The Countertop Chronicles

"Run by a gun zealot who's too blinded by the NRA" - Sam Penney of

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Fleetwood Mac

Douglas Wolk asks the question Why is Fleetwood Mac the least influential great band ever? over at Slate.
Rumours (Warner Bros., 1977) is one of the best-selling records ever, recently certified at 19 million copies and counting in the United States; Fleetwood Mac (Reprise, 1975) and Tusk (Warner Bros., 1979) went multiplatinum, too. "Landslide," "Never Going Back Again," and "Dreams" have been radio staples for decades. And yet almost nobody has tried ripping off Fleetwood Mac's basic sound and style—even unsuccessfully. Dozens of hit records have been derived from Led Zeppelin and Shania Twain and Michael Jackson; the only Fleetwood Mac pastiche that comes to mind is the Magnetic Fields' 1999 joke "No One Will Ever Love You." Bonnie Tyler and Courtney Love have tried to evoke the white-winged-dove essence of singer Stevie Nicks—but Stevie Nicks is not the same thing as Fleetwood Mac.
While I agree with Wolk that no one is ever going to try to mimic the sorry lot that were the mid 70s easy listening muzak Fleetwood Crap, I think he is simply wrong to charecterize them as the least influential great band.
While I am glad to see he acknowledges their rich, pre mid 70s cheeseball music past, his appreciation for it is questionable.
They'd started out as a straight-up British blues-revival band, a sort of cut-rate Cream. (The band's first single, back in 1967, was "I Believe My Time Ain't Long," a verbatim rip-off of Elmore James' "Dust My Broom.") Over the next eight years, they drifted into psychedelia, had a huge U.K. hit with an instrumental called "Albatross," lost their first three singer-guitarists, respectively, to burnout, madness, and a cult, gained singer-keyboardist Christine Perfect (subsequently McVie), and burned through a few more frontmen.
Cut rate Cream? Rip Offs?? Come on, what is this guy smoking ... or snorting? This description completly misses the importance of the early Fleetwood Mac and why the 70s easy snoozing version pales in comparison.

That original Fleetwood Mac, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac is perhaps the most influential rock band outside of the Beatles. Without the smackdown Peter Green gave all his fellow mid 60s guitar peers rock and roll would not exist as we know it. BB King said of Peter Green, "He was the only man to ever make me sweat." Not something you hear about cut rate rip offs everyday.

In fact, the connection with Cream hardly strikes one as simply cut rate. Peter Green replaced God, Eric Clapton (also of Cream), in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and filled those shoes with enough grace and confidence to win over skeptical London blues hipsters and earn the title of greatest white blues guitarist ever. He then left to form the blues extravaganza known as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, at the time the most popular blue based rock act in London (and Europe for that matter) though like many others they never really pushed themselves on the US (and certainly didn't push to sell albums like Clapton and Cream did). In fact, Clapton has relayed in the past an amusing recollection of meeting Peter Green some time after the Bluesbreaker years and telling him he would never be famous and sell alot of records if he didn't alter his appearance. Of coruse, Green was never interested in selling lots of records or being famous and the resulting fame he achieved had a horrid impact on his health and well being.

Who did he inspire?
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac provided the inspiration and lubrication for Carlos Sanatana's career and his cover of the Peter Green song Black Magic Women made him a star and completly energized the woodstock generation in the states. Jimi Hendrix? Only after arriving in Peter Green's London did he learn how to turn his career on. The Yardbirds and Jimmy Page and Led Zepplin? All they wanted to do was play as heavy and hard as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac.

Simply stated, All that is hard hitting and heavy blues based rock and roll from 1966 forward is influenced by the original and still the best Fleetwood Mac. And of course, Peter Green taught generations of rockers how to blow it all as well ... through drug abuse, nervous breakdowns, and running off and giving away all your money to weird cults.

Update: A reader emails to say Wham! and George Michael have sold nearly as many records and you would be hard pressed to find anyone citing them as an influence for anything. Good Point!