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While most bands undergo a number of changes over the course of their careers, few groups experienced such radical stylistic changes asFleetwood Mac. Initially conceived as a hard-edged British blues combo in the late '60s, the band gradually evolved into a polished pop/rockact over the course of a decade. Throughout all of their incarnations, the only consistent members of Fleetwood Mac were drummer MickFleetwood and bassist John McVie -- the rhythm section that provided the band with its name. Ironically, they had the least influence overthe musical direction of the band. Originally, guitari ...read more
While most bands undergo a number of changes over the course of their careers, few groups experienced such radical stylistic changes asFleetwood Mac. Initially conceived as a hard-edged British blues combo in the late '60s, the band gradually evolved into a polished pop/rockact over the course of a decade. Throughout all of their incarnations, the only consistent members of Fleetwood Mac were drummer MickFleetwood and bassist John McVie -- the rhythm section that provided the band with its name. Ironically, they had the least influence overthe musical direction of the band. Originally, guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer provided the band with its gutsy, neo-psychedelicblues rock sound, but as both guitarists descended into mental illness, the group began moving toward pop/rock with the songwriting ofpianist Christine McVie. By the mid-'70s, Fleetwood Mac had relocated to California, where they added the soft rock duo of LindseyBuckingham and Stevie Nicks to their lineup. Obsessed with the meticulously arranged pop of the Beach Boys and the Beatles, Buckinghamhelped the band become one of the most popular groups of the late '70s. Combining soft rock with the confessional introspection ofsinger/songwriters, Fleetwood Mac created a slick but emotional sound that helped 1977's Rumours become one of the biggest-sellingalbums of all time. The band retained its popularity through the early '80s, when Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie all began pursuingsolo careers. The band reunited for one album, 1987's Tango in the Night, before splintering in the late '80s. Buckingham left the groupinitially, but the band decided to soldier on, releasing one other album before Nicks and McVie left the band in the early '90s, hastening thegroup's commercial decline.
The roots of Fleetwood Mac lie in John Mayall's legendary British blues outfit, the Bluesbreakers. Bassist John McVie was one of the chartermembers of the Bluesbreakers, joining the group in 1963. In 1966 Peter Green replaced Eric Clapton, and a year later drummer MickFleetwood joined. Inspired by the success of Cream, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix, the trio decided to break away from Mayall in 1967. Attheir debut at the British Jazz and Blues Festival in August, Bob Brunning was playing bass in the group, since McVie was still under contractto Mayall. He joined the band a few weeks after their debut; by that time, slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer had joined the band. Fleetwood Macsoon signed with Blue Horizon, releasing their eponymous debut the following year. Fleetwood Mac was an enormous hit in the U.K.,spending over a year in the Top Ten. Despite its British success, the album was virtually ignored in America. Later in the year, they releasedtheir second U.K. studio album, Mr. Wonderful. During 1968, the band added guitarist Danny Kirwan. The following year, they recordedThen Play On in Chicago with a variety of blues men, including Willie Dixon and Otis Spann. The set was released later that year, afterthe band had left Blue Horizon for a one-album deal with Immediate Records; in the U.S., they signed with Reprise/Warner Bros., and by1970, Warner began releasing the band's British records as well.
Fleetwood Mac released English Rose and Then Play On during 1969, which both indicated that the band was expanding its music,moving away from its blues purist roots. That year, Green's "Man of the World" and "Oh Well" were number two hits. Though his music wasproviding the backbone of the group, Peter Green was growing increasingly disturbed due to his large ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs. Afterannouncing that he was planning to give all of his earnings away, Green suddenly left the band in the spring of 1970; he released two soloalbums over the course of the '70s, but he rarely performed after leaving Fleetwood Mac. The band replaced him with Christine Perfect, avocalist/pianist who had earned a small but loyal following in the U.K. by singing with Spencer Davis and the Chicken Shack. She had alreadyperformed on Mr. Wonderful, and performed uncredited on Then Play On. Contractual difficulties prevented her from becoming afull-fledged member of Fleetwood Mac until 1971; by that time she had married John McVie.
Christine McVie didn't appear on 1970's Kiln House, the first album the band recorded without Peter Green. For that album, JeremySpencer dominated the band's musical direction, but he had also been undergoing mental problems due to heavy drug use. During theband's American tour in early 1971, Spencer disappeared; it was later discovered that he left the band to join the religious cult the Childrenof God. Fleetwood Mac had already been trying to determine the direction of their music, but Spencer's departure sent the band intodisarray. Christine McVie and Danny Kirwan began to move the band towards mainstream rock on 1971's Future Games, but newguitarist Bob Welch exerted a heavy influence on 1972's Bare Trees. Kirwan was fired after Bare Trees and was replaced byguitarists Bob Weston and Dave Walker, who appeared on 1973's Penguin. Walker left after that album, and Weston departed aftermaking its follow-up, Mystery to Me (1973). In 1974, the group's manager, Clifford Davis, formed a bogus Fleetwood Mac and had theband tour the U.S. The real Fleetwood Mac filed and won a lawsuit against the imposters (who subsequently changed their name toStretch), but the lawsuit kept the band off the road for most of the year. In the interim, they released Heroes Are Hard to Find. Late in1974, Fleetwood Mac moved to California, with hopes of restarting their career. Welch left the band shortly after the move to form Paris.
Early in 1975, Fleetwood and McVie were auditioning engineers for the band's new album when they heard Buckingham-Nicks, analbum recorded by the soft rock duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The pair were asked to join the group and their addition revivedthe band's musical and commercial fortunes. Not only did Buckingham and Nicks write songs, but they brought distinctive talents the bandhad been lacking. Buckingham was a skilled pop craftsman, capable of arranging a commercial song while keeping it musically adventurous.Nicks had a husky voice and a sexy, hippie gypsy stage persona that gave the band a charismatic frontwoman. The new lineup of FleetwoodMac released their eponymous debut in 1975 and it slowly became a huge hit, reaching number one in 1976 on the strength of the singles"Over My Head," "Rhiannon," and "Say You Love Me." The album would eventually sell over five million copies in the U.S. alone.
While Fleetwood Mac had finally attained their long-desired commercial success, the band was fraying apart behind the scenes. The McViesdivorced in 1976, and Buckingham and Nicks' romance ended shortly afterward. The internal tensions formed the basis for the songs ontheir next album, Rumours. Released in the spring of 1977, Rumours became a blockbuster success, topping the American andBritish charts and generating the Top Ten singles "Go Your Own Way," "Dreams," "Don't Stop," and "You Make Loving Fun." It wouldeventually sell over 17 million copies in the U.S. alone, making it the second biggest-selling album of all time. Fleetwood Mac supported thealbum with an exhaustive, lucrative tour and then retired to the studio to record their follow-up to Rumours. A wildly experimentaldouble album conceived largely by Buckingham, 1979's Tusk didn't duplicate the enormous success of Rumours, yet it did gomulti-platinum and featured the Top Ten singles "Sara" and "Tusk." In 1980, they released Live, a two-record concert album.
Following the Tusk tour, Fleetwood, Buckingham, and Nicks all recorded solo albums. Of the solo projects, Stevie Nicks' BellaDonna (1981) was the most successful, peaking at number one and featuring the hit singles "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," "Leatherand Lace," and "Edge of Seventeen." Buckingham's Law and Order (1981) was a moderate success, spawning the Top Ten "Trouble."Fleetwood, for his part, made a world music album called The Visitor. Fleetwood Mac reconvened in 1982 for Mirage. Moreconventional and accessible than Tusk, Mirage reached number one and featured "Hold Me" and "Gypsy", both of which becamehit singles.
After Mirage, Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie all worked on solo albums. The hiatus was due to a variety of reasons. Eachmember had his or her own manager, Nicks was becoming the group's breakaway star, Buckingham was obsessive in the studio, and eachmember was suffering from various substance addictions. Nicks was able to maintain her popularity, with The Wild Heart (1983) andRock a Little (1985) both reaching the Top 15. Christine McVie also had a Top Ten hit with "Got a Hold on Me" in 1984. Buckinghamreceived the strongest reviews of all, but his 1984 album Go Insane failed to generate a hit. Fleetwood Mac reunited to record a newalbum in 1985. Buckingham, who had grown increasingly frustrated with the musical limitations of the band, decided to make it his lastFleetwood Mac project. When the resulting album, Tango in the Night, was finally released in 1987, it was greeted with mixed reviewsbut strong sales, reaching the Top Ten and generating "Little Lies," "Seven Wonders," and "Everywhere", all Top 20 hits.
Buckingham decided to leave Fleetwood Mac after completing Tango in the Night, and the group replaced him with guitarists BillyBurnette and Rick Vito. The new lineup of the band recorded their first album, Behind the Mask, in 1990. It became the band's firstalbum since 1975 to not go gold. Following its supporting tour, Nicks and Christine McVie announced they would continue to record with thegroup, but not tour. Vito left the band in 1991, and the group released the box set 25 Years --The Chain the following year. The classicFleetwood Mac lineup of Fleetwood, the McVies, Buckingham, and Nicks reunited to play President Bill Clinton's inauguration in early 1993,but the concert did not lead to a full-fledged reunion. Later that year, Nicks left the band and was replaced by Bekka Bramlett and DaveMason; Christine McVie left the group shortly afterward. The new lineup of Fleetwood Mac began touring in 1994, releasing Time thefollowing year to little attention. While the new version of Fleetwood Mac wasn't commercially successful, neither were the solo careers ofBuckingham, Nicks, and McVie, prompting speculation of a full-fledged reunion in 1997. Say You Will, the first Fleetwood Mac studioalbum in 15 years, appeared in April 2003. It also marked the group's first set without Christine McVie since The Dance, their 1997 liveeffort. « hide
Similar Bands: Eagles, Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Buckingham Nicks
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