Friday, November 4, 2016

Weekend Mix: Big Mac Attack

"Tell Me All The things You Do" was the first song I heard by Fleetwood Mac. It was after "Strawberry Flats", on "Loony Tunes and Merrie Melodies"(1970), one of Warner's Loss Leaders.

At the time it was easy to find cheap cutouts of "Kiln House", their first without Peter Green. I didn't know about his departure, and what that meant. I loved it. Still do.
I bought "Future Games", "Bare Trees", "Penguin", and "Mystery To Me", and liked each release less than the previous one. I have No idea what "Heroes Are Hard To Find"(1974) even looks like.
I'm no fan of Bob Welch.
Out of curiosity I bought "Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits" as an import. It kicks off with "The Green Manalishi". Holy Shit it blew my mind. And then "Oh Well", "Rattlesnake Shake", "Black Magic Woman".
It didn't take long to find "Then Play On".
For awhile, when I moved into a new place, it was the first record I played when I set up the stereo, which is always the first thing I unpack.
It is unlike anything else. Not surprisingly neither is the band or it's complicated history.
Peter Green's flameout is comparable to Syd Barrett's. Jeremy Spencer left in the middle of a tour, joining a religious cult. Danny Kirwan developed his own problems, and then there's this:


"In 1974, the band's manager, Clifford Davis, then claimed that he owned the name Fleetwood Mac, and recruited members of a band called Legs (which had recently issued one single under Davis' management) to tour as Fleetwood Mac.

The fake Fleetwood Mac consisted of Elmer Gantry (vocals, guitar), Kirby Gregory (guitar), Paul Martinez (bass), John Wilkinson (keyboards) and Australian-born drummer Craig Collinge (formerly of The Librettos, Procession and Third World War). Fans were told that Bob Welch and John McVie had quit the group, and that Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie would be joining the band at a later date, after getting some rest. The members of the fake Fleetwood Mac apparently had themselves been told that Mick Fleetwood would join them on later dates, and averred that Fleetwood had been involved in the early planning stages of the tour before dropping out.

As the tour got underway, Fleetwood Mac's road manager, John Courage, worked one show before he realised that the line-up being used was a lie. Courage ended up hiding the real Fleetwood Mac's equipment, which helped shorten the tour by the fake band, which soon dissolved. But the lawsuit that followed—regarding who actually owned the rights to the band name "Fleetwood Mac"—put the real Fleetwood Mac out of commission for almost a year. While the band was named after Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, they had signed contracts that showed the band forfeited the rights to the name.

In the aftermath of the dissolution of the fake Fleetwood Mac, nobody from that lineup was ever officially made a part of the real Fleetwood Mac, although some of them later acted as Danny Kirwan's studio band. Gantry and Gregory went on to become members of Stretch, whose 1975 UK hit single "Why Did You Do It" was written about the fake Fleetwood Mac touring debacle. Gantry later joined The Alan Parsons Project. Fake Fleetwood Mac bassist Martinez, meanwhile, eventually went on to play with Paice Ashton Lord and Robert Plant's backing band."

I was suprised they survived long enough to regroup and come up with "Fleetwood Mac"(1975), with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.
The drama apparently continues.
Jeremy Spencer didn't really contribute to "Then Play On", instead he made some curiously unfunny musical comedy bits, which were originally planned to be included as an ep.
It was all Peter and Danny.

"Then Play On epitomized the vision Peter had of going forward, and that's when Jeremy got left behind. Apart from a couple of piano things, he wasn't on that album. We just didn't want to keep treading water, and that album was the real start of Fleetwood Mac. That album still holds up, and the tragedy is that that was it. There was no more...."

-Mick Fleetwood, 1990

After Peter left, Jeremy, however, stepped up to contribute "This Is The Rock", "Blood On The Floor", "One Together", and "Station Man" (co-write) for "Kiln House".

In their early days, on stage, they did a lot of covers, sometimes with tongue firmly in cheek.

"We were a rude, wild, funloving bunch of people who simply didn't give a fuck. Fleetwood Mac never wanted to be pure blues like John Mayall or rock like Hendrix or Cream. We were a funny, vulgar, drunken vaudevill blues band in that time (1967-70) playing music as much to amuse ourselves as please an audience and make money."

-Mick Fleetwood, 1990

This side of the band is evident on their recordings for the BBC, many of which appear here on "Then Play More".

Spencer's "Someone's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite" was originally released as the B side to "Man Of The World", and credited to "Earl Vince And The Valiants". He didn't play on the A-side.

My only complaint about "Then Play On" are the "Madge" jams. Live, they were probably exciting, but seem kind of pointless on an album which is otherwise so focused.
The inclusion, instead, of "Heavenly, and "You Don't Know What Your Missing", or "World In Harmony" would have made it more representative of the band at the time.
Another complaint is that Oh Well pt 2, while a passionate arrangement, is too long.

This compilation features the original lineup, and generally avoids the blues of early albums "Fleetwood Mac", and "Mr Wonderful". "Then Play On" is at the center, but it also focuses on the shizophrenic nature of their early years.


Then Play More

Then Play More, too


Anonymous said...

nice. I love that BBC compilation and Kiln House. There's a few other good comps out there but, other than the full Boston concert which features Spencer's Jerry Lee Lewis schtick, most of them stick to recordings predating Then Play On.

and if you really don't like Bob Welch, yeah, you should stay away from Heroes are Hard to Find. But it is a damn sight better than Mystery to Me and has a lot of tunes that grow on you.

Sal Nunziato said...

Great one, BBJ!

Just listened to a beautiful MONO copy of "Mr. Wonderful" yesterday. Some of that Elmore James stuff, like all of Side Two, grows tired quickly, making "English Rose" so much better. I will see this about the Bob Welch years. I won't argue that those records are the weakest of the lot, but that is only because of how amazing everything prior really was. "Bare Trees" and "Future Games" both hold up for me.

buzzbabyjesus said...

The song "Bare Trees" is one of my favorites, and when I made this I thought of including it and something from "Kiln" House.

dogbreath said...

The Mac of the Peter Green era is still the one which resonates the most for me. The albums you mention were never far from a turntable in those hazy, lazy days of yore. "Green Manalishi" had a similar effect on me all those decades ago - and still does, whether played by this incarnation of the Mac or even by Judas Priest whose version achieves a suitably total heavy-ocity (to misquote Woody Allen in "Annie Hall" which I watched yet again a fortnight ago). Anyway, I'll try out this comp on some young(er) colleagues who think Fleetwood Mac only existed after "Monday Morning" and "Rhiannon" (which admittedly I guess is true). Many thanks for the sterling effort. Cheers!

jmsafree said...

After all of these years, Back Magic Woman (US compilation of early FMac), Then Play On, Future Games, Kiln House, Bare Trees, Mystery To Me, Penguin, and Jeremy Spenser and Danny Kirwen's first albums are still in heavy rotation.

Remasters are long overdue.


Anonymous said...

If you listen closely you'll notice Carlos Santana has made a career out of Peter Green. And i must admit the title song "Mystery To Me" is one of my all time fave FM songs

buzzbabyjesus said...

There is a clip of Carlos Santana playing "Black Magic Woman" with Peter Green. It's sad because Peter is avoiding any attention, and when he plays, it's fine but is really weak.
Otherwise Carlos and the band kill it.

Noam Sane said...

Super mega-awesome! Very much enjoyed the piece you wrote, BBJ. I am sadly uninformed about this era of Mac, but not as much as before, thanks to you. Diving in now.

whattawino said...

This stuff is all great! Thanks....