Fleetwood Mac’s career arc in five songs

Before Fleetwood Mac performs at the KFC Yum Center on Wednesday, we combed through their discography, searching for the songs that define the growth, change, anger, turmoil, brilliance and pivotal moments scattered throughout the legendary band’s career. From early blues instrumentals to pop mega-hits, and through numerous lineup changes, Fleetwood Mac has been a durable juggernaut. Here’s what we found.

‘Albatross’ — Released as a single (1968)
Early on, when Fleetwood Mac was still a relatively-obscure English ensemble that featured Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, no one could have anticipated that they would someday shapeshift into one of the most successful pop powerhouses of all time. What was evident from the start, however, was that they had a great pedigree as a blues band. In fact, several members (Green, McVie and Fleetwood) had come straight out of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, which was the place for a young journeyman to apprentice in those days. The smoldering instrumental “Albatross,” is a great example of what this soulful lineup of Mac did best. And when this slow, meditative track was released as a single in November 1968, it somehow managed to work its way up the charts. Because of that fact, it could even be argued that “Albatross” is responsible for pointing the way to the many commercial successes that were to come in the next decade. —Kevin Wilson

‘Landslide’ — Fleetwood Mac (1975)
There is an earnestness to “Landslide” that renders the track timeless, a sonically-sparse composition that balances the plucked guitar work of Lindsey Buckingham and the haunted vocals of Stevie Nicks. Written before the duo joined Fleetwood Mac, and appearing on their first record with the band, “Landslide” was about a turning point in Nicks’ life. The song is a meditation on taking chances versus following a comparatively secure path. Should Nicks return to school or continue her musical career with Buckingham? Choosing the latter paved the way for her admission into Fleetwood Mac, and “Landslide” helped launch the band toward stardom. It’s an incredibly durable and poignant song that speaks to an understandable anxiety in facing the unknown. For Nicks and Buckingham, the unknown became heavily rewarding and incredibly turbulent. —Syd Bishop

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‘The Chain’ — Rumours (1977)
As a band, Fleetwood Mac was firing on all cylinders following the release of their 1975 self-titled album. Commercial success. New artistic heights. The best lineup they ever had, with Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, John and Christine McVie, as well as Lindsey Buckingham. They were on a meteoric rise, but, behind the scenes, shit was falling apart. Relationships were crumbling, and drug use was getting to Rolling Stones levels. Nicks and Buckingham ended a long-term romance, and John and Christine McVie were in the midst of a divorce. Somehow, they held together as a band, and used all of the chaos and anger to make Rumours, a pop-leaning smash hit that combined golden hooks and other catchy sensibilities with dark and direct lyrics, all of which were pretty obviously about each other. “The Chain” — a stomping, bluesy song with an intense, harmony-heavy chorus — was the only track on the Rumours credited to all five members, and one look at the song’s opening line makes it obvious why it was a collaboration — “Listen to the wind blow / Watch the sun rise / Running in the shadows / Damn your love, damn your lies.” They were all sick of love. And pissed at each other. But at least they could agree on that. —Scott Recker

‘Tusk’ — Tusk (1979)
Tusk, Fleetwood Mac’s biggest artistic achievement, is unfortunately eclipsed in the public psyche by their classic album Rumours. Yet Tusk, a divisive curveball record released only two years after Rumours, shows the group exploring eclectic directions not seen since their pre-Buckingham/Nicks early garage-blues days. This is especially apparent on the album’s title track, which appears very late on the gargantuan, 1979 quadruple LP. The song features syncopated tribal rhythms built from found sounds, dynamic vocals that violently toggle between whispers and shouts and a soaring crescendo featuring the University of Southern California marching band. It’s the band’s most faithful foray into prog, like Genesis’ Duke but on copious amounts of cocaine. A pretty wild ride for a song named after a dick joke, because other than maybe the German kraut-rockers, not much came out of the ‘70s that wasn’t inspired by Dr. Freud. —Michael Powell

‘Little Lies’ — Tango in the Night (1987)
Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks were integral to the success of Fleetwood Mac with the amount of chart-topping songs they produced. But, “Little Lies,” a synth-driven pop tune was the last time they recorded a hit, peaking at number four in the U.S. after the release of 1987’s Tango in the Night. It stayed there longer than any of their Top 10 singles — beating out the Buckingham-penned “Big Love” from the same record. Written by McVie (and then husband Eddy Quintela), the music aligns with the popular hard ‘80s sound of the time. McVie leads as Nicks’ vocals come whispering behind her to leap into the chorus of “Tell me lies / Tell me sweet little lies.” It’s one of those songs you can speculate was written about someone else in the band, since most Fleetwood Mac songs sound like they’re just singing at each other with thinly-veiled lyrical jabs.—Lara Kinne

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