Retro Music 3

When most people hear the name Fleetwood Mac, they tend to think of the vocals of Stevie Nicks, and the guitar of Lindsay Buckingham. And the songs from the album ‘Rumours’, one of the best-selling records of all-time.

But I think of Peter Green, and Fleetwood Mac as primarily a Blues band, formed in 1967. In 1969, they released a song that I thought was outstanding, even though it wasn’t in a genre that I would have usually listened to at the time. Peter Green left the band in 1970, suffering from serious mental illness. He did return to the music scene at various times in later life, and died in 2020, aged 73.

Great Albums: Rumours

By 1977, Fleetwood Mac had undergone a complete transformation. Ten years earlier, they had formed as a Blues band, driven by the obsessive Peter Green. Their combination of raw blues and unusual instrumental tracks guaranteed them an early following, and when Christine Perfect joined in 1970, they had a female vocal too. But personality issues within the band led to the departure of Peter Green, and in 1974, Americans Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the group, as lead guitar and lead vocal, respectively.

This resulted in a complete change of direction. The Blues roots were discarded for a more commercial pop sound, with Nicks’ vocals as the centrepiece of most songs. An album release in 1975 saw them appeal to a totally new market, and a much wider audience, and this was followed in 1977 by ‘Rumours’.

This new album was an immediate success, all over the world. Not only did it take the number one spot in the UK, it also topped the US charts, as well as in Australia and Canada. They may have changed their style, but they had undoubtedly hit upon a winning formula.

The album just didn’t stop selling. Over thirty weeks in the US charts, platinum and gold discs in many countries, it became a recording phenomenon. In the age of vinyl, it seemed as if everyone you ever met had a copy, including me.

It had something that appealed to almost everyone at the time. If you didn’t like one track, you were sure to like the next one. Selling over forty million copies, and becoming one of the biggest-selling records ever, it earned its place in history.

Perhaps the crowing glory of ‘Rumours’, and still played widely today, this track showcased Stevie Nicks’ vocals perfectly, and sums up the appeal of this unique album.

It has since been released on CD of course, later remastered and reissued, in 2013. Still selling in considerable numbers to this day, forty-one years after I bought it.

Significant Songs (151)


Back in 1977, I bought a copy of the new album from Fleetwood Mac. It was called ‘Rumours’. Some time later, I didn’t know anyone who didn’t have a copy on their record shelf, or propped up beside their record player. Small wonder that this sold an amazing fifty million copies, and is still being bought today, on CD and download.

I have featured the group before, both in their earlier Blues incarnation, and later on with ‘Big Love’. But ‘Rumours’ is worth a look on its own, as there are few recordings in history that have crossed so many genres, and appealed to a vast array of music fans. This was always my favourite track. It suits Stevie Nicks’ voice to perfection, and strikes the right mood in so many ways. The lyrics are worth adding in full, on this occasion. They meant something to the band at the time, with all their personal upheavals. Forty years later, they are still powerful to read.

Now here you go again, you say
You want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down
It’s only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost, and what you had, and what you lost
Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Say women they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know, you’ll know
Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself, it’s only me
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and,
Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness,
Like a heartbeat, drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering, what you had,
And what you lost and what you had and what you lost
Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Women, they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know
Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Say, women, they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know
You’ll know, you will know, you’ll know

Significant Songs (10 & 11)

Man Of The World/Big Love

Two songs this time, and for a reason. They signify the beginning, and end, of my long relationship with the band, Fleetwood Mac. By 1968, I was aware that John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers were splitting up all over the place, with former members starting up their own groups, and often heading in different directions. Few groups in the history of popular music have gone through as many incarnations as Fleetwood Mac. Band members have come and gone, and there have been splits, farewell tours, comeback tours, and retrospectives. Originally formed as far back as 1967, the present line up continues to this day, under the same name, with original members. Few others have endured forty-seven years in the music business, and can still play to packed houses. This puts Fleetwood Mac in the same company as The Rolling Stones, and the surviving Beatles, as well as the Beach Boys.

In 1969, I heard a single release by the founding line-up. Peter Green, a marvellous Blues artist, and amazing guitarist, wrote this song, ‘Man Of the World’, and it enjoyed considerable success. The plaintive tones, perfect vocals, and quiet guitar suggest a love song, but breaks in the style also show the Blues roots behind it. They went on to release more big-selling singles, with the song ‘Oh Well’ indicating the path that the band was taking. However, Peter Green was soon to leave the band, plagued with mental health issues that kept him away from the music scene for decades. The band added Christine McVie as a keyboard player and vocalist, and continued to record. In 1974, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the band, and huge success was just around the corner.

With Nicks’ big hair, flowing skirts, and distinctly American vocal, the group took a completely different route. The Blues was forgotten, and folk-rock became the order of the day, capturing the mood of the time, and delivering massive worldwide hits, like ‘Say You Love Me’, and ‘Rhiannon’. At much the same time, the personal lives of those in the group began to attract just as much attention. Writers seemed to be more interested in who was sleeping together, than in the musical output. Fleetwood Mac were in danger of becoming a cooler version of Abba, with relationship issues amongst band members threatening to break them up. Christine and John McVie were splitting up, Mick Fleetwood was getting a divorce, and the long relationship between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham also came to an end.

Amazingly, they endured these upheavals, and in 1977, went on to release the album ‘Rumours’. This is one of the best-selling albums of all time, with almost fifty million copies sold. It won numerous awards, and contained songs that almost everyone on the planet can recognise, including ‘Don’t Stop’, and ‘Go Your Own Way’. Fleetwood Mac had arrived in the mainstream, and could sell out any stadium or arena in the world. I was less impressed. As a fan of the earlier, Blues influenced music, I considered this to be something of a sell-out, and once it seemed that everyone had a copy of ‘Rumours’, I lost interest in the band, and could not get excited by the direction they were going in.

For the next ten years., they were unstoppable, and became a household name. Then, in 1987, they released their last album with the then current line-up, ‘Tango In The Night’. By then, Lindsey Buckingham was the inspirational force behind the group, and the track ‘Big Love’ caught my attention. This was more like it. Great beat, fine guitar, and superb vocals. It wasn’t really Fleetwood Mac anymore, but it would do for me. Sadly, that was the last song that I ever liked. Buckingham left the group, and though they continued to record, the magic was long gone.

Here is the original group, with ‘Man Of The World’, from 1969, and the official video of ‘Big Love’, from 1987.

Significant Songs (9)

I’d Rather Go Blind

In 1969, I heard a single release by the British blues band, Chicken Shack. It was sung by Christine Perfect, who went on to marry John McVie, and become part of Fleetwood Mac. I was entranced by the sadness of the lyrics, the bluesy feel, and the spot-on vocals of Christine. I went straight out and bought it, and listened to it over and over. However, something was niggling at me, and I was sure that I had heard it before, by someone else.

I did some research, not easy before the advent of the Internet. It involved reading Blues magazines and trade papers, until I discovered what I was looking for. Of course, it was Etta James, the diva of Blues, a voice without parallel. She had recorded it two years earlier, but it had enjoyed limited play and release, here in the UK, and had been marketed as a Soul record, not Blues. I knew that I could get it somewhere, and soon managed to source the vinyl single, almost three years after release. This was the genuine article. As much as I liked the Chicken Shack version, this was in another league.

If you have ever been in love, and that love has turned bad, then this is the definitive song for you. Blues, Soul, feeling and emotion, all wrapped up in one short song. This has hardly ever been bettered, despite the decades that separate it from the songs of today. Here are both versions, Etta first. You will get what I mean.