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Rhythms live on

Frequent changes in line-up did not detract from Fleetwood Mac's ability to churn out hits

JOHN MAYALL'S Blues breakers were the poorer when two of its members left to form what was the original Fleetwood Mac. Peter Green and Mick Fleetwood both alumni of the afore-mentioned band joined an Elmore James enthusiast, Jeremy Spencer, in 1967, to bring into existence Fleetwood Mac.

Green was a blues guitarist of repute and this helped in their securing a recording contract. It was not until another Mayall acolyte, John McVie was persuaded to join the new unit, that they made their debut appearance at the Windsor's National Jazz and Blues Festival.

Their first self-titled album, Fleetwood Mac, was released in February 1968, and reached the UK Top 5. Green's compositions and Spencer's extensive guitar work styled on his guru Elmore James and a handful of cover versions completed the album. It stayed near the top of the charts for 13 months. The group also enjoyed two minor hit singles Black Magic Woman, later popularised by Carlos Santana, and Need your Love so Bad, first recorded by Little Whillie John.

Mr. Wonderful, their second array, featured contributions from Christine Perfect, a pianist from the group Chicken Shack. She was instrumental in moving the band toward leaner, more melodic rock. Contractual obligations to her former band kept her from joining Fleetwood Mac officially until 1971, by then she had married McVie. A third guitarist Danny Kirwan was added to the line-up in September 1968. Albatross, an instrumental single, was an immediate hit which when reissued in 1973, was the group's first million-seller.

Bowing to market compulsions and shifting to a larger audience saw them shift to the U.S. from the U.K and a change in style ensued from traditional blues to soft melodious rock. Plagued by personnel changes, this group could not achieve its full potential. Founder member Peter Green left the band in 1970 and was replaced by Christine Perfect.

While his loss was an obvious blow, Kirwan's song-writing skills and Spencer's sheer exuberance maintained a measure of continuity. In 1971, the group was rocked by the exit of Spencer, who disappeared midway through an American tour. Further changes occurred when Kirwan's chronic stage fright led to his dismissal. The march continued and finally bottomed out when, while seeking prospective recording labels, Mick Fleetwood was introduced to Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

Now bereft of a guitarist, Fleetwood invited the latter to join the bandwagon. Buckingham accepted on condition that Nicks joined in as well, thus firming up Fleetwood Mac's most successful line-up. The new entrants provided easy, yet memorable compositions with smooth harmonies.

A string of stellar compilations followed, Over My Head, Say You Love Me and the dramatic Rhiannon. A perfect balance had been struck giving the group its first long line of Top 20 singles.

Rumours proved more remarkable still, selling approximately 25 million copies and at one point was second to Michael Jackson's Thriller as the best-selling album of all time.

Despite the break-up of two relationships - The McVies and the Buckinghams - the group completed a remarkable collection that laid bare the traumas within, this was chartered into several exquisite songs, Go Your Own Way, Don't Stop, Second hand news and Dreams. Surviving emotional anguish became their hallmark and churning out hits, their trademark.

A. GEORGE ANTONY

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