With Fleetwood Mac playing Van Andel Arena tonight, WLAV-FM radio host and music historian Steve Aldrich recalls the first time the band played here, then supplies his Top 10 Fleetwood Mac songs.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham helped turn Fleetwood Mac into the multi-platinum-selling superstar rock band that exploded in the mid-1970s, the British band was in the midst of a transition between its early blues phase with guitarist Peter Green and the uber-successful, melodic rock/pop era that would follow.
It was during this period that Fleetwood Mac played its only Grand Rapids-area show until 2003, when the band brought one of its much-hyped reunion tours to a sold-out Van Andel Arena.
West Michigan musicologist, longtime radio personality and drummer Steve Aldrich was there for that early Fleetwood Mac show in 1971. More than 43 years later, he recalls that show – a concert that another local music expert Michael Packer remembers plunking down just $3 to see, compared with the $192 per ticket some folks have paid to see the group tonight when it returns to Van Andel Arena with singer Christine McVie once again in the fold.
With the band back in town (details and tickets online here), here’s Aldrich’s recollection of this Vintage Gig for Local Spins, followed by his list of his Top 10 favorite Fleetwood Mac songs, chock full of rarities and under-the-radar gems:
In the fall of 1971, Deep Purple was to be playing Grand Valley State Colleges’ domed fieldhouse in Allendale.
The show was scheduled for a Sunday night, but on that Friday, word got out that Deep Purple had canceled their tour.
At some point, it was announced that Fleetwood Mac would fill in the date on three days’ notice.
Needless to say, everybody was bummed that Deep Purple wasn’t coming, and we were not quite sure as to what Fleetwood Mac we were getting. I want to say that this was the week of, or the week before “Future Games” was released, and there had been another big change in the band.
Maybe a third of the tickets were turned back in, but everybody who went got to see a great show. This would have been one of Bob Welch’s first shows, joining Danny Kirwan, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.
They mostly played the “Future Games” material, and everyone was very impressed with Welch’s guitar work. Kirwan also drew on some of the earlier Mac material that he was a part of. (Wishing I could have seen a later show with Welch, as he was just getting started.)
Yes, Deep Purple likely would have been a sellout, but as I said, Bob Welch was really impressive. His guitar-playing is pretty much forgotten about these days, and this was also the first tour where Christine was more than just the piano player.
“Future Games” and “Bare Trees” (with this lineup) were both excellent albums, despite being the first re-invention of the band.
Celebrated West Michigan audio engineer Bill Chrysler, who also attended that 1971 concert, also was impressed by the addition of guitarist Bob Welch (who helped propel some acclaimed Fleetwood Mac albums and went on to a solid solo career but sadly was overlooked when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).
“I remember thinking that I really liked Welch’s thing in the band,” said Chrysler, who’s toured with members of Fleetwood Mac and is good friends with many members of the road crew. He plans to meet up with some of them today and attend tonight’s concert with his family.
STEVE ALDRICH’S TOP 10 FLEETWOOD MAC SONGS
“Man of the World” – Peter Green already feeling the effects of bad acid, somewhat scary ballad hit number 2 on the UK pop charts. Green showed up on Top Of The Pops performing this in a Jesus-like hooded robe.
“Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In” – B-side to “Man Of The World,” and credited to Earl Vince And The Valiants, this is Jeremy Spencer with a preview of his “solo” album, which is in fact, a Fleetwood Mac album in all but name. “Somebody’s” is a rockabilly-flavored number that found future life in the punk era, inspiring numerous covers.
“Oh Well, Parts 1 & 2” – Peter Green talks to God in the first part of this one, and trades in the Les Paul for acoustic guitar. By far, the most aggressive track in Mac history, its second part gives way to something resembling medieval English consort music. Brilliant, strange and beautiful, and their first big hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Tell Me All The Things You Do” – The highlight of the transitional album, “Kiln House,” a great Danny Kirwan track with his own slicing guitar work on display, and the Mac rhythm section, now with Christine in place, cooking nicely.
“Hypnotized” – Jumping to 1973’s “Mystery To Me,” Bob Welch is at his prime here, a great track with Welch’s Wes Montgomery-styled guitar work, and Mick’s unique shuffle drumming powering this one. One of the greatest tracks in the Fleetwood Mac canon.
“Forever” – Welch again, from the same album, This is almost Mac-goes-reggae, and floats away on a beautiful chorus.
“Frozen Love” – From Buckingham/Nicks, a preview of what was to come, and yet here, arriving already fully formed. Is this still the biggest album never to have been re-issued?
“World Turning” – From the self-tiled debut of the Buckingham/Nicks debut, this Lindsey number is an acoustic-driven rocker that seems to be paying tribute to the Peter Green era, and “Oh Well” in particular.
“Silver Springs” – Another B-side, paired with “Go Your Own Way.” What were they thinking, leaving what could be Stevie’s best off of “Rumours”? Recent CD editions have put it back where it should have been all along.
“Thrown Down” – “Say You Will” is so underrated, but this one of Stevie’s is Mac done to perfection. One of many great songs on this record.
Copyright 2015, Spins on Music LLC