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Few bands have achieved bigger success or had a more intricate journey than Fleetwood Mac. The British band has reinvented itself repeatedly and evolved from a groundbreaking blues band into the biggest-selling rock band in the world. This Fleetwood Mac band history will guide you through the glamorous Peter Green period to the worldwide success of the Buckingham-Nicks era.
I believe the only reason why Fleetwood Mac band history hasn’t had a movie yet is that no director would know where to start. Beyond the impressive career, drama has been part of the band since its founding days. I will include all you need to know to understand where the inspiration for some of the band’s best works came from.
Musically, I consider Fleetwood Mac as the best example of refined commercial music and the best mixture of British blues and American pop rock. Many layers of genius are hidden underneath the catchy hits we know and love. As a musician and long time, I’ll try and detail some of the musical aspects of their biggest albums.
Fleetwood Mac Quick Facts
|Band Members||Current: Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Mike Cambell, Neil Finn.
Former: Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Bob Brunning, Danny Kirwan, Lindsey Buckingham, Dave Mason
|Years Active||1967–1995 1997–present|
|Most Successful Songs / Albums||‘Rumours” is the highest-grossing album; “Dreams” is the most successful hit song.|
|Social Media||Instagram, Twitter, Facebook|
|Awards||Inducted in the Rock n Roll Hall of fame, Brit Award for outstanding contribution to music, 2 Grammy Awards, Grammy Hall of Fame award, Juno Award for International Album of the year|
|Last Updated||June 2022|
Fleetwood Mac Members
This Fleetwood Mac Bio aims to give you a starting point through the whole history of the band. We must go back to the original founding members to do this.
Michael John Kells Fleetwood (born June 24, 1947) is the drummer of the band and founder, along with guitarist Peter Green and bassist John McVie. He has played on all albums and is the historical leader of the band. Even the name of the band comes from his surname merged with the bassist John ‘Mac’ McVie.
Mick Fleetwood is one of rock’s most celebrated drummers that, like many greats, went beyond the kit and often took the role of arranger and songwriter. His ‘Odd’ way of playing and non-conventional grooves at first helped the band become one the most popular blues bands of the late 60s and later functionated as glue to keep the band together.
He might not be the greatest drummer when it comes to technique, but for sure, he is the most consistent member of the band.
The Late Peter Green (born Peter Allen Greenbaum October 29, 1946 – July 25, 2020) is undoubtedly one of the best guitarists that ever lived. For me, the player that truly deserves the title “Slowhand.” Peter was a delicate, melodic, and emotional player that was practically unrivaled in blues during his peak in the late 60s.
He was the frontman, lead vocalist, and guitarist and a founding member of the group after a short run with drummer Mick Fleetwood as part of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.
The bluesy side of Fleetwood Mac and initial rock influences and success go hand in hand with Peter Green’s career and life. His desire to expand the band’s style beyond the blues was the reason that had the band stood out and why he decided to leave the band. His unfortunate drug-induced troubled mental health was the final hit for the old Fleetwood Mac and the start of a new era.
Jeremy Cedric Spencer (born July 4, 1948, years active 1967-1971). Spencer is the guitarist Peter Green recruited to complete the original Fleetwood Mac Lineup.
Temporary members of big acts tend to get lost in time, and their contribution fades over time. I believe Spencer’s contribution was essential to the band’s blues-heavy first 2 albums. His ability to mimic perfectly big artists of the time, vast repertoire of classics and singing voice helped bring the band’s live performances to another level.
The very specific slide guitar bluesy approach was what pushed Peter Green to recruit Danny Kirwin as a third guitarist and ultimately pushed Spencer to leave the band.
John Graham McVie (born November 26, 1945) is the band’s bass player and founding member. McVie was part of the notorious John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers band, where he met Mick Fleetwood and formed the Fleetwood Mac together. The “Mac” in the band’s name comes after John Mcvie’s name.
He is a prolific bass player known for his sweet, full tone and groovy melodic lines. He complimented both Green’s and Buckingham’s guitar styles while providing the main support for Stevie Nicks and his wife’s Christine McVie compositions. The latter only accepted to join the band after John insisted.
As with Mick Fleetwood, John McVie might not be the most technical musician, yet he serves the groove perfectly and is a silent leader on and off the stage. An excellent example is the bass playing on ‘Dreams.’ With only 2 chords available to play over, he brings out the most memorable bass performance.
Daniel David Kirwan (May 13, 1950 – June 8, 2018, years active 1968-1972) was the second guitarist Peter Green recruited for Fleetwood Mac.
A born talent with a very melodic and diverse guitar style, Kirwan’s rhythm playing and occasional lead playing were what the band needed to drift off the bluesy approach. Even though he only was part of the band for 4 years, some of their greatest hits of the time, such as “Albatross” and “Man of the World,” are as much his merit as Peter Green’s.
Kirwan described his relationship with Green not as genuine and natural as many fans assumed. Ultimately, one of the reasons Peter Green left the band was the lack of creative freedom he found in Kirwan.
A lot has been made of the clash of guitars between Green and Kirwan. As a guitarist myself and having studied both their styles, I understand the shaky relationship between the two lead instruments of the band when both have a different vision.
Kirwan left the band unexpectedly after disappearing from the hotel room after a show in the US and joining the cult “The Children of God.
Lindsey Adams Buckingham (born October 3, 1949, years active 1975-1987 and 1997-2018) was the male lead singer, guitar player, songwriter, and overall the band’s musical leader in their most successful period.
Mick Fleetwood noticed Buckingham after hearing the track “Frozen Love” from the Buckingham-Nicks Album. He was offered the slot as a guitarist right away, yet he would not accept if his girlfriend and musical partner Steve Nicks didn’t also join the band.
Buckingham left the band in 1987 to pursue a successful solo career and, just recently, in 2018, was fired from the band. Buckingham’s songwriting, arrangement, and guitar skills make him not only worthy of the Rolling Stones’ list of 100 best guitarists but also one of the most accomplished rock musicians of the past century.
His fingerstyle rock-infused guitar playing is challenging to emulate, even for the best guitarist. He is one of my biggest influences, and I would not be either a Fleetwood Mac fan or reached any level of proficiency in fingerstyle guitar if not for his influence. Consider that Fleetwood Mac today has to hire two guitarists to replace him!
Christine Anne Mcvie ( born July 12, 1943) is the unspoken hero of Fleetwood Mac. Her unmatched musical talent, songwriting skills, keyboard playing, and lead and backing vocal abilities contributed to some of the song’s greatest hits.
Christine joined the band in 1970 after being hired as a session musician for the band’s second album. After Peter Green left the band, her knowledge of Fleetwood Mac songs and solid musicianship was needed to continue. Her marriage with John McVie is also a vital part of the band’s history and the source of many hits.
Beyond Fleetwood Mac, Christine released several solo albums and just recently collaborated separately with Lindsey Buckingham & Steve Nicks on their corresponding albums. I value Christine’s consistency above all. Whenever the band needed a hit, she was there to deliver it even when Buckingham and Nicks couldn’t.
Stephanie Lynn Nicks (born May 26, 1948) joined the band along with her boyfriend of the time Lindsey Buckingham starting the band’s road to stardom. Her sweet voice, emotionally packed songwriting, and unique charm turned her into one of the greatest female singers of the last century.
Stevie Nicks was the idol and image of the most successful period of Fleetwood Mac. The mystical mojo she built around herself and the music became an icon of 80s pop culture. Her successful solo career helped her get inducted 2 times in the rock n’ roll hall of fame, both as part of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist.
Whether Fleetwood Mac revolved around Stevie Nicks or not during the 80s is a topic many fans still discuss. Even though she had the most mediatic coverage on the musical aspect, I believe she was only equally responsible for the band’s success.
Fleetwood Mac Early Years
Fleetwood Mac is the product of the British blues invasion and the desire to go beyond the limits of the blues.
The band was formed in London in 1967 by members of John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. The then notorious Peter Green recruited Mick Fleetwood, Jeremy Spencer, and Bassist John McVie for a recording project that later turned into Fleetwood Mac.
From the first albums, the band was a success. Even though their first works remained faithful to the blues, Peter Green’s vision and the inclusion of other members such as Danny Kirwan and later Christine McVie added a twist to their sound. The original lineup would not last much, though as Peter Green left the band on May 20, 1970.
I will take you through some of their best early years albums to truly grasp what the original Mac was all about.
‘Fleetwood Mac’ (1968)
The band’s self-titled debut album, also known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, is the purest blues album of the band and an immediate success.
Taking advantage of Peters’s popularity at the time and the collaboration between him and Jeremy Spencer, the album reached number 4 easily on the UK charts. Interestingly, the album contains a song named “Fleetwood Mac” after John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.
The album was recorded after John Mayall left free studio time to his guitarist Peter Green. Even though I don’t consider it the finest work of their early years, it’s for sure the album that formed the band.
‘Shake Your Moneymaker’ might be the best song to introduce you to how Fleetwood Mac gave their twist to the blues.
Fleetwood Mac – Shake Your Moneymaker (Audio)
‘Then Play On’ (1969)
This album marks the band’s turn with the inclusion of Christine McVie in the recording and blend of different genres.
New progressive elements started to be added to the music, and the guitar work between Green and Kirwan is amazing. The track “Oh Well’ represents the intricate twist the band put on the blues and shows the virtuosity of Green guitar playing.
I think this is one of their best albums, even though not many songs might be hit material or catchy enough for all audiences.
‘English Rose’ (1969)
English Rose, for me, is the best compilation album of the Peter Green era that truly show how they went beyond blues.
All the members were at their best and Green’s songwriting was at its finest. His collaboration with Kirwan resulted in splendid musical pieces such as the instrumental “Albatross” and the cult song “Black Magic Woman.”
I recommend this compilation album If you want an excellent start to the early Fleetwood Mac.
The Buckingham Nicks Era
The departure of Peter Green left the band without a leader. Even though the band continued with different lineups, there was neither a musical leader nor an image that could take Fleetwood Mac to its full potential.
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came to the rescue after being recruited by Mic Fleetwood in one of his travels in the US in 1975. Initially, he only wanted Buckingham, yet he insisted he would only accept the role if his girlfriend would join him. What followed was the final shift of the band from blues into pop-rock. Buckingham became the musical leader of the band and almost virtuoso guitarist, while Nicks added the voice and image the band lacked.
‘Fleetwood Mac’ (1975)
The first albums that included Nicks and Buckingham laid the foundation for a new evolved band. The album is also known as ‘The WhiteAlbum’ and is considered the second debut album of the group.
The singer-songwriter influence of the added members is immediately felt. Catchy melodies, mystical and emotional lyrics, groovy guitar riffs, and a completely new look made the album an immediate success in the US, peaking at number 10 in the year of its release while eventually making its way to number 1.
Rhiannon is my favorite song of the album that I believe has all the best elements of the new Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac – Rhiannon (Official Music Video)
The most successful Fleetwood Mac album ever is a pop-rock masterpiece that defined the genre.
Inspired by the simultaneous breakups between the two couples in the band, the album is a roller coaster of emotions blended in with masterful songwriting and production. Giving a first listen to the single “Dreams,” you can tell that it’s one of the songs that inspired modern pop. When it came out, the single and entire album was a blend of classic and contemporary styles that had never been heard before.
“Rumors” is an album everyone can enjoy. For many people, there are incredible layers of musical depth hidden in what is a timeless hit song such as “Go Your Own Way.” The Chain is my favorite song as Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar work is brilliant. All four members write the song’s lyrics, and it feels like it perfectly describes their intricate relationship.
The album was number 1 for 31 weeks and sold more than 40 million copies, making it the 10th most successful album of all time.
After the success of ‘Rumours,’ pressure started accumulating for the next release. The label believed in another masterpiece and invested 1 million USD in the making. ‘Tusk’ was the most expensive rock album to date.
Even though I don’t feel the album is on the same level as Roumous, it is still a borderline masterpiece where the band tried experimenting with new sounds. The members’ shaky relationship at the time and the high expectations might have affected the end product for some fact; however, I believe that both factors helped create another fantastic album.
The album easily made it in the top 5 positions in the US charts and top 1 in the UK, but it failed to sell out as expected by the band’s lavel Warner Bros.
The title track “Tusk” is, I believe, the best representation of the album with a stunning orchestral arrangement that takes the song to another level.
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk (Official Music Video)
Unfortunately, the classic Peter Green era is not documented enough to make it justice. This performance of the cult song “Black Magic Woman” is a perfect example of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac at its best.
Fleetwood Mac Peter Green – Black Magic Woman (Live Boston Tea Party) 1970
One of the very best shows of the band that was turned into a live album. I especially love how perfectly Buckinghams blends in and becomes the band’s leader on stage even though they had separate ways almost ten years before.
Fleetwood Mac – The Chain (Official Music Video)
The band’s only and most successful number 1 single came at a time when the band was having its biggest inner struggles. Beyond that, their live performances remained perfect.
Fleetwood Mac – Dreams (Official Music Video)
Fleetwood Mac Discography
The band has an impressive discography of 18 studio, nine live, and 23 compilation albums. Overall the band is the 24th best-selling musical artist of all time, with almost 100 million albums sold that span from blues to folk, classic rock, soft rock, and pop.
Relationships and Scandals
Romantic relationships are behind both the rise and fall of Fleetwood Mac.
The marriage between John and Christine McVie and the highly mediatic relationship between Buckingham and Nicks brought the band’s most successful lineup together. The almost simultaneous breakups eventually separated the band, but not without inspiring some of the band’s biggest hits. Breakup songs, personal attacks between band Members
The biggest scandals worth mentioning are the famous Munich LSD party incident where Peter Green overdosed on psychedelics and eventually got diagnosed with schizophrenia, the Cocaine addiction almost all the members had when the band was at its peak, the continuous arguments between band members, and occasional affairs.
Mick Fleetwood had an affair with Stevie Nicks in 1977 while Christine McVie had an affair with the married sound engineer of the band Martin Birch. On August 7, 1987, a conflict between Buckingham and Nicks escalated in physical form. Buckingham left the band the very next day.
I think the best way to understand the inner struggles of the band is to go through their lyrics. Now that you know the background of the lyrics, you will be surprised how many direct attacks and dedication of love, jealousy, and anger are expressed between members.
British vs American Fleetwood Mac
Many fans consider the two great periods of Fleetwood Mac as the British and American ones. This is not only due to the nationality of the band member but also to the change in musical style. As with all bands with a dedicated fan base, not all accept change well. Many fans long for the old days when their favorite group was “faithful” to their blues style.
As much as I adore Peter Green’s guitar playing and forward-thinking blues, I believe that if you are not a classic rock and blues fan, the old Fleetwood Mac might not be as interesting as the Buckingham-Nicks lead one. I cannot put either of the two periods above the other, yet I can for certain say that the huge commercial success of the “American” Fleetwood Mac was not due to them coming to the pop route or the looks.
I find both the period contributions to music outstanding, yet I consider the new Fleetwood Mac to have changed the way pop rock top charting rock songs are written and recorded.
Fleetwood Mac Today
Fleetwood Mac is still going strong but with some changes in their lineup.
The final departure of Lindsey Buckingham in 2018 after what he describes as an argument with the band left an empty void that was filled by guitarists Mike Cambell and Neil Finn. Both are extraordinary musicians that are needed to emulate Buckingham’s role as singer, guitarist, and performer.
The band has unfortunately not released any new music apart from the individual members’ solo careers and the 2013 EP Extended Play.’
Question: Are Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood friends?
Answer: Yes, the two kee pa close relationship as friends even though they had arguments during the years that even had Nicks quit the band.
Question: How long were Stevie Nicks and Lindsey together?
Answer: The couple was together for six years, having met since they attended the same high school and later started their musical collaboration with the duo Buckingham-Nicks.
Question: Who had the most successful solo career from Fleetwood Mac?
Answer: Stevie Nicks had the most successful solo career out of all the members, being inducted into the rock n’ roll hall of fame and winning eight grammy awards.
Where to Start with Fleetwood Mac?
For any band, I would normally recommend starting with their biggest hits. For Fleetwood Mac, however, it all depends on your musical influences so far as the two different periods feel and sound like two completely different bands.
If you are a classic rock fan or grew up with the blues, the Peter Green era might be your best start to then slowly get into the pop rock side of the post-Green era. If you are not especially into rock or blues, I can assure you that any song from “Roumous” will sound as fresh and catchy as if it came out today for the first time.
There’s an amount of finesse and incredible musicality that makes Fleetwood Mac timeless and able to satisfy all music lovers, no matter the genre. The best part is that you might still be able to see them live and enjoy the extensive solo career of all the members.