Categories
Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Future Games (1971)

ALBUM REVIEW: Future Games

Back in the Bar-Mitzvah days of the drug culture the British music scene was shaken by what came to be known as The Blues Boom. Beginning with a small corps of dedicated musicians in the early Sixties, blues bands proliferated at a feverish pace until by 1968 nearly every person in the British Isles between the ages of 16 and 35 was in a blues band. But by its very popularity the blues boom insured its own destruction. After all with so many people in unsuccessful blues bands how could anyone afford to buy anyone else’s records? So the boom subsided as the less accomplished musicians in the lot went on to find some measure of economic stability as light bulb designers, pop artists, members of hard rock groups, or what have you.

Of the many second generation British blues musicians who remained active Peter Green was among the most promising. During his tenure with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Green had distinguished himself as a fine singer and guitarist – a worthy successor to Eric Clapton. Indeed, on much of Mayall’s second American album, A Hard Road, Green was the dominant personality. It came as no surprise when in 1967 Green left the Bluesbreakers to form his own band, Fleetwood Mac.

The other band members were Mick Fleetwood, a comically attenuated drummer; John McVie, Mayall’s longest lasting bass player: and Jeremy Spencer, a fanatical admirer of Buddy Holly and Elmore James, whom Mike Vernon had discovered playing piano at a seedy blues bar in a seedy British town. Not long after releasing their first album the band was augmented by guitarist Danny Kirwan, a mere slip of a lad, who if he progressed at the expected rate seemed well on his way to becoming God Jr. The band’s second album, English Rose, most certainly rates as one of the best British blues albums, handily fulfilling everyone’s expectations. One of the album cuts, “Albatross,” was released as a single and rose to the top of the world charts.

It was not long before the band left Columbia and the tutelage of Mike Vernon and after nearly signing with Andrew Oldham’s Immediate Label found a home with Reprise. This event was marked by the release of a single, “Oh Well,” which had been quite successful in Europe, but flopped in the US, followed shortly by an album entitled Then Play On.

With Then Play On and increasingly in their live performances the band began to show rather disintegrative tendencies, torn between Green’s hard-driving intense style. Spencer’s imitations of old rock stars, and Kirwan’s growing predilection for mush-mouthed balladry.

Green quit and the happy balance of English Rose was lamentably short-lived. Kiln House was released and Christine Perfect (Mrs. John McVie) formerly of Chicken Shack joined the band. While Fleetwood Mac was often very good at this stage, with Green’s departure they had suffered a discomforting loss of intensity. Last year while on tour in California, Jeremy Spencer quit, defecting to one of the many strange religious cults so popular in Southern California. (I have some sympathy with Spencer. If I had to go to Los Angeles again I might join some strange religious cult). Spencer’s place was filled, more or less, by American singer-guitarist Bob Welch.

So, it is with a lineup of Kirwan, McVie, Welch, Fleetwood, & McVie that Fleetwood Mac is heard on Future Games. For my taste, the album has little to commend it. Danny Kirwan is out front on most of the cuts and sadly his singing and playing appear to have lost their edge. His voice drones, innocuously, he plays almost aimlessly, and the songs he writes are just too long. One of them, “Sometimes,” might have been good but it lingers on purposelessly and painfully for six and a half minutes. Only once, on “Morning Rain” does his playing briefly equal his past performance and his tough, rather disjointed style almost re-emerges. Christine McVie puts in far and away the best performance of the album, but this too is disappointing in the light of her past achievements and potential. Her voice sounds surprisingly weak and emotionless here. Her piano playing too is not up to her known capabilities. Still one of her songs, “Morning Rain” does have its moments. While Fleetwood and McVie handle their rhythm chores competently they have usually been heard to be much better. As for Bob Welch his talent appears to be notable only in its lack of distinction, but perhaps he too has the ability to do better.

Future Games is a thoroughly unsatisfactory album. It is thin and anaemic-sounding and I get the impression that no one involved really put very much into it. If Fleetwood Mac have tried to make the transition from an energetic rocking British blues band to a softer more “contemporary” rock group, they have failed. If they have simply lost interest, I hope they regain it in time to salvage what was once a very promising band.

Loyd Grossman / Rolling Stone / December 9, 1971

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Future Games (1971)

The Fleetwood Mac Interview

I remember this interview very well. We were at The Bayshore Hotel, and the interview was with Jeremy Spencer and Mick Fleetwood. John McVie and Christine Perfect were missing….shopping, I think. Christine had just joined the group, replacing the genius bluesman, Peter Green. A week after this interview, Jeremy would leave the group in Los Angeles to join a cult of some sort… he ended up being replaced by Bob Welsh…. who hung around for five albums before going off on his own trip. A couple years later, Mick meets two kids from L.A. and invites them to join the band… and the rest is…. One sidebar: I distinctly remember Mick telling me that John McVie had only one kidney… for some reason, that nugget of rock trivia never made it into the printed interview.

Rick McGrath: You people have moved to a farm?

Mick Fleetwood: It’s not a farm, it’s just a big house.

Rick: And it has a studio?

Mick: Yeah, I think by the time we get back to London it will be a four-track setup, but it will be eight-track shortly afterwards. It’s supposed to be eight-track, but they’ve still got to get hold of the heads and everything. We’ve done things just on normal tape recorders that would have been, with a little more care, feasible, perfectly all right. So four tracks is plenty to start with. I don’t think, unless you’re really planning to do huge things with synthesizers, eight-track is perfect. Sixteen track I don’t think we’ll ever use.

Rick: Do you see this set-up working as a Beatles or Chicago thing?

Mick: I think the idea appeals to us, to be able to do that. Initially the setup is for us, but I think if the opportunity came along where someone wasn’t fortunate enough to be able to afford studio prices, which a lot of groups can’t, because they don’t have a good record deal or something, then obviously I think we’d very much like to do that — record them. I think, really, it’s something like that. I think it’s a good idea to have somebody build a studio, not in a private house like ours, but right in the country with very pleasant surroundings where a group can actually go out for a fortnight and live in the studio… live there, sleep there.

Rick: When you record, do you work things out in the studio at all?

Mick: It has worked like that. We have done that where Danny has worked something out or when Peter was in the band, he used to work things out and, even to the extent where he used to lay a lot of the tracks down himself, you know, just go in and use the tracks. But as a rule, I’d say no, things are not super worked out. I know some bands do that.

Rick: What I’m leading up to is the problem of spontaneity in the studio. Even though you overdub, do you try and get things down in as few takes as possible?

Mick: All the time. You’ve definitely got it in the back of your head that the least amount of time is that you have to do it. Obviously if someone goofs up or something you’ve got to do it again because it just isn’t right, but I think that’s right, especially with singing. If you find that you’re singing it time and time again, you should either leave it completely, or if you’re not getting something going the way you know it should be, and you know it’s wrong, you can get to a stage where you should just leave it for a week, and go in fresh. Because it is a bad thing to overdo it.

Rick: Will your new album be like Kiln House?

Jeremy Spencer: No, Chris will be on it for a start. It will have the same sort of sound, even more normal and more natural. The influences are still the same.

Rick: Where did you pick up the “Blue Suede Shoes” thing? Like the movements and stuff?

Jeremy: I just started in my front room playing around with an old guitar and picked it up from there. I copied the movements from old photographs. Not moving photographs, but old stills. It was just fun. I suppose every kid used to do that.

Rick: It is really effective. There seems to be a lot of old Rock doing a revival thing these days, what with Sha Na Na and Brownsville Station. Do you parody the old days, or are you really into it?

Jeremy: You’ve got to parody it a little bit, but I mean I really like it and I listen to it a lot.

Rick: Are you going to be incorporating anymore of it into your act?

Jeremy: For the next album?

Rick: Either for live shows or an album.

Jeremy: Oh yeah. The reason it was like that on Kiln House is because we had to do an album in two weeks.

Rick: Did you find that difficult to do?

Mick: Yeah, the whole band was in a bit of a turmoil. First of all we hadn’t fulfilled our contract in making another American tour. We had to do two every year. And we had to make another record. We have to do three albums a year, and we hadn’t done either of those, so we had to do one to tie in with the American tour, which isn’t unreasonable at all. I mean the point is, had we not done Kiln House, we still wouldn’t have had an album out now. So really, there was that reason too, but the really big reason that it was quite important that the band put out something. I mean, that was an honest thing to do. It’s not something we would say “awww” to, it wasn’t perhaps everything it could have been, like there wasn’t much thought attached to it, in the way that you were saying, like “Do you think about it?” which, obviously, I think you should… Think about the basic format that you’re going to present. Well, there wasn’t much of that involved. It was just a case of really doing it, and getting into the studio and making an album. And that was it. And that’s the circumstances. Chris wasn’t on it, but she’s in the band now, you see, so the band still hasn’t got, hasn’t presented anything that is really from the band. Wholly, as a unit.

Rick: And the next one will, and you’ll have the time to do it.

Mick: It certainly won’t happen again. But we certainly don’t regret it. There were certain circumstances that were certainly not the best-to make an album under.

Rick: It’s rather surprising to me that the disc turned out as fine as it did, what with all these problems. It’s a fine album. When you do a live show, do you find the audience demands change very much of your set? That is, do you find yourself getting into a rut by having to play the oldies?

Mick: I don’t think as a band we do that very much For instance, we don’t play anything off Then Play On, or something like that. When we last came to America this album, Kiln House, wasn’t out. It came out when we left. So you can imagine. Peter had just left the band, Christine had joined about four days before, and added to that we didn’t play, we just did not play, anything that was familiar with what they’d heard before, so, I mean, there was a large chunk of well-known numbers that Peter used to do and we just didn’t do them, so I mean, someway or another, you could have done them but it would have been a little funny doing them because you’d think we had to. I mean, a lot of people probably didn’t know that Peter Green had left the band, and then we turn up with a girl that’s doing material she had never heard before, because the album wasn’t out, so it must have been pretty weird.

Rick: That would have been the show you did with Jethro Tull. And it was a bit unexpected. The reviewers for the other papers got everything screwed up. They thought Jerry was Peter and they didn’t know who the hell Christine was. That may explain his rather lame review, because how can you remain credible when you don’t even know who you’re writing about. To change the subject a bit, do you think the blues revival is still as big in England?

Jeremy: No, no. The bands that just play blues these days don’t seem to be doing anything. It’s just not being played right. I mean, if it’s being played well, I’m sure the people would like it.

Rick: Peter’s new album, have you heard it?

Mick: It’s a jam.

Rick: Yeah, the whole thing.

Mick: It’s not a bad jam, though

Rick: Yeah, but jams are pretty limited. You have to have more than one imagination working.

Mick: They’re not sparking off properly.

Rick: There’s a couple of cuts that are highly suggestive, but there’s a few that don’t do anything for me.

Jeremy: As far as playing the guitar, Peter is good, and some of the cuts sound like wild animals.

Rick: Yeah, especially the first cut. And it’s done with a wah-wah.

Mick: The whole thing is wah-wah, isn’t it?

Jeremy: Yeah, it seems that wah-wahs aren’t very popular these days.

Mick: Well, Jimi Hendrix played it so well that I thought people were scared to use it after him because he played it the best. If you’re not going to do anything different, what’s the point?

Rick: What do you think about the music scene?

Mick: The record business is fucking up the whole scene. There should be more free music. I think the people are putting too much responsibility on the bands for charging too much. And it’s got nothing to do with them. Think of all the bands that charge exorbitant fees.

Rick: Like Led Zipper…

Mick: And Jethro Tull. They’re interested in making money. I don’t blame them really; but they’re not as big as they were.

Rick: That’s true, and they’re somewhat like The Doors, who put out their best album first. The same with Led Zeppelin.

Rick McGrath / Georgia Straight / April 18, 1971

Categories
Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Kiln House (1970)

ALBUM REVIEW: Kiln House (Reprise)

An echo-chambered “This Is The Rock” starts off Kiln House, Fleetwood Mac’s latest album, setting the stage for one of the strangest albums this group has ever given us.

Known initially as a blues band, they evolved into a combination of blues, rock and some jazz. Now Fleetwood Mac is into old rock, heard for the most part of this album. “This Is The Rock” is straight out of the world of Gene Vincent with a yelling-singing style, heavy echo, strutting music and echoed back-up singers. ‘Hi Ho Silver’ is more old rock, but done closer to a group singing style.

All these old styles are augmented with Fleetwood Mac’s more up-to-date professionalism, without losing the 1950s flavor. “Buddy’s Song” is an obvious tribute to Buddy Holly, although the lyrics may sound as if they’re making fun of the singer. To a “Peggy Sue” arrangement, they sing “You say you’re going to leave, well that’ll be the day, Maybe baby you don’t know, I left Peggy Sue a long time ago.”

For no apparent reason, but then maybe one isn’t necessary, a good Western song called “Blood on the Floor” pops up. It’s the kind of tune you’d called a “cowboy song,” talking of jails and “I’m not sorry but I’m sore, blood on the floor.”

The album is so varied. “Earl Gray” is an instrumental, “One Together” is close to folk with a heavy touch of country, and “Mission Bell” is done in what seems to be the exact same arrangement of the original hit. Kiln House is an interesting album. Fleetwood Mac seems to have put some fun into its life.

Mike Gormley / Detroit Free Press / December 13, 1970

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Fleetwood Mac Peter Green

Fleetwood Mac: Falling victim to an epidemic

Group splits have become the foot-and-mouth disease of pop. And this year the splits have become almost endemic with British bands.

The raging epidemic has destroyed many fine bands – Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, the Nice, Spooky Tooth and even, would you believe, the Beatles.

Fleetwood Mac are the latest victims. Peter Green left the band at the end of May, just as the Mac made the Top Twenty with “Green Manalishi,” one of Peter Green’s own songs.

But Fleetwood Mac lives. Instead of falling to bits, the band have taken two months out of their schedule to work out their future in the depths of Hampshire.

With the loss of P. Green the band will have to adjust to a new line-up. More pressures are now going to be placed on Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan, who now take over as the band’s focal points.

In the past it has always been one-third Peter, one-third Danny and one-third Jerry. But now the band have got to cut out the Green contribution entirely. Thus the two months retreat.

At his Kensington flat, drummer Mick Fleetwood described the change in the band: “Peter left the band mainly because he wanted to be free – personally free that is – to be just Peter Green. Not Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac.

“Originally, of course, Fleetwood Mac was Peter’s band but now Danny and Jerry have emerged as individuals and Peter’s contribution is limited to one-third of the front line.

“So we’ll be carrying on as usual except we won’t be doing any of Peter’s numbers. But it’s only a break as far as the group is concerned – it’s not a break as far as the people are concerned. It’s a completely amicable split.

“It’s exciting really. The decision was made for us – we haven’t had to throw anyone out, or anything. So now we’ve been forced to face our futures by ourselves.”

Peter Green’s last contribution to the band has been their latest hit single, “Green Manalishi.”

The trail of hit singles for the Mac started, of course, with ‘Albatross’ early last year. Which makes the band different from most other ‘progressive’ – for lack of a better name – bands.

Said Mick: “We went into the studio and ‘Albatross’ came out. We thought it was a good idea to issue it as a single. And since then we’ve found singles are good for prestige value. As far as money for gigs is concerned it didn’t make any difference – our prices certainly didn’t soar.

“And ‘Albatross’ altered people’s opinions of the band. Before we were more or less a straight blues band, but now people have had to get used to us playing what we feel like – and not necessarily the blues.

“We’ve always played what we’ve wanted to. And it seems to have worked. Other bands have fallen into the trap of playing to a formula – which might be successful to start with, but might do the band harm when the formula ran out. We have no formula. We just roll on.

“So, I think singles are very important because it exposes the band to a wide audience. But first and foremost the band are a stage band.”

Which brings the Mac to the problem of how to create their stage atmosphere on record.

The usual way out is to produce a live album. It has worked for the Who and Delaney and Bonnie, and it looks as it is going to work for the Rolling Stones with Get Your Ya-Yas Out – their official live album of last year’s American tour.

Fleetwood Mac are also thinking along the same lines.

So all seems to be happy now that the big break has been made. Peter Green is busy giving free concerts and unloading all his money. And Fleetwood Mac carry on as a rock band.

The epidemic has been halted.

Rob Partridge / Record Mirror / June 6, 1970

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Chicken Shack Christine McVie

For Christine, hard work hasn’t made Perfect

Hard work is not always rewarded, as Christine Perfect is unfortunately finding out. Since leaving Chicken Shack to spend more time with her husband, Fleetwood Mac’s John McVie, then forming her own band and touring again, she has not exactly achieved what a lot of people know she deserves.

It’s rather an odd situation as she has a healthy fan following and always does well in popularity polls. One of her main problems is the total unpredictability of the television companies who used to fight over well-known acts but who now make a habit of booking lesser-knowns at the expense of people like Christine.

“I sat down and added up all the points in my favour and it’s ridiculous,” she explained. “They just won’t give me any TV work. They like the records but they have so much power and they know it.”

She can be excused a modicum of bitterness. It must be very frustrating to have the talent without it being given enough exposure. An endless round of one-nighters isn’t quite the same as a few hours in a TV studio.

Mixture

Her last single, “Too Far Gone (To Turn Around)” was released on April 24 and her album is due out in the middle of next month. It has quite a mixture of tracks: a new version of the Chicken Shack hit “I’d Rather Go Blind,” Tony Joe White’s “I Want You,” her single “When You Say,” Ike and Tina Turner’s “Crazy Bout You Baby,” Bobby Bland’s “I’m On My Way” and “Too Far Gone” without the strings and brass. There are also some numbers written by her group which includes the exceptionally good guitarist Top Topham.

But even the album isn’t really making Christine all that happy. When I asked her about it, she smoothed down her blonde hair, creased her brow and replied: “You know how it is with albums, they’re always representative of what you were rather than what you’re doing now… so I’m happy with fifty per cent of it.”

Christine took the decision to go back on the road when she found the contrast between working with Chicken Shack and looking after John and nothing else was too much.

Her first London concert date at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal was a bit of a disaster, mainly because of a compere who calmly announced: “Next is Christine Perfect, I don’t expect many of you have heard of her.” Very professional.

None the less, Christine enjoys working if not the actual travelling and she knows a lot about venues.

“London audiences seem to be blasé,” she told me. “They’re far better further North. Those pubs that have rooms above are usually very good, the kids seem more relaxed. They have a drink or two and don’t have to worry about sitting down all the time like at a concert, they feel freer to enjoy themselves.”

Things should get better, it’s nice to think they will. How about joining Fleetwood Mac, I joked, after all Peter Green is leaving?

She thought this funny and had to put her pint down rather quickly to avoid spilling it. Then she looked more serious and said: “That’s funny you mention that because Peter introduced me to the audience once and I got an ovation. I was amazed. I did a number with them and it went off great.”

Richard Green / New Musical Express / May 30, 1970

Categories
Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac Then Play On (1969)

ALBUM REVIEW: Then Play On (Reprise)

Nowadays Fleetwood Mac is stepping out on its own. Tired of being another British blues band, the group has said goodbye to Elmore James and is moving into the pop-rock field. On this album, they fall flat on their faces.

Most of the music on the album is slow and wandering – instruments in search of an idea. Of the songs in this category, “My Dream,” with its pleasant melody, is the only one that works. The eclecticism is excessive here, most of the songs soundings like warmed-over early Fish, with traces of such bands as the Doors. Plus several two-guitar raveups. Peter Green, once such a promising guitarist, is merely competent – nothing more, nothing less. Even the blues material is inferior to their earlier work. To be sure, there are bits and pieces of interesting, spacey music scattered throughout the album, but it’s the nondescript ramblings which dominate the set.

The best thing Fleetwood Mac has ever done is “Oh Well,” a single currently available only in England. On part one, the two guitars work with and against each other in perfect balance, and when the music pauses, there’s these fine lyrics, post-Dylan, rock and roll sassy: “I can’t help it ‘bout the shape I’m in/I’m not pretty, can’t sing and my legs are thin/But don’t ask me what I think of you/I might not give the answer that you want me to.” Part two, an instrumental , gets a bit cumbersome, but still attracts where similar songs on the album repelled. The reason this is available only in England is that the band’s manager is positive that “Rattlesnake Shake” (an album cut distinguished from the others only by the fact that it’s up-tempo) will hit as a single in America and on the European Continent. That man is 1969’s False Prophet of the Year. I’d trade this whole album straight across for “Oh Well,” and would be getting the better deal.

John Morthland / Rolling Stone / December 27, 1969

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Then Play On (1969)

B.B. King spells out the blues

B.B. King, Fleetwood Mac, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Duster Bennett: Royal Albert Hall, London

B.B. King spelled out the blues for a large, rapturous crowd at London’s Royal Albert Hall last week. It was at Tuesday’s opening of a well-varied package show which began with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee followed by Duster Bennett. The second half was shared by Fleetwood Mac and King, and after B.B.’s high-voltage performance nobody seemed to want to go home.

He appeared to be as affected by the welcome as we were by his subtly controlled vocal and instrumental art. From the beginning of his “Every Day I Have The Blues” to his final encore, B.B. and his fine tight band projected swing, electrifying feeling, a highly professional polish and a kind of charm which is not all that common among blues artists.

What tunes he worked with hardly seemed to matter. But a slow and pretty solo titled “Friends” was a lovely display of his crying guitar methods; “Don’t Answer The Door” and “Paying The Cost To Be The Boss” were mean indeed; the story of “Lucille” held the audience delighted, while “Rock Me, Baby” allowed them to jump with joy.

The McGhee-Terry duo scored with “Born With The Blues” and Sonny’s “Hootin'” breakdown and “Night And Day,” less so with a folksy “Rock Island Line.”

Duster Bennett blew, banged and picked prodigiously on “I’m The One,” “Shady Little Baby” and “Country Jam.”

And Fleetwood Mac turned in a strongly charged programme which included an impressive guitar duet, “Like Crying,” by Peter Green and Danny Kirwan, and a rocking “Long Tall Sally” finale.

Max Jones / Melody Maker / May 3, 1969

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Peter Green

Sold Out? Gerroff!

Peter Green defends Fleetwood Mac

While Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac played to enthusiastic Stateside audiences, British blues fans accused the group of deserting the music that made them.

“Oh! How could you, Fleetwood Mac,” they screamed. “You’ve sold out, jumped on the commercial bandwagon, deserted the blues….”

Peter Green read the Mailbag headlines, sipped a glass of champagne, and replied: “Sold out — that’s just a stock phrase, we’re still playing the same stuff on stage and whenever we play ‘Albatross’ it just brings the place down every time.

“These are just narrow minded people. I’m going to play what I like, when I like. We’ve always been commercial. Blues is commercial — before we made ‘Albatross’ we drew crowds and crowds.

“It seems that people are trying to keep us down as much as possible. ‘Albatross’ got very few plays even though it made number one.

“I don’t think we lost any fans through ‘Albatross’ — these people who don’t want us or John Mayall or Aynsley Dunbar to get success aren’t thinking about us, they’re just thinking about their own personal pleasure which is a bit sad.

“People should want the best for everyone else. I want to get some land — a farm — and grow crops and vegetables. It would be an open house, no locks on the doors, which is surely the way things should be. I want people to be happy.

“The main thing I want to do is to make good records that musically satisfy. We just want to make good LP’s and singles. We won’t make anything for the charts but we will pick something out of a bunch that’s best for the charts. We’d be silly to pick out something that would make a bad single.

“‘Albatross’ will never date. It’s like one of those great old instrumentals like ‘Apache’. It might even become a standard.

“Our new single will be called ‘Man Of The World’. It’s in the same vein as ‘Albatross’ but it’s a song. It’s a sad song so it’s a blues but people will say it’s not because it’s not a 12-bar.

“It’s got a really great melody and I’ve got some good ideas to make it more complete. It’s very sad, it was the way I felt at the time. It’s me at my saddest.

“It’s a blues record but because it’s my own melody, my own chord sequence, people won’t take it as blues but if it doesn’t make a hit, it doesn’t really matter. If we wanted to make a lot of money, we could live out in the States, but none of us are bothered about making money. We just want to be musically satisfying.

“We’ll have a new British LP out in the middle of April. I’d rather record in the States because they seem to be in it more, they’re more advanced. The best sounds are on American records, no-one’s ever matched Phil Spector or Tamla. The sound they get is really something.

“I don’t think I’m influenced by anything in particular when I’m writing. Sometimes I just get a line in my head, write it down and then come back to it later. ‘Albatross’ started with just three notes but that number was such a big thing it just had to be the single, it was so powerful and peaceful.

“The title? No, I wasn’t thinking of an albatross, something else. I don’t really know what. Something very peaceful.”

Royston Eldridge / Melody Maker / March 1, 1969

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Chicken Shack Christine McVie

A Perfect marriage

Christine of Chicken Shack and John of Fleetwood fame

Blond, gritty Christine Perfect not only bears the distinction of being lead singer of the famed Chicken Shack blues band, but is also married to John McVie of the chart-busting Fleetwood Mac.

She, more than anyone else – being so involved both musically and personally with the blues emergence in British pop – is in a position to explain the swift rise to fame of Fleetwood and what it’s meant to her and people like her.

“Fleetwoods’ success is something that’s been building up for a long time. They’ve always been a highly successful band ever since we were on the scene enjoying an audience of two people, while they were packing places out.

“It helped that they were individually well known whereas we were total strangers. They were like the Cream, and there was masses of interest for them before they even set foot stage.

“Let’s face it, people don’t just come to listen to music, they want to be entertained by people with strong individual personalities – and that’s what Fleetwood have.

“The real mystery is this ‘blues boom’ bit. I really can’t understand why we’re all enjoying such success at the moment.

“Maybe the kids are getting bored with soul. I’ve noticed that on dates the first 20 yards from the stage are full of really fanatical blues fans and behind them are people like the Geno Washington fans and people like them who just want to see what’s going on.

“They enjoy it – so the audiences get bigger. Whether it’s an actual boom I don’t know but even a lot of the soul groups have switched to playing blues now.”

With her husband in Fleetwood, who have already established themselves with a hit record, while Chicken Shack are still struggling to make it commercially, it wouldn’t be impertinent to suggest there might be a little family jealousy going on in the McVie household…

“To be honest, here’s no jealousy between us and Fleetwood. In fact their success has helped us a lot. All the people in the blues world know I’m married to John and in a way it’s good publicity for us.

“They associate us with Fleetwood and kids are always coming up to me saying: “Ere, you’re McVie’s missus aren’t you?” and they’re knocked out by it all.”

Musically, then harmony exists between Christine and John. But their personal lives have been vastly altered by the Fleetwood success and the fact that each is an integral part of a different group.

“This American trip has proved the real shatterer. It’s floored me completely. Originally John was only going for five weeks but now it’s been extended another five and I don’t know where I am. I speak to him on the phone a lot but it’s not the same as having him around.

“Usually, though we see as much of each other as anyone else does. If I’m not working I’ll go with Fleetwood to a one-nighter and even if we’re both playing at different ends of England we come home around 3 a.m. and see each other all the next day.

“We’re really nocturnal people anyway so it doesn’t make that much difference. And when Fleetwood come back from America we’re both playing concerts in Scandinavia on the same bill. That’s the advantage of both being in blues bands – we often get booked for the same shows.

“We don’t talk about music a lot when we’re at home. We really go our own ways and John never offers advice.

“The only thing he ever did to change me was to get me wearing dresses and looking like a girl. When I first started with Chicken Shack I was very nervy about being a girl in a blues band.

“You know what it’s like – there’s a blues uniform of long hair and tatty jeans which I always wore, because I was so aware of being a girl I tried to become one of the blokes so I didn’t stand out too much. My manager went beserk. He thought I ought to wear pretty dresses. But it sounded a pretty lewd suggestion to me then!

“So I went on dressing like a bloke and being all tough – until I met John.

“He made me realise that people will come and see you and like you for what you are, if you’re good enough. Through him I feel comfortable on stage now – you’ll even see me in a dress now. I suppose you could say that was another bit of success for Fleetwood in a roundabout way.”

Penny Valentine / Disc and Music Echo / January 18, 1969

 

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Fleetwood Mac (1968) Peter Green

How to upset the blues purists

Among Britain’s young blues fans Eric Clapton was once hailed as a god, then discarded by the ethnics when he left John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers for the Cream. Taking his place in their affections was Peter Green, a 21-year-old from Bethnal Green hailed as the true voice of the blues guitar and symbol of dedication.

Shock

Peter left Mayall to form his own group, the Fleetwood Mac and it may come as something of a shock to his fans to learn that he is not a raving blues purist and started life as a rocker.

“The group has been very successful since we formed it last August. There is a big interest in blues in Britain, although not what I call real blues, more progressive stuff from Jimi Hendrix and the Cream. But it’s definitely spreading. There are only two places in the whole country where we don’t go down — a couple of dead universities.

Chocked

“John Mayall has been the spearhead in reviving interest in blues. He’s really done a lot for it. I’ve been playing blues guitar for about three years, and before that I was playing bass.

“When I left John, I didn’t want to form a group. I wanted to go to Chicago, but it was difficult to be sure of being safe and I ended up dropping the idea. I was happy doing nothing, but Mike Vernon said ‘Why not?’ and he talked me into it.”

Peter has been featuring rock ‘n’ roll a lot in his act. What did he think of the current revival?

“I’m a bit chocked about it. I hope people don’t think we’re doing it because of the revival!

Picture

“I was first interested in rock ‘n’ roll and Bill Haley when I was ten years old. It has a big place in my musical heritage. I had a picture of Haley on my bedroom wall. We’re all big rock fans in the group.

“We started out doing ‘At The Hop’ as a joke, then we did ‘Ready, Teddy’, and ‘Lucille’ and we really enjoyed them.

“A lot of so called blues purists are against us doing it, but I don’t care what they think. We play what we like — we’re not just playing for purists.

“I’m not a blues purist. I don’t know every record ever made, or their numbers, and I’m not interested in talking about the blues all night. I just play blues — and rock ‘n’ roll.”

Chris Welch / Melody Maker / March 16, 1968

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Fleetwood Mac (1968) Peter Green

Rock’n’Blues via Peter Green

The big beat bug bites bluesman Peter

The big beat rock’n’roll bug is biting everywhere.

Think of the most unlikely place for it to bite. No, not Des O’Connor. Not even warm. Think of a dedicated musician NOT in the rock’n’roll field who has spent a long long time building up a reputation as a blues guitarist… you got it, baby — Peter Green.

If you go and see Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac and you hear “Jenny Jenny” or “Keep A Knockin’,” don’t run away and grab your bicycle chain to hit them with. Stay and listen and you’ll hear Peter and the boys play some pure blues numbers. Then the similarity between the two kinds of music will be apparent to you — and you’ll be able to see how the early primitive rock’n’roll developed from the blues. And remember that the Sun studios (who first recorded Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison) were recording blues artistes — some of the best — many years before the rock’n’roll craze started.

NO NEGLECT

“I’ve always liked rock,” confessed Peter to me, while he was sipping a glass of Mackeson. “And it’s a pity in a way that everyone is going on about the rock thing because it seems as though we’re just being ‘in’. Actually I’ve always wanted to do this kind of thing on stage — but it doesn’t mean we’ll be neglecting the blues.

“We’re still doing the same kind of numbers as we always did — but I’m playing more to the audiences nowadays. For instance — when we started we used to play to please ourselves, and didn’t bother too much about the audience. Now — I play numbers that are requested —like ‘Going Down Slow’ for instance which they like be cause of the guitar sounds we can get into it. Funny about guitar playing — the people in the audience think you’re great if you play fast, but that just isn’t so. Now I only play fast when I want to, which isn’t THAT often.”

On stage — if you’ve never seen the Fleetwood Mac — they wear no stage clothes, amble on stage, and tune up before the audience. A necessary part of the “white blues” stage ritual perhaps, but effective. It makes them seem dedicated. And when the group starts playing the audience really get into the music.

Peter talked about his new LP out on the CBS label Blue Horizon. “It really represents what we first started doing when the group was together. I think that ultimately we will think all the time in LP’s, but of course I’d like a hit single.”

I told Peter that I thought it was difficult for a British studio to get the “hard” sound that blues studios in America get — take Howlin’ Wolf or Elmore James records for instance.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Peter. “I asked our producer Mike Vernon if we could do a ‘live’ LP but he said no. I’ve always wanted to play straight through the LP — no stopping for mixing and reductions etc. On a new LP we’ve just recorded with Eddie Boyd we’ve done almost just that. It’s all recorded in mono but it is played just how I wanted it to be. I’m very excited with it. Our own LP I’m not fully satisfied with, but I don’t think I’d ever be satisfied with our records — it’s already sold quite well so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

EFFECTIVE

“Talking about studios I was talking to Marshall Chess who was over here and he said that if we were ever in America we could use his Chess studios. I’d love to take him up on that offer.

“Some of the tracks on our LP are very exciting — ‘Shake Your Moneymaker’ for instance and I think that the echo effect and the dropped voice used on ‘I Loved Another Woman’ is very effective.”

Norman Jopling / Record Mirror / March 9, 1968

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac (1968)

ALBUM REVIEW: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac — My Heart Beat Like A Hammer, Merry Go Round, Long Grey Mare, Hellhound On My Trail, Shake Your Moneymaker, Looking For Somebody, No Place To Go, My Baby’s Good To Me, I Loved Another Woman, Cold Black Night, The World Keep On Turning, Got To Move (Blue Horizon 7-73200).

I was slightly disappointed. Peter and his boys are competent and dedicated enough to have made a better LP than this, which consists of nothing much new or adventurous in the blues field, merely their attempts to duplicate what has already been done by countless other blues artistes. Doubtless it’ll appeal to Fleetwood Mac fans as opposed to blues fans. Also the recording quality was too often flat — compare this with the punch of Elmore James or Howlin’ Wolf items. This is a shame because throughout the album some brilliant touches come through. “I Loved Another Woman” is perfect, and the instrumental and vocals are mostly very competent, and often inspired. ***

Peter Jones and Norman Jopling / Record Mirror / March 2, 1968

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Album Reviews Fleetwood Mac (1968)

ALBUM REVIEW: Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac (1968)

Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac: Fleetwood Mac (Blue Horizon).

One of the group events of last year for blues fans was the formation of the ex-Mayall guitarist Peter Green’s own group. They blow committed blues and aren’t afraid to rock. From the first bars of “My Heart Beat Like A Hammer” the music is kept at white heat intensity, or a warm, red glow for the medium-paced outings like ‘Merry Go Round’. Jeremy Spencer contributes nice slide-guitar, piano and vocals; John McVie, also ex-Mayall, is on bass, and Mick Fleetwood, drums. Producer Mike Vernon and engineer Mike Ross get a good sound on the rhythm section, which is usually the weak point of British blues recordings.

Melody Maker / February 24, 1968

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Fleetwood Mac (1968)

Beyond the Blues Horizon

The ever-growing acceptance of blues during the Sixties has decisively affected the direction in which the popular music business has travelled in country. On the whole it’s been a benign influence, in my opinion, in spite of a number of malignant offshoots.

But good or bad, the popularity of what is at root an American Negro song style is an established fact. More blues has been played on the air, in clubs and on concert stages, and in Englishmen’s homes these past few years than in the whole of the rest of my life.

Names like Muddy Waters, Jack Dupree, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Memphis Slim have become a commonplace in record company catalogues. Specialist magazines and disc labels have sprung up, and some survive. One of the labels most likely to succeed is Blue Horizon, a name with a nice visionary touch to it.

It began, nearly three years ago, as a modest private operation putting out limited editions of U.S. recordings which appealed strictly to blues fanciers. Hubert Sumlin, J.B. Lenore, Jack Dupree and Little George Smith were among those issued.

Last year the Horizon boys recorded Eric Clapton and John Mayall’s Lonely Years on Purdah (by then two more labels, Outasite and Purdah had been launched) and every copy was disposed of in a fortnight. Subsequently the masters were sold to Decca and reissued on their Raw Blues set.

“For a time we carried on like that,” says Mike Vernon, one of Horizon’s proprietors. “But we realised there was a mounting demand not only for American-made blues but for British groups playing good blues in their own way.

“An obvious illustration of this is Mayall’s Bluesbreakers whose sales I’ve seen rise to 25,000 and more during my year and a half of producing records for Decca. When Peter Green left to form his own group it looked as though there was going to be one more group with an uncompromising attitude to its music.

“For us, the next move was clearly to find a major company to distribute our records. It wasn’t simple because companies were slow to see the possibilities; and we didn’t want a major to put out records we made under their imprint. We wanted to keep our label identity.”

Finally a contract was realised between CBS and Blue Horizon. Singles by the Fleetwood Mac and Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation are already out, but on a CBS label showing a Blue Horizon symbol. The first Blue Horizon proper, by the Chicken Shack, appears on January 19. And the first LP, by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, is to appear early next month.

Richard Vernon, the other Vernon who runs Blue Horizon, says when things are ticking over perfectly there will be a minimum of one single and one LP each month, plus extras as required.

“Briefly, our policy is to establish a market for a label,” he explains. “So that when people buy Blue Horizon they know they’re getting blues. Our plans are far-reaching; not just British groups far from it.” Mike Vernon, enlarging on the plans, says that the scope will be pretty wide — “starting with Mississippi or Texas blues and any country style that comes our way, then taking in early Chicago and Detroit, also things from the West Coast made in the late Forties and early Fifties.”

Blue Horizon aim to represent every facet of blues right up to current trends. Names they mention are B.B. King, Albert King, Little Joe Blue, Eddie Boyd. It hardly seems necessary to enquire if the Vernons have faith in the future of the blues market here.

“I think the chances of the label surviving for five years or more are very good,” says Mike. “If I’d wanted just money I’d have gone into something else.” Now that is spoken like a true blues gent.

Max Jones / Melody Maker / January 13, 1968

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Fleetwood Mac (1968)

Peter Green: The guitarist who won’t forsake the blues

Anyone who in a year has built up the reputation of being Britain’s best blues guitarist, must have some interesting things to say, and therefore be interesting to write about and read about. That’s what I figured and indeed Peter Green is very interesting.

He made his reputation as John Mayall’s lead guitarist when he replaced Eric (then “Slowhand”) Clapton. It is necessary to know that Peter Green really and truly lives for the blues and with the blues, and everything from his East End upbringing (he was a shy and reticent child) to his natural talent has contributed to his present reputation.

When he replaced Clapton after a series of auditions by John Mayall in which Peter won hands down, he was taunted on nearly every date by cries of “We want Clapton” from some of the audience.

“They weren’t the kind of things which made me play better,” said Peter, “they would just bring me down. For a long time with John I wasn’t playing at my best, as good as I was able. Only in the last few months with him could I really feel uninhibited.”

Peter first became interested in the blues when he heard a Muddy Waters record when he was fourteen. At that time he was playing bass, but after hearing more and more blues he felt he could play blues guitar and switched instruments. From playing Shadows material he has changed to playing real blues – he is on the new Eddie Boyd LP and in a private letter to a record producer Eddie said that Peter could play blues guitar better than anyone else he had heard – a truly fine compliment.

Peter’s guitar playing has made him into one of the most highly-rated musicians in the country, but does Peter think that his very specialist form of music can be truly appreciated by the audience?

“No, no, only by a few. I think this is demonstrated by the applause I get when I play very fast – it’s something I used to do with John when things weren’t going very well. But it isn’t any good. I like to play slowly, and feel every note – it comes from every part of my body and my heart and into my fingers. I have to really feel it, I make the guitar sing the blues – if you don’t have a vocalist then the guitar must sing.

“Only a few people in this country can really do this. Clapton could. I would watch him and think how great he was. But he sat in with us the other week and he isn’t the same, he’s lost the feeling. Mind you he could, I think, get it back – but he’s so easily influenced. He sees Hendrix and thinks ‘I can do that, why don’t I?’. But I’ll always play the blues.”

A while ago Peter wanted to go to Chicago because he thought that the blues scene in Britain wasn’t wide enough. But he has abandoned the project now and formed his own group, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Why did he leave John Mayall’s band, which has the reputation of being the country’s most successful blues outfit?

“Various reasons. But the most important was that I didn’t agree with the kind of material which was being played. It was becoming, for me, less and less of the blues. And we’d do the same thing, night after night. John would say something to the audience and count us in, and I’d groan inwardly.”

Peter’s group will record for the Blue Horizon label, a specialist label which will soon be distributed nationally.

If you appreciate blues, and real blues guitar, don’t miss them.

Norman Jopling / Record Mirror  / August 19, 1967