The Albums That Shaped Me: FLEETWOOD MAC LIVE

albums-FMliveFLEETWOOD MAC: Live
Year of Release: 1980
Year it Came Into My Life: 1980

“Monday Morning”
“Say You Love Me”
“Dreams”
“Oh Well”
“Over and Over”
“Sara”
“Not That Funny”
“Never Going Back Again”
“Landslide”
“Fireflies”
“Over My Head”
“Rhiannon”
“Don’t Let Me Down Again”
“One More Night”
“Go Your Own Way”
“Don’t Stop”
“I’m So Afraid”
“The Farmer’s Daughter”

Growing up in the 70s, I was of course aware of Fleetwood Mac. How could you not be? They were everywhere. They had a string of amazing hits that were on the radio non-stop: “Say You Love Me”, “You Make Lovin’ Fun”, “Go Your Own Way”, “Rhiannon”, “Tusk”, “Dreams”, “Sara”, “Think About Me”, etc., and I heard them all. I have very clear and specific memories of hearing various Fleetwood Mac songs on a rather tinny-sounding AM/FM clock radio. I also remember the first time I ever saw pictures of them in a magazine.

Live was a whole different ballgame, though. The albums created by the then current lineup of FM – FM, Rumours and Tusk – were masterpieces, but they were the products of careful crafting, innumerable overdubs, and retake after retake. The Live album was the same songs, but raw. Where five people can play 20 people’s parts in the studio, onstage it comes down to just the five players. Its music at its most honest (well, not so much anymore, with the prevalence of playing to pre-recorded backing tracks).

I remember quite distinctly, when this album first came out, hearing the live version of “Rhiannon” late at night on our local album rock station Zeta 7. It captivated me, in that it was so different from the studio version. Not only was it played very differently – far more rock than the original version – it was twice the length, with new dynamics, additional lyrics, a long, wailing guitar solo by Lindsey, etc. It was a big lesson to me in how a song isn’t confined to (or defined by) its original shape, length, style or even instrumentation. A song can grow and bend and stretch and breathe and contort. In the case of “Rhiannon”, it goes from a nice little hippy song about a witch to an epic tale of magic, love and power, and Stevie goes into a little bit of a raving possession at the end of it. Its a pretty dramatic and gripping performance.

Once I bought the album, I started to become a real FM fan, rather just a guy who knew their songs on the radio. I gained a serious appreciation for Lindsey as a guitarist; for Stevie as an medium, a channel for an emotion or a character; for Christine as one of the greatest writers of pop songs ever. I’ve found that I much prefer these versions of many of their songs, especially “Landslide” (here it is incredible dramatic and pitched in a higher key), “Sara”, “Over My Head” (the original puts me to sleep, but this one is bouncier, a bit more uptempo), “Go Your Own Way” and the highlight for Lindsey’s amazing guitar skills, “I’m So Afraid”.

My appreciation of Fleetwood Mac has increased over the years, and I’ve invested time and interest in all of their lineups, especially the earlier ones, and have discovered amazing material throughout. One of my favorite albums in the FM catalog is Bare Treesnearly five years before the advent of Lindsey and Stevie. That lineup, featuring Christine McVie, Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch, created an album that is (nearly) the equal of Rumours in its strength of material, cohesion, variety and “listenability”.

Lindsey, Stevie and Christine all left the band at various points and returned at various points. Christine has just returned to the lineup for the first time in many years and is touring with the band. I’ll be seeing that show in March. Can’t wait!

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