In the music business there are many factors that define the razor edge between the "'Legends' and the Lost". The right sound, at the right time, in the right place are foremost on the list, but are not the only factors that will determine the placement of any musician in the history books. The pages are also subject to edit by record companies and producers, the fickle nature of fans, the general acceptance and understanding of your work by other musicians, and, of course, "Luck".
The Musicians profiled in "On The Boards" are those who, having reached the pinnacle of their particular music genre, gave us a sound that is uniquely definable as belonging to the individual musician(s). Feel free to add, correct, or debate the contents herein. Submission/comment
Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham, and Stevie Nicks. These are the names most people think of when they refer to Fleetwood Mac, but there were many players that came and went during the history of the band.
Fleetwood Mac were formed in 1967 when Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood teamed up with bassist Bob Brunning and slide guitar player Jeremy Spencer. This incarnation of the band made its debut on August 13, 1967 at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival.
The origins of Fleetwood Mac can be traced back to the Godfather of the Blues, John Mayall. The founding members Mick Fleetwood, and Peter Green, as well as John McVie, were concurrent members of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. Green replaced Eric Clapton, and Mick Fleetwood replaced drummer Aynsley Dunbar. The “Bluesbreakers” , Mick, Peter, and McVie, began recording together on the side, the outcome of which, was the decision of Green and Fleetwood to form their own band. The name “Fleetwood”-“Mac” was decided on mostly in the attempt to lure McVie into joining the venture, but McVie preferred to stay with the steady gigs provided by Mayall. Brunning was only in the original Fleetwood Mac lineup on the understanding that he would leave if McVie agreed to join. Only after the success of the Windsor Jazz festival did bassist John McVie, agree to join the band. John did not play on their first single nor at their first concerts, although his former wife and keyboardist Christine McVie, appeared on all but two albums.
As with many bands searching for that unique sound, Fleetwood Mac went through many personnel changes in their formative years, with drummer Mick Fleetwood being the only permanent fixture. The first successful emergence of the band came with the British Invasion in the 1960s, their second surge of popularity occurred from the mid ‘70s to late 80’s with the lineup of Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.
Fleetwood Mac's first release, "Fleetwood Mac", was a blues album released in February ’68 on the Blue Horizon label, and being successful in the UK, was soon followed by the singles "Black Magic Woman" (later a big hit for Santana) and "Need Your Love So Bad". The next release, also a blues compilation, "Mr. Wonderful", was released in August 1968. This album was a live studio recording with the instruments being recorded through microphones place at the pa/amplifiers instead of being plugged directly into the mixing board. This method gave the sound a vintage quality which was an ideal compliment to the blues. This session also saw the addition of keyboardist Christine Perfect, later Christine McVie, to the band.
The next incarnation of the band saw the addition of self taught guitarist Danny Kirwan, who was enlisted as a result of Peter Green’s frustration over the lack of Jeremy Spencer contributing any input to the music. Kirwan’s unique style added a new dimension to the sound and, with Kirwan, the band released its first number one single in Europe, "Albatross", its second American album, "English Rose", featuring new songs from Kirwan, and its third European album called "The Pious Bird of Good Omen", a collection of singles.
The band soon realized that, due to the talent and versatility of Kirwan, they were no longer confined to the genre of blues, and after recording with blues legends Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy and Otis Spann at Chess records in ’69, left the blues world behind and began developing their own signature sound. On departing the blues record labels, the band signed with “Immediate Records” and released "Man Of The World", which became another British and European hit single.
With the increasing instability of the Immediate Record label they shopped around for a new deal, eventually signing with Warner Bros, which became their permanent home. As an interesting aside, the Beatles wanted the band to sign with Apple Records, as Mick Fleetwood and George Harrison were brothers-in-law, but the band's manager Clifford Davis made the final decision to go with Warner Bros. Their first album for Warner, released in September 1969, was the well-received "Then Play On", containing the song "Oh Well", a staple of their live performances until 1997. "Then Play On", which was the band's first rock album, featured only the songs of Kirwan and Green.
In July ‘69 Fleetwood Mac was the headliner of the Schaefer Music Festival in New York City's Central Park, along with other popular performers of the time including The Byrds, Chuck Berry, Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, B. B. King, The Beach Boys, Frank Zappa and Patti LaBelle. They re-appeared at the festival in 1970, and were fast becoming the most popular band in Europe. Unfortunately, also at this time Peter Green, the frontman of the band, began suffering mental health problems, believed to have stemmed from an unwittingly ingestion of LSD in Germany, which contributed to the onset of his schizophrenia.
Green's last hit with Fleetwood Mac was "The Green Manalishi" and as his mental stability deteriorated, he wanted the band to donate all of their money to charity, and when they did not agree he decided to leave the band. His last show with Fleetwood Mac was on May 20, 1970. During that show, the band went past their allotted time, and the power was shut off, although Mick Fleetwood kept drumming.
Danny Kirwan’s songs moved the band in the direction of 70s rock, while Jeremy Spencer’s influence was more towards re-creating the country-lite "Sun Sound" of the late 1950s. When Christine Perfect joined the band, her influence was added to the development of the new, progressive sound of Fleetwood Mac. This early ‘70s lineup consisted Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Bob Weston, John McVie, and Bob Welch. Christine Perfect having married bassist John McVie in 1970, and playing her first gig as an official member on August 6, 1970 in New Orleans.
Everything seemed to be going well for the band when the comic tragedies, so often associated with the music industry, began to unfold.While on tour in February 1971, Jeremy Spencer had left the band to join a religious group, the Children of God, and was replaced by Bob Welch.
Danny Kirwan developed an alcohol dependency and became alienated from Welch and the McVies. It wasn't until he smashed his Les Paul Custom guitar, refused to go on stage one night, and criticized the band afterwards that Fleetwood finally decided that he had no choice but to fire Kirwan.
In the next two and a half years, they would constantly change line-ups. In September 1972, the band added guitarist Bob Weston and vocalist Dave Walker, formerly of Savoy Brown. Fleetwood Mac also hired Savoy Brown's road manager, John Courage. Mick, John, Christine, Welch, Weston, and Walker recorded "Penguin", which was released in January 1973. After the tour, the band fired Walker because his vocal style and attitude did not fit in with the rest of the band.
The McVies' marriage at this time was under a lot of stress, which was aggravated by their constant working with each other, and John McVie's considerable alcohol abuse.
During the tour, Weston had an affair with Fleetwood's wife, Jenny Boyd Fleetwood, the sister of Pattie Boyd Harrison. Fleetwood soon fired Weston and the tour was cancelled.
The band's manager, Clifford Davis, claimed that he owned the name "Fleetwood Mac" and put out a "fake” band on tour, while nobody in the "fake band" was ever officially in the real band, the fans were told that Bob Welch and John McVie had quit the group, and that Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie would be joining the band at a later date. Fleetwood Mac's road manager, John Courage, worked one show before he realized that Clifford Davis’ story was a lie and hid the real Fleetwood Mac's equipment, effectively ending the tour by the fake band, thus ending that short but strange chapter in the band’s history, although the following legal battle over ownership of the name “Fleetwood Mac” put the band out of commission for almost a year. During this period Welch who had remained in Los Angeles to deal with the attorneys discovered that the actual (real) band members were totally unknown to Warner Bros., to rectify that problem they moved their base of operation to Los Angeles and after convincing Warner bros. that they were indeed the “real” Fleetwood Mac they were able to record again on that label, this time acting as their own managers.
The fake Fleetwood Mac consisted of Elmer Gantry (vocals, guitar), Kirby Gregory (guitar), Paul Martinez (bass), John Wilkinson (keyboards) and Craig Collinge (drums).
After Warner Bros. renewed the deal with the real Fleetwood Mac, the quartet released "Heroes Are Hard to Find" in September 1974. The band, now with only one guitarist added a second keyboardist. The first was Bobby Hunt, the second was Doug Graves, who was an engineer on "Heroes Are Hard To Find". Neither lasted for very long. This lineup went on tour to promote the Heroes album, and this tour proved to be the last one for Bob Welch. The constant touring had taken its toll on Welch., Bob Welch provided musical and professional direction to the group, helped the band through three major crises, and left it in a situation where it had a record contract, a direct line to the record company, connections to industry insiders, no pressure from the record company, and a management situation that would help foster creativity, basically Welch had laid the foundations for Fleetwood Mac's future.
After Welch announced that he was leaving the band, Fleetwood began searching for a possible replacement. The house engineer for California's Sound City Studios, Keith Olsen, played him a track titled "Frozen Love" from the Buckingham Nicks band, Fleetwood liked it, and was introduced to the guitarist from the band, Lindsey Buckingham, and asked him to join. Buckingham agreed, on the condition that his musical partner and girlfriend, Stephanie "Stevie" Nicks, also become part of the band.
In 1975, the new line-up released the self-titled Fleetwood Mac, which proved to be a breakthrough for the band and became a huge hit (reaching #1 in the US). Among the hit singles from this album were Christine McVie's "Over My Head" and "Say You Love Me", and Stevie Nicks' "Rhiannon" and "Landslide". But in 1976, with the success of the band also came the end of John and Christine McVie's marriage, as well as Buckingham's and Nicks' long term romantic relationship. Even Fleetwood was in the midst of divorce proceedings from his wife Jenny. Pressure was put on Fleetwood Mac to release a successful follow-up album, which, when combined with its new-found wealth, led to creative and personal tensions.
The album in 1977, “Rumours”, laid bare the emotional turmoil experienced at that time and was critically acclaimed, winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for 1977. Hit singles included Buckingham's "Go Your Own Way", Nicks's "Dreams", and Christine McVie's "Don't Stop" and "You Make Loving Fun". Buckingham's "Second Hand News", Nicks' "Gold Dust Woman" and "The Chain" (the only song written by all five), also received significant radio airplay. By 2003, Rumours had sold over 19 million copies in the U.S. alone (certified as a diamond album by the RIAA), and a total of 40 million copies worldwide, maintaining its status as one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.
Buckingham's influence pushed the band in a more experimental direction and resulted in the release of the double album “Tusk” which produced three hit singles; Lindsey Buckingham's "Tusk" (U.S. #8), which featured the USC Trojan Marching Band; Christine McVie's "Think About Me" (U.S. #20); and Stevie Nicks' seven minute opus "Sara" (U.S. #7). Tusk remains one of Fleetwood Mac's most ambitious albums to date, and, although selling four million copies worldwide, was considered a failure by the industry when compared to the huge sales of Rumours, The band embarked on a huge 18-month world tour to support and promote Tusk, which produce material for the release of a live album in late 1980.
The next album, 1982's "Mirage" was a return to a more conventional sound, especially after the relative failure of Tusk, and Lindsey Buckingham’s reported ragging by music critics, and fellow band mates. Mirage hits included Christine McVie's "Hold Me" and "Love In Store" , Stevie Nicks' "Gypsy", and Lindsey Buckingham's "Oh Diane", which made the Top 10 in the UK. A minor hit was also scored by Buckingham's "Eyes Of The World". Unlike the Tusk Tour, the band only embarked on a short tour of 18 American cities, the Los Angeles show being recorded and released on video. It also headlined the first US Festival, for which the band was paid $500,000. Mirage was certified double platinum in the U.S.
Fleetwood Mac took a break at this point and Stevie Nicks released two solo albums (1983's "The Wild Heart" and 1985's "Rock a Little", Lindsey Buckingham issued "Go Insane" in 1984, the same year that Christine McVie made a self-titled album (yielding the Top 10 hit "Got A Hold On Me" and the Top 40 hit "Love Will Show Us How"). However, also during this period, Mick Fleetwood had filed for bankruptcy, Nicks was admitted to the Betty Ford Clinic for addiction problems, and John McVie had suffered an addiction-related seizure.
The Rumours line-up of Fleetwood Mac recorded one more album, "Tango in the Night", in 1987, which went on to become their best-selling release since Rumours, especially in the UK where it hit no. 1 three times over the following year. The album sold three million copies in the USA and contained four hits: Christine McVie's "Little Lies" and "Everywhere" (Lies being co-written with McVie's new husband Eddy Quintela), Sandy Stewart and Stevie Nicks' "Seven Wonders", and Lindsey Buckingham's "Big Love". "Family Man" and "Isn't It Midnight" were also released as singles. Buckingham refused to tour in support of this album and withdrew from Fleetwood Mac following a heated exchange in August 1987 that took place in Christine’s house, between Stevie Nicks and Buckingham.
With Lindsey Buckingham's departure, Fleetwood Mac added two new guitarists to the band, Billy Burnette and Rick Vito. Billy was mainly added for his singing and songwriting skills and Rick for his lead guitar abilities. Burnette had already worked with Mick Fleetwood in Zoo, with Christine McVie as part of her solo band, did some session work with Stevie Nicks and even backed Lindsey Buckingham on Saturday Night Live. Vito, a Peter Green admirer, played with many artists from Bonnie Raitt to John Mayall, and even worked with John McVie on two John Mayall albums.
The 1987-88 "Shake The Cage" tour was the first outing for this line-up, and was successful enough to warrant the release of a concert video titled "Tango In The Night", filmed at San Francisco's Cow Palace arena in December 1987. Capitalizing on the success of Tango in the Night, the band released a "Greatest Hits" album in 1988 featuring singles from the 1975-88 era, and two new compositions: "No Questions Asked" written by Nicks, and "As Long as You Follow" written by McVie and Quintela. The Greatest Hits album, which peaked at #3 in the UK and #14 in the US has since sold over 8 million copies, was dedicated to Buckingham, with whom they had now reconciled.
Following Greatest Hits, Fleetwood Mac recorded "Behind the Mask" moving away from the Buckingham influence sound to a more adult contemporary style. The album yielded only one Top 40 hit, McVie's "Save Me". Behind The Mask only achieved gold album status in the US. and received mixed reviews, being seen by some critics as a low point for the band. The subsequent "Behind The Mask" tour saw the band play sold out shows at London's Wembley Stadium, and on the final show in Los Angeles, the band were joined onstage by Buckingham. Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks, had decided that the tour would be their last but they would still record with the band. However, in 1991, both Nicks and Rick Vito announced they were leaving Fleetwood Mac altogether.
In 1992, Fleetwood himself arranged a 4-disc box set spanning highlights from the band's 25 year history, titled "25 Years - The Chain".
The Buckingham, Nicks, McVie, McVie, Fleetwood lineup reunited at the request of U.S. President Bill Clinton for his first Inaugural Ball in 1993. Clinton had made Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" his campaign theme song, however this lineup would not reunite again. Inspired by the new interest in the band, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Christine McVie recorded another album as Fleetwood Mac, with Billy Burnette taking on lead guitar duties. However, just as they made the decision to continue, Billy Burnette announced in March 1993, that he was leaving the band to pursue a country album and an acting career. Bekka Bramlett, who had worked a year earlier with Mick Fleetwood's Zoo, was recruited along with former Traffic guitarist Dave Mason. By March 1994, Billy Burnette returned with Fleetwood's blessing. The band, minus Christine McVie, toured in 1994, opening for Crosby, Stills, & Nash, and in 1995 as part of a package with REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar. The tour saw the band perform classic Fleetwood Mac songs from the initial 1967–1974 era. In 1995, at a concert in Tokyo, the band was greeted by former member Jeremy Spencer, who performed a few songs with them.
On October 10, 1995, Fleetwood Mac released the unsuccessful "Time" album. Although hitting the UK Top 60 for one week the album had zero impact in the US. It failed even to graze the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart, a stunning reversal for a band that had been a mainstay on that chart for most of the previous two decades. Shortly after the album's release, Christine McVie informed the band that the album was her last. Bramlett and Burnette subsequently formed a country music duo, Bekka & Billy.
Just weeks after disbanding Fleetwood Mac, Mick Fleetwood announced that he was working with Lindsey Buckingham again. John McVie was soon added to the sessions, and later Christine McVie. In 1998, Fleetwood Mac, (Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan) were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and performed at the Grammy Awards program that year. They were also the recipients of the "Outstanding Contribution to Music" award at the BRIT Awards (British Phonographic Industry Awards) the same year.
In 1998, Christine McVie left the band and returned to the UK to retire from touring (though not from the music business entirely as she created a new album, In The Meantime, in 2004). Her departure left Buckingham and Nicks to sing all the lead vocals for the band's 2003 album, "Say You Will", although Christine did contribute some backing vocals and keyboards. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart (#6 in the UK) and yielded chart hits with "Peacekeeper" and the title track, followed by a successful world tour that lasted through 2004.
In late 2008, Fleetwood Mac announced that the band would tour in 2009, beginning in March. As per the 2003-2004 tour, Christine McVie will not be featured in the lineup. The tour is branded as a "greatest hits" show entitled "Unleashed", although they will also play album tracks such as "Storms", "Gold Dust Woman", and "I Know I'm Not Wrong'. The first show was March 1, 2009, and in February they opened a slew of new dates. The tour coincides with a new CD/DVD version of "Rumours" which contains previously unreleased tracks and footage.
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