Before Fleetwood Mac released their chart-topping self-titled album in 1975, they had put out nine LPs – only one of which managed to crack the Top 40 in the U.S. But the release of Fleetwood Mac heralded a grand new era for the band.
Formed in London in 1967 by singers and guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and drummer Mick Fleetwood, the group went through several lineup changes leading to the band’s move to the U.S. in 1974. They then recruited a pair of unknown American singer-songwriters, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, whose 1973 duo LP fared even worse than most Fleetwood Mac albums in the States.
But with a new group anchored by longtime members Fleetwood, bassist John McVie (who joined in time for their 1968 debut) and Christine McVie (who had participated since the band’s sophomore LP), Fleetwood Mac found new ground and fans in the mid ’70s that resulted in a string of hit albums, including one of the biggest of all time.
That lineup and period is rightfully celebrated, but before Buckingham and Nicks helped steer the onetime British blues band into a more California-sounding group, it still carved out a small legacy for itself. While the below list of Top 10 Pre-Lindsey Buckingham-Stevie Nicks Fleetwood Mac Songs is heavy on Green material, a couple of other transient members check in with contributions, too. No group playlist is complete without these early classics alongside later hits like “Go Your Own Way” and “Dreams.”
From: 1971 Single
With lyrical inspiration from a poem by W.H. Davies and a musical nod to the band’s earlier “Albatross,” the Danny Kirwan-penned and -sung “Dragonfly” marked a couple of firsts for Fleetwood Mac: It was their first single after Peter Green left the group and their first single with Christine McVie as a full-time member (she’d played with them since their second album, 1968’s Mr. Wonderful). It’s the undervalued Kirwan’s best song.
9. “Sentimental Lady”
From: Bare Trees (1972)
Bob Welch later reworked this highlight from Bare Trees into a 1977 Top 10 solo hit which included help from Buckingham and former bandmates Fleetwood and Christine McVie. She and the drummer provide the same backing on this earlier version that’s less lush than the later single. But their structures – aside from a solo verse omission – are nearly the same, setting the stage for the band’s move toward softer material.
8. “Need Your Love So Bad”
From: 1968 Single
Originally written and recorded by Little Willie John in 1955, “Need Your Love So Bad” is the best traditional blues recorded by Fleetwood Mac in any of their various lineups. An orchestral arrangement – newly composed by the guitarist who plays on John’s version – underlines Fleetwood Mac’s crawling rhythm, punctuated by Peter Green’s piercing solo. The strings add emotional depth, but this song is pretty powerful even without them.
From: Mystery to Me (1973)
Bob Welch played on five Fleetwood Mac albums – more than Peter Green and almost as many as Lindsey Buckingham. But he’s often overlooked in the band’s history, mostly because his tenure came during the group’s often aimless “wilderness years.” “Hypnotized,” the highlight from their eighth album, musically evokes the dreamy atmosphere of the song’s title, slipping into jazzy chords and an easygoing Welch vocal.
6. “Rattlesnake Shake”
From: Then Play On (1969)
Fleetwood Mac were starting to move away from the blues music that helped launch them by their third, era-best album. But Then Play On‘s greatest track is a Green-penned ode to masturbation that evokes Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf and the other legends who influenced him. It’s also one of Green’s toughest songs, a blistering electric blues complete with a slippery guitar riff that forcefully pulls it all along.
5. “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)”
From: 1970 Single
Green once said he wrote “The Green Manalishi” after he had a dream while high on acid. Apparently it has something to do with greed and money. Whatever the case, it’s Fleetwood Mac’s toughest-sounding song, a wall-shaking proto-metal number that was performed live well into the Buckingham era. A month after its April 1970 recording, Green quit the band he cofounded following a final concert.
4. “Man of the World”
From: 1969 Single
Not long before the recording of this 1969 single, Peter Green’s mental state began to take a downward turn, spurred along by his constant LSD use. The downcast “Man of the World” now musically and lyrically reflects his increasingly fragile frame of mind. “I could tell you about my life,” he sings. “About all the times I’ve cried and how I don’t want to be sad anymore.” It’s a gentle, reflective piece that’s more stirring every year.
3. “Black Magic Woman”
From: 1968 Single
Santana took a cover of “Black Magic Woman” to No. 4 in 1970 and arguably topped Fleetwood Mac’s original, but their structures are basically the same. The song is most likely an offshoot of “I Loved Another Woman,” a track from Mac’s self-titled 1968 debut LP that Peter Green based on earlier blues cuts. Like a handful of other Green-era songs, “Black Magic Woman” remained part of Fleetwood Mac’s live sets even after he left.
From: 1968 Single
Inspired by Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” and in turn an influence on the Beatles‘ “Sun King,” “Albatross” is one of the loveliest instrumentals ever recorded. Peter Green breezes through a serene solo aided by Fleetwood’s gentle, wave-breaking cymbals. The guitarist reportedly labored over the sound and performance of the song before finally nailing it in late 1968. Not longer after, it became the band’s only U.K. No. 1.
1. “Oh Well”
From: 1969 Single
“Oh Well” was originally released as a two-part single around the time of Fleetwood Mac’s third album, Then Play On. The A-side is the celebrated section, a meaty blues anchored by Green’s vocal and searing guitar; the flip side adds recorder, acoustic instruments and classical influences, bringing the song’s total to almost nine minutes. “Oh Well” has remained durable and in the band’s sets over the years, including onstage turns by later members Buckingham, Bob Welch and Mike Campbell.
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