Fleetwood Mac Facts You Never Knew
This band has certainly had its ups and downs!
Fleetwood Mac is one of the most legendary rock bands in history, selling tens of millions of albums among frequent headlines about the group’s infighting and debauchery. The band has had many members over the years and has released 17 studio albums so far — with more possibly on the horizon.
The band continues to be popular, making it one of the most truly timeless musical acts ever. But you probably don’t know everything about this iconic band. Check out our list of interesting facts about Fleetwood Mac that you might not have been aware of.
Mick Fleetwood Was A Military Brat
The band’s co-founder and drummer (pictured below circa 1968) since day one had anything but a boring English childhood. His father served in Britain’s Royal Air Force, which meant he spent time growing up around the world. Much of Fleetwood’s childhood was spent in Egypt and Norway. It’s probably why, in 1994, he described himself as “a gypsy” and “a traveling alien” when talking to The Times of Northwest Indiana.
The Band Debuted At A Festival
In August 1967, Fleetwood Mac made its live debut at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival in England. Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer made up the group’s lineup at the festival. Also performing at the event were the Small Faces, Jeff Beck, Donovan and Cream. The festival ended up drawing about 40,000 people over the course of four days.
The Band’s Name Was An Act Of Generosity
As you probably know, Fleetwood Mac’s name comes from the last names of the original drummer and bassist: Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. But neither of them suggested that name. Original guitarist and singer Peter Green came up with the name and Fleetwood later said it was an example of Green’s selflessness.
“He was also always willing to give as much space and creative freedom to other members,” Fleetwood told the Irish Times in 2017.
They’ve Used The Same Album Title Twice
For people who are just getting into Fleetwood Mac, it can be confusing to look at their discography and know where to start. After all, the group has released two albums called “Fleetwood Mac.” The first was their 1968 debut and the second was their 1975 album, their 10th overall, which was the first to feature Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Both albums can be seen as good introductions to the band, with the first showcasing their early blues sound and the second showcasing their more popular soft rock sound.
They’ve Only Topped The Hot 100 Chart Once
Despite having a legendary list of songs, selling millions of records and releasing countless greatest hits collections, Fleetwood Mac only has a single No. 1 hit to its name. The band’s only song that ever topped the Billboard Hot 100 was “Dreams,” from 1977’s “Rumours.”
Stevie Nicks wrote the song, and the other band members reportedly loved it immediately when she first played it for them.
John McVie Got ‘Goosebumps’ When He First Heard Nicks And Buckingham
The most beloved Fleetwood Mac lineup happened when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined in 1974. When founding member John McVie first heard the two of them singing harmony with singer Christine McVie as they rehearsed, he said he got “goosebumps.”
“Very exciting!” McVie said in 2004. “You could say I was impressed.”
Mick Fleetwood And Rod Stewart Were Bandmates
Both rock legends were briefly part of the same British group, Shotgun Express, in the mid-1960s. Fleetwood was playing drums for the group when Stewart joined it on vocals. Fleetwood’s Fleetwood Mac co-founder, Peter Green, was also a member of the band before it broke up.
Christine McVie Painted Some Of The Band’s Artwork
In addition to writing songs and being a seminal member of Fleetwood Mac during its peak years, Christine McVie also designed some of the band’s artwork. She was a gifted artist and proved it by painting the cover art for Fleetwood Mac’s 1970 album “Kiln House.” She also painted a cover for 1972’s “Bare Trees” that wasn’t used. The eventual artwork for that album was a photograph taken by then-husband John McVie.
‘Over My Head’ Broke A Dry Spell For The Band
When 1975’s “Fleetwood Mac” came out, it became the group’s biggest hit record to date. One reason for that was the lead single, “Over My Head,” which became the band’s first single to land in the Billboard Hot 100 chart since 1969. The song was written by Christine McVie and it peaked at No. 20 on the chart.
There Have Been At Least 14 Members
The number is actually higher than 20 when you count members who’ve had short stints with the group. But according to Rolling Stone, at least 12 people have been replaced in Fleetwood Mac over the years. Founding member Mick Fleetwood has been there through all the lineups.
‘Rumours’ Continues To Sell At A Ridiculous Rate
The band’s blockbuster album “Rumours” sold a reported 25 million copies from 1977 to 1997. The record went on to sell another 20 million copies from 1997 to 2017. That’s the definition of a timeless piece of art.
Mick Fleetwood Dropped Out Of School At 15
Fleetwood’s parents approved of his artistic pursuits and even reluctantly let him drop out of school when he was 15 to focus seriously on being a musician. He ended up moving in with his sister in London and taking gigs wherever he could find them. Obviously that tough decision to leave school paid off!
The Band Members Had A Musical Code When They Needed Drugs
The drug use that ran rampant through Fleetwood Mac’s 1970s heyday has been well documented, but did you know they had a musical cue to let the others know when they needed a hit? According to Mick Fleetwood’s 2014 book, “Play On,” the band members and studio engineers would hum the tune of the “Chariots of Fire” movie theme to let everyone know it was time for more cocaine. Stevie Nicks has estimated that, in the years she was using cocaine, she spent $1 million on the drug.
It Took 23 Years For ‘Landslide’ To Become A Hit
Considered one of Stevie Nicks’ signature songs, “Landslide” was a very late bloomer in terms of chart success. The song was first released on the band’s 1975 breakout album, “Fleetwood Mac,” but it wouldn’t be released as a single until 1998 when it was part of the live album, “The Dance.” The live version peaked at No. 10 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart that year. In 2002, the cover version by Dixie Chicks hit No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Bill Clinton Got The Group Back Together
When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, the theme song for his campaign was Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop.” When he won the election, he invited the band to perform it at the inaugural gala in 1993. The “Rumours”-era lineup had been broken up since 1987, but they agreed to re-form for the event. It would be another four years before the lineup reunited and toured again.
The Band’s First Guitarist Quit To Join A Cult
Jeremy Spencer was Fleetwood Mac’s original guitarist and played with the group on its first four albums. In 1971, shortly after the band began its first tour of America, Spencer abruptly quit to join a religious cult called the Children of God. Fleetwood could not convince him to rejoin.
‘Tusk’ Includes Some Very Strange Sounds
The 1979 track “Tusk,” best known as a staple for the USC Trojans Marching Band, is an epic track that sounds quite unlike anything else by the band. Songwriter Lindsey Buckingham experimented greatly with the track, wanting to incorporate various sounds in its recording. He played drums on a box of tissues and that sound ended up on the final record. Also on the final track was the sound of Mick Fleetwood banging on a lamb chop with a spatula. Who knew?
Stevie Nicks Credits Her Solo Career With Keeping The Band Together Today
Fleetwood Mac has obviously split and reunited its mid-1970s lineup numerous times in recent years, but Stevie Nicks took some credit for that beloved lineup’s lengthy reunion tours. In 2016, she told Rolling Stone, “My solo career is truly the reason why Fleetwood Mac is still together because I get bored easily.” According to her, she’d never do the long tours with the band if she didn’t have a solo career to experiment with after they return home.
The Band’s Manager Sent A Fake Fleetwood Mac On Tour
In one of the more colorful stories of bitterness surrounding Fleetwood Mac, the band’s former manager, Clifford Davis, once tried to rip off its name for his own use. In 1974, when the band was in the middle of an American tour that had gone off the rails, Davis decided to hire a fake version of the band — under the same name — to play tour dates the real band couldn’t make. The whole incident resulted in a lawsuit over who owned the band’s name.
Stevie Nicks Was Very Uncomfortable Recording ‘Tango In The Night’
In the last studio album the “Rumours”-era lineup has recorded together, Stevie Nicks has said she felt very awkward while recording 1987’s “Tango in the Night.” Nicks had just finished rehab for cocaine addiction and the album was being recorded at the home of Lindsey Buckingham, who was her ex-boyfriend. She said she was particularly uncomfortable because the vocal recording was done in Buckingham’s bedroom. “I found it very uncomfortable, personally,” Nicks later said. “I wasn’t into it.”
The Entire Group Lived Together
At two different periods, the members of Fleetwood Mac actually lived together in a single house. Both times were in the early ’70s, mostly spent at Mick Fleetwood’s English mansion called Benifold, which was eventually sold in the mid-1970s.
The band also spent several months living together in the English countryside in 1970, which John McVie later said consisted of only a couple weeks of actual work. “The rest was spent eating, drinking and doing ‘illegal substances,'” he said as part of a 2004 Q&A session. That house was nicknamed Kiln House, which is where they got the title for their 1970 album.
Lindsey Buckingham Was Unhinged While Recording ‘Tusk’
Buckingham led the charge in the studio while recording 1979’s “Tusk,” but he may not have been fully in control of himself. Studio engineer Ken Caillat later described Buckingham as a “maniac” during the time.
“Early on, he came in and he’d freaked out in the shower and cut off all his hair with nail scissors,” Caillat said.
There’s Been Plenty Of Bad Blood
Some of the members who’ve exited Fleetwood Mac over the years have not gone quietly. Guitarist Bob Welch, who played with the band for five albums before quitting in 1974, famously sued the band in the 1990s claiming he was ripped off over royalties. Things also got awkward in the band when John and Christine McVie divorced while both were still members of Fleetwood Mac.
And when Lindsey Buckingham was fired in 2018, he ripped the band, saying at a political fundraiser that some members had “lost their perspective.”
‘Behind The Mask’ Got Some Solid Reviews Upon Release
According to AllMusic’s retrospective rating, 1990’s “Behind the Mask” is the worst album Fleetwood Mac has ever released. The record is largely overlooked today, but when it was released, it got strong ratings from some major publications. Rolling Stone gave it a 4/5, comparing it to “Rumours” by saying that, not since that landmark album has the band “sounded this together.” The Los Angeles Times, meanwhile, awarded the album a 3.5/5 grade.
‘Tusk’ Cost A Fortune To Make
The follow-up to “Rumours,” 1979’s “Tusk” was a nightmare for record executives. The lengthy, experimental album reportedly cost about $1.4 million to produce. That price tag meant it was the most expensive album ever made at the time.
‘The Dance’ Broke A 15-Year Drought
Fleetwood Mac fans were thrilled in 1997 when the band’s most classic lineup — Fleetwood, Buckingham, Nicks and both of the McVies — reunited for a tour. The resulting album was “The Dance,” a live record that saw the group performing most of its greatest hits on the road.
The album was a hit and became the band’s first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 album chart since 1982’s “Mirage.” The band’s 1995 album, “Time,” failed to even crack the Billboard 200.
Santana Had A Huge Hit With One Of Their Early Songs
When many rock fans think of the song “Black Magic Woman,” they likely think of Santana, who had a huge hit with it in 1970. But many don’t realize it was originally a Fleetwood Mac song. The tune was written by original frontman Peter Green, and the band recorded and released it as a single in 1968. Fleetwood Mac’s “Black Magic Woman” was a modest hit in the U.K. but it didn’t appear stateside until the 1969 compilation album “English Rose.”
Stevie Nicks Said Making ‘Say You Will’ Was A ‘Nightmare’
The band’s 2003 album “Say You Will” is, as of 2018, its most recent studio record. It was the first album since 1970 that didn’t involve Christine McVie, who had quit the group. Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham were all featured on the album, but Nicks said the whole thing was an awful experience because Buckingham was fully in charge.
“It was a nightmare doing that record,” Nicks would say. “It really was Lindsey’s vision, and it wasn’t very much about the other three of us.”
They Almost Thanked Their Drug Dealer On ‘Rumours’
In the “Thanks” section of the liner notes for 1977’s “Rumours,” the band wanted to list its cocaine dealer. The band was doing so much of the drug during the production of the album it’s been said the record wouldn’t have been possible without him. In 1990, Mick Fleetwood admitted in his memoir that the only reason they didn’t do it was because the dealer got killed before the record was finished.
The Whole Band Has Never Appeared On An Album Cover
Despite releasing 17 studio albums so far, the entire lineup of Fleetwood Mac has never appeared together on any album cover. The band’s early albums typically featured paintings or photographs that didn’t show any of the band members and their later albums usually had covers with one or two of the band members depicted, but not all of them. The 1997 live reunion album “The Dance” is the only exception to this rule — but it’s not a studio album.