Saturday, April 30, 2011
In the history of rock music, probably no one band has gone through not only the number of personnel changes, but also the number of musical style changes, not to mention the number of personal life upheavals (all of this in a single band,mind you) and still have been able to steadily through it all rise to the level of superstardom as have a band called Fleetwood Mac. Navigating this group through drug addiction, marriages,divorces,imposters, and even a presidential campaign...from the group's birth to this very day have been two men...drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie.
The band was formed in 1967 in London By guitarist Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood , both former members of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. The pair desperately wanted Mayall's current bassist at the time, John McVie to join the band, but McVie had no wish to give up the steady employment of Mayall's outfit. They instead got Bob Brunning on bass with the understanding that he would vacate the spot should McVie ever agree to join up.After recruiting talented slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer, the band began gigging and weeks after their debut performance at the Windsor Jazz Festival later that year, John McVie finally decided to come on board. The band was then named "Fleetwood Mac at Green's suggestion after the group's rhythm section.
The first album, "Fleetwood Mac" was released in 1968 as well as two singles, "Black Magic Woman",which later became a hit for the band Santana, and "Need Your Love So Bad". Shortly after the release of theur second album, "Mr.Wonderful" later that same year, (yes they worked fast in those days!) they added Danny Kirwan. A talented,self taught guitarist with a signature vibrato and unique style, Kirwan added another dimension to an already complete group. The band proceeded to become well known as a no-frills authentic blues act that got the opportunity to record an album on the legendary Chess Records label with Chicago blues giants such as Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy and Ots Spann in 1969.
Though a highly popular band in Europe at the time, Peter Green began to suffer ill health. Green was one of the top blues guitarists to come out of England, in my opinion in the top three along with Eric Clapton and Savoy Brown's Kim Simmonds. B.B. King, never the humblest of souls, was quoted thus, "Peter Green has more talent in his little finger than I have in my whole body". A bit exaggerated, perhaps, but obvious proof of Green's specialness nonetheless. Unfortunately his experimentation with LSD contributed to the onset of his schizoprenia. His last hit with the group was "The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown), and his last Fleetwood Mac performance was in 1970,after which he left the band due to his deteriorating condition.
Christine McVie, wife of bassist John joined the band later in 1970 on keyboards and vocals. She formerly performed those duties in the band Chicken Shack as Christine Perfect (her maiden name) and had a fairly successful solo career.
While on tour in 1971, guitarist Jeremy Spencer went out to "get a magazine" and never returned. After a frantic search it was discovered several days later that he had joined a religious group called the Children of God. Peter Green stood in to finish the tour, atfer which the group held auditions for a replacement. This resulted in American guitarist Bob Welch joining the band. The subsequent albums, "Future Games" and "Bare Trees", showed a very different sound from anything the band had done previously due to the vocal and songwriting contributions of Welch and Mrs. McVie . At the same time Fleetwood Mac's popularity in the States began to increase.
Danny Kirwan developed an alcohol dependancy that resulted in missed performances and numerous quarrels with the rest of the group.He was finally asked to leave. This was 1972 .Over the next three years the band was challenged by almost constant personnel changes, the McVies' dissolving marriage, and the band's former manager Clifford Davis putting together a fake "Fleetwood Mac" claiming he had ownership rights to the name. After this was settled, Bob Welch left due to touring fatigue. His departure was an amicable one, and while in the group contributed greatly to the group's musical and business direction.
Engineer Keith Olsen played a track from an album called "Buckingham-Nicks" called "Frozen Love" for Mick Fleetwood. Fleetwood liked the song and was subsequently introduced to Lindsey Buckingham, one of the duo. Buckingham was asked to join the group as Welch's replacement. Buckingham was willing on the condition that Stephanie (Stevie) Nicks be allowed to join him.Fleetwood agreed , and the band's most successful period had begun.
This success unfortunately was accompanied by the dissolution of the McVies' marriage as well as that of Mick and Jenny Fleetwood. Also split were Buckingham and Nicks. Members struggled with drugs and alcohol, as well as the personal tensions new-found riches can bring. Not to mention even more personnel changes. The band withstood it all, and managed to win a Grammy Award for the album "Rumours", Three American Music Awards, A Diamond Album for Rumours,selling over 40 million units worldwide, induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998, and performed at president Bill Clinton's first Inaugural Ball in 1993, the band's song "Don't Stop" as the theme for his campaign.
Starting as a humble, blues-purist club band to become a decades-spanning, multi- platinum, Hall Of Fame pop giant, all the while withstanding enough drama to break up a dozen bands, and ending up looking and sounding not one bit like the band when it was formed...a pretty neat trick, people...that only Fleetwood Mac could pull off.