Fleetwood Mac is really 4 or 5 different, only tangentially related bands. Starting as a spinoff project from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers as a vehicle for Peter Green to continue his blues work, they suffered through an unusual number of lineup changes, particularly affecting the frontmen and women. The only stalwart members are the rhythm section and band namesakes Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. The morphed into a MOR Rock outfit and eventually along with the Eagles the exemplars of California rock. And boy, the drama and the drugs! I won’t say much about that. It’s a whole different story, one you might already know.
This is more about the music from before and after their biggest era of fame.
At first, blues was their game. The first three albums album, starting with Fleetwood Mac in 1968, featured mostly original songs the fit squarely in the blues standard mould. With the instrumental hit “Albatross”, epic classic “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman” (later made huge by Santana) under their belts they were making waves.
And then the lineup exploded.
Peter Green left the band first due to boredom with the musical direction and mental illness, followed by Jeremy Spencer, who joined a cult. Other members came and went for various reasons, but the biggest addition was Christine McVie, wife of bassist John McVie, a former star in her own right in the late 60s under her original name Christine Perfect.
As Fleetwood Mac softened its sound and moved in a poppier direction, they shed their original fanbase and struggled to find new fans. The still had moderate success though, with hits from Bob Welch such as “Hypnotized” and “Sentimental Lady”.
They didn’t hit big enough, though, and eventually they were left with just Fleetwood and the McVies when Mick Fleetwood heard a demo of a young couple when touring a San Francisco recording studio. The couple, a guitarist and his girlfriend/singer, had put out a small but well-received album called Buckingham Nicks. Fleetwood wanted Lindsey Buckingham, but Buckingham insisted that his partner join as well. Stevie Nicks ended up being a superstar.
They were now the band we know now, with Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood. I don’t need to say much about them. But here:
Even this lineup fractured. New members came in to replace first Lindsey Buckingham, but eventually Stevie Nicks drifted away. These were entirely unmemorable attempts to keep Mick Fleetwood’s bank accounts in the black.
Only an attempted solo album brought them <em>almost </em> back together. Released in 2003, Say You Will was a Lindsey Buckingham album that morphed into a full band album when he asked the other members to “guest”. Christine McVie, however demurred. It wasn’t until 2015 when she permanently rejoined the band.
Today, they’re back in business. Maybe a new album one day?
Here are the people that aren’t in the band anymore. Some were there for months, some for a few years.
Dave Walker (also briefly frontman for Black Sabbath)