Fleetwood Mac is back, and in a big way. Christine McVie has returned to the line-up for the first time since the band’s 1997 reunion, which culminated in the brilliant and massively successful live CD and DVD The Dance. The band has toured in recent years without McVie, but it never seemed complete – Christine McVie’s presence is crucial to the overall sound of Fleetwood Mac. The legendary super-group is currently on tour, and they will hit Washington, D.C. and the Verizon Center this coming Friday, Halloween night (perhaps the Welsh witch from “Rhiannon” will make an appearance). With the show on the horizon, it seems a good time to look back at some of the finest tracks of the band’s classic lineup featuring Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie and of course the rock-solid bedrock behind the band’s sound, the towering drummer Mick Fleetwood.
This list doesn’t tell the entire Fleetwood Mac story by any means. The band already had a long history, with multiple lineup changes, by the time Buckingham and Nicks joined the collective for the band’s self-titled 1975 album. Fleetwood Mac started in the U.K. as a blues-rock band led by guitarist Peter Green. They hit #1 in the U.K. with the ethereal 1968 instrumental “Albatross,” and also scored with such classics as “Black Magic Woman” (later to be successfully covered by Santana), “Man of the World” (a #2 hit in the U.K. in 1969), “The Green Manalishi,” and the classic blues-rocker “Oh Well.” Guitarist Danny Kirwan was showcased on albums like 1970’s Kiln House and 1971’s Future Games. The Bob Welch era was especially productive, with seminal albums like Mystery to Me (1974) and Bare Trees (1972), and classic singles like “Sentimental Lady” and “Hypnotized.” The band also continued in various forms after the “classic lineup” fractured. After 1987’s Tango in the Night, Fleetwood Mac soldiered on following the acrimonious departure of Lindsey Buckingham, and released excellent singles like “Save Me” and “Skies the Limit” from the album Behind the Mask (1990). Two more studio albums followed: Time (1995), which was missing both Buckingham and Nicks and fared poorly in the charts, and 2003’s Say You Will, which had Buckingham and Nicks back in the fold but was missing Christine McVie.
The current touring lineup is by far the most successful incarnation of Fleetwood Mac both musically and commercially, so this list will focus on that “classic” era – from Fleetwood Mac (1975) through Tango in the Night (1987). Here are 25 of the finest tracks of Fleetwood Mac’s golden age, many of which we’ll hear on 10/31 as they bring their epic show to the Verizon Center.
25. Warm Ways (Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
Christine McVie’s elegant ballad “Warm Ways,” with its gentle melody, Lindsey Buckingham’s sparse and shimmering guitar lines, and Mick Fleetwood’s rolling drum fills was the first single in the U.K. for the new lineup of Fleetwood Mac. “Warm Ways” lives up to its name – the production is remarkably warm and rich, and McVie’s vocal, backed by graceful harmonies, is crystal pure and enchanting. “Warm Ways” wasn’t a chart success as a single, so it’s a bit of a hidden gem in Fleetwood Mac’s discography, but one that is well worth discovering.
24. Seven Wonders (Tango in the Night, 1987)
The second single taken from the band’s 1987 offering Tango in the Night, “Seven Wonders” is a Stevie Nicks track written by her frequent collaborator Sandy Stewart (who also co-wrote several tracks on Stevie’s 1983 solo album The Wild Heart, and dueted with Stevie on the Top 40 single “Nightbird”). Nicks was barely present during the sessions for Tango in the Night, preferring instead to send her band-mates demos for them to complete while she toured in support of her 1985 solo album Rock A Little. “Seven Wonders” only reached #19 on the Billboard Hot 100, but despite its lukewarm chart performance it’s classic Stevie Nicks. The song was given new life when Stevie performed it during the season finale of the acclaimed television series American Horror Story: Coven back in January of this year.
23. Not That Funny (Tusk, 1979)
Apart from the title-track itself, “Not That Funny” is the best of Lindsey Buckingham’s oddly twisted sonic experiments that make up a large portion of the Tusk album. It’s a strident rocker with a heavy beat, fuzz-toned guitar and an unusual but effective vocal by Buckingham. “Not That Funny” was released as the 3rd single from Tusk in the U.K., but not surprisingly, given its peculiar nature, it failed to chart. (The U.S. got Christine McVie’s more conventional pop-rocker “Think About Me” instead, and it clawed its way to #20.) “Not That Funny” is an idiosyncratic and acerbic track that burrows its way into your skull like a malignant alien hymn. Like many of Buckingham’s pieces on Tusk, there is a certain mad genius to “Not That Funny.” It’s most certainly a song that only Lindsey Buckingham could create.
22. Over My Head (Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
“Over My Head” was the first single from Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled 1975 album in America, and the first to feature Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. It became the band’s first Top 40 hit stateside, reaching #20. Written and sung by Christine McVie with her usual grace and warmth, “Over My Head” is a lovely melodic mid-tempo shuffle that has been overshadowed by the group’s later smash hits, but remains an important milestone in Fleetwood Mac’s recorded history.
21. Storms (Tusk, 1979)
Stevie Nicks’ stunning ballad “Storms” was never a single, but it’s one of the standout tracks on the sprawling 2-LP Tusk¸a wildly diverse collection that veers from lofty ballads to immaculately produced pop to Lindsey Buckingham’s uniquely audacious and manic experiments. Nicks has several praiseworthy tracks on the album, including “Angel,” “Sisters of the Moon,” and the utterly exquisite “Beautiful Child,” but the solemnly beautiful “Storms” ranks as one of her finest. “Storms” is steeped in regret and melancholy. Nicks’ vocal performance is one of her loveliest, and the harmonies, while sparse, are delicate and sublime. “Storms” is a track of quiet yearning and beauty.
20. The Chain (Rumours, 1977)
Usually the opening number at a Fleetwood Mac show, “The Chain” has taken on significance as a representation of the band’s endurance through the highs and lows of their uniquely dramatic dynamic. “The Chain” is about a connection that is still strong despite the turmoil, the drugs, the affairs, and the acrimony that swirled around the band. In the end, a shared sense of purpose, a rock-solid determination and a unique pride in what they’ve created has kept Fleetwood Mac going, and “The Chain” is a testament to that. Written in bits and pieces by all of the members of the group, “The Chain” is notable for its heavy beat, tight harmony vocals and Buckingham’s use of a dobro. It was never a single, but has a prominent placement as the opening song on Side 2 of Rumours. “The Chain” is a staple on classic rock radio, and is unquestionably one of Fleetwood Mac’s signature songs.
19. World Turning (Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
“World Turning,” co-written by Buckingham and Christine McVie, is a raucous blues-rocker from the Fleetwood Mac album. The studio version features spirited vocals by Buckingham and McVie over a beguiling and complex guitar arrangement. As strong as the track undoubtedly is, the incendiary 7 1/2 minute live version featured on the deluxe reissue of Rumours has a fire and urgency that the studio recording doesn’t quite achieve. “World Turning” remains a fixture in Fleetwood Mac’s live performances, and is always a showstopper.
18. Little Lies (Tango in the Night¸1987)
With its exotic keyboard introduction and supremely catchy hook, Christine McVie’s “Little Lies” charmed its way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the 3rd single taken from Tango in the Night. Its video enjoyed prominent airplay on MTV. “Little Lies” was a world-wide smash, and helped Tango in the Night become the band’s second biggest selling album behind only Rumours.
17. Don’t Stop (Rumours, 1977)
“Don’t Stop,” another hit from the seminal Rumours LP, will forever be associated with the Bill Clinton/Al Gore presidential campaign. Written by Christine McVie and sung by McVie and Buckingham, “Don’t Stop” is an upbeat rocker with a powerfully optimistic view that cut through the haze of drama and chaos that often surrounded the band in its heyday. It’s a buoyant sing-a-long with some wicked guitar-work by Buckingham. “Don’t Stop” reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 as the 3rd single from Rumours, and remains one of Fleetwood Mac’s most famous songs.
16. Everywhere (Tango in the Night, 1987)
Another gem by Christine McVie, the spritely “Everywhere” was the 4th single from Tango in the Night. A mid-tempo number with a galloping drumbeat, shimmering keyboards and a charming vocal by McVie, “Everywhere” peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Like most of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits, “Everywhere” was exquisitely produced, and sounds so fresh that it feels like it could have been released yesterday. “Everywhere” was one of the high points of the 1997 reunion concert memorialized in the CD and DVD The Dance.
15. Hold Me (Mirage, 1982)
Co-written by Christine McVie and British songwriter Robbie Patton, “Hold Me” was the first single from Fleetwood Mac’s 1982 album Mirage. It was a smash hit in the U.S., soaring all the way to #4, thanks in part to a video that MTV put into heavy rotation. The song is notable for the note-perfect, brilliantly arranged co-lead vocals by McVie and Buckingham, the dazzling harmonies in the chorus, and Buckingham’s beautifully fluid guitar-work.
14. Gold Dust Woman (Rumours, 1977)
“Gold Dust Woman” is one of Stevie Nicks’ signature songs, and one of the centerpieces of the band’s Rumours album. An ominous tune about a woman struggling through addiction and relationship woes, “Gold Dust Woman” is a powerhouse number that becomes truly epic when performed live. The studio recording features a frantic dobro part by Buckingham, and climaxes with maddeningly eerie vocal effects over an increasingly throbbing drumbeat. “Gold Dust Woman” is one of the reasons why Rumours is one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.
13. I’m So Afraid (Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
Lindsey Buckingham’s edgy, heavy rocker “I’m So Afraid” is his finest moment on the band’s self-titled 1975 album. It features a thunderous drumbeat and some truly virtuosic guitar-work. Buckingham was proving his worth to the band from the very beginning, as a singer, songwriter, musician and eventually de facto musical director. When performed live, “I’m So Afraid” is a behemoth that showcases Buckingham’s wildly manic energy and passion. It really sounds like nothing else in the Fleetwood Mac catalog.
12. You Make Loving Fun (Rumours, 1977)
Between all of the tormented lovesick tracks that make up much of Rumours, Christine McVie is responsible for two of the sunniest tracks: “Don’t Stop” and the jubilant “You Make Loving Fun.” Featuring McVie’s prominent electric piano, a hard-driving drum beat and a euphoric chorus, “You Make Loving Fun” was the 4th single from Rumours and reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
11. Gypsy (Mirage, 1982)
The strongest track on Fleetwood Mac’s 1982 album Mirage is Stevie Nicks’ brilliant “Gypsy.” The arrangement, with its repeating arpeggio keyboard and guitar patterns, is genius. The production is outstanding even by Fleetwood Mac’s usual sterling standards. Nicks’ vocals are among her best, the lyrics have just the right air of mystery, and the ethereal backing vocals add just the right touch. The long fade-out features a wonderfully intricate guitar part by Buckingham. “Gypsy” is Fleetwood Mac at its best, all of the elements coming together to create something truly magical. As the second single from Mirage, “Gypsy” peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
10. Big Love (Tango in the Night, 1987)
“Big Love” was first slated for a Lindsey Buckingham solo album until it was decided that Fleetwood Mac should issue a new album, and it was worked into Tango in the Night. It’s still largely a solo recording by Buckingham, who handles all of the instruments apart from Mick Fleetwood’s tribal drumwork. The vocals are also the work of Buckingham, some of them digitally manipulated and sped up. It’s a brilliant recording that reaches a frenetic climax. As the first single taken from Tango in the Night, “Big Love” was a major smash, reaching #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Since Fleetwood Mac’s reunion tour in 1997, Buckingham has taken to performing “Big Love” as a solo piece to showcase his astonishing virtuosity on the acoustic guitar.
9. Silver Springs – Live version (The Dance, 1997)
Originally intended for inclusion on Rumours, Stevie Nicks’ “Silver Springs” was left off in favor of the relatively lightweight rocker “I Don’t Want To Know” because of concerns over time limitations. It ended up as the b-side to “Go Your Own Way,” and Nicks was reportedly furious over its exclusion. Time has been kind to the song, though. It is now featured as a bonus track on new CD issues of Rumours, and it is the absolute highlight of the 1997 reunion album The Dance. The tension between Nicks and Buckingham is palpable as Nicks balefully glares at Lindsey while singing the obsessive lyrics: “You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you. I’ll follow you down ‘til the sound of my voice will haunt you.” Utterly enthralling and powerful. It may have been missing from Rumours, but “Silver Springs” has gotten its due in the end.
8. Songbird (Rumours, 1977)
Christine McVie’s trademark song, this delicate ballad – recorded for the Rumours album solo by Christine on piano live at the Zellerbach Auditorium in Berkeley, California in order to capture the ambience of a concert hall – is often the final encore of the band’s shows. “Songbird” showcases McVie’s sweet, rich voice and her innate sense of melody; it’s 3 minutes and 21 seconds of poignant bliss. Although never a single, “Songbird” is one of the most revered classics in the Fleetwood Mac catalog.
7. Say You Love Me (Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
Christine McVie’s upbeat pop-rocker “Say You Love Me” was the 3rd U.S. single from the Fleetwood Mac album, and reached #11 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Say You Love Me” is one of the band’s most buoyant numbers, a sing-a-long with prominent piano and even a bit of banjo. McVie has shown over and over again that she is perhaps the most naturally gifted songwriter in the band when it comes to writing a winning melody, and “Say You Love Me” is a prime example. Since its release, “Say You Love Me” has been a standard part of Fleetwood Mac’s live performances, deservedly so. It’s pop music at its finest.
6. Sara (Tusk, 1979)
Released as the second single from Tusk (edited from the album version’s 6:22 down to a more radio-friendly 4:37), Stevie Nicks’ “Sara” reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Sara” is an epic tune, a stream of consciousness dreamscape that is lovely and beguiling. The song builds slowly and inexorably, becoming more passionate as it progresses. It’s a fantastic recording, with a loping shuffle beat and an expressive bass-line. Stevie’s vocals are among her finest, and the vocal arrangement is complex and hypnotic. “Sara” is an ambitious track, and in keeping with the risk-taking of the Tusk project it was released as a single despite not being obviously commercial in the traditional sense. As with the title track, it was the right move.
5. Tusk (Tusk, 1979)
After the glistening pop-rock that made Rumours such a massive success, it was a ballsy move to lead off their next album with this oddity… but it worked. “Tusk” is a cunning creation, with a powerful tribal drumbeat, a deeply resonant bass-line, manic vocals and a blazing horn section (by the USC Trojan Marching Band) that weaves in and out of the chaos. Lindsey Buckingham has always had a wildly experimental side, and he unleashed all his unhinged ideas on Tusk, usually to brilliant effect. “Tusk” is as odd a Top 10 hit as ever has been released (it hit #8 in the U.S.); and who can forget the thunderous finale of The Dance, as the USC Marching Band strode up through the audience onto the stage to perform this epic piece of song-craft with the band. “Tusk” is a profoundly unique single; there had been nothing like it before, or since. It’s a testament to Buckingham’s creative genius, and also to his boundless hubris.
4. Landslide (Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
Although never a single (until a live version from 1997’s The Dance was issued as the follow-up to “Silver Springs”), Stevie Nicks’ utterly sublime “Landslide” is one of the group’s most famous recordings. Lindsey’s masterful acoustic guitar work and Stevie’s gorgeous melody and vocals combine for one of those rare instances of pure musical heaven. “Landslide” is a beautiful expression of longing and regret. It’s been covered numerous times, but nobody can capture the magic of the original recording. “Landslide” is one of the cornerstones of Fleetwood Mac’s musical legacy.
3. Rhiannon (Fleetwood Mac, 1975)
“Over My Head” may have been Fleetwood Mac’s first Top 40 hit in America, but it was the follow-up single, Stevie Nicks’ classic “Rhiannon,” that set the band on the path to superstardom. “Rhiannon” is richly produced and expertly performed, with Buckingham’s restrained opening guitar lines, John McVie’s remarkably fluid bass-line, Christine McVie’s keyboard discretely following along with the main melody, and the always-steady Mick Fleetwood providing a solid foundation. “Rhiannon” has a mysterious vibe, appropriate for a song described by Stevie Nicks as being about a “Welsh witch.” The live performances of “Rhiannon” are often long and intense, with Stevie Nicks swirling around the stage during protracted improvisations. “Rhiannon” is a timeless classic and one of the great singles of the ‘70s.
2. Go Your Own Way (Rumours, 1977)
“Packing up, shacking up’s all you want to do…” Of all the songs that detail the ongoing internal strife, the love triangles and general chaos that defined the soap opera otherwise known as Fleetwood Mac, “Go Your Own Way” is perhaps the most pointed. It’s fascinating to think that these songs, especially on Rumours, were written about and inspired by fellow band-members who are performing on songs sharply critical of them. It’s one of the dynamics that makes Fleetwood Mac so intense and fascinating. “Go Your Own Way” became a Top 10 smash as the first single from Rumours. It’s a driving, intense rocker by Lindsey Buckingham that features some absolutely searing guitar-work.
1. Dreams (Rumours, 1977)
It’s remarkable to consider that Fleetwood Mac, one of the biggest rock bands in popular music over the past 40 years, has only hit #1 once on the Billboard Hot 100. They did it with “Dreams,” a spellbinding masterpiece written by Stevie Nicks and brought to wonderful life by the band and ace producers Richard Dashut and Ken Caillat. “Dreams” sounds remarkable nearly 40 years since its release – it’s a great song to show off a good stereo setup. The loping shuffle beat, the ethereal guitar lines, Stevie’s devastating vocals, and the note-perfect harmonies make for a masterpiece. “Dreams” is a heartrending piece about what could-have-been with a healthy dose of venom buried in the song’s dreamlike beauty (“But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness, like a heartbeat drives you mad, in the stillness of remembering what you had… and what you lost”). It encapsulates the hard feelings and painful relationship dilemmas that surrounded the band during the peak of their success; it’s vindictiveness and hurt wrapped in a cloudlike gossamer shroud of beauty.