Thursday, September 05, 2013

Top 5 Songs: Fleetwood Mac's Then Play On

So I got to talking briefly to Randomnerd about Fleetwood Mac yesterday, and how there was a Fleetwood Mac band before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks ever entered the picture.

What's that you say?
"There was a Fleetwood Mac before Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie?"


If you ever watched the VH1 Behind The Music special on the band, you'll notice they very briefly gloss over the original members of the band.

The original members were Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Peter Green, Jerry Spencer and Bob Brunning.
Now Brunning was a temp because Green and Fleetwood really wanted McVie in the band. So much so that Green named the band after both Mick and John as a way to help entice John to join the band. He did soon enough after rethinking his decision to stay with a very popular English blues band at the time, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.

Anybody who knows their rock history, knows that John Mayall's band included both Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood first. Oh and at one time, another famous rocker you might have heard of was also a member of the Bluesbreakers.....Eric Clapton.

Yep. Eric f'n Clapton!

Trust me, the more you dig, the more incestuous all those bands were at the time, trading members back and forth like a hippy love-in fest.

So, McVie joins, and the bands' first self-titled album comes out in February of 1968.
True it wasn't super well-received, but it did spawn a future cover hit for one Carlos Santana, in "Black Magic Woman".

Trust me when I say you haven't heard Black Magic Woman until you've heard Peter Green's original version of that song. I suggest you go find it immediately. Go to and you'll find it.
MY GOD will it knock your fucking socks off! Santana had to have been heavily inspired or straight out ripped off Green, because, just wow.

Then the band had their second album, Mr. Wonderful in August of 1968. Again, a good album, just not very popular, even though the songs and musicianship are off the fucking charts.

It's not until around their third album when they scout and pick up a fresh-faced kid named Danny Kirwan.
Kirwan was a self-taught virtuoso prodigy. He knew his shit, and he rocked hard. His guitar licks should be legendary all on their own for what he contributed to the band.

This eventually led to my favorite album of theirs, "Then Play On", released in September of 1969.

And that's the album I be picking my top 5 songs from today:

5). "Like Crying"

Okay, so the song starts off with a slightly misogynistic overtone, with the lyrics 
"She's got so much blues
Her best friend can't help her
Her best friends a woman
How can a woman help her
Woman's got the blues"

But really other than that, it's a really good bluesy Danny Kirwan original.

4). "My Dream"

 Sure it's an instrumental, but what heartbreaking one it is. You can just hear the pain and sadness from Kirwan just pour out onto the chords as he plays them. Oh god,
It's actually sadder than "Although the the sun is shining" I feel.

3). "Coming your way"

" I've got things to do / I move everyday / I hope you don't mind / 'Cause I'm goin' your way"
Man, I've got to try those lyrics out on someone some time!
It all sounds like a simple, "Hey what's up song" by Danny Kirwan, until the middle, where he and Green's blistering dueling guitars turn the song into an epic. Okay short epic, but fuck! Listen to those guitars!

2). "Before the Beginning"

Speaking of lyrics one can relate to, how's these:

"So many nights I lay awake
Can't sleep
I lay here thinkin' 'bout a woman
I used to love
Can't sleep but no good to count sheep
I'll just count the worries
That I've got plenty of"

Oh shit! It's like he knows me;)
Trust me, the whole song, from top to bottom, plus those fucking awesome duel guitars by Green and Kirwan are with the price of admission alone!
Fuck! It's like being in blues rock church, and the sermon is something we can ALL get behind.
And the church says........Amen!

1). "Although the Sun is Shining"

As I've previously mentioned in my post about the Top 5 Depressing songs, this one's all about longing for that special someone, and the hopes that finding and being with that special someone will somehow make your life better. Or better than it is/was.

Love it? Brother, I'm living it and those words right now.

Sadly Peter Green didn't last long in the band he helped start. Much like Syd Barrett before him, took too much LSD, which helped bring on mental problems in the form of Schizophrenia. This would ultimately cause Green to exit the band around late '70/71.

Although that era's version of the band tried to carry on, between affairs, numerous line-up changes, the elusiveness of mainstream stardom, it just collapsed in and on itself. Eventually only Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and his wife Christine McVie would be left, and the rest after that is history.


karl said...

Cant say I know much about Fleetwood Mac myself, though here in the UK last year there was a good documentary about them.
Mick Fleetwood was in the band I take it? Back in the 90s he was the host of our major music awards show The Brits along with topless model Sam Fox and it was hilarious...he was miles taller than her and they misread the autocue, making loads of mistakes. Its become part of British comedy legend.

Randomnerd said...

The music from this incarnation of Fleetwood Mac feels like abbreviated flashes of genius that were cut off prematurely, almost like the band itself. I find myself wishing the guitar went on for a couple more minutes. Not that I find the song lacking, I just want more of it. Much like I wish some of the songs from the latter version of the band were cut off sooner. That's kind of funny isn't it? I know the Buckingham/Nicks Mac was very successful commercially. And I enjoy my Nicks drama music. I admit it. But I wish this band had made it separately, in some alternate dimension. They were better. Less full of themselves, and yet fuller because of that.

Dale Bagwell said...

@Karl: Sounds like a blooper reel bit if I ever heard one. Yeah, Mick is fucking tall as fuck! No wonder he was able to snort coke all those years and still not look it. It had so far to travel;)

@Random:Yeah. Who knows how well they could've done had Green not gone schizo and Kirwan not later commit suicide. Maybe they would've been a bit bigger, maybe not. I guess history and hindsight being as it is, everything clicked for the band commercially as far as the popular incarnation everybody knows now goes.

I imagine more than likely, the band would've become a footnote in rock history had Mick Fleetwood not heard and become impressed with the talents of Buckingham and Nicks.

Dan W said...

I didn't understand how in Aussie Fleetwood Mac were relatively unknown - they are massive here in NZ (and touring in Dec), bigger than the Eagles and all of that.

They've just been on our Sunday programme (like 60 minutes but without the annoying ticking clock) and they actually mentioned this album so that's pretty hardcase timing :)

As much as the popular version is what it is, its still great to play these tracks and wonder what if.

Dale Bagwell said...

@Dan: Probably bc this was the early version before the popular pairing everyone imagines now.

Cool timing though as far as hearing about this album around the same time as this post. Like I said, me and Random were talking about this yesterday.

Randomnerd said...

@Dale, We're current even when we're retro. :)

karl said...

I read in our local newspaper today that original member Christine McVee is returning to the band after fifteen years. As someone who knows relatively little [ok, nothing!] about Fleetwood Mac, is this a good thing or bad for the group when previous performers return?

Randomnerd said...

Heh. Welll...last time they all got together it gave us a really good live album. I'm all for them giving it a go any time they want to. I'm sure at some point someone will start yelling and then insults will be thrown, someone will toss someone's bedroom habits in their face and everyone will storm out in a huff. They get some exciting press out of the getting the band back together thing, so that's good for them. For the fans? I'd say you'd have to be more hardcore Mac than I am to be jazzed about it. Mostly I just listen to the old stuff. I think McVie and Nicks stopped being adorable right around the time "Lies" came out.

Dale Bagwell said...

@Karl and Random: Depends. I know she needed a break form the band a few years ago, so no, I don't think she's been gone that long from the band. In fact it was only a few years ago, that she declined to go tour with the band due to well, exhaustion with the group. I think her and Nicks always had a rivalry, and every so often, it perks up to unbearable levels due to Nicks' ego, and to an extent, Christine's as well.

I'm sure they'll all do fine touring together, but let's face it. They're no longer current or relevant in a making music as a group thing. They'd be better off putting their talents to use as soundtrack musicians, teachers/mentors, or something else. I know I know, shocking to hear from a hardcore classic rock fan. But it's true. Their better days are long behind. Only a very select of the old guard is able to justifiable remain current. Sir Paul being one of them.

That's why I before to listen to the old records. They sounded like how they should sound.

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