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Return of the Mac: Fleetwood Mac's 20 greatest songs

Marking the start of the European leg of Fleetwood Mac's world tour, which kicked off in Dublin this week, Graeme Ross chronicles the legendary band's 20 greatest songs


The band in 1975

The band in 1975

Live legends: (from left) John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Neil Finn, Mick Fleetwood and Mike Campbell

Live legends: (from left) John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Neil Finn, Mick Fleetwood and Mike Campbell

Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Stevie Nicks performs

Stevie Nicks performs

Getty Images for iHeartMedia


The band in 1975

Their story has been described as the ultimate rock soap opera. And, following the recent firing of Lindsey Buckingham and with new members Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn from Crowded House on board, it's just one more chapter in the stranger-than-fiction career of Fleetwood Mac.

The band have just crossed the Atlantic to play three gigs as part of their latest world tour, having played the RDS in Dublin on Thursday and with two Wembley gigs tomorrow and Tuesday.

The NME, in a recent feature, concentrated solely on the Buckingham/Stevie Nicks post-1975 years for their greatest 20 Fleetwood Mac songs, as if the band hadn't existed before, even if it was in a radically different guise.

This compilation goes all the way back to Peter Green's blues-based Mac in 1967, with a couple of entries from the band's "lost" years in the first half of the Seventies, reminding us that Fleetwood Mac were successful long before they morphed into laid-back West Coast soft rockers.

20 Landslide

On joining Fleetwood Mac in 1975, Buckingham and Nicks brought several songs with them, including Landslide, one of Nicks' most personal songs. When she wrote this emotional and reflective ballad the previous year, the duo's sole album had bombed and their relationship was failing. Nicks stood at the crossroads of her life and poured all her doubts and fears into one cathartic song.

19 Hypnotized

Guitarist Bob Welch is a significant figure in Fleetwood Mac's history, replacing the departed Peter Green in 1971. His finest Mac moment was the jazzy, noir-esque Hypnotized, featuring Christine McVie's ghostly harmonies over Welch's dreamy vocal. Proof that, even as the band foundered commercially, artistically the Bob Welch era wasn't always the barren netherworld of popular myth.

18 Say You Love Me

McVie had always been a prominent songwriter, but Fleetwood Mac (1975) was the album where she really came into her own. The jaunty Say You Love Me was her best song yet and even scraped into the UK top 40 at a time when the original band were but distant memories in their homeland.

17 Gypsy

Both a nostalgic look back to her pre-fame struggles and a tribute to a friend who had died of leukaemia, Gypsy from 1982's Mirage album is one of Stevie Nicks' most enigmatic songs; a classic Fleetwood Mac soft rocker.

16 Dragonfly

Lovely, shimmering psychedelia from Danny Kirwan, with lyrics taken from poet WH Hughes and one of a long line of unsuccessful post-Green, pre-Buckingham/Nicks singles. Re-released as a limited edition single in the US in 2014, it reached No 9 in the Billboard Hot Singles charts.

15 Big Love

Tango in the Night turned the clock back to the Fleetwood Mac/Rumours era with an album full of brilliantly accessible numbers, such as Little Lies and Everywhere. Opening track Big Love, a top 10 single on both sides of the Atlantic, was the pick of the bunch.

14 Black Magic Woman

White boy plays the blues and the devil is a woman tropes are front and centre of this evocative, mysterious mood piece. Fleetwood Mac's first hit single introduced the signature Peter Green sound.

13 Sara

As with so many Mac songs, the meaning behind Sara is complex and inevitably based around relationships both within and outside the band. Nicks also reflects on her past struggles and regrets on a song that quickly became one of her most loved.

12 Songbird

One of the many highlights of Rumours, recorded live in an empty theatre in the University of California, San Francisco, just Christine McVie, a piano and a dozen red roses. This beautiful, heartfelt song of unconditional love, described by its composer as "a little prayer, an anthem for everybody", has been covered by Eva Cassidy and Willie Nelson.

11 You Make Loving Fun

Another Christine McVie classic, bouncy, yet understated, with Christine channelling her inner Stevie Wonder on clavinet. Buckingham's cutting guitar licks are a highlight too. You Make Loving Fun wasn't about John McVie, Christine's by now ex-husband - it was about her dog.

10 Tusk

Tusk, the New Wave-influenced follow-up to Rumours, found the band - and Buckingham in particular - resolutely determined not to just churn out a Rumours retread. That said, the lyrics to Tusk's title track hark back to the romantic triangles of that touchstone album.

9 Don't Stop

Bill Clinton hijacked Don't Stop for his presidential campaign in 1992 and the band performed it at his inauguration, but don't let that put you off. One of the band's most popular songs - and Christine McVie's finest.

8 Albatross

Provoked much gnashing of teeth from purists in 1968, who felt the band had somehow sold out their blues roots. All nonsense, of course. Re-released five years later, it just failed to reach the top a second time - stalling at No 2.

7 Oh Well

A blistering guitar intro, cowbells and tongue-in-cheek lyrics segue into a wonderfully atmospheric instrumental with classical overtones and, in three-and-a-half breathless minutes, one of the most extraordinary songs of the era has passed in a blink of the eye.

6 Rhiannon

The breakthrough single from the eponymous album that signalled Fleetwood Mac's remarkable change of direction and fortune, as they began their extraordinary transition from British blues also-rans to the epitome of slick, air-brushed Californian soft-rock.

5 Man of the World

Perhaps the most beautiful and overwhelmingly sad song in the entire canon, Man of the World, the follow-up to Albatross, was only held off the top spot by The Beatles' Get Back.

4 The Chain

Never a single, but one of their most played songs, thanks to its use as the theme for the BBC's Formula One coverage, The Chain consists of a number of bits and pieces spliced together by studio master Buckingham and it's the only song credited to all five members of the Rumours-era band.

3 The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)

Peter Green's last recording with the band. A song so disturbing - with its banshee wail and nerve-shredding guitar - that it still beggars belief that it became a top 10 single in 1970. Written after a particularly disturbing nightmare Green had experienced around the same time that he had started to give away all his earnings.

2 Go Your Own Way

With its angry lyrics, scorching guitars and Fleetwood's pounding drumbeat, Buckingham's bitter kiss-off to Nicks as their relationship ended was not the typical Fleetwood Mac laid-back soft rocker. Go Your Own Way has endured, its raw urgency not dating one iota since.

1 Dreams

It's all here - the McVies' divorce, the Buckingham-Nicks break-up, Nicks' affair with Fleetwood - all laid bare and written in 10 minutes by Nicks. Dreams became Fleetwood Mac's first No 1 single in America. The ultimate rock soap opera had found its fitting coda.

Belfast Telegraph

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