Fleetwood Mac began in 1967 in England when three ex-John Mayall Bluesbreaker members formed it. Peter Green was the band’s leader and lead guitarist, singer, and songwriter but jokingly named the group after combining the names of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass guitarist John McVie. Jeremy Spencer was a second guitarist, singer and songwriter that joined the band before they recorded their initial eponymous album in 1968. After the band was formed and began playing gigs it was known as “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac.” They had minor radio hits with “Black Magic Woman” and “Need Your Love So Bad.”
In 1969, “Albatross” reached #1 in the UK and was their first million-selling Gold record. It appeared on both English Rose and The Pious Bird of Good Omen and was a soothing instrumental. By the time Mr. Wonderful, the band’s 3rd album was produced in 1969, Danny Kirwan another singer, guitarist, and songwriter joined the band.
At the peak of its success, the band fell apart when Peter Green had a breakdown followed by Jeremy Spencer who joined the “Children of God” religious cult and also left the band. John McVie married vocalist, pianist, and songwriter Christine Perfect who then joined the band.
Between 1971 and 1974, Bob Welch was the primary guitarist as well as a vocalist and songwriter on four albums that also included Bob Weston and Dave Walker. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 for their 10th album as a different lineup for a new direction. Billy Burnette and Bekka Bramlett joined for a few years in the 1990s and then in 2018, Lindsey Buckingham left the band and Mike Campbell and Neil Finn joined.
These are the top ten songs gathered from the band’s prolific career.
“Landslide” appeared on “Fleetwood Mac’s 2nd eponymous album released in 1975 that sold seven-million copies. It was the first “Fleetwood Mac” album that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks appeared on as new band members. Nicks wrote the song in 1973 when she was staying at a friend’s house in Aspen, Colorado while Buckingham, her boyfriend at the time was on tour with Don Everly of the “Everly Brothers.” The song is a reflection that Nicks’ surrounding environment elicited as she pondered what her future might be.
“And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
‘Till the landslide brought me down”
9. “Rattlesnake Shake”
Fleetwood Mac’s third album Then Play On was released in 1969 and one of the standout tracks is “Rattlesnake Shake” written by Peter Green. The subject of the song is self love as a solution to going home alone without a chick.
“Yes, he do the shake
And jerks away the blues”
“Tusk” was the title song for the follow up album to Rumours that was released in 1979. The song was based on a riff that the band performed during sound check and introductions. The term itself was slang for the male sex organ according to Mick Fleetwood but Stevie Nicks used it to call attention to the ivory poachers that slaughtered rhinos and elephants for their tusks. It was recorded at Dodger Stadium with the University of Southern California marching band.
7. “I’m So Afraid”
Lindsey Buckingham wrote “I’m So Afraid” in 1971 but didn’t record it until 1975 after he joined “Fleetwood Mac.” It appeared on their second eponymous album which is also called the White album. The cut is an intense hard rocking number that became a staple of their live performances and even appeared on “Fleetwood Mac’s” live albums. It showcased Lindsey Buckingham’s prowess on the guitar and the intensity was compared to the band’s Peter Green era with songs like the “Green Manalishi.”
6. “Go Your Own Way”
“Go Your Own Way” is one of the best known songs by “Fleetwood Mac” and appeared on their 1977 landmark release of the Rumours album. The song was written by Lindsey Buckingham about his breakup with longtime girlfriend and band member Stevie Nicks. The song’s intensity was piqued by the tension generated in the studio because of the fact that all five of the band members were going through broken relationships and divorce at the time. The song reinforces the belief that great art comes through suffering and pain.
5. “Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)”
“Green Manalishi” appeared on Then Play On in 1969, the last year that Peter Green was a member of “Fleetwood Mac.” Green wrote the song after having a recurring nightmare about the evils of money and its spiritual connection. Soon afterward while the band was on tour in Germany he had a complete breakdown. After leaving the band he began giving his money away and essentially lived on the streets in England for a number of years. Judas Priest recorded it on their 1979 album Hell Bent For Leather the American version of Killing Machine.
4. “World Turning”
“World Turning” was written by Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie and appeared on the “White” album in 1975. The song is a re-working of Peter Green’s composition “The World Keep On Turning” that was on Fleetwood Mac’s initial self-titled album in 1968. The music inspired their version but has a faster tempo and the lyrics are completely different. In concert, the song included an extended drum solo by Mick Fleetwood and has been part of the band’s repertoire for nearly fifty years.
3. “Black Magic Woman”
“Black Magic Woman” was made a radio hit by Santana in 1970 when it appeared on his Abraxas album. It was originally written by Peter Green and recorded and released as a 45 rpm single by “Fleetwood Mac” in 1968 but only reached the #37 position in the UK. It was included in two compilation albums titled English Rose and The Pious Bird of Good Omen in 1969. Speculation about the actual meaning of the song ranges from referring to a girlfriend to a favorite car. The royalties that Green received from the hit that Santana made of it helped him survive after he gave all his money away.
“Albatross” was first released as a single and then appeared on two compilation albums in 1969 and gave “Fleetwood Mac” its only #1 hit on the UK singles chart. The composition was written by Peter Green and drew inspiration from a variety of sources beginning with “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge. Inspiration for the melody according to Green came from a 1957 instrumental recording by Chuck Berry called “Deep Feeling.”
1. “Oh Well Part 1 & 2”
“Oh Well Part 1 & 2” was “Fleetwood Mac’s 5th single and also appeared on the American version of their 3rd album Then Play On in 1969. Because of its length, when it was released as a 45 rpm record it had an A side and a B side but it was actually just one nine-minute song with two parts. On the album, it was just listed as “Oh Well” but there is a dramatic transition from electric guitar to acoustic for Part 2 along with Jeremy Spencer on piano. It is one of the songs from the Peter Green era that has endured the test of time and is regularly performed during concerts. Over the years singers have ranged from Bob Welch and Lindsey Buckingham to Billy Burnette, Bekka Bramlett and Mike Campbell.