There’s a long history connecting the paranormal to popular music. Songs like Blink-182’s ‘Aliens Exist’ and Hüsker Dü’s ‘Books About UFOs’ specifically cite strange phenomena, but extraterrestrials were also responsible for the naming of bands like Foo Fighters and Jefferson Starship. The rock and roll world is filled with sci-fi tales of otherworldly beings, and one of the least expected examples comes from one of the genre’s most popular bands: Fleetwood Mac.
Back before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks got involved with the group, Fleetwood Mac were being steered by American Bob Welch. Welch had taken over guitar and vocal duties after a litany of players came and went, including Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, and Danny Kirwan. Welch brought a jazzier touch to the Mac’s music while expanding the scope of their sound beyond love songs and blues. That included his interest in the unknowns of space, which he incorporated into one of his signature tracks during his tenure in Fleetwood Mac, ‘Hypnotized’.
“‘Hypnotized’ was first a ‘shuffle-time blues rocker’ for singer Dave Walker (ex-Savoy Brown lead singer) when Fleetwood Mac had Dave on board as a band member for a (very) short while,” Welch told Songfacts in 2012, shortly before his death. “When we realised that Dave was not fitting in musically with what we were trying to do, I hurriedly re-wrote the lyrics in Christine McVie’s upstairs living room at ‘Benifolds,’ the ‘mansion’ south of London where we all lived and recorded at the time – it was a 20 room house. The ‘playing field’ mentioned in one of the verses made a reference to the large grass tennis court which was part of the property… and kind of spooky at night.”
“I was (and still am) interested in the paranormal – UFO’s, the Carlos Castaneda books about the Yaqui Indian ‘sorcerer’ Don Juan – so I incorporated a lot of these themes and references into the song,” Welch continued. “The ‘place down in Mexico’ refers to Castaneda’s Yaqui sorcerer, Don Juan, who is presumably doing ‘astral’ travel. The ‘strange, strange pond’ with ‘sides like glass’ refers to a strange anomalous depression in the North Carolina woods near Winston-Salem, North Carolina which a friend told me about, which, at the time, freaked him (and his dirt-biking buddies) out.”
Included on the 1973 album Mystery to Me, ‘Hypnotised’ proved to be a solid FM radio hit, finally giving Fleetwood Mac an established identity outside of the shadow that Peter Green had cast over the band half a decade earlier. Welch would stick around for one more album, 1974’s Heroes Are Hard to Find, before embarking on a solo career. During early shows of the Buckingham-Nicks era, Buckingham was forced to imitate Green and Welch on some of the band’s best-known material, with ‘Hypnotized’ often being slated as the band’s final encore.
Check out the studio version of ‘Hypnotized’ down below.