Just the name is enough to give record store owners the shakes and make Warner Brothers record executives dislocate their shoulders patting themselves on the back.
Fleetwood Mac is record sales calculated in zillions; it's every other song on the radio, giving new meaning to the term "FM"; it's sold out concerts and sold-out albums, a household name. Fleetwood Mac is Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.
It wasn't always like that.
In the mid to late 1960s, Fleetwood Mac was one of England's premier blues bands, second in influence only to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. (In fact, guitarist Peter Green and bassist, John McVie both played with Mayall). Fleetwood Mac was good but it wasn't particularly popular, especially in the United States. It's still good, but now it's also popular. Need we say more about it's popularity?
The music world is filled with Fleetwood Mac clones.
Possibly the biggest is Bob Welch, who once was the real McCoy (McMac?). Welch left the band to follow his own directions, and after floundering with a hard-rock band called Paris, he re-recorded "Sentimental Lady," a song he'd originally done with Fleetwood Mac. He also got Christine McVie and Lindsay Buckingham (his replacement) to produce the song and got everyone but Nicks to play on it. Viola - smash city. Welch's "French Kiss" (Capitol, ST 11663) so unds more like Fleetwood Mac than Fleetwood Mac, more, at least, than the Fleetwood Mac represented on three newly reissued albums.
Sire Records, the label that recently gave you the Dead Boys, and Richard Hell and the Voidoich now gives you Fleetwood Mac. Actually, three Fleetwood Macs - four, if you count Christine McVie's disasters, "The Legendary Christine Perfect Album" (Sire SR 6022).
We won't Any resemblance between these Fleetwood Macs and the current Fleetwood Mac is strictly in the way they spell their names.
"Fleetwood Mac - The Vintage Years" (Sire 2XS 6006) is a two-record set of very early numbers, most of which bear the stamp of leader and guitarist Peter Green. Beaides Green, the personnel includes guitarists Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan, McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood. All contribute, but the set belongs to Green.
There are only two familiar tunes here. One is "Albatross," the band's first American hit single and the theme song for the British television show "Top of the Pops." The other is "Black Magic Woman," which was written by Green as a blues piece and later Latino'd into a gold record by Santana. Other than that, it's catch as catch can.
The melodies, though, leave no doubt that the earlier Fleetwood Mac was a guitarband; and a blues guitar band at that.
If you don't believe "Vintage Years," check out "The Original Fleetwood Mac" (Sire SR 6045). The original Fleetwood Mac is Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. The album is subtitled "Rare and Vintage Recordings from 1967."
Rare they are, vintage - not quite. Keep in mind that Christine McVie's "Christine perfect Album" is subtitled "Rare and Vintage Recordings from 1969." As with wine, age alone does not a classio make.
Regardless of titles, "The Original Fleetwood Mac" offers more to the collector than "Vintage-Years." For one thing, all of these titles are previously unissued. For another, Christine McVie plays piano on several tracks - the first time her name appears on a Fleetwood Mac session. The guitar interplay between Green and Spencer is magnetic, and you can hear how the foundation was laid for the later arrival of Kirwan (and, even later, Welch). That was the year of "Surrealistic Pillow," "Light My Fire" and "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
Up against that lineup, these compositions stood little chance; but something was definitely happening.
What was happening really happens in "Fleetwood Mac in Chicago" (Sire 2XS 6009). This two-reocrd package was originally recorded in 1969 at the Chess Record studios in Chicago. On hand to help out were Otis Spann, Willie Dixon, Shankey Horton, J.T. Brown, Guitar Buddy, Honeyboy Edwards and S.P. Leary, a rather impressive passel of bluesmen. Marshall Chess himself produced some of the session and the licks fly hot and heavy.
But then, Kirwan was full-time and Spencer was gone, but Peter Green still called the shots. His commanding presence is everywhere, and he and Kirwan both benefit from the bona fide legends burning up the jams. Of the three reissues, "Fleetwood Mac in Chicago" is the real find, the Big Mac if you will.
Peter Green left the band soon after this, and Christine McVile joined. Bob Welch later replaced the departing Kirwan and Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham finally replaced Welch. The addition of the Californians changed Fleetwood Mac's still evolving thrust.
Fleetwood Mac on these three albums might as well be marketed under another name.
The music on them is completely different from anything the present-day Fleetwood Mac has ever produced. But a different name wouldn't capitalize on the household word as these do, whether this particular music makes it to that many households or not.