10 Best Fleetwood Mac Songs
Fleetwood Mac have spent much of this year touring the world, packing stadiums and playing sets filled with sing-along rock anthems. (They were due to hit Australia and New Zealand in the coming weeks, but those plans were put on hold when bassist John McVie announced he’s battling cancer.) Not bad for a group whose youngest member is 64! Obviously, they’ve got tremendous cross-generational appeal, and such contemporary artists as Best Coast, Jenny Lewis and HAIM cite the Mac as huge influences. The following list of the 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Songs comprises tunes from the band’s “classic lineup,” that of Mick Fleetwood, Christine and John McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. The latter two came on board in 1974, when the band had already been in existence for 10 years and achieved moderate success in their native England. A move to Los Angeles and the addition of Nicks and Buckingham — then lovers as well as songwriting partners — catapulted the group into the stratosphere, and they’ve remained there ever since. Perhaps the most important thing Fleetwood Mac has taught us is that well crafted songs are timeless, and that rock ‘n’ roll will never die.
Recorded for 1982’s ‘Mirage,’ the follow up to the double album ‘Tusk,’ ‘Gypsy’ is one of Nicks’ finest songs and perhaps the band’s best music video. The song was written after Nicks and Buckingham split and Stevie was readjusting to life off the road and redefining what home meant to her. She was just coming of the enormous success of her first solo outing, ‘Bella Donna,’ when she returned to the Mac to offer ‘Gypsy’ for this album. The video, partially shot in black and white, was the highest-budgeted music video at the time and received the very first “world premiere” treatment from MTV. “I think we would probably have gone on to make many more great videos like ‘Gypsy’ had we not been so into drugs,” Nicks once said.
‘I’m So Afraid’
If ‘Rhiannon’ was Nicks’ onstage exorcism, ‘I’m So Afraid,’ No. 9 on our list of the 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Songs, was Buckingham’s reply. Both appear on the self-titled effort known as the “White Album,” and ‘I’m So Afraid’ took on a life of it’s own in concert — oftentimes resulting in a nearly 10-minute performance. Buckingham taps into his own fear and paranoia to make ‘I’m So Afraid’ an intense and visceral live experience.
Christine McVie wrote this song about her relationship with Beach Boys’ drummer, Dennis Wilson, and it was the first single released from 1982’s, ‘Mirage.’ The duo were West Coast rock ‘n’ roll royalty during Wilson’s short but profound time on this Earth. A departure from her usual self-confident lyrics, ‘Hold Me’ finds McVie expressing trepidation about her relationship with Wilson. It resulted in a beautiful song and another surrealistic video based on several paintings by Rene Magritte. The band was not getting along at the time of the video shoot, and their tension is palpable in the final version.
‘Go Your Own Way’
Talk about “F— You” songs! Buckingham penned this tune about his deteriorating relationship with Nicks, which famously ended poorly during the recording of ‘Rumours.’ As lead single from the album, Buckingham sought revenge by having Nicks listen to and sing harmonies with such venomous lines such as, “packin’ up, shackin’ up’s all you want to do.” And she was not happy about it. While the song is sunny and bright on the surface, the deeper context is the anger and pain Buckingham felt. Somehow, he transformed it into an instantly recognizable song.
The most explosive track from 1975’s eponymous album, Nicks’ ‘Rhiannon’ — written about an “ancient, Welsh, witch” — has been a staple of Fleetwood Mac performances since 1975. While recording ‘Rumours’ a year after ‘The White Album’ was released, ‘Rhiannon’ gained major traction on commercial radio stations and became a calling card for the recently formed classic line-up of The Mac. As Mick Fleetwood puts it, “[Stevie’s] Rhiannon in those days was like an exorcism.”
Written for ’87’s ‘Tango in The Night’ by Christine McVie and her then-husband, Eddy Quintela, ‘Little Lies’ reached No. 4 on the Billboard charts. The production and style of the song are indicative of popular adult contemporary music in the late ’80s, and the video gained heavy rotation on MTV and VH1. Also of note: ‘Little Lies’ was the first Fleetwood Mac song to be released as a cassette single.
Next up on our list of the 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Songs is perhaps the Mac’s most ambitious production. ‘Tusk’ features the USC marching band, and to record the ensemble, the band rented out L.A.’s Dodger Stadium, and all but John McVie (represented by a life size cardboard cutout) were in attendance to cheer on the Trojan crew. To this day, USC plays this song at their football games, and the footage of the recording is a fascinating look into the minds and hearts of Fleetwood Mac’s collective, creative genius.
Found on the last studio recording from the classic lineup, 1987’s ‘Tango in The Night,’ ‘Big Love’ was written and recorded entirely by Lindsey Buckingham. The band and their record label proudly toted the fact that the Dali/Magritte-inspired surrealistic video cost half a million dollars. Famously, Buckingham left the band before the ‘Tango’ tour, and the song was never performed live until the band’s 1997 reunion for ‘The Dance.’ The acoustic version is just as potent as the recorded one and is always a part of both Fleetwood Mac and Buckingham solo sets.
The only Fleetwood Mac song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts was this ethereal Nicks-penned track. She wrote it in one sitting on a Fender Rhodes in the back room of Sausalito, Calif., recording studio the Record Plant and hurried back into the control room (where the rest of the band was working on ‘Rumours’) to perform her new composition. It was recorded the next day and has been covered numerous times, and it remains a classic rock radio mainstay.
The only Mac song that lists Nicks, Buckingham, Fleetwood and both McVies as co-songwriters, ‘The Chain’ features one of the greatest bass solos of this or any era. The song builds into a climactic crescendo with Buckingham’s frenzied guitar work and the three leads wailing “damn, your love, damn your lies” in unison. Not only is this our pick for No. 1 on the list of the 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Songs, but it’s the most indicative of the messy interpersonal relationships that made ‘Rumours’ one of the best-selling albums of all time.