Fleetwood Mac: Revisit 7 Classic Songs
In the case of Fleetwood Mac, it's not difficult to curate a playlist of hits. After all, they've scored 16 that have cracked the Top 40.
But as with select artists whose careers span decades, the Fleetwood Mac catalog is far richer than the likes of "Dreams," "Don't Stop," "Go Your Own Way," "Sara," and "Tusk." Indeed, the Rumours-era lineup of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood — who will be honored as the 2018 MusiCares Person of the Year — mined an assortment of precious gems from 1975's Fleetwood Mac to 1987's Tango In The Night.
For those looking to dig deeper than the obvious songs, have a listen to these 7 diamonds that might have flown by like a "Songbird" under the radar, but make for essential Fleetwood Mac listening just the same.
"Monday Morning" (Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
"Monday morning you look so fine/Friday I got travelin' on my mind"
As the saying goes, first impressions are everything. "Monday Morning," the first track on Fleetwood Mac, offered listeners a satisfying taste of the new Buckingham/Nicks-fronted lineup. Tuneful pop sensibilities and hooks abound, led by Buckingham's animated voice, showers of heavenly harmonies and a rock-steady rhythm section. (Check Buckingham's deft slide guitar break as well.) Despite the track's upbeat nature, upon closer listen there's a troubling relationship issue at play, a theme the group would explore ably on Rumours. In this case, the couple (presumably Buckingham and Nicks) is so happy together on Mondays but come Fridays they take a bad turn — positing how intense feelings can turn on a dime.
"The Chain" (Rumours, 1977)
"And if you don't love me now/You will never love me again/I can still hear you saying/You would never break the chain"
"The Chain" is literally a team effort, with all five band members receiving songwriting credit and shining as an ensemble. Buckingham's dobro lines, John McVie's thundering bass, Fleetwood's inventive percussion, the harmonic blend of Buckingham and Nicks, and Christine McVie's reverb-drenched background vocals muster a musical depth not found elsewhere on Rumours. The stronger link in "The Chain" is the spooky jam that commences at the three-minute mark and twists and turns until fade-out. "Something magical was happening while the band was playing down the song — I could see that they had started to feel the excitement, too," said producer Ken Caillat in his 2013 book, Making Rumours. "In many ways, it is the band's manifesto."
"Silver Springs" (Rumours B-side, 1977)
"You could be my Silver Springs/Blue-green colors flashing"
"Silver Springs" glistens as an example of just how deep the wellspring of songwriting ran in Fleetwood Mac. The song was tracked but ultimately left on the Rumours cutting-room floor in favor of "I Don't Want To Know," and later relegated to a B-side on the "Go Your Own Way" single. Tackling a relationship situation from a "what could have been" scenario, Nicks stitches pretty imagery ("I would be your only dream/Your shining autumn ocean crashing") together with stern warnings ("I will follow you down until the sound of my voice will haunt you"). Gentle-as-a-feather dynamics support throughout, propelled by Buckingham's delicate guitar swells and shimmery harmonics. Ultimately, "Silver Springs" found its well-deserved day in the sun, with the live version from 1997's The Dance earning a GRAMMY nomination. The original recording has been included on recent expanded reissues of Rumours.
"Save Me A Place" (Tusk, 1979)
"Save me a place/I'll come running if you love me today"
Rather than assemble Rumours II, Fleetwood Mac charted a rebellious direction with Tusk, an ambitious double album masterminded by Buckingham that is perhaps best described as their chaotic version of the White Album. "Save Me A Place" is but one example of the disparate material he contributed, which tossed aside radio-friendly nuances in favor of off-the-wall aesthetics (for example, taping microphones to the ground and singing into the floor). This insular song finds an interesting middle ground with a crooning Buckingham innocently pleading over a chiming acoustic track, anchored by a boxy, lo-fi drumbeat. The result is a delectable mix of sweet and melancholy.
"Never Forget" (Tusk, 1979)
"We'll never forget tonight/What a wonderful night to be/The stars must be my friends/To shine for me"
There are lovely voices and then there is Christine McVie's voice. Running counter to Buckingham's oddball leanings and Nicks' mysticism on Tusk, McVie brought her honey-laced contralto and literate pop songcraft to the party, with songs like "Never Forget" dripping with romantic sentiment. With her breezy hit "Over & Over" opening the album and "Never Forget" closing it out, McVie bookends Tusk as if to provide listeners warm, cozy boundaries amid the chaos.
"Straight Back" (Mirage, 1982)
"What can I say this time/Which chord shall I play/The dream is not over/The dream is just away"
As with 1975's "Rhiannon," the A minor tonal center in "Straight Back" provides a backdrop that somehow casts a more hypnotizing tint on Nicks' voice. The tune is classic Mac through and through with layered harmonies, howling Buckingham guitar lines and a sturdy rhythm section framework, topped with rare vocal interplay between Nicks and Christine McVie. "There's no doubt that having come off Tusk there was a conscious effort to make Mirage into more of a band album," Fleetwood told Rolling Stone. While the lyrics are surely open to interpretation, an interesting theory comes courtesy of fan site StevieNicks.info, which has concluded the song is a capsule of Nicks' career challenges at the time: balancing her flowering solo career after the success of 1981's Bella Donna with returning to the Fleetwood Mac fold for Mirage.
"Mystified" (Tango In The Night, 1987)
"Pretty darling/This feeling is deep inside/You got me mystified"
A full decade removed from Rumours, Tango In The Night is a different slice of Fleetwood Mac served chilled with a high-gloss chaser. Once again, Christine McVie's pop offerings are nestled comfortably in the middle of Buckingham's edginess and Nicks' fairy tales. "Mystified," a McVie/Buckingham collaboration, is an exquisite dose of ear candy that benefits from cinematic instrumentation, ethereal vocal layers and glorious '80s production flourishes. In addition to scoring with the hits "Everywhere" and "Little Lies," deeper McVie cuts like "Mystified" add proof that she benefited the most from Tango In The Night's slick, dreamy soundscapes.