One Name, Two Different Bands

When you hear the name “Fleetwood Mac” many people are unaware that there have been essentially two, maybe three versions of the band, all containing the brilliant rhythm unit of Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass guitar.  That engine room remained unchanged for decades, and powered the band through all its various incarnations.

But the music that surrounded that rhythm unit was changeable.

Most people equate the Fleetwood Mac name with the drippy 1980s version which pumped out bouncy neo-ABBA megahits like “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” and “You Can Go Your Own Way”, and people who think this was the best version of Fleetwood Mac make the mistake of equating commercial success with musical value — “They sold a lot of records, so they must be good” (cf. Elton John, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift etc.).  (That’s actually the opinion of the recording industry, only those reptiles put it more honestly:  “Those longhaired assholes made us more money than the Small Faces or Steely Dan”.)

But the better band, by a country mile, was the first version — originally called “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac”, which differentiates them from the later popcorn Mac.

And all this came from the notice yesterday that Mac’s founder Peter Green had just died, at age 73.

Now Green was an absolutely brilliant blues guitarist — at the time, technically quite the equal of people like Jeff Beck, Paul Kossoff and other British blues players of the era — but like most lead guitarists, he was a hopeless head case so his music never achieved the level of Beck et al.  That doesn’t mean they were bad — anything but — but his blues-drenched music, lyrics and psychodelia were not, to put it mildly, commercially attractive.

Take a listen to Man Of The World, and pay especial attention to the lyrics — and that was about as commercial as they got.  Even old standards like I Need Your Love So Bad were given the Peter Green treatment.

And let’s not forget Black Magic Woman — the original Green version, as it turns out, not the salsa Santana copy.

And when this Fleetwood Mac weren’t doing old-fashioned slit-your-wrist blues, they were causing record industry executives to tear their hair out with instrumental songs like Albatross and incomprehensible free-form ditties like Oh Well (which came in two parts, thus ensuring it would never get airplay on the radio stations of the time).  Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite Mac songs.

Of course, it didn’t last.  Peter Green lost his mind, lived on the streets, and Fleetwood Mac went into their 1b) version, which I also rather liked because shortly before he quit, the band had got guitarists Danny Kirwan (who wrote their only truly commercial hit Green Manalishi) and Bob Welch, as well as the incomparable blues singer Christine Perfect (who’d sung Chicken Shack’s I’d Rather Go Blind, and later married bassist McVie).

Then it all went to shit.  The band broke up, all the guitarists and singers were fired, Fleetwood and the two McVies moved to the United States, and out of the shit eventually came the version containing the warbly Stevie Nicks and commercial songwriter Lindsay Buckingham, and the rest, as they say, is history (as chronicled here).  And I’m not interested in it.

When you have Bill Clinton using one of your songs as a campaign anthem… well, that says it all, really.

But any guitarist of any worth knows all about Peter Green, his virtuosity and his contribution to music.



  1. “the brilliant rhythm unit of Mick Fleetwood on bass guitar and John McVie on drums”
    Well, close… 😉

    1. Serves me right for writing a post before I’d had my morning gin. Fixed, thankee.

      1. I was going to say something early this am when I first read it, but I said to myself, “Nah, he’s on a roll.”*

        * Classical reference.

    1. Mick was always the only drummer.

      The Bob Welch stretch produced some of my all time favorite FM cuts. His guitar work on 8 Miles High is killer. His last fling with FM, Heros, also has a great collection of his writing and playing. I was sorry to see him go and especially saddened that he was so ill, he took his life about 10 years ago.

      I had the great pleasure of seeing him play in a small club in Denver many years ago. He was an amazing guitarist.

      His replacement, Lindsey Buckingham, is also a hell of a guitar player and FM has had some pretty good cuts with him too.

      The fact they went goo-goo eyed when the Clinton campaign selected one of their songs didn’t diminish the enjoyment I’ve had over the years listening to them. And I started about 1970 with Future Games.

  2. The album “The pious bird of good omen” was a revelation to me when I first picked it up. That album convinced me that I was going to be a blues player.

    One of my favourite Peter Green efforts

    According to Mick Fleetwood someone in Germany slipped Green some LSD triggering a psychotic episode that he never really recovered from.

    Truly one of the greats.

    So sad.

  3. R.I.P Peter Green.

    But I have to say that I liked the music of Fleetwood Mac in ALL of its iterations. Although it might not be something you particularly care for, just because something is popular doesn’t make it bad. (Remember, free American citizens are allowed to have different tastes than you and I.) I also liked – and still like – Abba. (I know – blasphemy, but there it is.) I still listen to Fleetwood Mac and Abba, sometimes with noise-cancelling headphones on while mowing my grass. (…also Carly Simon, Karen Carpenter, John Denver, Willie Nelson, The Cincinnati Pops orchestra doing all kinds of stuff, etc, etc, etc.)

  4. Fair winds and following seas to Mr. Green.

    That said, gave the “Oh well” a listen and found it… repetitive?

    I’m more of a Sabaton/Nightwish guy anyway..

  5. Fleetwood Mac, internally, was fucked up not just in a linear way, but fractally due to the bizarre relationship problems it suffered.

    Sure, the music was great, but holy shit. As one wag put it, forget Limp Bizkit; Fleetwood Mac was the band that needed an ‘Anger Management’ tour.

    1. I have to agree with you, Toastrider. But, whenever I listen to music, I almost never think about the personal problems of the artist or band I’m listening to.

      Karen Carpenter was one of my all time favorite vocalists. She had one of the best velvety alto voices of all time. When she died at a very young age, it was a surprise to me because I had no idea.

  6. Danny Kirwan was a really good player, but Green Manalishi was written by Green, not Kirwan. Also, Albatross was a much bigger hit, reaching no. 1 in U.K. and 4 in U.S., while Green Manalishi reached 4 in U.K. and did not chart at all in U.S.

    I have all the LPs from the pre-Buckingham-Nicks incarnations and a few LPs and CDs of the later lineup. I like them all.

    Green also played in Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Some great stuff in there. Also with some old bluesmen, Otis Spann and Eddie Boyd. Also great, and distinctive guitar. No one else had quite the same tone. He was a great blues singer himself, too, very soulful.

  7. I’m late to the game here but thought you might like to see this:

    Fleetwood Mac’s early years to be explored in new box set collection
    Two new box sets will focus on Fleetwood Mac’s material recorded between 1969-1974, and will include seven albums, bonus tracks, live cuts and more

    Two new Fleetwood Mac box sets are to be released on September 4 through Rhino Records which will focus on the band’s early years.

    The first is an 8CD set titled Fleetwood Mac 1969-1974 and will include remastered versions of Then Play On, Kiln House, Future Games, Bare Trees, Penguin, Mystery To Me and Heroes Are Hard To Find.

    Among the standard album tracks will be single versions, unedited recordings and alternative takes, while a previously unreleased concert from The Record Plant in Sausalito, California, in 1974 – recorded just months before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac – will also be included.

    A 4LP collection will feature the unreleased 1974 live album along with Penguin, Mystery To Me and Heroes Are Hard To Find.

    The studio albums have been cut from the original masters and will be presented in replica sleeves. The vinyl collection will also include a 7-inch single with For Your Love (Mono Promo Edit) and the previously unreleased Good Things (Come To Those Who Wait) on the b-side.

    Aside from the two box sets, a coloured vinyl pressing of Fleetwood Mac 1973-1974 will launch exclusively through Rhino Records. Penguin, Mystery To Me, Heroes Are Hard To Find, the live album and 7-inch single will also appear on variously coloured vinyl through the label.

    Fleetwood Mac 1969-1974: CD box set

    Then Play On (1969)
    1. Coming Your Way
    2. Closing My Eyes
    3. Show-Biz Blues
    4. My Dream
    5. Underway
    6. Oh Well
    7. Although The Sun Is Shining
    8. Rattlesnake Shake
    9. Searching For Madge
    10. Fighting For Madge
    11. When You Say
    12. Like Crying
    13. Before The Beginning
    14. Oh Well Pts I & II (Bonus)
    15. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) (Bonus)
    16. World In Harmony (Bonus)

    Kiln House (1970)
    1. This Is The Rock
    2. Station Man
    3. Blood On The Floor
    4. Hi Ho Silver
    5. Jewel Eyed Judy
    6. Buddy’s Song
    7. Earl Gray
    8. One Together
    9. Tell Me All The Things You Do
    10. Mission Bell
    11. Dragonfly (Bonus)
    12. Purple Dancer (Bonus)
    13. Jewel Eyed Judy (Single Version) (Bonus)
    14. Station Man (Single Version) (Bonus)

    Future Games (1971)
    1. Woman Of 1000 Years
    2. Morning Rain
    3. What A Shame
    4. Future Games
    5. Sands Of Time
    6. Sometimes
    7. Lay It All Down
    8. Show Me A Smile
    9. Sands Of Time (Single Version) (Bonus)
    10. Sometimes (Alt. Version) (Bonus)
    11. Lay It All Down (Alt. Version) (Bonus)
    12. Stone (Bonus)
    13. Show Me A Smile (Alt. Version) (Bonus)
    14. What A Shame (Unedited) (Bonus)

    Bare Trees (1972)
    1. Child Of Mine
    2. The Ghost
    3. Homeward Bound
    4. Sunny Side Of Heaven
    5. Bare Trees
    6. Sentimental Lady
    7. Danny’s Chant
    8. Spare Me A Little Of Your Love
    9. Dust
    10. Thoughts On A Grey Day
    11. Trinity (Bonus)
    12. Sentimental Lady (Single Version) (Bonus)


    Penguin (1973)
    1. Remember Me
    2. Bright Fire
    3. Dissatisfied
    4. (I’m A) Road Runner
    5. The Derelict
    6. Revelation
    7. Did You Ever Love Me
    8. Night Watch
    9. Caught In The Rain

    Mystery To Me (1973)
    1. Emerald Eyes
    2. Believe Me
    3. Just Crazy Love
    4. Hypnotized
    5. Forever
    6. Keep On Going
    7. The City
    8. Miles Away
    9. Somebody
    10. The Way I Feel
    11. For Your Love
    12. Why
    13. For Your Love (Mono Promo Edit) (Bonus)
    14. Good Things (Come To Those Who Wait) (Bonus)

    Heroes Are Hard To Find (1974)
    1. Heroes Are Hard To Find
    2. Coming Home
    3. Angel
    4. Bermuda Triangle
    5. Come A Little Bit Closer
    6. She’s Changing Me
    7. Bad Loser
    8. Silver Heels
    9. Prove Your Love
    10. Born Enchanter
    11. Safe Harbour
    12. Heroes Are Hard To Find (Single Version) (Bonus)

    Live From The Record Plant 15/12/74
    1. Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)
    2. Angel
    3. Spare Me A Little Of Your Love
    4. Sentimental Lady
    5. Future Games
    6. Bermuda Triangle
    7. Why
    8. Believe Me
    9. Black Magic Woman/Oh Well
    10. Rattlesnake Shake
    11. Hypnotized

Comments are closed.