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The Fleetwood Mac Nobody Knows (Or at Least Remembers)

November 23, 2015

We're going to try this quiz thing again. No video this time, just a simple show of hands. Ready? How many people think Fleetwood Mac's first album was their 1976 self-titled one, you know, the one with "Rhiannon" on it?
  

[Updated: Edited to correct the name of the author, Doug Morgan. We apologize to Mr. Morgan for the error.]

  

Yes, that one. I'm not asking Classic Rock radio programmers this question—I know their answer—and they're wrong. Fleetwood Mac was formed in 1967 in that British rock tradition....as a blues band. I kid you not.
 
Peter Green had replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayhall's Bluesbreakers, but after a little while he got antsy, and wanted to form his own band. Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass) were also in The Bluesbreakers, and in order to entice them into the new band, Green proposed naming it after Mick and John, combining elements of their names (Fleetwood and M{a}c) into the proposed band's name. It worked, sort of. Mick came along, and John....after the band used Bob Brunning on bass.....joined just after their first LP was cut. Add Jeremy Spencer on slide guitar (from the beginning) and you had one HOT English blues band that happened to be made up of 3/4 of Mayall's outfit, which was THE British blues band of the time.
 
I tripped over them when their first U.S. release, "English Rose," in early 1968. This LP combined material from their first two British releases, plus a couple singles (including the British) #1 single "Albatross)…
 

  
 …and it flopped. Absolutely. Made #198 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart. 
 
But in England they were a grand success. Green had the chops, no question, as shown on this British Top 10 smash.
 

  
Mac DID have one U.S. radio hit though. From 1969's "Then Play On" is the Peter Green composed "Oh Well". I believe they still perform it live, although Lindsey Buckingham really doesn't have the guitar skills (or voice) to do it justice.
 

  
Now, the second question. When did Christine (Perfect) McVie join the band....about the time of Buckingham/Nicks? Wrong. Remember the video of "I Need Your Love So Bad?" It's a Top Of The Pops lipsync, and there's an organ in it. That's Christine McVie. In the mid 60's she had performed with Stan Webb, and in early '67, when he formed Chicken Shack, she joined the group, playing keyboards. She stayed with Chicken Shack for two albums (and one big hit), then did session work with Mac from the second LP on, finally joining the group officially for the "Kiln House" LP in 1970. Named Melody Maker's female vocalist of the year in both '69 and '70, her signature song…
 

 …was a staple in Fleetwood Mac's live shows for years.
 
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the "Blues Jam In Chicago" LP. Recorded in January of 1969, it was one of the last records recorded at the Chess Records studios. If you can find a copy, it's worth picking up. Peter Green (lead) and Jeremy Spencer show off their chops, McVie and Fleetwood lay a solid foundation, and in this cut, Otis Spann absolutely shines on both piano and vocals. This cut is worth the price of admission to what is arguably the best of the late 60's British blues bands.

 

 

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