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Old 09-02-2010, 09:29 AM
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Default Fleetwood Mac: Future Games ( 1970-1975)

Posted on September 2, 2010 by agentcoop

Fleetwood Mac in 1970…the best of times and the worst of times. On one hand, they had broken free of the blues/rock ghetto that had spawned them, they were beginning to gain a following in America to rival their huge popularity in Europe and they were making sublime and fascinating music based on the brilliant songwriting of Peter Green.

On the other hand, Green, their leader and inspiration, was sliding into mental illness, collectively, they were taking too many drugs and they had a member who hardly participated in recording sessions and when he did, only seemed interested in musical styles that they were trying to leave behind.

This was Jeremy Spencer, whose onstage demeanour was that of a ‘wild man of rock’, whilst offstage he was quiet and withdrawn and when the band toured would often retreat to his room to read the Bible. Looking back from a distance of 40 years, it’s hard to see how Spencer stayed in the band for so long when he was apparently so disinterested in the band’s newer material or in any kind of collective songwriting with the other writers in the band. The only plausible answer must be that his Elvis/Buddy Holly/Elmore James parodies were popular with crowds at gigs and that ontsage, if not offstage, he took some of the pressure off Green as bandleader.

When Green finally walked away from Fleetwood Mac in mid-1970, there was widespread consternation among industry insiders and fans alike. In 1969 & 1970, Fleetwood Mac were at the zenith of their popularity. Their singles since ‘Albatross’ had all been huge hits, the critics loved them, their most recent album, ‘Then Play On’ was selling well across the world and their touring schedule in the USA was beginning to bear fruit. It was a bad couple of years for guitar worshippers as Cream, too, had recently split up. The music press was full of stories about what Eric or Greeny or Jimi were planning next. Within another year, Hendrix was dead, Green was lost to mental illness and Clapton seemed content to be just one of the guys in the band. The person with the biggest smile on his face must have been Jimmy Page, whose Led Zeppelin were poised to capitalise on the ground already broken by others.

Howls of dismay were heard from Fleetwood Mac fans when Green left and the band may well have contemplated splitting at this stage. Instead, they retreated, Traffic-like, to the country and emerged with a new album in the late summer. Spencer played a full role in the album, contributing the inevitable parodies and John McVie’s wife, Christine, having left Chicken Shack, contributed uncredited backing vocals throughout and provided an attractive if slightly whimsical illustration for the cover. The new album was called ‘Kiln House’ and was greeted with little enthusiasm by the band’s European fan base, who were still mourning Peter Green’s departure. In the USA however, it fared somewhat better and that relative success may have been enough to persuade the band to focus their energies on the North American market.

Another American tour was set up and with Christine McVie as a full member, the band set off in early 1971 to promote the new album. In San Francisco, the band got news of a major earthquake in Los Angeles, their next port of call. Jeremy Spencer, already struggling to cope with his intake of psychedelics, pleaded with the rest of the band to abandon the Los Angeles dates – the earthquake had given Spencer ‘bad vibes’ (ho ho). Ignoring his pleas, the band continued the tour. Once in Los Angeles, Spencer left the band’s hotel and disappeared, which led to the LA gigs being cancelled. When the others tracked him down a few days later, Spencer had shaved off all his hair and joined the ‘Children of God’, a quintessentially happy-clappy cult, with whom he still maintains strong ties. Spencer refused to honour his commitments to the rest of the band for the tour, so Peter Green agreed to ‘come out of retirement’, just for the duration.

In the wake of the tour something important had happened to Fleetwood Mac, inasmuch as in losing first Green, then Spencer, they had lost not only their leader and guiding light, but also the umbilicus that connected them to the Blues had been well and truly cut. At this point, they could have quit completely or recruited a Green sound-alike to continue that connection, but bravely, they decided to pursue (excuse the ‘Spinal Tap’-ism) their new direction. ‘Kiln House’ had sold poorly, but undeterred, the band recruited American guitarist and singer Bob Welch and with Welch, Danny Kirwan and Christine McVie now all writing songs, they pressed ahead with another album.

What came out of this uncertainty was one of Fleetwood Mac’s best and most under-rated albums; ‘Future Games’. This album was released in November of 1971 and confirmed the band’s stylistic shift towards what was sometimes rather sniffily referred to as ‘soft rock’. This was, after all, an era in which artists like Simon & Garfunkel, The Eagles, America and the whole Crosby, Stills & Nash collective were selling records in huge quantities. Even the doyen of British bluesmen, John Mayall, had released a semi-acoustic, drummer-less album in 1970 (‘The Turning Point’), so electric blues was taking a back seat for a while. A whole new generation of singer-songwriters like James Taylor, Neil Young, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell were coming to the fore, especially in the States, so FM’s instincts were sound enough. What’s more, ‘Future Games’ revealed Bob Welch as a guitarist, singer and songwriter whose style meshed well with the new-style Fleetwood Mac. Free of Peter Green’s brooding presence and Jeremy Spencer’s infatuation with 50′s rock’n'roll, Danny Kirwan stepped forward to embrace the new approach and Christine McVie’s keyboards and vocals offered new possibilities. There were some strong songs as well, fitting in well with the prevailing mood of pastoral mysticism. Welch’s title track, ‘Sands of Time’, ‘Woman of a Thousand Years’ and ‘Morning Rain‘ all stretched out beyond the five-minute mark and revealed a cohesive and unified approach. As re-inventions go, it was pretty impressive after the disappointing ‘Kiln House’ and in many ways established a template for the Buckingham Nicks era to come.

The European markets were still too infatuated with the Peter Green era to truly embrace the new band, but airplay in America was encouraging. The band returned to a dogged schedule of tours and recording, striving to recapture the moment when America seemed likely to fall at their feet like a ripe peach. 1972 brought the release of ‘Bare Trees’, which whilst less memorable than its predecessor continued to build the new band’s reputation. However, the ongoing drama that seemed to dog Fleetwood Mac’s footsteps returned when Kirwan and Welch got into a major bust up prior to a gig and Kirwan was ushered out of the band. He was replaced by two new faces; singer Dave Walker from Savoy Brown via The Idle Race and guitarist Bob Weston from Long John Baldry’s band via Black Cat Bones. Mac’s manager Clifford Davis was the driving force behind these new additions, particularly Walker. Davis was not blind to the success that Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant) and Deep Purple (Ian Gillan) were having with a dominant lead vocalist. Walker was supposed to fulfil that role in Fleetwood Mac as Davis pushed the band to abandon their softer aspirations and return to the harder rock sound of the ‘Green Manalishi’ era. Another disappointing album (‘Penguin‘) ensued in 1973, but Walker was contributing little in terms of songs and was soon eased out. Weston contributed more to the band but his extra-curricular activities with Mick Fleetwood’s wife meant that he, too, was shown the door during the 1973 ‘Mystery to Me’ tour. The remainder of the tour was cancelled, but Clifford Davis assembled a Fleetwood Mac ‘doppelganger’ and sent them out on the road in the USA to fulfil the band’s touring commitments. This led to a protracted legal battle to determine who exactly owned the Fleetwood Mac ‘trademark’ and though the courts ultimately decided in favour of Fleetwood & McVie, the battle was lengthy, expensive and attritional. This period also saw the collapse of the McVie marriage, due in no small part to John’s alcoholism, so it was business as usual for a band for whom drama and chaos had become almost second nature. And, just for good measure, it was about now that the band relocated permanently to the USA.

1974 saw a new Fleetwood Mac album – ‘Heroes are hard to find’, which added to the slow but steady progress that the new Mac were making in the States. In Europe, there was barely a flutter of interest and I would imagine that many fans assumed that the band had split up. In truth, after the promise of ‘Future Games’, Fleetwood Mac had produced three patchy albums with the odd memorable song, like ‘Hypnotised‘ or ‘Station Man’, but the material was largely anodyne and there was no indication that the band were about to regain their former position of prominence. Conceivably, these thoughts had crossed Bob Welch’s mind as well. He left at the end of 1974 and the band were faced with a familiar problem. They had made some progress in America, whilst being ignored or forgotten in Europe. They had now produced six albums for Reprise, of which only the first, ‘Then Play On’, had made any real impact on the charts. After 5 years of relentless touring in the States, they had made some inroads but with Welch’s departure were effectively back to square one. Whatever happened next was probably going to be their final shot at regaining their status as a major act. So, late in 1974, Mick Fleetwood ran into an old acquaintance in Los Angeles and mentioned that he was on the lookout for a new studio. Said friend took him out to Sound City studios in ‘The Valley’ and introduced him to owner Keith Olsen. Olsen wanted to demonstrate the quality of his studio and played Fleetwood a track recently recorded there by a young folk/rock duo called Buckingham Nicks. The rest, as they say, is marketing….
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Old 09-02-2010, 12:02 PM
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aleuzzi aleuzzi is offline
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Kiln House was NOT a disappointment. And, incidentally, it sold better than FG. That said, I love FG.
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Old 10-26-2010, 06:21 PM
michelej1 michelej1 is offline
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More in the series from David Bowling,, October 26, 2010

Change was in the air again for Fleetwood Mac. Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer had been the original guitarists on its first two albums. Then, it was Green and Danny Kirwan, and finally Kirwan and Spencer on its fourth release. During a February 1971 tour of The United States, Spencer disappeared when he went out to buy a newspaper. He would surface two years later as a member of The Children Of God religious sect. The group reformed by adding two new members.

Christine Perfect married bassist John McVie, and after having sat in on a number of Fleetwood Mac projects, became an official member of the band. She had been honored twice by Melody Maker as The Female Vocalist Of The Year for her work with the group Chicken Shack. Her keyboards, vocals, and songwriting ability would become a key ingredient to the group’s massive success as time went on.

The other addition was California guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Bob Welch. His stint with Fleetwood Mac would last four years and five albums. He remains a somewhat forgotten figure in the group’s history but he steered the band during their transition from blues band to pop/rock superstars. If not for him, it is doubtful the band would have even survived. Sometimes, The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame gets it wrong, as he should have been included in the Fleetwood Mac lineup that was inducted during 1998.

Future Games moved Fleetwood Mac in a pop direction. Welch was not grounded in the blues, McVie had pop leanings, and Kirwan sort of traveled his own journey.

Kirwan’s contributions are some of the best of his career. “Woman Of 1000 Years” is a conceptual and melodic journey. “Sands Of Time” contains almost a sorrowful guitar performance on this melancholy song, where McVie provides some nice background vocals. “Sometimes” continues the mood with a wistful sound. Kirwan was one of those rare guitarists who could create moods with his instrument, and that ability is demonstrated well on this album.

Christine McVie made an immediate impact on the record. “Morning Rain” is a nice rocker with harmonies that would look to the group’s future. “Show Me A Smile” is a triumphant performance with a delicate melody.

Bob Welch may have been a California rocker but his title song was bluesy and acoustic and one of his better creations. “Lay It All Down” went in another direction and was a competent outing.

Future Games is ultimately an album of beauty that was rich in sound and well crafted. It was only met with modest commercial success but it was the first step on the road to superstardom for the group.

Read more:
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Old 10-28-2010, 10:04 AM
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Default the happy clappy cult

While it is far from the focus of this bloggers "history" of FM, it is sad that Jeremy Spencer's choices in life gets such woeful treatment. It demeans him and the folks who also espouse those beliefs. Historicly there were many such gatherings of people who viewedf the world as really screrwed up place and they could only find sanity in a more predictable loving enviornment. That it involves some incarnation of "he who has no name" makes people of this present generation evoke images of Jim Jones and you name the "WACO" of the month.

It is the least we can do as "fans" to give Jeremy Spencer's choices some street cred as a valid life choice. Who among us are destined to become Rock Stars and nothing else? At least he isn't a Parrot Head

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Old 10-28-2010, 11:48 AM
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bretonbanquet bretonbanquet is offline
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I agree. Jeremy has never seemed to regret his decisions, so who is anyone else to say they were bad decisions? After all, he may not be here now if he'd stayed with the band and the life that was frustrating him so much. He's in way better shape than Peter and poor Danny, that's pretty clear.
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Old 07-10-2011, 12:29 PM
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I've just done my own review for this 'classic' album if anybody's interested.
Follow my Fleetwood Mac album reviews blog Here:

Or read my review of Stevie Nicks' new album:
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Old 07-11-2011, 08:08 AM
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It is rather annoying that some writers have the tendency to discount the Children of God group. I guess it's easy to put down something when you haven't bothered to learn anything about it!
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Old 07-12-2011, 04:38 AM
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I love how they say Jeremy just showd up...

The new, mostly never released stuff (well, until well after the fact), is among my most favorite. I know it was a bad time for Jeremy, but there was a lot of great music from that time. "Down At The Crown" and Christine's "Baby It's Alright Now" were masterpieces. There's a lost album that pretty much raises the bar.
On and on it will always be, the rhythm, rhyme, and harmony.

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Old 08-17-2016, 09:08 PM
michelej1 michelej1 is offline
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Phoenix New Times

10 Underrated Albums Celebrating Milestone Anniversaries This Year
MONDAY, AUGUST 15, 2016 AT 4 A.M. by Seth Kesselman

Fleetwood Mac fans often fall into two groups: those who prefer Peter Green’s guitar-centric British blues-driven powerhouse, and others who champion the Lindsay Buckingham/Stevie Nicks era of big-budget FM pop hits. Both have their merits, and rarely do these two camps meet. What’s more unfortunate than fans not giving credence to Mick Fleetwood’s overriding vision is that it’s often forgotten what got them from point A to point B. The Bob Welch- and Danny Kirwan-led years from the early- to mid-'70s are usually overlooked, often considered a transitional phase, even though their fascination with UFOs and penguins are responsible for some of the most introspective and somber songs Fleetwood Mac ever produced.

Future Games is a shoegaze archetype before the genre existed. The opener, “Woman of 1000 Years,” could fit right at home on a 1980s 4AD album. Furthermore, the album’s title track sounds like a blueprint to a Galaxie 500 song. It also features Christine McVie’s “Give Me A Smile,” one of the best ballads she ever wrote. The slow burn of Future Games is mellow, to put it lightly. It sounds like a confident whisper even compared to its stark follow-up album, Bare Trees. Its vibe is something Fleetwood Mac had never tried and would never dig that deeply into again, but totally stands the test of time.
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Old 08-21-2016, 11:28 PM
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"1972 brought the release of ‘Bare Trees’, which whilst less memorable than its predecessor continued to build the new band’s reputation."
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Old 09-03-2016, 09:09 PM
michelej1 michelej1 is offline
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45 Years Ago: Fleetwood Mac Play ‘Future Games’

By Dave Swanson September 3, 2016 10:13 AM

Read More: 45 Years Ago: Fleetwood Mac Play 'Future Games' |

Fleetwood Mac‘s early days were marked by poor sales and seemingly ever-shifting lineup. But their fifth record, Future Games, gave them a bit of temporary stability with the arrival of new guitarist Bob Welch and keyboardist Christine McVie when it was released on Sept. 3, 1971.

For McVie, the transition was easy. She’d been contributing to Fleetwood Mac albums since 1968’s Mr. Wonderful and, after 1970’s Kiln House, whose cover she painted, joined full-time. Plus, she was married to the bass player, John McVie.

On the other hand, Welch replaced Jeremy Spencer, who founded the group with John, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green, all of whom were alumni of British blues legends John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. But Welch was an American, and brought with him a different sensibility that was reflected in the material. Gone were the dirty blues-based blocks the band was built on, replaced by a variety of influences ranging from folk and country, to pop and psychedelia. “He was totally different background – R&B, sort of jazzy. He brought his personality,” Mick Fleetwood said of Welch in a 1995 BBC interview. “He was a member of Fleetwood Mac before we’d even played a note.”

Future Games is one of a handful of seemingly forgotten Fleetwood Mac albums, which is too bad as it plays out as one damn fine LP. Danny Kirwan’s “Woman of 1000 Years” is a beautiful opener; its ringing acoustic guitars and dreamy vocals casting a slightly psychedelic haze, not miles away from the likes of Crosby, Stills & Nash or even early Yes. “Morning Rain” is a Christine McVie song that shifts gears into rock and roll terrain, another great “lost” Fleetwood Mac tune.

It is Welch, however, who ignites side one with the ethereal title song. Nearly nine minutes of dreamy rock and roll awash in a bit of a haze falling somewhere between the sky and the horizon. Side two kicks off with two more Kirwan tunes, “Sands of Time” and “Sometimes,” the latter being a straight ahead country tinged number while the latter echoing a more jangly, Byrdsy territory. Welch offers up “Lay It All Down,” the album’s most upfront rocking number, while another great Christine tune, “Show Me a Smile,” ends the album.

All these years on, the album holds up surprisingly well, though at the time, sales or praise was hard to find. Rolling Stone called the album “thoroughly unsatisfactory” and referring to Christine McVie’s voice as “surprisingly weak and emotionless.” They were not any kinder to Bob Welch, saying “his talent appears to be notable only in its lack of distinction.”

Welch’s contributions to the band were, however, very significant during this period. Ultimately, he never felt at home, or so he would later recall. “It was like they were on some sort of mystical quest, by appointment to her majesty,” he said, “as if they had been given this thing, this mission to somehow accomplish and I was never quite clued in to what that mission might have been.”

Fleetwood Mac had yet to make an album that connected with American audiences. Kiln House was their first album to even break into the Billboard Top 100, and Future Games barely edged its way in. Kirwan would stick with the band for one more album, while variations on the Welch, McVie, McVie and Fleetwood lineup would produce four more albums before the band’s fortunes would change forever.

Read More: 45 Years Ago: Fleetwood Mac Play 'Future Games' |
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