Book review: Decades – FLEETWOOD MAC in the 1970s by Andrew Wild

SonicBond Publishing [Publication date 14.05.21]

No band survived the seventies with a more spectacular transformation than Fleetwood Mac. They began it as a successful British blues band who were about to be left reeling by the departure of their founder and main creative force in Peter Green. By the end of it, several line ups changes later and fully relocated in California they were the epitome of smooth  soft rock, albeit with a bitter edge, releasing the follow up to one of the biggest selling albums of all-time.

The latest title in the ‘Decades’ series chronicles those moves step-by-step. As someone who leapt straight from the Peter Green era to the self-titled ‘white album’ in his Fleetwood Mac education, the first part of the decade is the more interesting read. There are all sorts of line up changes and with returns diminishing it is surprising on this evidence they did not call it a day, though it appears they were on the verge of doing so which led to the controversial ‘fake Mac’ tour put on by Clifford Davis, the Svengali-type manager every band seemed to have that decade.

Author Andrew Wild is good on picking out moments that presaged the Mac to come and conveying the fact that they consolidated a loyal fanbase in the USA through continuous touring,  while largely ignoring their native UK for some years even before their second coming.

Previous reviews on this site of this series have pointed to a patchy use of primary source material. I’m afraid this tome is at the worse end of the spectrum with no new input from members, all five of whom from the classic line up are still alive. Instead the extensive verbatim quoting of long passages (three pages alone of a Rolling Stone article about the fake Mac) makes for a jerky and disjointed read.

Worst of all some of it comes from sources, e.g. more contemporary press reviews, where Wild would, you hope, be equally qualified to venture his own considered opinion. It has the air of what the publishing world disparagingly call a ‘cuttings job’.

The first half of the book is very much in the chronological narrative, including album-by-album accounts, that readers of other titles in the series will recognise. However, from ‘Rumours’ in particular, it gets bogged down in detailed accounts,  mainly from producer Ken Caillat’s book,  on the making of each track, arranged by when they were written or first committed to tape rather than in their place on the album.

He bangs on somewhat about the numerous alternative versions and demos that have appeared on reissues in more recent years. Granted, this series is very much aimed at committed music fans – and the soap opera of the lives and loves of the Mac has been well covered elsewhere – but it makes dry reading except probably for the most diehard fan.

Nevertheless there are interesting nuggets, and one theme that emerges is the restless questing of the twisted genius of Lindsey Buckingham, even playing parts for John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, and deliberately delivering  the experimental and not as successful follow up to ‘Rumours’ that is ‘Tusk’.

It still makes me want to check out those missing years, not to mention give the better known albums a spin, but I’m afraid this book makes for a rather clunky read.  ***

Review by Andy Nathan

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