Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fleetwood Mac "strange"? You bet!

I wasn't a big Fleetwood Mac fan back in highschool, when they were at their popular peak after their albums FLEETWOOD MAC & RUMOURS came out. I didn't catch on til slightly later. I thot "Over My Head" was a nice pop single, "Rhiannon" had a striking guitar opening & some nice choruses, but "Say You Love Me" wore out fast & I thot "Dreams" was just mush.
I was stopped in my tracks by "Go Your Own Way," which I thot was a GREAT pop single with killer choruses & great guitar-work -- thot I might havta look into these guys. But the dull "Don't Stop" made me think they were Just Another Band.
In fact, despite "Go Your Own Way," I held off buying RUMOURS for a long time, mainly because I didn't think any album that held the #1 spot 4 22 weeks could possibly be that good -- commercial yes, but not "good" as I defined it then, as the daring, Xploring champion of "Strange Music" that I then fancied myself.
This resistance lasted til I heard "The Chain," which was definitely as dark & loud & spooky as anyone could want, with great group vocals, more great guitar, & an undercurrent of darkness & violence & frustrated love that this band hadn't unleashed previously.
Then I heard the bouncy "You Make Loving Fun," with its rolling rhythms & its breathy Southern California-style overlapping group vocals straight outta the Beach Boys, & that finished me off.
I still don't much like RUMOURS as a total album -- it's inconsistent, too many weak spots ("Second Hand News," "Never Going Back Again," "Oh Daddy," "I Don't Want to Know," + the above) -- but there's a lot there, & the album does take on & subvert the standard Southern California love-affair mores & morals of the time -- + there's more darkness on trax like "Gold Dust Woman."
For me, the best song was left off the album -- Stevie Nicks' gorgeous "Silver Springs," a cry of brokenhearted despair that Mick Fleetwood said in his autobiography he still doesn't understand why they left out. Maybe because it would've weighted the album 2 heavily with Nicks songs? & she already had the finale spot with "Gold Dust Woman"...?
Anybody who thot a band with such a creamy MOR reputation as Fleetwood Mac couldn't possibly get into any dark areas obviously wasn't paying much attention.
The Mac had been doing unique, striking, brilliant, off-the-wall, just downright strange stuff since their beginnings as a British Blues band at the end of the 1960's. From the poor-boy-blues-into-guitar-fantasia of "Oh Well" 2 guitarist Peter Green's horrific portrait of the Hellhound On His Trail in "The Green Manalishi," these folks were well aware of the darker aspects of life.
The fact that Green & rhythm guitarist Jeremy Spencer both dropped outta the band 2 join religious cults just made things stranger.... But I didn't find out this stuff 'til later....
I got really intrested when TUSK was released late in '79. It promised 2 B much more adventurous than RUMOURS -- the band was said 2 B stretching themselves a bit. & they did -- from the shimmering, icy, shivery production of Stevie Nicks' & Christine McVie's songs, 2 Lindsey Buckingham's more upbeat & raucous new-wave-influenced #'s, I thot the whole thing was pretty much a triumph, with a lot of hidden gems.
There was a lot to take in, 20 songs spread over 4 sides, from Nicks' epics "Sara," "Storms," "Angel" & "Beautiful Child," 2 the mysterious & driving "Sisters of the Moon," 2 McVie's gorgeous, breathy "Brown Eyes" & "Never Forget," 2 the stark "Never Make Me Cry," 2 Buckingham's brilliant shoulda-been-hit "I Know I'm Not Wrong" & his rough-edged "What Makes You Think You're the One," "Not That Funny" & "The Ledge," & the despairing "That's All for Everyone." & the echoey, chaotic title track.
Some folks thot it was disappointing compared 2 RUMOURS, but I wasn't 1 of 'em. TUSK became my fave album ever 4 doing household chores -- just the clash & combination of diffrent moods kept me bouncing around 4 weeks. It shoulda won a Grammy.
The 2-record LIVE came out at the end of the TUSK tour & was a nice souvenir, worth it if just for 5 songs: Buckingham's rousing opener "Monday Morning," Nicks' "Fireflies," McVie's lonely "One More Night," Buckingham's screaming molten guitar freakout on "I'm So Afraid," & the gorgeous breathy cover of the old Beach Boys # "The Farmer's Daughter."
MIRAGE came out in '82 & was described as "the REAL sequel to RUMOURS." I thot it was better, more consistent, with gorgeous tracks like Nicks' "Gypsy," McVie's smooth "Love in Store" & "Only Over You," Nicks' country nod "That's All Right," & Buckingham's '50s throwbacks "Oh Diane" & "Book of Love."
But Side 2 had some genuinely strange & wonderful stuff on it -- Nicks' rather chilly "Straight Back," Buckingham's marvelous doo-wop "Eyes of the World," & McVie's gorgeous closer "Wish You Were Here." I thot it was the album of the year.
I wasn't that thrilled with TANGO IN THE NIGHT, tho there's some great stuff on it -- "Everywhere" was another gorgeous ballad with more breathy vocals straight outta 1977, but McVie's "Isn't it Midnight?" combined that with some driving guitar, & the title track shoulda gone on longer with another 1 of those "I'm So Afraid"-style guitar freakouts.
I thot BEHIND THE MASK was deadly dull Xcept 4 the sinister & hypnotic "In the Back of My Mind." After that I lost track of The Mac 4 a few years while they had personnel issues.
Meanwhile, I looked in2 their past: Discovered FLEETWOOD MAC hadda coupla great overlooked trax like "World Turning" & "Monday Morning" -- by then "Landslide" had become the album-rock classic it deserved to be.
I heard their 25 YEARS/THE CHAIN best-of while living in the middle of Wyoming in the mid-'90s & 4 the 1st time I heard summa their early Blues Band stuff -- VERY diffrent from The Mac most folks have heard. I heard the original "Sentimental Lady" that Bob Welch later had a solo hit with (which I bought as a single), with help from Buckingham & Nicks. I heard a McVie-composed 45 called "Dissatisfied" (from PENGUIN, I think), that shoulda been a hit & woulda fit right in on RUMOURS. But the biggest suprise was the CD-set closer, a stunning brokenhearted McVie # called "Why?" that I still think is 1 of the best things the band ever did, & that made me seek-out MYSTERY TO ME, where I heard Welch's laid-back but spooky "Hypnotized."
A coupla years back when The Mac came out with a new album I didn't think there was a chance in hell it could match any of their old stuff -- especially when I heard Christine McVie had retired. Then I heard Buckingham's "Peacekeeper" & thot there might be some life in the old beast yet. But when I heard Nicks' charming "Say You Will," I hadta buy the album. & I was grateful 2 find that Buckingham was still pursuing his weirdness in songs like "Murrow Rolling Over in His Grave" (which paints a chaotic picture of R fast-moving ultra-modern media-obsessed society), "Miranda," the spooky "Red Rover" & the dark 6-minute epic "Come." I wasn't that impressed with summa Nicks' work, but I'm glad she's still around, even if it was just so I could hear that wonderful transformation in2 the children's chorus at the end of "Say You Will."
A few years back when the 2-CD VERY BEST OF FLEETWOOD MAC collection came out, I was working in the music dept of a certain department-store chain 4 the Xmas season. When 1 woman took a look at the CD, I began raving about what a great band The Mac was, what great songs they had, what marvelous production, great vocals, amazing rhythm section, on&on -- I went babbling on like that 4 a coupla mins. When I finally paused 2 catch my breath, she said: "I take it you must be a pretty big fan of these people?"
Well, yes.

1 comment:

drewzepmeister said...

Sorry for being a couple of days behind, I've been working overtime...Anyways, I'm a bit a huge Fleetwood Mac fan myself. I thoroughly loved Fleetwood Mac and Rumours! Tusk although highly ambitious, had its great moments. Mirage and Tango in the Night both had their bright spots. I didn't care too much for Behind the Mask. I thought the live reunion, The Dance, was excellent! As far as Say You Will went, I liked it, but I was bothered by the absence of Christine McVie.

Have you ever heard any live bootlegs from Fleetwood Mac? If you haven't, I'd highly recommend getting a hold of some. They tend to be improvisational, changed lyrics and longer guitar solos.

That kind of bums me out though, I never seen Fleetwood Mac in concert...