Fleetwood Mac: Starbucks Opus Collection is available now at U.S. and Canadian Starbucks stores and online for $12.95. The limited edition CD compiles some of Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits and enduring album cuts. Rolling Stone contributing writer David Wild has written detailed liner notes and commentary for each track.
“Fleetwood Mac is big,” Stevie Nicks told me recently. “This group has always been something bigger than any one of us, and we have tried our best to not forget that.”
As Lindsey Buckingham explained soon after, “It’s the music that’s kept us together, even at times when it made no sense to stay together and meant paying a very high price personally. I think that’s the real chain that ties us together—the music.”
“The reality is that the chemistry of Fleetwood Mac has a life of its own, and we enjoy the process of celebrating that chemistry,” observed Mick Fleetwood more recently. “We realize now that we are really blessed to do this and do it at this level. A package like this one is another chance to reflect on how lucky we are. It’s a kind of reminder of whence we come from—and where we still might go.”
This Opus Collection, which gathers together some of the most solid links in the massive musical chain Nicks, Buckingham, Fleetwood, Christine McVie and John McVie have created together, is a vivid reminder of why this legendary group that first formed nearly half a century ago continues to mean so much to so many. Few groups in popular music history have created a body of work as artistic, on as large a scale, and for as long a time as Fleetwood Mac. Yet for all the history Fleetwood Mac has already made, we remain moved by this living musical legacy in the here and now.
This collection gathers together some of the biggest, best and most enduring songs recorded by this group’s most popular and iconic lineup. You know, those same five characters that famously ended up in bed together on the cover of Rolling Stone. Clearly, this is not the entire Fleetwood Mac Story—only some of the most illustrious and melodic chapters.
The good name of Fleetwood Mac was established in 1967 as a great British blues band. In its first popular incarnation, Fleetwood Mac was fronted by guitar god Peter Green and powered by the always-distinctive rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. Soon a gifted keyboardist and vocalist then known as Christine Perfect made her appearance. Before long, Perfect had not only joined Fleetwood Mac but married the bass player. Throughout the late ‘60s and early ’70s, as members would come and go as if in a Greek tragedy or French farce, Fleetwood Mac continued to record and tour, graced by a shifting yet always intriguing cast of players that include guitarist/vocalists Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan and the group’s first American member Bob Welch.
The golden era celebrated here began in 1974 when Mick Fleetwood paid a visit to a less-than-glitzy recording studio deep in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley called Sound City. There, by luck or fate, Fleetwood literally bumped into the band’s new direction.
As beautifully told in Dave Grohl’s documentary Sound City, shortly before Welch’s departure, Fleetwood went looking for a good, relatively inexpensive studio in which to record a next album. To demonstrate the sonic potential of Sound City, producer Keith Olsen played Fleetwood some tracks from the first album ever recorded on its then state-of-the-art Neve mixing board, Buckingham Nicks, the 1973 debut of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Despite the album’s excellent reviews and absolutely stunning quality, Buckingham Nicks found themselves without a record deal.
Days later, following the release of Fleetwood Mac’s 1974 album Heroes Are Hard to Find, Bob Welch announced he was leaving the band—suggesting not for the first time that guitar heroes were curiously hard not to find but rather to keep for Fleetwood Mac. A lesser band might have thrown in the towel, but for all its ups and downs, Fleetwood Mac has never been a lesser band.
Needing a new guitar player, Fleetwood discovered that his only chance of hiring Buckingham was to invite his then-girlfriend Nicks to join as well. And so Fleetwood Mac was reborn with a whole new California sheen. Getting Buckingham and Nicks would go down as perhaps the single smartest package deal ever, with Stevie Nicks arguably becoming the most valuable Plus One in rock history. As Mick Fleetwood once explained with English understatement, “All in all, I must say that worked out quite well for everybody.”
What started as a musical marriage of convenience set off a spectacular chain reaction, with 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, the new quintet’s first album together, going to No. 1 and becoming far and away the band’s biggest success to date. Fleetwood Mac (also known as “The White Album”) was more than great leap forward. It was a real creative rebirth and the start of a beautiful if rather tempestuous relationship.
Remarkably, things were about to get even bigger and much more complicated. For all the success of Fleetwood Mac, the 1977 follow-up, Rumours, became a true runaway success, remaining at No. 1 in the American charts for an astounding 31 weeks and achieving tremendous success around the world. It remains one of the best-selling recordings in history. The extraordinary success of Rumours was fueled in part by its artful documentation of a band’s internal personal drama. The marriage of the McVies and the romantic relationship of Buckingham and Nicks both ended, with all the emotional fallout taking place as the band pushed forward as a creative entity. The result was not just a song cycle for the ages, but one hell of a page-turning group diary.
“I really think there came a time when the sales of Rumours became less about the music and started being more about the phenomenon and the musical soap opera of it all,” Buckingham ventured. Or as Nicks put it: “The truth about Rumours is that it was the truth.”
Somehow Fleetwood Mac stuck together and rose to the occasion. As John McVie—who tends to be a man of few words—once explained: “We may be a dysfunctional family, but we’re still a family.” And as brilliantly reflected on Rumours, what a talented family they were becoming. When I asked Christine McVie recently to explain the ongoing passion for the album, she cited “the exciting and extraordinary chemistry between us” as well as “the intoxicating variety of songwriting; two girls, three guys—unusual and unintentionally commercial, yet honest.”
The band’s fascinating response to the massive success of Rumours was 1979’s Tusk, a wildly ambitious double album that saw Buckingham experimenting in his home studio and pushing the band farther out of their newfound commercial comfort zone. Tusk remains an all-time favorite among many music critics.
Fleetwood Mac’s new studio album, 1982’s Mirage, recorded at France’s Chateau d’Herouville, was decidedly less experimental than its bold predecessor, but nonetheless is packed full of melodic gems.
Tango in the Night, which surfaced in 1987, started out as a Buckingham solo album, evolving into the band’s most successful and acclaimed release since Rumours. It sold more than 12 million copies worldwide and produced four Top 20 hits in America. Yet for all the success of Tango in the Night, all was not well within the world of Fleetwood Mac, and Buckingham chose to leave the band shortly before a planned tour.
In the years that followed, Fleetwood Mac soldiered on in various configurations. It ultimately took a request from U.S. President-elect Bill Clinton—who had selected Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” as his campaign theme song—to reunite Buckingham with Nicks, Fleetwood, Christine McVie and John McVie onstage at his 1993 Inaugural Ball.
The same lineup reformed in March 1997. A live album, The Dance, brought Fleetwood Mac back to the top of the charts for the first time in 15 years. They remained on the road throughout much of ’97, the 20th anniversary of Rumours.
In 1998, Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but many fans were saddened that same year when Christine McVie announced she was retiring from performing. True to tradition, Fleetwood Mac moved forward. Her longtime cohorts rarely miss a chance to praise their former bandmate. Christine McVie, Nicks observed, was always “very full of light, and she made Fleetwood Mac more loving and fun.”
Fleetwood Mac released 2003’s acclaimed Say You Will, the group’s first full studio album with Lindsey Buckingham in 16 years, and then headed out on another successful world tour that continued through 2004. In 2013, Fleetwood Mac returns again for a sold-out tour and reportedly some promising new recording. Even with one link missing, the Chain continues.
“We carry on and the music continues to speak to us and to the fans too,” Fleetwood says. “Despite ourselves at times, we are alive and well. And as we’re playing this new tour, we are unbelievably impressed and appreciative that so many people love this band unconditionally. We don’t take all that support lightly now, and we work as hard as we can to continue to earn that kind of love and trust.”
Track-by-track commentary by David Wild
1. You Make Loving Fun (From the album Rumours)
A gorgeously radiant piece of romantic pop written and sung by Christine McVie, “You Make Loving Fun” is a powerful ray of sunshine within the context of Rumours. As Stevie Nicks has noted, “Christine’s voice has such grace and beauty. She had a very positive effect on Lindsey and me too. She gave him a lot of joy because she was so funny, so smart and so incredibly musical like he is.” And as Lindsey Buckingham points out, this track rocks. “It’s also one of my favorite Mick and John songs as a rhythm section,” he says, “because they’re doing what they want and doing it well.”
2. Go Your Own Way (From the album Rumours)
If “You Make Loving Fun” offers sunniness, Lindsey Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” brilliantly captures all the drama of the real-life soap opera the band members found themselves in as they sought to make music and amid considerable personal tension. Back in an era before rampant social media and celebrity over-sharing, Fleetwood Mac’s songwriters openly revealed their own stories in a series of extraordinary songs. As Buckingham observes: “In the end, what we were going through as people—as two couples who were falling apart—was something that was appealing and interesting to an audience.” On “Go Your Own Way,” Buckingham told his side of the story in an entirely compelling way that was, as Nicks puts it, “a little angry” but also very honest. And it sure doesn’t hurt that Buckingham’s killer guitar solo stands among his greatest and most passionate.
3. Gypsy (From the album Mirage)
Year ago I asked Lindsey Buckingham to name his favorite Stevie Nicks song that he had worked on and he chose “Gypsy.” Obviously Stevie can be a real poet,” he remarked, “and that’s one example of when it was a real honor to help her shape one of her true gems.” Reportedly Nicks demoed an early version of “Gypsy” during the making of her first solo album, Bella Donna, but held the song for Fleetwood Mac’s next album. Nicks has spoken about how the song expresses a kind of longing for that time when she and Buckingham were struggling and living more like gypsies than rock stars. She has also spoken about the song’s connection to her close friend Robin Snyder Anderson, who died of leukemia in 1982. “Gypsy” ultimately became a musical highlight of Mirage and a No. 12 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100. Russell Mulcahy worked with the band to create an accompanying video that was the most expensive produced up until that time.
4. Sara (From the album Tusk)
Stevie Nicks’s luminous “Sara” is arguably the song on Tusk that most effectively recalls the stunning beauty of the Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums. Somehow “Sara” fully and memorably captures romantic mystery in one of its key lines: “Drowning in the sea of love where everyone would love to drown.” The song, which climbed to No. 7 on the charts, became the much more comforting second single from Tusk, following the startling title track. To this day, “Sara” has a power all its own. A deeply felt lead vocal from Nicks and excellent harmonies from Nicks, Christine McVie and Buckingham help it build a unique wall of Big Mac sound. As for its inspiration, Nicks has confessed: “Sara was a very dear friend of mine, and she was in the song somewhere, but really it was written about Mick and me.”
5. World Turning (From the album Fleetwood Mac)
A rare Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie collaboration, “World Turning” represents a sturdy sort of musical bridge between Fleetwood Mac’s proud, bluesy past and its brighter pop future. Buckingham has often noted that he had mixed feeling about performing songs from the Peter Green era during his early days touring with the group. “Those early Fleetwood Mac songs are great,” he told me recently. “I just never wanted to feel like I was in a cover band trying to be anyone else.” Yet in “World Turning,” Buckingham and Christine effectively tap into a tribal groove that strongly recalls that earlier era of Fleetwood Mac, as do “The Chain” and even “Tusk.” Mick Fleetwood observes: “That’s a great example of the early cross-breeding of our styles. It was one of our first indications that things were going well in our musical laboratory.”
6. Tusk (From the album Tusk)
How can you possibly follow a musical phenomenon like Rumours? If you’re Fleetwood Mac, you take a hard left turn toward “Tusk,” one of the most anticipated and brilliantly unexpected singles ever released by a major group. Mick Fleetwood had the idea to build a track from a rehearsal riff that Lindsey Buckingham had used during sound checks. “I just love the whole insanity of that track and the crazy premise it was built on,” Fleetwood says. “It all happened organically, and the song clearly spoke to our desire not to tread water.” Once the haunting, tribal-drum-driven track was recorded, “Tusk” was completed live at a large empty Dodger stadium with the University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band making a memorable contribution. This entire musical happening was filmed for the “Tusk” video. Because John McVie was out of town at the time, his place was taken at Dodger Stadium by a cardboard cutout of his image carried around by Fleetwood.
7. Rhiannon (From the album Fleetwood Mac)
Stevie Nicks remembers writing “Rhiannon” in an apartment on Fairfax and Ocean Grove in Los Angeles that she and Buckingham shared. Nicks was inspired by a book called Triad that included a character named Rhiannon. “Years later a fan sent me this 700-page book of Welsh mythology and I realized my song somehow seemed to be written about that Rhiannon–this mythological Welsh queen and her birds,” she recalls. According to Nicks, this is really “the only song I ever wrote about somebody I consider to be supernatural. All my other girls, like Sara and Gypsy, are different than Rhiannon. She’s a queen. She rules.”
8. Dreams (From the album Rumours)
Rumours would yield an impressive four Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits, but only Nicks’s “Dreams” rose all the way to No. 1. Moody and altogether mesmerizing, “Dreams” was written at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, during Rumours sessions. Nicks recalls slipping into Sly Stone’s Record Plant studio to write privately and finding a sunken piano and black bed. She was pleased with the piece she wrote there, which reminded her of a favorite R&B group, the Spinners. “I took the song in and played it for everybody in the band,” she recalls. “I was kind of interrupting what they were doing, but I knew they were going to like the song.”
9. Everywhere (From the album Tango in the Night)
One of the four American Top 20 singles from Tango in the Night, “Everywhere” is a prime example of Christine McVie’s ability to write sparkling and shimmering romantic songs. “Chris is such a loving person, and that comes through in her music,” Nicks says of her longtime friend. Indeed, Buckingham credits McVie with covering for Nicks, who was absent during part of the sessions for Tango in the Night due to her 1986 Rock a Little world tour. The very pretty and poppy “Everywhere” has enjoyed a rather funky afterlife. It has been covered by Chaka Khan and Hot Chip and sampled by a number of hip-hop and electronic artists.
10. Little Lies (From the album Tango in the Night)
“I am and always will be a Christine McVie fan,” says Nicks. “Christine is such a beautiful person and a beautiful musician, and you can hear that in her songs.” Listen to “Little Lies,” the third single from Tango in the Night, and you can hear many of the musical qualities that made McVie such a crucial figure in the band. Though the keyboard/vocalist has stepped back from the band, she attended Fleetwood Mac concerts in England in 2003 and 2008, and in 2013 sat in with the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band at a performance in Maui.
11. Oh Diane (From the album Mirage)
A Top 10 hit in England, “Oh Diane” sounds like one of Lindsey Buckingham’s sly yet heartfelt tributes to the willfully infectious pop of the pre-Beatles era. That influence can also be heard on his 1981 solo debut Law and Order, with its winning cover of Skip and Flip’s 1959 hit “It Was I.” The success of “Oh Diane” in the U.K. was something of a surprise, considering that it followed two substantial American hits—“Hold Me” and “Gypsy”—that failed to click across the pond. “There was this sense then that I had done something wrong with Tusk, but I felt—and continue to feel—that I had done something right.”
12. Never Going Back Again (From the album Rumours)
When I asked Buckingham and Nicks to revisit the songs on Rumours for an expanded edition of the album, “Never Going Back Again” inspired intriguing reactions. For Buckingham, it remains a favorite. He relates not simply to the song’s sentiment, but more than ever to the stripped-down guitar and single-voice sound of the recording. For her part, Nicks maintains, “That’s a song about the fact that we’re broken up, and we’re done forever, and at that point he’s glad. But at the end of the song, Lindsey comes around a little, and he’s looking through the eyes of someone who’s thinking just maybe somewhere down the line we’ll be together again. He was being hopeful and not slamming doors in that song. He always plays it live and I’m glad he does. To me ‘Never Going Back Again’ is a Lindsey’s ‘Landslide.’”
13. Honey Hi (From the album Tusk)
In contrast to the sometimes tense and often surprising sonic palette Buckingham brought to Tusk, Christine McVie unsurprisingly provided a number of sunny, mellow moments that calmed the nerves. One example is “Honey Hi,” a brief but buoyant number full of love and affection that kicked off the fourth side of the original two-LP set. McVie also wrote the third single from Tusk, “Think About Me,” which peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Honey Hi,” however, may be her sweetest and most charming contribution to an album that needed her light touch.
14. Landslide (From the album Fleetwood Mac)
“Landslide” is not only one of Nicks’s truly great songs, it is, in essence, a portrait of the young poet willing herself to greatness. Nicks recalls writing the song very clearly: “I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor with my Goya guitar writing ‘Landslide’ in Aspen, Colorado. I was in somebody’s living room out over the snow-covered mountains and thinking about whether or not I should go on pursuing a music career with Lindsey at all. So there I sat looking out at the Rocky Mountains, pondering the avalanche of everything that had started to come crashing down on us. It felt like a landslide in many ways. I decided to take Lindsey and go to the top.” Over the years, “Landslide” has become a modern standard famously recorded by everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Smashing Pumpkins. Truth be told, no one has topped the original.
15. Planets of the Universe – Demo (From the album Rumours Deluxe Edition)
Such was the fantastic quality of the songs considered for Rumours that a hidden gem like “Planets of the Universe” was largely unheard for decades. The song was written by Nicks in the early ‘70s and first recorded in 1977 in Sausalito. Nicks eventually revisited it on her 2001 solo album Trouble in Shangri-La. That John Shanks-produced track was nominated for a Best Female Rock Vocal Performance GRAMMY® Award. The original demo version of “Planets of the Universe” appeared for the first time on a 2004 deluxe reissue edition of Rumours. Despite the song’s wonderfully spacy title, the inspiration for “Planets of the Universe” was decidedly down to earth and personal. Nicks explained: “Those are some of my meanest lyrics and they’re totally about Lindsey.”
- You Make Loving Fun
- Go Your Own Way
- World Turning
- Little Lies
- Oh Diane
- Never Going Back Again
- Honey Hi
- Planets of the Universe (Demo)
Chart Moves: Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Opus’ opens
Fleetwood Mac, “Opus Collection” (No. 72): The new 15-song greatest hits package was exclusively available at Starbucks. It grants Fleetwood Mac its 27th chart entry — and second this year. (They debuted and peaked at No. 48 earlier this year with the “Extended Play” EP.) The band last bowed two new releases on the chart in the same year in 1975.
Keith Caulfield / Billboard / Friday, September 13, 2013