In an age of technology and daily changing trends, some old fads and fashions are bound to make their way back around. It’s no secret that Generation Z is slowly taking over the internet as Instagram influencers and TikTok trendsetters. But with any good 30-second video comes a killer background track. The star band behind one of the most popular TikTok trends sweeping the app over the past year? A Baby Boomer favorite: Fleetwood Mac.
This age of rebirth has proved quite beneficial to the band. A video from TikTok user Doggface208 took the world by storm as users watched 38-year-old Nathan Apodaca skateboard down a street, casually lip-syncing to the iconic classic rock hit “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac.
Apodaca’s video was an overnight sensation, even garnishing attention from the band’s official Twitter account and inspiring Mick Fleetwood himself to recreate the video. Over the next eight weeks, it would gain over 3.2 billion views and streams, catapulting the 43-year-old song to the 21st spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart!
By December, Stevie Nicks sold off 80% of her publishing rights for $80 million. Lindsey Buckingham followed suit a month later. Then, only a week later, music giant BMG came out of a three-year acquirement retirement to purchase 100% of Mick Fleetwood’s royalty interest in more than 300 of the band’s recordings, including some of their biggest hits like “The Chain,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Landslide.”
Lest you fool yourself into thinking the band was on the brink of failure, Fleetwood Mac has already had a history of transcending generations. Believe It or Not!, one in six American households owns a copy of the record “Rumours,” on which “Dreams” was featured. That record alone has sold over 45 million copies, making it the No. 6 bestselling album of all time.
Few bands have had as illustrious of a career as Fleetwood Mac. But behind their signature, laid-back California pop-rock sound is a history of drama, turbulence, and rampant drug use.
As old becomes new again, it’s time to take a look back at the messy legacy of rock legends Fleetwood Mac.
Fleetwood Mac began as a British blues band.
Though known for their west coast pop-rock sound, Fleetwood Mac actually began as a British blues-rock band in 1967, when singer and guitarist, Peter Green, and drummer, Mick Fleetwood, left their previous band to strike out on their own, along with second guitarist, Jeremy Spencer. Former bandmate and bassist, John McVie, was invited to join them and initially declined but soon changed his tune.
Having used the combination of Fleetwood and McVie’s surnames as the title of an instrumental piece created during the recording session that inspired them to form the band, Green suggested using it as the band’s name.
Things move fast for the new band, who took the stage for their first live show that August as part of the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival, where 40,000 guests gathered over four days to watch artists like Cream, Small Faces, and Jeff Beck.
In 1968, Fleetwood Mac released their eponymously-titled debut album and their first hit single, “Albatross.” Shortly after their album release, the band set off on their first tour, where things began to take a turn for their founder and leader, Green, who discovered LSD while on the road.
Over the next two years, the band released three more albums and continued to tour. They picked up the first of many alternate members along the way, hiring 18-year-old Danny Kirwan as a third guitarist to account for Green’s increased drug usage and subsequent unreliability.
By 1970, Green, who is regarded as one of England’s greatest blues guitarists, was on a steady diet of LSD and self-loathing, which lead to a mental breakdown. On May 20, 1970, a few weeks after penning one final hit, “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown),” Green quit the band. His mental health continued to deteriorate, eventually landing him in an institution. He ultimately reunited with the band, but only to play eight notes on their 1979 track, “Brown Eyes.”
In total, Fleetwood Mac has had 18 different band members.
While Green was the first member to leave the band, he was certainly not the last. Since the band’s founding, they have cycled through 18 different band members—some with brief tenures, others outraged by their dismissal, and even some who quit on their own accord only to return to the line-up years later.
McVie’s wife, Christine, was brought into the band following Green’s departure, as she had a successful run with another blues band called Chicken Shack. Christine McVie became an integral part of Fleetwood Mac, writing many of their hits, like “Songbird” and “You Make Loving Fun,” while also acting as keyboardist, vocalist, and even artist—painting the cover art for the group’s 1970 release, “Kiln House.”
The second exit from Fleetwood Mac didn’t come long after Green, as Spencer had also become disenchanted by life on the road. In 1971, he was hitting the mescaline pretty hard and devoted himself to Bible study. One day, right before a show, he told the rest of the band he was stepping out to get a newspaper, only to join the Children of God cult and never return.
Now needing a replacement for both Green and Spencer, the band turned to guitarist Bob Welch, who ended up becoming a big part of the band’s transition from blues to the mainstream, writing hits like “Sentimental Lady” during his tenure.
A year later, Kirwan’s stint with the band came to an end, as he had never quite gotten along with anyone in the group. He also developed a nasty drinking habit, which didn’t help. The final straw came when he began smashing his head against a wall backstage and destroyed his guitar before refusing to play, giving the band cause to fire him.
Two new members joined the band in 1972, Dave Walker, who was brought in to replace Kirwan on their 1973 album, Penguin, and Bob Weston, who sunk his own ship. They were also both out of the band by the end of 1973.
Walker wasn’t a fixture in the line-up for long, as the other members quickly decided he simply wasn’t a good fit. He later became the replacement frontman of Black Sabbath in 1977, after Ozzy Osbourne quit, but was released from his duties when the Prince of Darkness returned.
Fleetwood Mac is infamous for their romantic entanglements, which began with Weston, who decided that having an affair with Fleetwood’s wife, Jenny Boyd, was a good idea. Spoiler alert: it was not. Fleetwood got wind of the news but allowed Weston to complete their tour before unceremoniously sending him packing.
A new year brought another exit from the band—that of Welch, who tired of touring, recording, and repeating. Being away from home was hard on his marriage and, as was becoming a trend, he had developed a drinking problem. He headed home for good by the end of 1974.
Though it would seem that replacing band members every year would be a nightmare, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has credited the diversity in membership as one reason they were so skilled at experimenting with different sounds of pop, rock, and blues.
The addition of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham brought the band into a new era.
During the same year, Fleetwood Mac left London for good, relocating to sunny Los Angeles, where they would meet a duo who would change their lives forever.
While searching for a new guitarist, the group was introduced to American folk-rock musician Lindsey Buckingham, who performed with his longtime girlfriend, Stevie Nicks, who began writing songs as a teen.
The group initially wanted to hire only Buckingham, but it was made very clear that the duo was a two-for-one offer only. Upon hearing the couple harmonize with Christine, the band was sold. Buckingham and Nicks officially joined Fleetwood Mac on New Year’s Eve 1974, solidifying the band’s 10th—and most beloved—line-up.
The addition of Buckingham and Nicks brought new life to the band. In July 1975, they released another self-titled album, representing a fresh start, which sold 7 million copies, becoming Fleetwood Mac’s most successful record to date. Christine and Nicks, who became lifelong best friends, took the lead on songwriting, churning out hits like “Rhiannon,” “Say You Love Me,” and “Over My Head,” which put the band back on the charts for the first time since 1969.
The album also boasted Nicks’ sleeper hit, “Landslide,” which went unreleased as a single until it was performed for the band’s 1998 live album, “The Dance.” Though many bands have covered the song, the most famous iteration is probably from the Dixie Chicks, who took it to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2002.
Along with their talent, Nicks and Buckingham brought a flair for drama. Their rollercoaster of a relationship inspired much of the band’s music, especially for their next album, “Rumours,” released in 1977.
The band’s personal downfalls coincided with the recording of the best-selling album, “Rumours.”
As the band dove head-first into the 70s lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, they were under immense pressure from their label to make another smash record. And boy, did they deliver!
Grammy Album of the Year-winner “Rumours” is considered the band’s defining work and a timeless classic, having sold 25 million copies between 1977 and 1997, then 20 million more from 1997 to 2017. Not too shabby.
But success didn’t come cheap, with the album’s lyrics reflecting life, as Buckingham and Nicks decided to “go their own ways,” and the McVies ended their eight-year marriage during an 11-month recording session.
McVie and Christine handled their parting the British way, with silence and zero eye contact, leaving Buckingham and Nicks plenty of room for screaming matches that only paused when it was time to record.
Just to stir a little extra messiness into the pot, Fleetwood was in the process of divorcing his wife, as well, having discovered that she was having an affair. Nicks—who had fallen madly in love with the band’s leader even though she was dating Don Henley of The Eagles—was there to pick up the pieces. The romance was short-lived and ended with Fleetwood falling in love with a woman named Sara Recor—one of Nicks’ best friends.
Buckingham’s response to the romance was rather nonchalant, reportedly saying, “Nice of you to tell me. I appreciate it.” He wasn’t always so mature about the breakup, taking shots at Nicks in the songs “Second Hand News,” “Never Going Back Again,” and “Go Your Own Way,” in which he accused his ex of “packing up, shacking up,” knowing she would have to sing it onstage for the rest of her career.
Nicks responded by writing the bestselling single of the band’s entire career, “Dreams.”
Nicks and Buckingham didn’t get to have all the fun, though. Christine made her feelings known through songs like “You Make Loving Fun,” a celebration of her new relationship with Curry Grant, the band’s lighting director, and “Don’t Stop,” a song about moving forward from her divorce. The entire band even joined together with the breakup anthem, “The Chain.”
According to McVie, he and Buckingham are the only band members never to have had an affair. Still, he has no ill will toward Christine, acknowledging that he was deep into alcohol addiction toward the end of their relationship.
The band was so grateful for their drug dealer that they almost gave him a shoutout on their “Rumours” album.
Though the British blues side of the band took to boozing, the California hippies preferred the devil’s lettuce, all five members were known to go pretty heavy on the cocaine, using it as a distraction from their realities during the recording of “Rumours.”
According to Fleetwood’s 2014 memoir, “Play On,” the band and studio engineers even had a musical cue to signal when it was time for a toot—the humming of the “Chariots of Fire” theme song.
During this time, the band was so grateful for their drug dealer that they almost added a shoutout to him in the “Thanks” section of “Rumours.” In a 1990 memoir, Fleetwood said the only reason they didn’t follow through with the idea was that the man was murdered before they finished the record!
Nicks was especially fond of the drug, once estimating that she spent $1 million on the drug during her addiction. Considering that this took place in the 70s and 80s, that comes out to over $6 million today!
Believe It or Not!, Nicks was partying so hard that she burned a hole in her nose! Her doctor warned her that the hole in her cartilage could make continued cocaine usage lethal, saying, “It could go straight up to your head, and then you could drop to the floor and die a lousy, two-hour death.”
While a stint in rehab helped Nicks get off the drug, it also led to an addiction to Klonopin after being prescribed the tranquilizer during the following psychiatric treatment.
Bill Clinton got the Rumours-era band lineup back together by asking them to play at his first Inaugural Ball.
The heavily experimental 1979 follow-up to “Rumours,” “Tusk,” cost $1.4 million to produce, making it the most expensive album ever made, and a nightmare to record. An unhinged Buckingham helmed the flop, an experience Nicks once described as if “being held hostage in Iran with Lindsey as the Ayatollah.”
Fast-forward to 1987’s “Tango in the Night,” when Buckingham took the lead, yet again. It was another less than enjoyable experience for Nicks, who had recently gotten out of rehab and found recording vocals in her ex-boyfriend’s bedroom extremely uncomfortable.
Buckingham called it quits that year, following a group meeting that ended in a physical altercation between himself and Nicks. His departure set off another round of alternate members, including Billy Burnette, who took over as guitarist on the “Tango in the Night” tour.
Over the next 33 years, members would come and go, with Christine getting off the road and others wishing to pursue solo careers. Nicks was the most successful in that realm, kicking it off by recording her first solo album, “Bella Donna,” at Bill Cosby’s house in 1991. Though Fleetwood tried to replace her with rock royalty Bekka Bramlett, he later said that trying to replace the “Rumours” members was a bad call.
Of all people to spark a “Rumours” line-up reunion, it was Bill Clinton who got the band back together in 1993, requesting that they play his first Inaugural Ball, since “Don’t Stop” had been used as his campaign theme song. This set off a string of reunions in later years, including the recording of 1997’s live album, “The Dance,” a U.S. tour in 2014, and a final reunion in 2018 when they fired Buckingham in the midst of planning another tour.
Buckingham says he will never return to the band, but considering his history, we’ll say that’s to be determined.
Stevie Nicks was one of the few women to be honored by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame more than once.
Since its founding in 1967, Fleetwood Mac has released an impressive 18 studio albums, nine live albums, and 23 compilation albums to varying degrees of success. In 1998, Sheryl Crow inducted both the “Rumours” favorites and other prominent former members into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Nicks was inducted again as a solo artist in 2019, becoming one of the few women to be honored twice.
Both current and former Fleetwood Mac members have taken great joy in seeing new generations become enchanted by their legendary sounds. The queen of witchy glamour herself, Stevie Nicks, has even offered some insight on how to best experience their extensive discography for the first time.
“If the young kids start listening to Fleetwood Mac, start with the first album and just go through them. Sit down and be in it for the long run, and you’ll have the best time.”
By Meghan Yani, contributor for Ripleys.com