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Old 06-04-2011, 11:19 PM
michelej1 michelej1 is offline
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Default Before All That Happened (Goldmine)

Fleetwood Mac: What Happened Before All That Happened Later On…
Dave Thompson, Goldmine, February 2005

THEY ARE Fleetwood Mac's forgotten years. Mick Fleetwood's Fleetwood autobiography dedicates just thirty pages to them, Peter Lewry's The Complete Recording Sessions turns over just seven. The band's career-spanning The Chain box set surrenders less than half a disc to them.

Yet, without the three... almost four... years that elapsed between the staggered departures of the legendary three guitar front line of Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan, and the arrival of the Buckingham-Nicks-fuelled Fleetwood Mac album in August 1975, it is unlikely whether Fleetwood Mac would have even survived to become one of the biggest selling bands of the late 1970s, let alone the absolute institution that they represent today.

It was a period of abrupt comings-and-goings; of overlooked singles and all-but unloved albums: Penguin, Mystery To Me and Heroes Are Hard To Find have all made the transition to CD, of course, but they did so without any of the fanfare that accompanied other albums in the Fleetwood Mac canon - it is unlikely that we will ever see a 2 CD deluxe edition of any of them; and, when you sit down to trace their contents through the remainder of Fleetwood Mac's career, just one song from the trilogy (guitarist Bob Welch's masterful 'Hypnotized') even survived into the Buckingham-Nicks era live set.

One should not be too surprised by this. "In the wake of Danny [Kirwan]'s departure," Mick Fleetwood moaned, "we went through hell. We expanded to six pieces, then deflated to five, and finally pared down to a quartet. We made records that were both good and indifferent and, at one point, we almost lost the band entirely. It was a crazy and confused time...."

Yet, again, it was these dark years that set the stage for all that the band would subsequently accomplish, keeping the Fleetwood Mac name alive on the American concert circuit, at the same time as furnishing the core trio of Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and keyboard/vocalist Christine McVie with the drive (some might even call it stubbornness) to keep going.

Kirwan departed the band in August 1972, as Mac toured the US with Deep Purple. Temperamental, argumentative and increasingly withdrawn, Kirwan had managed to alienate every one of his bandmates. Only Mick Fleetwood, in whose hands lay the power of hiring and firing, was willing to persevere with the prodigal, but finally even he had enough. It was, after all, a difficult enough job having to open for Deep Purple with all cylinders firing. It was nigh-on impossible to face down a yowlingly partisan audience while your lead guitarist skulked sulking at the back of the hall, after one row too many. But that was what happened and it was the final straw. After the show, Fleetwood recalls, 'I had dinner with Jon Lord and, in the restaurant, he gave me a pep talk. I went back to the hotel... and Danny was fired.'

Cancelling the last shows on the tour, the band returned to the UK to face the future - at the same time as acknowledging that times had changed dramatically since Fleetwood Mac were first proclaimed the greatest British blues band ever. The stark, sharp performances that had sustained the group so far had long since fallen from fashion - the blues in '72 was all about head's-down, no-nonsense driving boogie; about raising the audience excitement to fever pitch; about rushing on stage and asking Cleveland (or Boise or Pittsburgh or wherever) HOW-YA-DOIN'-DO-YA-WANNA-GET-DOWN-DO-YA-WANNA-ROCK-'N'ROLL-YEAH-WOOOAAARRRGGGHHH? - and sounding like you meant it.

Management had been on at the band for a while now to make that shift, but Fleetwood Mac had always proven too well-mannered to truly dive into those waters. Now, however, maybe it was time. Savoy Brown, the blues-bashing kings of that particular approach to stagecraft, had recently shed their own frontman, the brilliantly ebullient Dave Walker. "We had gotten to know him on tour," Mick Fleetwood mused, "and thought he was a good guy and a rabble-rouser."

Birmingham born-and-bred, like the McVies, Walker was already well-accustomed to stepping into an already established band and raising it to fresh heights. Savoy Brown, all but disintegrated when three-quarters of the line-up swanned off to form Foghat in 1971, but from the moment the sole survivor, Kim Simmonds, recruited Walker, he knew that the old band was only going to prosper.

Before that, too, Walker had performed a remarkable kiss-of-life, taking over from Jeff Lynne at the helm of the Idle Race, and promptly guiding them to their biggest ever hit, a South American chart-topping cover of 'Neanderthal Man' in 1970. (Later, following his Mac adventures, Walker would replace Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath in 1977, only to be dislodged when Osbourne returned after just a few weeks; more recently, he authored one of the last year's most exciting blues-rock album, the Mostly Sonny tribute to bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson.)

Walker's recruitment to the band did not run altogether smoothly. He recalls, "I was touring with Savoy Brown, and they toured with us a lot at the time, there was Mick and John and Chris and Bob Welch and Danny Kirwan; I was at home in England... to begin with, I'd complained a lot about the lack of money with Savoy Brown, which I had every right in the world to, and I'd heard from somebody in the agency in New York that I was going to be fired, and I wasn't too surprised, so when I heard that was coming, I was 'oh here we go....'

"About a week later... Fleetwood Mac were in the States at the time, and John McVie called me up and said 'hey, do you want to join the band?' he said Danny Kirwan was gone, and Bob Welch was going, so I was 'well yeah, because I've heard I'm being fired from Savoy Brown'; 'oh great, man. Okay,' About a day later, Mick Fleetwood's wife, Jenny, calls up and says 'Dave, that was a bit premature of John to offer you a gig in the band'; I said 'okay Jen, that's alright, I understand.' But a couple of days later, there was another call, 'yeah, you're in'."

McVie's original explanation was not wholly accurate, of course - Bob Welch was not on his way out after all; which was something of a mixed blessing, to Walker's mind. "The musical content of the band at the time was Chris [McVie] and Bob Welch's songs, and I'm sorry, but they were crap as far as I'm concerned." It quickly turned out, however, that Welch was no more enthused by Walker's presence in the band - "[he] thought he was too blatant," Mick Fleetwood reports, "too rough around the edges, too shallow as a performer."

Walker was followed into the band by lead guitarist Bob Weston, from Long John Baldry's backing band, and, over the next month or so, the six piece line-up rehearsed in readiness for the full block of live shows that would take them through the end of 1972: Scandinavia in October, the remainder of Europe and the UK through November and back to the US in December. It was a successful affair - "Walker did get the crowds going in his Big Boogie style," Fleetwood recalls. "He had a shtick. He was a good singer." Welch retained his reservations about the nature of Walker's talent - "he was an interpreter, rather than an original" was Fleetwood's own assessment. "It was rather bizarre to now have a stereotypical 'lead singer'." But John McVie adored having him around, and the line-up looked to have a warm future ahead of it.

Early in the New Year, the band rented the Rolling Stones mobile studio and set it up at the band's own home base in Benifolds, Hampshire, to begin work on their next album, Penguin. And it was there that the problems began. Walker himself admits, "I was going through a few little things of my own, involving my wife of the time... some stuff going on behind the scenes which distracted me. So I didn't contribute at all."

While the remainder of the band worked on what remain some of the band's most under-rated songs (McVie's 'Dissatisfied', Welch's 'Nightwatch'), and even welcomed a passing Peter Green briefly back into the fold (he can be heard, again, on 'Nightwatch'), Walker found himself spending most of his time at the local pub. But not, he is adamant, through choice. "There's something in one of the band biogs saying 'he was always in the pub'; well, I was always in the pub because they sent me to the pub. 'Just go down the pub, Dave, and we'll call you when we're ready'."

Fleetwood agrees. "It wasn't really his fault. He was a good guy to have onstage, but when it came down to the subtleties of recording, it didn't wash. It was really our fault for bringing him into an untenable situation."

The album was titled Penguin, John McVie says, from his own love of the bird. "I used to live near London Zoo, and was an associate member of the Zoological Society; you paid an annual subscription and could go in free at any time. Well, I used to photograph animals, and the penguins in particular really fascinated me.

"I didn't sit there and talk to them or anything like that, but I used to spend hours just watching them and reading booksd about them. [Then], when the band decided to adopt a logo, some sort of visual symbol that people would associate with Fleetwood Mac, we decided that a penguin would be appropriate."

Penguin promptly became Fleetwood Mac's biggest chart hit ever - in reaching #49 in the US, it effortlessly shaded even the now-renowned classics of the Peter Green era (ironically, the band's biggest past hit was the first post-Green album: Kiln House made #69). But still the completed record left both Welch and McVie uncertain about its attributes and, while all their fears were promptly dismissed once the band hit the road again that spring, packing out some massive halls around the US, a swift return to the studio that summer brought all the problems flooding back.

"Chris and Bob desperately tried to write material Dave could sing," Mick Fleetwood recalls. But they were no more capable of that, it seemed, than Walker seemed able to truly bring his own voice to the songs they were presenting him with. Finally, with these latest sessions feeling more and more constipated, it was time for the band to take a decision - were they going to truly get behind Walker, and recreate Fleetwood Mac accordingly? Or would they "finally realize that, by keeping him on, we were throwing away what Fleetwood Mac had been, and that we weren't Savoy Brown?"

The vote was unanimous. After just eight months, Fleetwood, Welch, Weston and Christine McVie all elected to relieve Walker of his microphone; John McVie alone stood against it - and would, once the decision had been taken, offer up his own protest by taking off for a holiday in France, only vaguely promising to complete his bass parts once he'd returned. Manager Clifford Davis, too, opposed the decision, as he himself informed Walker when he broke the news to him.

"The band didn't come up and say anything, Clifford Davis had to come and do the dirty work, and he was against it. Because he thought, given a little more time, it may have worked. And it may have worked. I don't know. They'd only seen me with Savoy Brown and they had that whole Savoy Brown idea in mind. In fact, at the time, they'd have been well-advised to turn into Savoy Brown, because they were dying on their asses. They were okay and they had a lot of fans. They played well. But they had no direction at all."

Neither would they find one following Walker's departure. Revising the handful of songs that had been written with Walker's ebullience in mind - including the future classic 'Hypnotised', originally conceived as what Fleetwood calls "a 6/8 blues screamer" - Mystery To Me was completed with Welch and McVie assuming all the lead vocal duties and has been described by the band members as their best record since Green's Then Play On swansong. But its chart performance, a #67 peak, showed a marked dip from Penguin, while the accompanying tour was to take its own toll on the band.

"[It] went beautifully for the first month," Fleetwood recalls. "Then someone asked me how I felt about my wife having an affair with Bob Weston and suddenly it all came crashing down." The tour continued, but Fleetwood was in agony; by the time the outing reached Los Angeles, he could take no more. Weston was fired, the tour needed to be postponed for a few weeks - and management went ballistic.

Bob Welch made the call, but the entire band could hear Davis raging down the telephone line: "I just want to remind everybody that, if you blow this tour, you'll never get another chance," he roared, before outlining precisely the fate that awaited the musicians should they continue with their scheme. They would never work again - not, at least, under the name of Fleetwood Mac. For, more or less unknown to the band members, Davis didn't simply hold their contracts. He also held rights to the name of Fleetwood Mac itself and, if they weren't going to live up to it, he would find another band of players who would.
And he did.

What history now recalls as the Bogus Fleetwood Mac hit the road in January 1974. The road hit them back immediately. For all management's insistence that the band name was nothing more than a brand name, audiences knew precisely who they expected to see on stage when they attended a Mac gig - and not one of the men onstage now was among them.

"According to my understanding, the Fake Mac played only two weeks of a ten-week tour," Mick Fleetwood later said. The band's own booking agency, unaware of all that had taken place, pulled the plugs as soon as the first of the "real" band's injunctions was served. But elsewhere, the situation remained parlous. Royalties were frozen while the lawyers studied old contracts, while the band's very recording deal turned out to have been arranged between Warner Brothers Records and management alone. According to it, Fleetwood Mac was whoever Clifford Davis said it was.

Even when the bogus band, suddenly realizing the true nature of the situation, turned their own backs on Davis (they resurfaced the following year as Stretch, and scored a major UK hit with the bitter 'Why Did You Do It', dedicated personally to Davis), the law suits dragged on.

But there was one silver lining. The suits and counter-suits only tied the band up in the UK. Although the entire fake Mac incident took place in America, that country's legal system remained largely untainted by the affair. Of course there had been some fall-out; there were some legal niceties to be arranged, and uncertainties to be ironed out. But in considerably less time than anybody might have expected, the band had not only renegotiated their US deal, they had formed their own personal management and publishing companies, free from any outside interference (or greed) whatsoever. And, in summer 1974, after almost a year of inactivity, Fleetwood Mac relocated en masse to California, to begin work on their next album, Heroes Are Hard To Find.

It was not an easy album, to make. The turmoil of the past twelve months had drained all four band members - forget heroes, new material was hard to find as well. Bob Welch later admitted, "we struggled with material because nobody at that point could really articulate a clear direction. We wanted to do modern, no cliché music and had many long philosophical discussions about what we should do."

But the end result, though it was certainly among the best-sounding albums the band had ever released (Fleetwood calls it their "most polished") possessed music little of any lasting value; was hamstringed even further when Welch himself announced he intended leaving the band at the end of the year, following their next US tour. "He had burnt himself out writing the last two albums," Fleetwood sympathized. "He was actually feeling quite fried. Marital problems aggravated being on the road for him.. [and when he] looked back on all the years and work, [he] began to see a dead end. He'd had enough."

Welch's final act with Fleetwood Mac would be to record the LA radio show that, years later, emerged as the Bermuda Triangle bootleg, an excellent show that stands as the closest to a "best of" that his years with Fleetwood Mac have yet been granted. The guitar is on fire, the vocal lines are punchy, the rhythm section has rarely sounded so good, and a clutch of songs that look as far back as 1971's Future Games indicate just how much magic Welch contributed to the band over the past five years - a point that is further illustrated by the presence of just one "true" "classic" Mac oldie in the show: 'The Green Manalishi' was Peter Green's farewell to Fleetwood Mac back in 1970. Bermuda Triangle makes a fair claim for it to be similarly regarded as Welch's au revoir, too.

It could, Fleetwood admits, have been the end. Yet, though the band had been reduced to a three piece, "we weren't thinking that at
the time." He told Goldmine writer Amy Hanson, "I think there are so many eras in Fleetwood Mac, and they all sort of blended. When Bob Welch left, we were basically thinking 'what do we do next to enable us to carry on?' Which is really a part of the history in total. One of the umbilicals that go through the whole history of this band is that that's been the work ethic. It's never been, 'oh we're breaking up' it's always been, 'well, who's next?'"

And he already had a good idea of the answer to that question. A few weeks before the Bermuda Triangle concert, Fleetwood was touring different LA studios in search of a venue for the next Fleetwood Mac album. He'd just reached Sound City Recording, and was listening as engineer Keith Olsen played a track he'd recently recorded there, 'Frozen Love' by a virtually unknown duo named Buckingham-Nicks. And Fleetwood knew instinctively that he had discovered both the studio he was looking for, and the future that the band required.

"It was a very right feeling, and their music spoke in a way that obviously, initially, I noticed. Then I took that information to John and Chris, as to what I thought would be our next move to continue the band." No matter that the band thought it was only in search of a new guitarist. "Realizing that Lindsey and Stevie came as a songwriting team was all I needed to know, because I liked what I was hearing, and they created that, as opposed to having it produced around them. It was a great feeling."

He called the duo immediately. Nicks later recalled, "He never said 'do you want to audition,' or 'do you want to come over and we'll get to know each other,' or anything. Right from the beginning, it was 'do you want to join?'" A couple of days later, the five musicians met up for the first time at a local Mexican restaurant; "and it was 'Rehearsals start next week, see you there.'"

She was, she admitted, astonished by the speed with which everything fell together. "This friend of ours was really into Fleetwood Mac, and he told us about seeing them at Winterland, and how they'd driven away in big black Cadillac limousines. So there I was in my waitresses' outfit, and white nurses' shoes, going 'oh my God!' and imagining those limos. I think that was the only time I've ever been really awestruck about this whole thing, seeing that picture in my head" - it was, in fact, the only time she had the time to be awestruck. As Fleetwood later laughed, "we went into a brief rehearsal. We hadn't played a note together, yet we had full commitment that they were in the band. We rehearsed for about two weeks. We rehearsed in ICM's basement, which was our agency, and went straight from there to make our next album, Fleetwood Mac."

And, even as they recorded the record that would being 'Rhiannon', 'Say You Love Me', 'Warm Ways' and so many more to the world, Fleetwood and his bandmates knew that the forgotten years were over... that they could, in fact, be forgotten.
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Old 06-05-2011, 10:22 AM
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holidayroad holidayroad is offline
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Originally Posted by michelej1 View Post

McVie's original explanation was not wholly accurate, of course - Bob Welch was not on his way out after all; which was something of a mixed blessing, to Walker's mind. "The musical content of the band at the time was Chris [McVie] and Bob Welch's songs, and I'm sorry, but they were crap as far as I'm concerned." It quickly turned out, however, that Welch was no more enthused by Walker's presence in the band - "[he] thought he was too blatant," Mick Fleetwood reports, "too rough around the edges, too shallow as a performer."
Why join a band if you think so lowly of their work??
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:26 PM
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Originally Posted by holidayroad View Post
Why join a band if you think so lowly of their work??
Money, fan base, great musicianship, and history. As much as I love the Kirwan-Welch line up, I've heard they were either on fire or were boring.
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Old 06-05-2011, 09:47 PM
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I wish some bootleg shows would emerge from the time they toured with Dave Walker. I would love to hear the short-lived Penguin era of the band. Besides the Mystery to Me tour (which was cut short because of Bob Weston's affair with Mick's wife) I don' t think there any representation of those tours.

The only thing we have are the Midnight Special clips with Remember Me and Miles Away. That was an amazingly strong line up. I would love to hear a whole show.
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