Originally formed as a blues band in London in 1967, the English/American band first topped the UK charts in 1968 with the instrumental single “Albatross”. They would find commercial superstardom in the mid-70’s with the addition of folk-rock duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, shifting their sound to a more straightforward guitar-driven pop-rock sound.
Following nearly ten line-up changes in as many years, the first Nicks/Buckingham recording, the self-titled “Fleetwood Mac” album was released in 1975 (fueled by 3 top twenty singles), giving the newest line-up their first number one album in the United States.
“Rumours”, the band’s 1977 follow-up album, became a sales juggernaut, logging 31 weeks at #1 on Billboard’s album chart, placing four singles into the top ten, and winning Record of the Year at 1978’s Grammy Awards. To date, the album has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums in history.
Almost as intriguing as their sales record is the interpersonal turmoil the group has been in and out of over the last 5 or 6 decades (relationship drama, firings, alcohol, drugs, and more). We’ll leave that up to you to research and read about. It’s definitely a story worth a movie (or two).
As we’ve done in the past, join us to revive, relive, and relate to the best of Fleetwood Mac. Here we present ten classic tracks we appreciate the most (in no particular order). If you have a favorite that didn’t make our cut, feel free to share those suggestions within the comments. We’ll definitely take a listen!
NOTE: CLICK ON THE IMAGES FOR A VIDEO PERFORMANCE OF EACH SONG
GO YOUR OWN WAY (1976)
Lindsey Buckingham kicked off sessions for 1977’s “Rumours” with this track inspired lyrically by his prior year’s break-up with singer Stevie Nicks. When Nicks first heard the song, she insisted on rewrites of lyrics that were obviously derogatory to her, but in the end, Buckingham left them as is, creating tension during live performances for years to come. With drums mimicking The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”, “Go Your Own Way” was literally constructed via recording sessions at three different studios, and a guitar solo pieced together from six different takes. The end result, as we all know, was flawless. 9/10
Peak Position in the US – #10 / UK – #38
Originally intended for inclusion on Nicks’ 1981 debut solo album, “Bella Donna”, this gem was instead held back for the 1982 Fleetwood Mac release “Mirage”. Fueled by nostalgia for her life before joining the band, the lyrics “sewn lace and paper flowers” take on new meaning when you realize Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham at one time lived the lives of gypsies, with no money for even a bed frame, subsisting on Nicks’ income from waitressing and cleaning houses. With a bare mattress on the floor, decorated with sewn lace and paper flowers, the duo made the best of what they had. At the time of its recording, the video for “Gypsy” was the most expensive video ever made (eclipsed a few years later by Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”) and was the very first “World Premiere Video” on MTV. Although the filming was unpleasant for Nicks (who temporarily left rehab for a cocaine addiction to film it), that long-held note and the freeze frame in the downpour are pure gold still today. 8/10
Peak Position in the: US – #12 (3 weeks) / UK – #46
YOU MAKE LOVING FUN (1977)
Question for you. Was this 4th and final single from “Rumours” the result of Christine McVie’s love for her dog or her secret love affair with the band’s lighting director? Something tells me former spouse John McVie doesn’t appreciate the answer. Interestingly enough, pop star Cyndi Lauper recorded a cover version in 1984 that was only released in Japan. Cashbox said of the single, “McVie’s magical words are complemented by angelic backing vocals, strident guitar melodies, and the pulsating backbeat reinforced by her own electric keyboard.” 8/10
Peak Position in the: US – #9 / UK – #45
Not being a member of a super group myself, I imagine the task of following up a monster blockbuster album like “Rumours” would be an intense and challenging experience. Out of the gate, Lindsey Buckingham wanted an album that sounded nothing like its predecessor, resulting in 1979’s sonically experimental “Tusk” album. The single, featuring USC’s Trojan Marching Band as well as sound effects from a leg of lamb, a spatula, multiple Kleenex boxes and other odds and ends is what Billboard deemed “an eerie combination of vocals and a heavy percussion track” and not as accessible as other Fleetwood Mac songs…with difficulty getting a handle on the hook. I thought then and still feel today that “Tusk”, the single, is a cool dose of mesmerizing confusion. 8/10
Peak Position in the: US – #8 / UK – #6
DON’T STOP (1977)
One of the most enduring tracks by Fleetwood Mac, “Don’t Stop” was composed by Christine McVie in the aftermath of her 8-year marriage to bandmate John McVie and was the third single from “Rumours”. The song was adopted by Bill Clinton during his successful run for President in 2000 and also by Conservative David Cameron when he was the party leader in the UK. 10/10
Peak Position in the US – #3 / UK – #32
“Sara”, the second single from “Tusk” is another example of mysterious origins when it comes to Fleetwood Mac. On one hand, Stevie Nicks contends the track was written about a friend named Sara, who married Nicks’ ex and bandmate Mick Fleetwood. An alternative version comes from former Nicks’ boyfriend Don Henley, who claimed the song was actually about their unborn child, who they would have named Sara. A year after its release, Stevie Nicks was sued for plagiarism by a songwriter who’d submitted a song titled “Sara” to Warner Bros. Records in 1978. Nicks was able to provide a demo recorded prior to the lyrics being sent to the record company, and the suit was dismissed. 8/10
Peak Position in the: US – #7 / UK – #37
Holding the distinction of being Fleetwood Mac’s only number one single on Billboard’s Hot 100, “Dreams” is another Stevie Nicks composition, this one the second single from “Rumours”. Amid the aforementioned emotional disarray of the group while recording their most successful album, Nicks found a quiet space in an unused studio at The Record Plant in Sausalito and composed this smash in 10 minutes. Although the band hated the song initially, Nicks pleaded and convinced them to record it the next day. After restructuring of chord progressions and adding a common thread throughout by Lindsey Buckingham, the song took on an entirely different vibe. Since its initial release, the single has experienced resurgence in popularity on various occasions, from exposure on Fox’s “Glee” to viral tweets and even a TikTok video where Nathan Apodaca lip syncs while skating down an Idaho highway sipping Ocean Spray cran-raspberry juice. 9/10
Peak Position in the: US: #1 / UK: #24
Among the oldest of the selected tracks for today’s list, “Landslide” first appears on the self-titled 1975 release “Fleetwood Mac”. As a single lifted 23 years later from the live recording “The Dance”, the track found a new audience and peaked at #51 in the US. Several years later, The Dixie Chicks took the song to #7 before lead singer Natalie Maines publicly criticized then-US President George W. Bush, resulting in the track dropping like a rock a week later. The composition was originally inspired by Nicks in Aspen looking out over the Rockies while contemplating an avalanche of decisions she faced about her future. 9/10
Peak Position in the: US – #51
SAY YOU LOVE ME (1976)
“Say You Love Me” is arguably one of the most recognizable Fleetwood Mac singles in their more than 50-year career. Written by Christine McVie, the song was the final single release from 1975’s “Fleetwood Mac” album. Both Billboard and Cashbox magazine praised the song, noting its “easy guitar playing”, “good, catchy bridge”, and it’s “mid-tempo rock rhythm”. 8/10
Peak Position in the: US – #11 / UK #40
For some reason, when I listen to songs written by Stevie Nicks (whether for her solo career or for Fleetwood Mac), I tend to think of certain terms. Words like mysticism, voodoo, witchcraft, darkness, gypsies, and mythology just to name a few. Much of the allure of Stevie Nicks can be traced back directly to the song “Rhiannon”, taken from 1975’s “Fleetwood Mac” album. In researching the single, I discovered Nicks was entranced by a novel called “Triad” by Mary Bartlet Leader, which featured a mysterious character named Rhiannon. Billboard described it as a “haunting song” with an “infectious melody”. Nicks simply said it’s about a Welsh witch and left it at that. 9/10
Peak Position in the: US – #11 – UK #46
So, there you have it. What are your thoughts on our favorite 10 Fleetwood songs? What others do you recommend? Leave your thoughts via a comment on the page!
Before you leave, please check out our previous entries in the “Our Ten” series here on Moteventure!