. Needless to say, this left the other guys in a bit of a panic. It’s always tough to lose your leader especially one with as powerful a presence as Green. However, Green had had the presence of mind to name the band after his rhythm section. Who knows? Maybe he figured he’d be leaving one day. And one cannot overlook the incredible determination of Mick Fleetwood to keep this band together.
Guitarists Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer were left with the unenviable task of replacing Green. In September 1970, Fleetwood Mac released their fourth studio album, Kiln House, so named for an Oast house, a building designed for kilning (drying) hops as part of the brewing process. The band was living communally there at the time.
Kiln House is a good album but it is decidedly not a blues album. It’s fascinating to see how bands change over time based on the composition of its members and perhaps the dominance of one. In the same way that the Allmans got a little less bluesy and more country on Duane’s death and Dickey’s ascendance, so too did Fleetwood Mac change.
Jeremy Spencer had always been an outlandish live performer to the point of doing Elvis impressions while wearing a gold lame suit. (And hanging milk-filled condoms off his guitar pegs.) And so on this album, you begin to hear his strong 50’s influence with songs like “This is the Rock” and “Buddy’s Song,” inspired by Buddy Holly. (And with the writing credited to his mother.)
This is the first album without Green. It is also the first appearance of Christine (Perfect) McVie, who had married bassist John McVie a few years prior. She was not a member of the band and isn’t even credited. But she drew the album cover, played piano and provided backing vocals. They’d known her since her days in a fairly popular band called Chicken Shack.
Even though Mac wasn’t playing as much hardcore blues as before and probably lost a few fans, over the years they managed to maintain a pretty good fan base. Blues-rock was still popular at least into the mid-Seventies. But by 1970 you had artists like Elton John, Carole King and James Taylor plying their trade. So there was a built-in audience of people likely completely burnt out from the Sixties.
That said, there’s some pretty good rockin’ numbers on this album and I think it deserves a listen. But I kinda like “Station Man” with its distinct laid-back Delaney and Bonnie feel:
And just in case you were afraid that Big Mac forgot how to rock, I leave you with the tasty guitar-driven blues of Danny Kirwan’s”Tell Me All the Things You Do.”
Next (and last) – Fleetwood Mac get Hypnotized.
Sources: Wikipedia; Fleetwood – My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac. Mick Fleetwood.
17 thoughts on “Fleetwood Mac – Mark II (Part One of Two)”
A really strange beast, yin Fleetwood Mac… I was telling CB just recently that I haven’t really delved into too much of their stuff. Probably a weariness… I dunno exactly. Of the stuff I’ve heard, I like Rumours, but I haven’t yet delved into the early stuff though it’s captured my attention. I think that’s the stuff I’m gonna love.
Yeah, I can’t think of too many other bands who started out hard-core Chicago blues, went into ’50s, country-rock, and pop. All the time at a sustainable level of success. And then after 10 years of slogging to hit massive worldwide fame. I’ve been wanting to do this “medium period” Mac for a while. Handy that CB pulled out that tune.
They certainly had that wild journey, and I have to admit I’m fonder of the earlier stuff. Great picks on the songs!
I may be unique in this but I kinda like all versions of the band, each for different reasons. No matter what genre, they’ve always maintained a high standard I think.
Great idea to explore Fleetwood Mac’s period in-between their beginnings as a hardcore blues band and their classic period. It prompted me to go back to a career-spanning post I did on the Mac in May 2018. It included Mark II but obviously not to the extent you are doing.
I remember at the time I did my post, I sampled some of the albums from that middle period like “Kiln House“ and “Mystery To Me.“ I remember there’s some good stuff on these albums.
Yeah, this idea has been in my head for a while. History-wise, Mac is an anomaly. A band that has not only been around for 54 years but who have gone through such a radical change not only in members but in style. Consider that the Stones have been around even longer but they are more or less the same band with more or less the same genre.
And Mac can also be pegged neatly into three discrete phases. The idea of doing the transition from Green to Welch didn’t even occur to me till I started re-reading Fleetwood’s autobio. I seem to recall you did “Albatross” once upon a time. Such a moody piece. I read that the Beatles loved it and that Lennon at one point wanted to sign Mac to Apple records.
Anyway, I am enjoying going back and listening as I tend to get hung up on their blues period. CB and I were talking about that. And BTW, “Kiln House” is a good, if strangely schizo album.
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When you look at Fleetwood Mac, it is like listening to at least different bands. I agree that is definitely unsual.
Chicken Shack were the first band I ever saw live… I am a big Christine Perfect/McVie fan…
Where was that show, pray tell? My guess is that it would have been some sort of festival. I did a couple of posts a few years back on British blues-rock. I did not feature Chicken Shack within the posts but I mentioned them and added a tune of theirs to the Spotify list in Part Two. If you’re so inclined, you can go to the search bar and type in British blues-rock. Lastly, have you ever heard the Buckingham/McVie album?
The Chicken Shack show was at the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, UK, and would have been in 1969. I was sixteen years old and it was a great experience. Stan Webb was the guitarist/band leader, and he had a guitar lead that was a couple of hundred feet long o he could walk into the audience and keep playing…
It was very cool to an ‘impressionable’ young lad like me 🙂
That sent me down a rabbit hole looking for Webb. Spotify. Good stuff.
This popped up on YouTube. Thought you might find this interesting..
I was going to mention Chicken Shack but Steve above beat me to the punch. I have a later album and its really good. Anyways back to Mac. I was still with them for Kiln House (love that record) and Bare Trees. They still did it for me even without Green. Just got into some Spencer after he resurfaced a few years ago ‘Precious Little’ is the album i got into.. Pretty good. Kiln House is full of good tunes for me. The ones you linked are top notch. This is where I left Mac. I never did get into the later version. I still revisit this older stuff (I think you now that) regularly plus Greens solo work.
I happen to know Leybourne. Friend of a friend.. A Brit as you might guess so he grew up with all this stuff over there. I mean, who else do we know that heard of Chicken Shack much less SAW them?
Part Two of this, of course, will deal with everything pre-Buckingham/Nicks. I might be the outlier as I like all versions of Mac. Truthfully in a sense the band that emerged in 1977 is not the same band as the one in 1967. They might as well be two different bands. I get the feeling from Mick that he just wanted to have a band and have it be reasonably successful. Not that he doesn’t dig good music but if the band had gone 100% country I don’t think he would have given a shit as long as it sounded good. But that’s how you survive in pop music over multiple years.
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The Shack album I have is a “Live” one and it cooks. Webb has learned his trade. You would like it DOC, no bullshit hard blues.
I like it when bands and musicians make the bigtime and make some bucks. Guys like Mick as far as I’m concerned earned it. Check out Dave Masons new version of ‘Feelin Alright’ .Dave Mason and the Quarantines. Cool mixed bag of players including Mick. Very cool. I might even feature this baby.
Webb is on Spotify if you care to give a listen. Sounds like one of those guys that didn’t quite make the big time. I’ll check Mason out. I’ve always loved the loose lazy feel of that tune. You should do that post. I had no idea what he was up to.
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That tune cooks. I always forget what a good guitar player Mason is.
I think Webb just stuck to that blues tradition like a lot of those guys did. I take that cd for a walk now and then. I have and will check out more of him and the Shack.
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