Fading British blues band Fleetwood Mac were in the market for a guitarist and a revival, Lindsay Buckingham was the man they had in mind, but he and Stevie Nicks came as a package deal. In 1975, on their 11th record, the band signified a rebirth by self-titling their first album as the eponymous five-piece, which now included Buckingham and Nicks.
When the wide-eyed world of cocaine-kookiness from Californian couple Buckingham and Nicks collided with the booze and blues bounty of the very British Fleetwood Mac, on paper, it may well have been a mixed-up milieu that precluded productivity. Perhaps it would have been worse still if they were all fucking each other. But possibly worst of all was the reality that they were all suddenly not doing so, after the toil of touring their rebirth record. Somehow the pop-rock masterpiece of Rumours was spawned from that reality, nevertheless.
With Rumours, not only had the band secured a place on the figurative Mount Rushmore of rock ‘n’ roll legends, but they also had a brand-new identity, so much so that with Buckingham and Nicks lending lyrics and licks, they were pretty much a new entity.
Ask any builder, though, and they’ll tell you that anything that springs up overnight must surely already have solid foundations in place; Fleetwood Mac were no different. Since July 1967, when Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and Jeremy Spencer formed the group, with John McVie soon following, they have been crafting out their one niche of adrenalised sonic energy. Below, we’re looking at the very best of the foundations that lay in place.
The five best Fleetwood Mac tracks before Buckingham & Nicks:
5. ‘Man of the World’
Mick Fleetwood has made it clear that without Peter Green, there would be no Fleetwood Mac. The blues-rock guitar virtuoso is one of the most mythologised men in rock ‘n’ roll, but the short truth of the story is that he was one of the greatest guitarists of all time who struggled with the hedonism of the scene.
Green wrote this song about how he achieved everything he wanted to with a set of his good old pals, but despite loving his bandmates and all the good times he was having, he still felt incomplete.
By his usual blistering 12-bar standards, the song is tender and mellowed, and his rare spaced-out strumming lends it a heart-wrenching sincerity. Despite the melancholy overture, the track is still equal parts an ode to his friends and good times.
When discussing the early years of Fleetwood Mac, it is clear that ‘Albatross’ was the defining anthem. It was one of Fleetwood Mac’s first-ever hits, taken from their album The Pious Bird of Good Omen from 1968, and rippled with the band’s early intent.
Produced by Peter Green, this guitar-led track is probably one of the most famous instrumentals of all time. While it doesn’t often appear on the band’s Greatest Hits compilations, there’s no other track like it. And there’s no better representation of where and how the band started and the vibrancy of inspiration they dished out to their contemporaries, with The Beatles famously riffing on the track in their latter stages.
Imitating the aura of the seaside, Mick Fleetwood’s drum-playing is a sloshing lull of contentment, while Peter Green’s tour de force guitar join is a gathering sonic storm. The result is a thrilling day out that couples expert musicianship with cleverly crafted artistry.
3. ‘Oh Well Part 1’
‘Oh Well Part 1’ is another track composed by Peter Green, and once more, it shows off his guitar bravura with epic aplomb. On the surface, the song is turbocharged blues music, but it is so fast and frenzied that calling it “blues” is like comparing a horse with a car.
For the band, the song was a huge success, sustaining the number two spot in the UK charts for two weeks and securing their name as one best band’s in Britain despite only forming a measure of months earlier.
Now, the song resides as a Promethean piece of music that in some ways heralded the forthcoming wave of heavy metal. With call and response vocals and an intricate syncopated ascending chromatic, there is a lot of ‘Oh Well Part 1’ in many songs that followed.
2. ‘The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)’
One of the brilliant things about Fleetwood Mac, that has endeared them to many throughout the eras, is that they have never been without drama. Regardless of the incarnation, there has always been something inherently bombastic about the band both on stage and off it.
Never has a song title embodied that sort of intrinsic mayhem more than ‘The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)’. The fact that this song later became a staple for Judas Priest and Melvins, shows the underlying proto-metal tones of the band in the 1960s.
The song is a swirl of musical genres, cutting the whispy bullshit of some of the more poncy elements of psychedelia out of the picture and relishing in seeing what you could do with it. The track is never boring and always very listenable fun.
1. ‘Woman of 1000 Years’
The tale of Fleetwood Mac contributor, Danny Kirwan, is a tragic one. He was eventually sacked from Fleetwood Mac because, as Mick Fleetwood told Men’s Journal, “He was wonderful, but couldn’t handle the life,” and eventually ended up homeless on the streets of London.
During his time with the band, however, he wrote some wonderful songs and none more so than ‘Woman of 1000 Years’. In many ways, the track and the vying studio sound of the band laid down the groundwork for Buckingham and Nicks to fall into.
The song is all about harmonies and in an ever-changing line-up, that perfectly fits the ethos of the band. There are no studio spectators in any Fleetwood Mac song; everybody with a credit on the sleeve is juicing themselves to the pith to be worthy of it, and this dreamy Cali-pop gem typifies that perfectly, as it wails with the sanguine hum of summer.