Christine McVie: the Saviour of Fleetwood Mac

Danny Kirwan, John McVie, Bob Welch, Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie

The photo above is actually of Fleetwood Mac, but not as we know it, this was the 1972 line-up, in the Bare Trees era.

It was a great shock yesterday to wake up to the news of Christine McVie’s death. What a great writer, vocalist, keyboardist, and the ultimate team player. No doubt there are a thousand tribute posts on blogs out there. It just so happens that the 1972 line-up above is my favourite, unlike everybody else who associates Fleetwood Mac with Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham. Danny Kirwan, the last link to the Peter Green style of playing was on his way out, unable to handle being de facto group leader and main songwriter. But he was a great melodist, and when the American Bob Welch was asked to join the band, the results were excellent. Bob Welch came up with the title track for their first album together, with Christine a full time member, and she had two tracks on Future Games. ‘Morning Rain’ might not be her best, but the ballad at the end of the album, ‘Show Me A Smile’, is the first of her great songs in my view.

I particularly like the follow up, Bare Trees, for a personal reason. In 1989, as some of us finished university for the year, or for good, we had a bit of tour around the southern half of the North Island in New Zealand. My friend had a cassette of Bare Trees, and it provided the theme songs for the trip. It was the right time of year, late November, but in the southern hemisphere it is the start of summer, whereas the cover of the album has a very wintry set of bare trees in the fog. Danny Kirwan wrote most of the songs, and it’s quite guitar heavy; Bob Welch contributed ‘The Ghost’ and the more well known ‘Sentimental Lady’; and Christine McVie wrote ‘Homeward Bound’ and ‘Spare Me A Little Of Your Love’. This is the first Fleetwood Mac LP with three good songwriters on top form, and it flows well. But Kirwan then left, and Bob Welch took up the band leadership role, or so it seems, while Christine also contributed in her own style, and collaborated with Bob on his more challenging material for the Mystery to Me LP. As Welch left after the follow up in 1974, the rocky ride continued, but Christine had come into her own by then as the main songwriter. I don’t much like the L.A. soap opera period of Fleetwood Mac, but the formula of three songwriters obviously worked, and it seems that Christine was the glue in the band.

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