Friday, August 13, 2010

Top Fifty Fleetwood Mac Songs

First thing's first: in order to unzip the file of Fleetwood Mac I am including here, you will need to download WinRAR, which can be done here: If you have a MAC you can use UnRarX:

Secondly, here is the link for the file download:
EDIT: I put in tracks from Say You Will that aren't working. Here's a link for those four songs:

EDIT: This download includes all five of the Bob Welch era Fleetwood Mac albums - Future Games, Bare Trees, Penguin, Mystery To Me, and Heroes Are Hard To Find. A truly underrated era, I hope you guys can appreciate it!

If you have any issues, please let me know and I will try to help. Now onto the meat.

Fleetwood Mac is one of the greatest bands in music history. When I set out to rank the band's top fifty songs a month ago, I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. After listening to every song on the band's 18 albums as well as a number of singles and live cuts, I finally narrowed it down to fifty. That was the easy part, believe it or not. The hard part was writing this evaluation. While I do talk somewhat about the musical aspects of each song, my main goal was to teach people about the band's storied history and provide some insight into some of their greatest songs. Hopefully I have done that. Also, my blatant bias for the Buckingham Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac is about to shine through - I apologize.

Anyway, let's get down to business. I hope you all enjoy and take the opportunity to listen to these songs!

NOTE: I wrote this in Word in various states of drunkenness/sobriety. There will most likely be errors, but I'm not about to pore over a 10,000 word document to find them all because it's just too much. Please ignore any stupid mistakes. Thank you!

You've got to love them.

50. “Spare Me A Little Of Your Love” - Bare Trees. Written by: Christine McVie

Bare Trees was Fleetwood Mac’s second effort with the wonderful Bob Welch, the man who kept the band together between the departures of Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer and the arrivals of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The album, the last to feature guitarist Danny Kirwan, shows the band in the midst of a transition from blues music to a more pop-oriented sound, which is no more evident than on Christine McVie’s “Spare Me A Little Of Your Love.”

Christine had joined the band full-time in 1971 and was married to John McVie, the group’s bassist. During the writing and recording of Bare Trees, John’s growing dependency on alcohol eventually led to Christine having an affair with the album’s producer, Martin Birch. Once the affair was concluded, John and Christine decided to give their marriage another shot. It is believed that this song deals with Christine’s emotions at that time. This is a really great pop song, and I love the melody. Christine may be my favorite member of the Mac, and it’s fun, catchy tunes such as this that make her so special.

49. “Steal Your Heart Away” - Say You Will. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

The Mac’s last studio album to date, Say You Will, was released in 2003. While the album is certainly a return to form for the band, it is missing one essential piece of the puzzle: Christine McVie. After the success of their ’97 tour and the retirement of McVie, the remaining members of the band decided to push forward with her and make the most of their career revival by writing and recording a new album. Without McVie to balance things out, the album comes off as somewhat disjointed and really feels like two albums - half Stevie and half Lindsey. Having said that, the album is still spectacular and features a number of great songs, a few of which have made this list.

“Steal Your Heart Away” is a song that actually dates back to 1994. Lindsey had been working on a solo album and asked Mick to play drums for him which eventually led to the reunion in 1997. A lot of the songs Lindsey had been writing for his solo album ended up appearing on the next Fleetwood Mac album instead. While “Steal Your Heart Away” isn’t much more than a nice little love song (with a somewhat darker lyrical make-up), it is a damn good song and well-deserving of a spot in the top 50.

48. “What’s The World Coming To” - Say You Will. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

Another strong track from Lindsey in the band’s 2003 effort, Say You Will, “What’s The World Coming To” asks a question many of us have pondered in the last decade. Acting as the album’s opener, this song sets the tone for the return of the Mac ( and instantly brings the listener back to the late 70s, the height of Macdom. This song features a strong vocal from Lindsey (with Stevie backing him) and some nice guitar work, if somewhat sparse, but the song is really driven by Mick Fleetwood.

47. “Skies The Limit” - Behind The Mask. Written by: Christine McVie

Behind The Mask was released in 1990 and is one of the real disappointments in the Fleetwood Mac catalogue. Billy Burnette and Rick Vito aren’t necessarily poor additions to the group, but the absence of Lindsey Buckingham is a glaring one, and the rest of the band seems lost without him (though a few songs from this line-up have crept into this top 50). Between ’90 and ’95, Fleetwood Mac would become musically irrelevant. While Christine and Stevie tried to make things work, it just wasn’t believable as Fleetwood Mac. By this point, McVie, her ex-husband, and Mick Fleetwood had all experienced a number of lineup changes within the band, though none had really devastated the band as much as Lindsey’s departure (with the possible exception of Peter Green).

“Skies The Limit,” poor grammar aside, is another wonderful example of a tight, catchy pop song penned by perennial popster Christine McVie. There’s nothing too spectacular about this song (written by McVie for her new husband, Eddy Quintela), but it’s just a damn good love song with a positive message. While I would never place McVie anywhere near the top of a “greatest lyricists” list, she has proven time and again that she can write an amazing pop song no matter the lineup around her, and “Skies The Limit” is probably the best example of such talent.

46. “What Makes You Think You’re The One” - Tusk. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

Tusk is my favorite Fleetwood Mac album of all time, hands down. I realize that this is a bullshit statement, as I also recognize Rumours as the single greatest album of all time. To state things simply, I stand by both comments. While I love Rumours, it doesn’t have that raw, ass-kicking-yet-tear-demanding quality that Tusk brings to the table. This album was a miserable failure (at over 4+ million albums sold worldwide) after the success of Rumours. The Mac allowed Buckingham to produce this album and also gave him the room to allow for experimentation and new recording techniques, as well expanding the project to an ambitious double album. While many might argue that the album sounds like three solo albums – Buckingham, Nicks and McVie each providing unique sounds to their respective tracks – it is especially endearing, and has been cited as Mick Fleetwood’s favorite Mac album. Even more interesting, Tusk has been described as “the sound of a band imploding.” Perhaps that is why it is my favorite Mac album.

“What Makes You Think You’re The One” is a prime example of Buckingham’s experimentation on the album. It’s a very atypical Mac track, yet it feels right at home on Tusk. Driven heavily by an occasionally obnoxious drum track, this song is one of Lindsey’s favorite Mac tracks (obviously Lindsey disagrees with my ‘obnoxious drum’ comment):

“Oh yeah, that’s one of the classic drum tracks. I love that. That’s one of the great drum tracks that I’ve ever heard. That’s up there with ‘Instant Karma.’ That was a great moment. That was just Mick and myself late at night in the studio, me at the piano. We put a cassette player that has one of those really cheap mics in it, we put that right under his snare, and it was so explosive the way he heard it in the cans, he got off on it, and he just turned into an animal. And it was just two-piece, there was no Christine or anybody putting any constraints on what could or couldn’t be done. That has to rate as one of my top-five moments with the band.”

I think it’s funny that one of Buckingham’s top-five moments included neither Stevie nor Christine, but the sheer masculinity of this song added to the fact that it’s most likely about Stevie makes this believable. A truly great song from a criminally underrated album.

45. “Nights In Estoril” - Time. Written by: Christine McVie

We are going to make the write-up on the Mac’s Time album terribly brief: it fucking sucks. This album suffers from another major loss: Stevie Nicks. Without Buckingham and Nicks, Fleetwood Mac continued to struggle after the failure of Behind The Mask. I love Fleetwood Mac just as much as anyone and I have given this album a fair number of listens. It blows.

“Nights In Estoril,” however, is a stellar song. This really shows the versatility of Christine McVie; though she thrived in the Buckingham Nicks years, she has a number of classic songs both pre- and post-Buckingham Nicks. For lack of a better term, this is just a badass pop song. “Nights in Estoril” is the absolute only reason to listen to Fleetwood Mac’s Time. (Thankfully, I’ve created an outlet where one can listen to it without suffering the rest of the album!)

44. “Blue Letter” - Fleetwood Mac. Written by: Richard & Michael Curtis

Fleetwood Mac, the band’s second eponymous album (awesome word), is probably the most important album in Fleetwood Mac’s storied history. After the departures of key figures such as Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan, and Bob Welch, the band struck gold with the addition of the little-known duo Buckingham Nicks. In 1974, Mick Fleetwood heard the song “Frozen Love” from Buckingham Nicks’ eponymous album and spoke to Lindsey Buckingham in a recording studio. When Bob Welch decided to leave the group later that year, Mick remembered the song and Lindsey and offered him a position within the Mac. Lindsey told Mick that he and Stevie were a package deal, and the classic Mac lineup was formed. The following year, they released their first album together, 1975’s Fleetwood Mac. The album, which has to date sold over 13 million copies in the US, spawned a number of hit singles (most of which are included in this list) and introduced Fleetwood Mac to a completely new fan base. The album also served as the band’s launching point to superstardom.

“Blue Letter” is a straight-forward rock track sung by Buckingham and driven largely by his guitar. While the track doesn’t necessarily stand out musically or lyrically, it is a fun rock-and-roll song that has always had an instantaneous effect on me. This song can make a man jump on a table, fist pump, and dick-laser (4:15 for reference - an entire room full of people.

43. “Night Watch” - Penguin. Written by: Bob Welch

1973 saw the release of Fleetwood Mac’s eighth album, Penguin. The album is the third in the Bob Welch era, and while not as strong as Bare Trees it is an excellent album. This album also is the first of two to feature Bob Weston and is the only album to feature Dave Walker in the lineup. The majority of songs on the album are split between Welch and McVie, with most being solid but not really standing out in the Mac catalogue. Also important to note is the penguin is the band’s unofficial mascot.

Bob Welch albums are some of the most important in the band’s history. Though they saw numerous lineup changes within those five albums, Bob Welch served as the connecting piece between the Peter Green era and the Buckingham Nicks era. Fleetwood has stated that Bob Welch kept the band together throughout those tough years, and it’s a crime that he was not inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the rest of Fleetwood Mac in 1998.

“Night Watch” is a great song that screams “Bob Welch” from the very beginning. Much like a number of other Welch compositions, this song has a feeling of warmth to it with a somewhat menacing edge. The intro is fantastic, as is the ending, but in between you will find a beautiful, comforting song with a certain funk to it that is easy to groove to. A truly great song from an understated album.

42. “I Don’t Want To Know” - Rumours. Written by: Stevie Nicks

Rumours is, for my money, the greatest album of all time. With over 40 million copies sold worldwide, the album is a rock-and-roll juggernaut that doesn’t for one second disappoint (contrary to some peoples’ opinions of “Songbird”). Every song is a standout track, and all but one are listed here (my apologies to “Oh Daddy” – I love you). The amazing thing is that the band was able to launch themselves into the stratosphere of rock legends in their eleventh album just as every relationship in the band was unraveling. Before the band even began work on the album the McVies had been divorced, Lindsey and Stevie were in the middle of breaking up, and Fleetwood had discovered the mother of his children was having an affair with one of his best friends. By the time it came to start writing songs for the album, the three chief songwriters (McVie, Nicks and Buckingham) were all writing about their own personal troubles which often overlapped with those of other bandmates. The recording sessions also led the band into a lifestyle of excess, as the studio was often home to more than recording – elaborate parties and excessive drug use ran rampant during long sessions. While emotionally the band was at its worst, the members were musically at their best. I love this album.

“I Don’t Want To Know” is a very strange song for me; I really don’t know how to feel about it. On one hand, the song is one of the album’s few positive songs and is a really great and optimistic look at the end of Lindsey and Stevie’s relationship (though in hindsight, little optimism can be found in their subsequent personal relationship). On the other hand, this is the song that replaced Nicks’ masterpiece “Silver Springs.” I don’t see how they could possibly drop that song for “I Don’t Want To Know,” but luckily I was born late enough that by the time I was 12 I was able to hear “Silver Springs” at its finest without ever knowing it was intended for the album. As it stands though, I really enjoy this song. The bright sound of Lindsey’s guitar and the beautiful harmonizing between Stevie and Lindsey just fit together so perfectly and really push this nice little song to a new level. A great little song, but often overlooked due to the greatness around it on Rumours.

41. “Blood On The Floor” - Kiln House. Written by: Jeremy Spencer

Kiln House marks an interesting time in the band’s history – it is the first album not to feature Peter Green, the band’s founder, and is the last to feature original member Jeremy Spencer. Very much a blues-rock album like many Mac albums from the era, Kiln House is split down the middle with songs written both by Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, this is my favorite blues-dominated album from Fleetwood Mac. While I like Peter Green and the work the band did with him, I am a huge Danny Kirwan fan, and he really shines on this album, as does Spencer. Spencer’s contributions mostly pay homage to the 50s and a parody or two while Kirwan’s are more straightforward and rocking. On the tour for the album, Spencer would disappear for a few days, requiring the band to call in Peter Green to cover for him. Spencer was eventually found and was discovered to have joined a religious cult, leaving the band for good. Interesting note: Christine McVie drew the artwork on the album’s cover.

“Blood On The Floor” is the only Spencer song that appears on this list, and upon reflection it’s a bit weird because it is such a goofy song. A tale of a man on death row for having “shot [his] sweetheart,” the song is an obvious parody but it’s so well done that I can’t help but love it. For the creepiness and brutality of the lyrics, the melody and the backing vocals are so soothing and beautiful that it’s actually funny. Spencer’s vocals are absolutely hilarious, and while it’s not a perfect example of Mac at the height of their blues dominance, it’s truly a fantastic little song.

40. “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)” – Single. Written by: Peter Green

“Green Manalishi” was a song written in the last few months of Peter Green’s time with Fleetwood Mac. Though Green had originally formed the band with ex-Bluesbreaker members Fleetwood and McVie, his mental health was quickly deteriorating, and after suggesting the band give all of their money away (and the other bandmates disagreeing) Green decided to leave. The deterioration of his mental health had a lot to do with his use of LSD, which is rumored to be the source of “Green Manalishi.” Green, however, has stated that the song was about a dream and was more about money than drugs. Either way, the song is great and almost more prog-rock than blues. Green’s guitar is biting, the vocal is sharp, and the live version included here shows the band at their best in the Green era. While the song has become known as a metal staple thanks to Judas Priest’s rendition, it will always be one of the classic Fleetwood Mac tracks.

39. “Walk A Thin Line” - Tusk. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

After the tremendous success of Rumours, Lindsey felt a lot of pressure to follow it up with something even greater. Pair this with a number of things including his strained relationship with Stevie, Stevie’s emergence as the focal point of the group, and Lindsey’s own distancing from the band, and one can understand why Lindsey took Tusk in the direction he did. Let’s make no mistake - Tusk is Lindsey’s album, through and through. “Walk A Thin Line” is a wonderful little song that deals with some of these issues of isolation from the group as Lindsey straddles many lines – the line between he and Stevie’s love and hate, the line between commercial success and artistic integrity, and even the line between sanity and insanity. A very simple, folk-like song with a beautiful melody and an endearing lyric, “Walk A Thin Line” is one of Lindsey’s finest moments on Tusk.

38. “Running Through The Garden” - Say You Will. Written by: Stevie Nicks, Ray Kennedy, Gary Nicholson

“Running Through The Garden” is based on the short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. In short, the story is about a young student, Giovanni, who falls in love with the daughter of Dr. Rappaccini, an introverted scientist. Rappaccini’s greatest experiment is that of his daughter, who is kept locked away in a beautiful garden filled with poisonous plants. While Beatrice (Rappaccini’s daughter) is beautiful, Giovanni notices that life amongst the plants has made her poisonous, seen when fresh flowers wither at her touch. Against the advice of his mentor, Giovanni visits and falls in love with Beatrice. Giovanni eventually learns of her toxic nature, but Beatrice asks him to look beyond her poisonous nature and see her for what she truly is – pure and innocent. The relationship continues and Giovanni begins experiencing ill-effects from the poison. In the end, Giovanni brings a powerful antidote to Beatrice to heal them so they can be together. Unfortunately, the antidote kills Beatrice. I wish I had been forced to read this story in high school rather than The Scarlet Letter.

In keeping with the theme of the story, the song is autobiographical and paints Nicks as Beatrice. She recognizes that within her garden of music, success, excess, etc. exists some sort of toxin when it comes to relationships. This song goes beyond Lindsey Buckingham and focuses more on Stevie’s general relationship failures, though with Lindsey providing some amazing guitar work, it’s hard to ignore the implicit nature of the lyrics:

“Never did I mean to
Imprison you
Here in my garden
Like I am imprisoned
For the love I have for your life
For the love I have for your life
Turn around”

A beautiful lyric acknowledging her toxicity, and a wonderful song. Stevie still has it and, more importantly, an appreciation for literature makes this song even more enjoyable.

37. “You Make Loving Fun” - Rumours. Written by: Christine McVie

“You Make Loving Fun” is another optimistic track from Rumours (interesting that the optimistic ones aren’t anywhere near the top of the list). The song is a crowd favorite and is one of the Mac’s greatest hits, but it was not written about ex-hubby John McVie. This classic pop song was written about Curry Grant, Fleetwood Mac’s lighting director. During her break-up and divorce with John, mainly due to the latter’s alcohol issues, McVie had an affair with Grant that helped rejuvenate her personally and obviously had an effect on her life musically. With McVie’s pop sense and some excellent guitar work from Buckingham, this song has wound its way into the hearts of all Mac fans.

36. “Sands Of Time” - Future Games. Written by: Danny Kirwan

Future Games is an interesting album; the first album to feature guitarist Bob Welch as well the first to feature Christine McVie as a full-fledged member, it is also the first album to start the Mac’s distancing from blues-oriented rock and roll to melodic pop music. Though Kirwan dominates the album moreso than anyone else, Welch has a strong debut, especially the amazing title track. This is really an essential album for Fleetwood Mac fans.

“Sands Of Time” is a great track written by Kirwan and is another knife in the blues-rock back of old Fleetwood Mac. A soft verse combined with a great chorus and excellent guitar work by Kirwan and piano from McVie really make this simple song into something special.

35. “You And I, Part II” - Tango In The Night. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie

Tango In The Night, the band’s fifteenth studio album, was a return to the success of Rumours, becoming the band’s second biggest album. The album began as a Buckingham solo album, a trend that would define not only this album, but also Tusk (my personal opinion) and Say You Will, which featured many songs Buckingham had intended for a solo album. While the album contains some of the band’s strongest material, it would once again lead to turmoil within the group. Though the band had intended to tour the highly successful album, a confrontation at Christine’s home in 1987 ended the classic Fleetwood Mac lineup when Lindsey reportedly told the band to “get that schizophrenic bitch out of this house.” (He was referring, obviously, to Stevie Nicks.) This led to a ten-year hiatus from the band for Buckingham as well as two shitty albums without him. The band added Billy Burnette and Rick Vito and hit the road anyway for a successful tour.

“You And I, Part II” is a strange song. A rare composition from the team of Buckingham and McVie, the song was the sequel to the original b-side to the mega-hit “Big Love” ( While not as atmospheric as part one, part two is infinitely better. It’s got a very non-Mac vibe to it and really makes me curious as to what Mac could have produced had this unique writing team come together for more songs. The song is light, simple, fun, and fantastic. While most might consider this a throwaway track, I think it’s a diamond in the rough and an amazing deep album track from one of the Mac’s finest LPs.

34. “Seven Wonders” - Tango In The Night. Written by: Stevie Nicks and Sandy Stewart

“Seven Wonders” is a great song, but it is neither amazing nor particularly endearing. Having said that, it is beautiful enough to warrant a mildly high position in this countdown. It is really rare to hear a Stevie Nicks pop song as straightforward as this. Stevie is known mostly for her darker, moody songs. She proves with “Seven Wonders” that is as capable of writing a catchy pop song as Christine McVie, but this is truly a rare gem in the Mac catalogue, as Stevie did not make a habit of writing simple pop songs.

33. “Thrown Down” - Say You Will. Written by: Stevie Nicks

Another wonderful pop song from Stephanie “Stevie” Nicks, “Thrown Down” is my favorite song from the amazing Say You Will album. While Stevie wrote the song, everything about it screams Lindsey Buckingham. From the background vocals to the guitar to the keyboard, Buckingham did everything (including percussion!) on this wonderful track. This is a prime example of how Lindsey has always been able to take the beautiful lyrics and melodies Stevie has written and turn them into songs that truly capture an audience’s imagination. This is one of the quintessential Fleetwood Mac tracks, if only because it shows that after all these years Stevie and Lindsey’s relationship, as fragile as it may be personally, is still musically provocative.

32. “Think About Me” - Tusk. Written by: Christine McVie

While this song is credited solely to McVie, this has the feel of another Buckingham/McVie collaboration. Lindsey’s vocals are prevalent in the chorus and the song’s stellar ending, and his guitar work dominates the majority of the record. At the same time, this song demonstrates the pop sensibilities of McVie, something Lindsey and Stevie rarely displayed compared to the former Ms. Perfect. While the song is not the strongest Fleetwood Mac effort, it’s the key pop addition to the Tusk album and is one of McVie’s greatest pop songs, which is saying a lot considering her resume.

31. “Storms” - Tusk. Written by: Stevie Nicks

“Storms” is an interesting Fleetwood Mac song. The song is about as Stevie Nicks as a song can get, but at the same time it isn’t poppy or moody Nicks, but rather a reflective Nicks, something that isn’t often seen. While many see the song as another chronicle of the relationship between Stevie and Lindsey, it has also been interpreted as dealing with the short relationship between Nicks and drummer Mick Fleetwood. It is this relationship that I would like to focus on. The song itself is a beautiful song and one describing a lost love, though I don’t particularly see it as a great love, which is why I will focus on the Mick Fleetwood aspects of the song. Nicks and Fleetwood began an affair in late ’77, and though it ended early I can’t imagine it not seeping into Nicks’ writing. As far as I can tell, this song is the most likely candidate.

30. “No Questions Asked” - Greatest Hits. Written by: Stevie Nicks

“No Questions Asked” was a song recorded in 1988 by the Fleetwood Mac including Billy Burnette and Rick Vito. This is a rare Stevie Nicks love song in that I don’t see it in any way involving Lindsey Buckingham. While it’s tempting to say this a part of him in this song, as most Stevie songs contain a bit of Lindsey, I truly don’t think that is the case here. One of the first songs recorded after the departure of Buckingham in ’87, “No Questions Asked” is a straightforward pop song dealing with a seemingly lost lover who is desperately needed by the woman he is estranged from. From the details alone we can decipher it has little to do with Buckingham (unless of course it is a metaphor for their musical relationship, which the next few albums would prove that Stevie needed Lindsey for musical guidance). As it stands, it’s just a hell of a pop song with some decent lyrics, great music and a phenomenal vocal from Stevie.

29. “The Ledge” - Tusk. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

The Tusk album tends to deal a lot with Lindsey’s feelings about Stevie, even moreso than Rumours. This is a prime example of Lindsey’s conflicted feelings on the subject. Through the album, Lindsey is trying to deal with his lingering feelings about his relationship with Ms. Nicks, and this song is a strong condemnation of her actions and her future. A catchy rock tune, “The Ledge” contains disdainful lyrics that really add to the depth and lasting impression of the song. Add to that the upbeat nature and the great Buckingham vocals/melody, and this song is hard to forget.

28. “Man Of The World” – Single. Written by: Peter Green

“Man Of The World” is another fantastic piece of music written by the phenomenal Peter Green. This song is one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs as far as lyrical quality is concerned. It tells the tale of a man who has all that he could ever wish for other than the love of a woman. While the lyrics alone are enough to carry this into the upper echelon of Mac songs, the guitar work and the vocals/melody are both beautiful and accompany deep-reaching lyrics with an equal musical integrity. I love this song, and it’s a true gem in the early Mac catalogue. Also, the following lyric always grabs me because it often describes how I feel about myself:

“And I need a good woman
To make me feel like a good man should
I don’t say I’m a good man
Oh, but I would be if I could”

27. “Little Lies” - Tango In The Night. Written by: Christine McVie and Eddy Qunitela

While some might believe that this song is a leftover from Christine’s relationship with John McVie, I do not. Nor does she, apparently, as when asked by John in a joint interview if the song is about him, Christine replied that it was not. This is simply another mind-blowingly awesome pop song by McVie, who, as noted, is the greatest writer of pop music within the band. Here she and her keyboards take off on a sonic journey that helped propel Tango In The Night to the top of the charts. With Nicks and Buckingham backing her, Christine is unstoppable here in a song co-written by her new husband.

26. “Don’t Stop” - Rumours. Written by: Christine McVie

I will flat-out state my opinion on this song at the beginning: I am not a big fan of this song. I almost left this song off the list in favor of “Oh Daddy,” but then I heard it again and figured someone would give me a ton of shit for it so I included it. The song is a clear message to Christine’s estranged husband in the midst of their divorce – I still love you as a person and I wish the best for you in the future. This was probably easy for her to say as she was having an affair with their lighting director, but at the same time she had dealt with years of John’s alcohol abuse so I’m going to call this battle somewhat even. An interesting note: This song was played by a reunited Fleetwood Mac at President Clinton’s Inaugural Ball in 1993, as he had used the song as during his Presidential campaign. This was important as it sowed the seeds for an eventual reunion in 1997.

25. “Jewel Eyed Judy” - Kiln House. Written by: Danny Kirwan, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie

“Jewel Eyed Judy” is another great Danny Kirwan track, co-written by the rhythm section, and one of my favorite pre-Buckingham Nicks tracks. When Peter Green left, Danny Kirwan had to adjust quickly to becoming a focal point of the group. With “Jewel Eyed Judy,” the young man proved his worth. This song is soft and understated as well as rocking. This song is easily the crown jewel of the Kiln House album and showed that even without Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac could rock the shit out of people.

24. “Say You Love Me” - Fleetwood Mac. Written by: Christine McVie

It’s easy to read more into this song than there is, but in the end it’s simply another great pop song dealing with McVie’s somewhat troubled history with love. Written at a time when she and husband John were experiencing tough time in their marriage, this is Christine’s plea for John, an alcoholic, to ditch the sauce and come back to Christine. While Christine has always been great at inspiring love in a song, she was less successful in her personal attempts to drag John away from the bottle, eventually leading to their divorce, which would lend greatly to Christine’s writing on Rumours.

23. “Dust” - Bare Trees. Written by: Danny Kirwan

Danny Kirwan’s swan song with the Mac, the phenomenal Bare Trees, showcased the best the young guitar player had to offer. Described earlier in his career as someone so into his playing that he would cry as he played, Kirwan poured a ton of emotion into the album. This is no more evident than on the song “Dust.” While Kirwan wrote the music, he stole the lyrics from a poem by the popular 20th century poet Rupert Brooke. The song is an emotional tour de force, and although Kirwan did not write the words, they reflect how he felt at the time. Kirwan had become a raging alcoholic and was separating from his wife as well as the band. He and Bob Welch had never really gotten along, and by the time he was fired, Mick Fleetwood was the only band member still talking to him. Though it was a tragic end to such a talented songwriter with a great band, this is an amazing song with which to exit. Interesting note: Pink Floyd’s “The Gunner’s Dream” also borrowed from Rupert Brooke with the line “in the corner of some foreign field…” Brooke’s original line is as follows: "If I should die tonight, think only this of me/ That there is a corner of some foreign field, that is forever England."

22. “Gold Dust Woman” - Rumours. Written by: Stevie Nicks

“Gold Dust Woman” is a song that has always captivated the Fleetwood Mac fandom. While on the surface the song seems to be about fame and cocaine abuse, it is decidedly undetermined whether or not there is an underlying meaning. Fans have discussed the possibilities of the song’s meaning for years, but in the case of a song shrouded in years of mystery, I think it is best for everyone to hear it straight from the band.

Christine’s take: "Stevie’s words can be pretty obscure… at best. Sometimes I didn’t know what she was singing about, but in her mind those words made complete sense and I often used to wonder what on earth she was talking about. But then, you didn’t care because the words just sounded so good."

Lindsey’s take: "This song is very dark and somewhat acrimonious. I’m guessing that the acrimony was directed at me at the time."

Stevie’s Take: "You know what, Courtney? I don't really know what 'Gold Dust Woman’ is about. I know there was cocaine there and that I fancied it gold dust, somehow. I'm going to have to go back to my journals and see if I can pull something out about ‘Gold Dust Woman.’ Because I don't really know. It's weird that I'm not quite sure. It can't be all about cocaine."

21. “Hold Me” - Mirage. Written by: Christine McVie, Robbie Patton

Mirage was a return to the pop music of Fleetwood Mac and Rumours after the ambitious Tusk. While the album was moderately successful, it was neither as successful nor well-received as said albums. The album was released on the coattails of Stevie Nicks’ and Lindsey Buckingham’s respective solo albums (one of which did much better than other – I’ll leave that for you to figure out) and though the Mac’s popularity was soaring, the album was not strong enough to propel them back to their status after 1975’s Rumours. While the album is not terrible, it pales in comparison to every other Buckingham Nicks era Mac album.

Though I’m not a huge fan of the Mirage album in its entirety, “Hold Me" is one of my absolute favorite Fleetwood Mac songs. Christine McVie strikes again with another catchy pop song that you just can’t get out of your head. This song is obviously about another man in her life, and the culprit this time is most likely Dennis Wilson (of Beach Boys and Charles Manson fame). Her relationship with Wilson was tumultuous, but Christine seemed to love him despite their troubles. A year after this tune was written, Wilson drowned to death.

20. “Tusk” - Tusk. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

This is the key song on the Tusk album and it is one of the most important Fleetwood Mac tracks. The song features an enchanting drum beat with haunting lyrics and vocals as well as a marching band. There is so much to this song vocally and musically that one has to truly hear it to appreciate and even attempt to understand its greatness. At the same time, one has to wonder what Lindsey is addressing in his lyrics. Conventional wisdom would say that he is talking about the short-lived affair between Stevie and Mick Fleetwood, something that must have eaten at Lindsey. Buckingham was always in love with Stevie, and seeing her with another member of the band, as clandestine as the two tried to keep it, must have killed him. Tusk is Lindsey’s answer to the affair and another response in a decades-long conversation between he and Stevie.

19. “Everywhere” - Tango In The Night. Written by: Christine McVie

One of the Mac’s signature tunes, “Everywhere” is a ridiculously catchy pop song that once again showcases McVie’s innate ability to write a song that one cannot get out of one’s head. The enchanting keyboards on this song as well as the simplicity make it a wondrous love song that anyone can enjoy, and she turned a simple love song about Eddy Quintela into one of the most memorable and enjoyable Fleetwood Mac songs of all time.

As a fan of Fleetwood Mac, this song speaks to me in a number of ways. The biggest way this song has impacted my life, however, is through a friend’s voice. Every so often I get a phone call from a friend who is obviously as retardedly drunk as I am. Without fail, he always seems to be in the middle of singing “Everywhere” at least 60% of the time I answer the phone, and to be perfectly honest I don’t just appreciate it – I join in for a multi-state Fleetwood Mac singalong. Win.

18. “Never Going Back Again” - Rumours. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

“Never Going Back Again” is a rare moment for Lindsey Buckingham, as this song sees him in a relatively optimistic mood. After Lindsey’s breakup with Stevie he was involved in with another woman, and she is the focal point of this particular song. This song shows Lindsey in rare moment of understanding about his relationship with Stevie and even a defiance to never go back to such a thing again. As we would see over the course of the following years, however, Lindsey and Stevie have never truly been able to put each other aside. Though the story is tragic, the music is wonderful. This little acoustic ditty is one of my favorite songs from Rumours, and I would encourage anyone who enjoys this song to check out live versions, as Lindsey Buckingham really makes this song special in front of an audience.

17. “Songbird”/”Over My Head” - Rumours/Fleetwood Mac. Written by: Christine McVie

I included two songs at the position for two reasons:

1. I have a number of friends that hate “Songbird.”
2. I needed to fit both of these songs on this list and was too stubborn to compromise.

“Songbird” is a beautiful McVie composition. I really don’t get why there is so much hatred for this song. On an album full of songs written about fellow bandmates, “Songbird” is just a peaceful piano ballad that is largely believed to have been written as a message of love to the rest of the band amidst the turmoil of the Rumours recording sessions.

“Over My Head” was the first single released from the Fleetwood Mac album and its critical and commercial success surprised even McVie. This is a song about John and Christine’s somewhat tumultuous relationship, made worse by John’s constant drinking. Like most other McVie songs, “Over My Head” isn’t overly complicated. What it does, however, it does very well. So take whichever McVie long song you prefer in this slot, you really can’t go wrong with either.

16. “Go Your Own Way” - Rumours. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

“Go Your Own Way” is probably the ultimate break-up song. Written during his break-up with Nicks, the song paints a very different picture of their split than Stevie’s offerings (“Dreams” and “Silver Springs”). Lindsey is spiteful, hurt, confused, and angry with Stevie, and it shows not only in the lyrics, but also in the music. You can hear Lindsey’s pain and anger erupting from his guitar as well as in his strained vocals, and the shots he takes at Stevie are particularly harsh (“packing up / shacking up is all you want to do”). Of all the personal songs on Rumours, “Go Your Own Way” is the most scathing and pessimistic, which only helps to fuel its rock-and-roll fire.

15. “Black Magic Woman” - English Rose. Written by: Peter Green

English Rose is probably the height of Fleetwood Mac’s blues success. Easily identified by its frightening cover depicting Mick Fleetwood in drag, the album is full of great blues tracks and some of early Mac’s greatest hits from Green, Spencer, and Kirwan. If you like blues music you will love English Rose, simple as that. Though they aren’t listed here, “Love That Burns,” “Albatross” and “Something Inside Of Me” are all great tracks. If you’ve never listened to Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, this is the first album I would suggest.

“Black Magic Woman” is a song that is almost universally known, though the most popular version is the Santana cover from a few years later. While the song doesn’t stray too far from the blues formula, it’s pretty much a perfect blues song. Even after Peter Green’s departure a few years later the band kept the song in their live repertoire, often being sung by Kirwan. While not as popular or memorable as the Santana version, this Peter Green composition helped solidify Fleetwood Mac as the premier blues band in England.

Interesting note: Fleetwood Mac and Santana were both inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and Gregg Rolie, the badass keyboard player who sang “Black Magic Woman” in Santana, would eventually leave the band to form Journey with Neal Schon. In the end, everything comes back to Steve Perry.

14. “Monday Morning” - Fleetwood Mac. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

As mentioned, Buckingham and Nicks were offered positions in Fleetwood Mac in 1974 based on a chance meeting of Buckingham and Fleetwood months earlier. Without even auditioning, the two accepted the offer over margaritas with the band in L.A. “Monday Morning” is the opening track to the Buckingham Nicks era of Fleetwood Mac and it’s obvious from the get-go that this was a reinvigorated band. Not only did Stevie and Lindsey add a new dimension to the band, but Christine McVie had stepped up her game to match the young duo. “Monday Morning” had been around since the Buckingham Nicks days and seems like a logical place to begin the album. With the rhythm section holding steady behind him, Lindsey Buckingham launches into an early tale depicting his already crumbling relationship with Stevie. It’s been said that Stevie and Lindsey were great lovers but never great friends, and songs like this tend to confirm that statement. They competed musically and personally, and their relationship is still strained today, as Stevie nicks mentioned in 2009: “Maybe when we’re 75 and Fleetwood Mac is a distant memory, we might be friends.” “Monday Morning” is a strong opening track that does a great job of ushering in a new era for Fleetwood Mac.

13. “Landslide” - Fleetwood Mac. Written by: Stevie Nicks

“Landslide” is another song that deals with early troubles in the Buckingham Nicks relationship. The story goes that while the two were in Aspen, Colorado, Lindsey and Stevie had a fight and Lindsey packed up the car and left, stranding Stevie in Aspen. The two were facing both professional and personal troubles as their band had recently been dropped from their record label. After Buckingham left, Stevie stared out at the mountains and contemplated her life and its recent changes, most notably her changing relationship with Lindsey. In an acquaintances living room, Stevie sat down and wrote “Landslide,” a song that will forever be identified with her, especially after 1997’s The Dance which gave the song new life. As always, however, the song wouldn’t be complete without Buckingham’s soothing guitar. This is yet another example of how Lindsey and Stevie wrote their best music when they were personally at their worst.

12. “Second Hand News” - Rumours. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

I still remember the first time I ever listened to Rumours. I was in maybe 6th or 7th grade and had randomly bought Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits CD. I used to listen to it all of the time while playing video games (images of Bomberman 64 still pop into my head while listening to certain Mac songs) and I remember talking to my aunt Bridget about the band. She lived down the street from me with her queer husband, Pete “Post-AIDS Freddie Mercury” Crivaro, and she let me borrow the CD one afternoon. I snatched it up, walked home, sat down in my room and popped it in. The album literally changed my life and the way I listened to music, and a lot of the credit goes to “Second Hand News.” Probably my favorite opening track to any album, this song provides the emotional and musical setting in which the rest of the album takes place, and while the music is optimistically upbeat, the lyrics tell a different story – one of sadness, bitterness and resignation. Another song about Stevie, “Second Hand News” is a thrilling pop song that gets stuck in your head for days, and the guitar solo at the end is excellent.

11. “Dreams” - Rumours. Written by: Stevie Nicks

As if in response to “Second Hand News,” the Mac moves right into “Dreams,” a poignant break-up song penned by Nicks. During the insanity of the Rumours sessions, Nicks isolated herself in an empty studio with a keyboard and wrote “Dreams” in about ten minutes. The band enjoyed it and recorded it the next day with Lindsey adding to Stevie’s arrangement. This song is such a stark contrast to Lindsey’s offerings, “Go Your Own Way” and “Second Hand News,” in that Stevie does not seem angry or bitter. While the lyrics paint a painful picture, the anger and resentment Buckingham shows is noticeably absent. This was Fleetwood Mac’s only number one song, and it will forever have a special place in my heart if only for the memory of a drunken Brian Doll’s imitation of the bass line.

10. “I’m So Afraid” - Fleetwood Mac. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

“I’m So Afraid” is really an iconic Mac track. Opening with the rhythm section keeping things tight as Lindsey launches into a guitar solo, the song slowly builds to a haunting lyric, delivered in a few cryptic words. This song, which actually dates back to 1971, is one of the darker songs the Mac has ever released, and Lindsey sings with a surprising passion. While the vocals and lyrics are great, this is a guitar song through and through. Buckingham used this song live as a vehicle to show off his guitar skills (something we’ll see again later). Lindsey really is a unique guitar player with a sound and style of his own. This track also lets Fleetwood shine. Fleetwood is one of the more popular drummers in music, if not for his skills than at least for his facial expressions and his drum vest. He always puts on his “O” face for this song while he and Lindsey dominate the stage. Words can’t really do this one justice, so here’s my favorite version of this song:

09. “Oh Well” – Single. Written by: Peter Green

A quick Mac history lesson since we have reached our last Peter Green song on the list: Peter Green was Eric Clapton’s replacement in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers along with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. Mayall introduced Green to the rest of the band (Fleetwood had yet to join at this point) by telling them he was a better guitar player than Clapton. When Green decided to leave the band, he asked Fleetwood and McVie to join him, even naming his new band Fleetwood Mac to entice them. Fleetwood saw the potential and was on board from the start. McVie, however, preferred to stay with the constant work and steady pay of the Bluesbreakers. The original bassist, Bob Brunning, understood that he was only in the band until McVie came to his senses and joined, which didn’t take too long. With McVie finally joining and the addition of guitarist Jeremy Spencer, Fleetwood Mac was born.

Interestingly enough, here is an impressive list of musicians who played in the Bluesbreakers:

Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce (Cream)
Green, Fleetwood, McVie (Mac)
Mick Taylor (Rolling Stones)
Aynsley Dunbar (Journey)

“Oh Well” is a special song for me. The song itself holds up as the greatest of the Peter Green era. The guitar work is phenomenal and the lyric and vocal are fantastic. At the same time, the song goes through a number of transformations, each of which is uniquely beautiful. At this time Fleetwood Mac was riding high as the greatest blues band perhaps in the world. It’s a true shame that Green went crazy and left, as he and Kirwan made a great team on guitar, with Danny adding lead guitar to this particular track.

Interesting note: In the five times I have seen Tom Petty live he has played “Oh Well” twice.

08. “Sentimental Lady” - Bare Trees. Written by: Bob Welch

“Sentimental Lady” is Bob Welch’s finest moment in both his solo career and his Fleetwood Mac career. The song is a loving message to his first wife, Nancy. I really love the softness with which Welch sings this song; the listener can feel the “sentimental, gentle wind” working its way through the song, and the lyrics are poetically romantic. This song serves as a clear indication that Fleetwood Mac is moving away from blues and into the pop arena, something that was solidified with Danny Kirwan’s departure after Bare Trees. As stated earlier, Bob Welch was a big part of this movement to pop music and he really held this band together in those tough middle years. Many Mac fans became fans during the Bob Welch era, and nothing proves why better than “Sentimental Lady.”

07. “Sara” - Tusk. Written by: Stevie Nicks

“Sara” is probably the most interesting song Fleetwood Mac has ever released. Clocking in at over six minutes (though an early demo was over 15 minutes), the song is extremely ambiguous and thought to be directed at multiple people. As to who Sara is, there are two possibilities – Stevie herself (the “poet in my heart” line, a later Sara reference on Tango, her use of the name to check into a rehab clinic years later) or Sara Recor, later Sara Fleetwood. Recor moved in with Mick in 1978 after meeting him through Stevie with whom he was having an affair. As for the male character in the song, it’s probably an amalgamation of three people – Lindsey, Mick, and Don Henley (she was hitting that). “Sara” is a haunting love song that chronicles an undefined relationship. While the song starts with a shred of optimism (“when you build your house, call me home”), in the end it drowns within its own sea of love, leaving us with uncertainty but leaving the door open for something down the line (“when you build your house, I’ll come by). It’s rumored that the original demo contained lyrics concerning all of the members of the band and detailing in song their troubled relationships and affairs. I’ve been scouring the web for a bootleg copy of such a demo, but I have been unable to locate one. One of my favorite songs by the Mac, “Sara” is an example of Stevie at her best.

06. “Crystal” - Fleetwood Mac. Written by: Stevie Nicks

“Crystal” is a really interesting song. Originally released by Lindsey and Stevie on their first album, Buckingham Nicks, the duo decided to re-record it for their Fleetwood Mac debut. Also interesting to note, the song was written by Stevie and sung by Buckingham, which is very uncommon for Fleetwood Mac. Written around the same time as “Landslide,” “Crystal” deals with many of the same themes. The song starts with an auspicious beginning that builds to an atmospheric chorus. Lindsey’s soft vocals and pristine guitar sound combined with Stevie’s lyrics make for a truly beautiful song, and the addition of the rest of the band makes this version of the song easily better than the original. I have a feeling a lot of people won’t agree with this song being in the top ten, but I’ve always found it to be an extremely powerful record.

05. “Big Love” - Tango In The Night. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

“Big Love” is another of Lindsey’s songs that was originally planned for a Buckingham solo album. As the solo album turned into a Mac project, the song was picked up by the band and turned into a top five song in the states. While I love the original version of the song, I greatly prefer the live, guitar-only version from The Dance. The original is too…poppy, for lack of a better term, while the live version allows Lindsey to show off his ridiculous guitar prowess as well as display his raw emotions, which adds greatly to the song. This is a killer performance that everyone should experience at least once, and the live version helped propel this song into the top five.

04. “Gypsy” - Mirage. Written by: Stevie Nicks

My Stevie Nicks bias is about to come out in a big way, so I will apologize now. I could go on forever about “Gypsy” and explain what it’s about and why I love it, but instead I’ll give you quote from Stevie:

"Oh boy, I’ve never really spoken about this, so I get verklempt, and then I’ve got the story and I start to screw it up. Okay: In the old days, before Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey [Buckingham] and I had no money, so we had a king-size mattress, but we just had it on the floor. I had old vintage coverlets on it, and even though we had no money it was still really pretty... Just that and a lamp on the floor, and that was it—there was a certain calmness about it. To this day, when I’m feeling cluttered, I will take my mattress off of my beautiful bed, wherever that may be, and put it outside my bedroom, with a table and a little lamp. That's the words: 'So I’m back to the velvet underground'—which is a clothing store in downtown San Francisco,where Janis Joplin got her clothes, and Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, it was this little hole in the wall, amazing, beautiful stuff—'back to the floor that I love, to a room with some lace and paper flowers, back to the gypsy that I was.' So that’s what 'Gypsy' means: it’s just a search for before this all happened. And later, I tacked on a line for my friend Robin, my best friend, who died of leukemia: 'I still see your bright eyes.' But then, Robin wasn’t sick yet. She got cancer, and died within a year."

As for why I love the song, just put it on – that should explain everything.

03. “Rhiannon” - Fleetwood Mac. Written by: Stevie Nicks

“Rhiannon,” the song of the Welsh witch, is Nicks’ signature song. After seeing the name in a book she purchased in an airport, Nicks wrote the song and originally intended to include it on the next Buckingham Nicks album. Instead, Nicks and Buckingham were scooped up by the Mac and the song was released on 1975’s Fleetwood Mac. This is the song that began the Stevie Nicks craze, as she would perform in a trance-like state on stage in her flowing black gowns. Young women everywhere idolized Nicks, dressed like her and imitated her mannerisms. This song as well as Nicks’ persona is also partially responsible for her image as a witch. As a result of this, Nicks avoided wearing black clothes for a few years in an attempt to distance herself from such associations.

One interesting note about “Rhiannon” is that it fits surprisingly well with the history of Fleetwood Mac. When Nicks was initially asked to join the band, she knew very little about Fleetwood Mac. In an effort to understand what she was getting into, Stevie went out and got copies of each Mac album and gave them a listen. Though lineups had changed constantly up to this point, Nicks noticed one constant that defined and connected Fleetwood Mac throughout its various periods: a sense of mysticism. “Rhiannon” simply continues the tradition set forth in songs such as “Oh Well,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Dust” and “Revelations.” "Rhiannon" is a great song and truly deserves its spot in this list.

02. “Silver Springs” – B-side. Written by: Stevie Nicks

This song, blatantly written about Buckingham, is the greatest song ever left off an album. Dumped from Rumours for “I Don’t Want To Know,” “Silver Springs” finally saw the light of day (and got the recognition it deserves) in 1997 when it was included in the Mac’s live reunion album, The Dance. The song, which I would describe as eerily ethereal, reportedly first popped into Nicks’ mind while driving and spotting a sign for Silver Spring, MD. As the song evolved, it became a spirited attack on Lindsey Buckingham. As their love fell apart, Stevie wanted him to know that she would haunt him forever, an extremely accurate prediction. What Stevie didn’t see, however, is how the specter of their love would also cast a shroud over the rest of her life as well. One of the most powerful moments I’ve ever experienced in music is watching Lindsey and Stevie staring intently at each other in 1997 as she passionately sings “I’ll follow you down ‘til the sound of my voice will haunt you / you’ll never get away from the sound of the woman who loves you.” Lindsey and Stevie are both mesmerizing; unfortunately they’re tied together for eternity and doomed to live with each other in an endless cycle of love and hate for the rest of their lives. Not only does that relationship define this song, but it has come to define this band as well, making “Silver Springs” one of the most important songs in Mac history.

01. “The Chain” - Rumours. Written by: Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood

“The Chain” is a combination of a number of tunes put together to create the greatest song in Fleetwood Mac’s extensive catalogue. The song began with the outro, beginning with McVie’s bass solo. Having heard this, Stevie (who wrote all of the lyrics) and Christine went to work on the rest of the song. The last piece of the puzzle was the intro, which Buckingham stole from himself (the intro to “Lola (My Love)” from Buckingham Nicks). When all three parts came together, the result was a magical one. Amidst the turmoil of the Rumours sessions, the McVies’ divorce, Mick’s struggles and the break-up of Buckingham and Nicks, all five band members were somehow able to come together and collectively create an emotionally charged, musically provocative rock-and-roll anthem that has come to define the band. While it is unclear whether Stevie was writing solely about Lindsey or the band as a whole, the song has come to encompass the entire group and is the perfectly describes the relationship between band members from 1976 to present-day. While they may not always like or love each other, the chain will undoubtedly keep the members of Fleetwood Mac together for eternity and they are inextricably linked by their music as well as their personal intimacies.

1 comment:

  1. this list is still my absolute favorite out of all 3 you have up here.. i come back to it all the time. i loooooove Mac.