Fleetwood Mac – Mark III (Part One)

Back when I was first blogging, I did a piece on the original Fleetwood Mac, a band that was heavily blues-oriented. I reposted it when Peter Green died. A lot of people cannot accept any version of Mac that is not a blues band. But hey. times change. Everybody played blues in the 60s. But that genre came and went and Mick Fleetwood – in order to survive – changed with the times.

By the time the early 70s rolled around, Big Mac still had some blues elements but were definitely less bluesy and more, what, soft-rock? Pop? Still good stuff, still to some extent recognizably Fleetwood Mac. They were one of seemingly a million bands and other than to their fans didn’t stand out in any particular way.

I wrote a series about Mac Mark II a while back and we left off here: “Nothing bad happened between (guitarist) Bob Welch and the band. But after five albums he knew the time had come to strike out on his own. Just prior to that, Mick had been invited to check out Sound City studios in Van Nuys, CA. While there, the engineer demonstrated the sound of the studio by playing him a tune called β€œFrozen Love.” He liked what he heard and found out the guitarist’s name was Lindsay Buckingham.

β€œWho’s that pretty girl laying down vocals in the next room?” he wondered. The engineer told him her name was Stevie Nicks. But we’ll save that particular story for some future post.” And so that post is now.

Mick really liked the sound of that guitarist and tracked Lindsey Buckingham down. He agreed to join Fleetwood Mac as long as he could bring his girlfriend, the self-same Ms. Nicks into the band. Mick agreed and the two joined Fleetwood Mac on New Year’s Eve 1974. The band had by now relocated to California which tends to be less dreary and rainy than Old Blighty.Β 

What was music like in the Year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and 74? Well, here’s a sample of some of the releases: 461 Ocean Boulevard (Clapton), Apostrophe (Zappa), Chicago VII. Court and Spark (Joni Mitchell), Dark Horse (George Harrison), Get Your Wings (Aerosmith). Heart Like a Wheel (Linda Ronstadt), It’s Only Rock and Roll (Stones), Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis), Natty Dread (Bob Marley).

So a not bad if not great year. Certainly not worth jumping in the old time machine and traveling back to. Oh, and Heroes are Hard to Find was released (a word we used before someone thought ‘dropped’ sounded cooler) in September. That was the last Bob Welch-era album.

So now the band – Fleetwood, the McVies (John and Christine), and Buckingham/Nicks were a unit. In looking back, it’s not entirely clear to me that anyone anywhere said, This band that’s been hanging around for almost 10 years is going to be a serious player on the scene.

I doubt very much if the band thought that. But into the recording studio they went. It’s very telling that Wikipedia advises that, “during the recording sessions, bassist John McVie took offense to Buckingham’s assertive nature in the studio, particularly when telling the other band members what he wanted them to play. McVie informed Buckingham that this would not be tolerated, saying: “The band you’re in is Fleetwood Mac. I’m the Mac. And I play the bass.” So there!

The songwriters on the album were Christine, Stevie, and Lindsey. Most of the latter’s tunes were written prior to joining Mac and were intended for their follow-up album. Fleetwood Mac (clever title) was released (sorry, dropped), in July of 1975. While this album was pretty successful, it took some slogging to get there in an already overcrowded market.

Stevie Nicks said of the album: “We just played everywhere and we sold that record. We kicked that album in the ass.Β It took fifteen months, butΒ Fleetwood Mac eventually reached the top of the US charts.”

I liked this album right out of the gate. I knew Mac had been a blues band but I kinda didn’t really give a shit that they no longer were. I totally understood the business drivers behind that and even, eventually, the players involved.

Lindsey Buckingham is a great guitarist but he is no bluesman nor does he try to be. And I’ve never heard Stevie sing a blues. Christine and the other two guys held the blues throne in the band but seemed all to happy to have a more commercial, radio-friendly sound.

I’ll cherry-pick a couple of tunes here and then you can bloody well go listen to the album. “World Turning” is a Christine McVie/Lindsey Buckingham tune that hearkens back (but sounds nothing like) a Peter Green-era tune called “The World Keeps on Turning.” It’s been Buckinghamed!

I always think of Christine’s “Over My Head” as a love song. But she says it was inspired by her “he’s great, he’s cold as ice” relationship with Buckingham. But I think that it conveys really well that feeling of being in love and how nice it feels.

Gotta end this with a Stevie Nicks tune and what better than “Landslide?” Wikipedia: “Nicks has said that she wrote the song while contemplating going back to school or continuing on professionally with guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Their album Buckingham Nicks had been dropped (not released!) by Polydor Records before they could release a follow-up.

Nicks wrote the song while visiting Aspen, Colorado, sitting in someone’s living room “looking out at the Rocky Mountains pondering the avalanche of everything that had come crashing down on us … at that moment, my life truly felt like a landslide in many ways.”

Oh, take my love, take it down
Oh, climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well the landslide will bring it down, oh oh
The landslide will bring it down

Fleetwood Mac Mark III were on the map. But this was nothin’.

12 thoughts on “Fleetwood Mac – Mark III (Part One)

  1. I didn’t know ‘Over My Head’ was about Buckingham – that’s pretty interesting. I know we’ve had this discussion before, but I like them more as they get weirder – good batch of songs, but Buckingham got more control on Rumours and Tusk.

    This is by the by, but 1974 is a great year IMO – might be my absolute favourite although anything from 1969-1974 is probably a strong candidate. It arguably marks the end of prog’s prime with the last album from King Crimson before they broke up, Genesis’ last album with Gabriel, and Yes’ last album for three years. There’s also Big Star’s Radio City, Eno’s first two albums, Pretzel Logic, Court and Spark, Kimono My House, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, No Other, Rock Bottom, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, Good Old Boys, On The Beach, Inspiration Information, Country Life, and Grievous Angel.

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    1. Oh hell, anything in that time period is great.. But I think I’m comparing it to earlier years especially 1971 with a bunch of great stuff. Unfortunately it also marks the beginning of a shift as Barry White’s disco album came out that year. And punk was on it its way. I didn’t hate punk. But the prevailing winds were shifting though we didn’t know it at the time. Oh, and BTW, Robin Trower’s great Bridge of Sighs came out in ’74.

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        1. And Allman Brothers ‘At Fillmore East.” I won’t quibble. That whole era was great for rock (and fusion.)

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    2. BTW. I don’t think ‘Over My Head’ is about Buckingham so much as inspired by him. That said. I’ve never seen a band get so much mileage from writing about each other.

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      1. There are a lot of relationships chronicled. ‘Oh Daddy’ – McVie on Fleetwood – and ‘You Make Loving Fun’ – McVie on the band’s lighting director.

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  2. I know you and I have discussed Fleetwood Mac before. I also remember your Mark II series. Between Mark I, Mark II and Mark III it’s almost like you’re listening to three different bands. I dig songs from each of their different periods.

    For a long time, I had really had only been aware of Mark III. Going from there to the Peter Green era admittedly was a leap at first, but I’ve really come to like their early blues-oriented phase. It was only a few years ago that I took a closer look at the Mark II phase. Again, I realized there’s a lot of great music to discover.

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    1. Absolutely. There is great stuff from each era. The Green era was stone cold blues (punctuated by stuff like ‘Albatross’) with them even venturing to Chicago to record. Mark II had some really nice rock and with ‘Hypnotized,” one of my favorite songs ever. And the third edition speaks for itself.

      In a sense you have to give Fleetwood/McVie a lot of credit. Not only did they hold the whole thing together but when you think about it, regardless of genre, they really stood for a high level of quality.

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