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Fleetwood Mac’s 50 Greatest Songs

From British blues to California rock, from smooth sunshine to the most haunting breakup epics ever

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

Read our list of Fleetwood Mac's 50 greatest songs, stretching from their Sixties origins up through their 2013 reunion.

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Fleetwood Mac have been rock’s greatest soap opera for five decades – from their Sixties origins in the English blues-rock scene to their Seventies reinvention as California rock superstars through their smooth Eighties hits and right up to today. Through it all, there’s been brutal romantic blowups and historic levels of drug use. “Parties going on all over the house,” John McVie told Rolling Stone in 1977, recalling the making of their classic Rumours LP. “Amazing. Terrifying. Huge amounts of illicit materials, yards and yards of this wretched stuff. Days and nights would just go on and on.” 

But the soul of the Mac’s magic has always been their songs. They began as a vehicle for the blues visions of tragic genius Peter Green, continued through fascinating, often overlooked, transitional records during the early Seventies with Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch, and hit an astonishing peak when songbird Christine McVie, mad drummer Mick Fleetwood and ultra-reliable bassman John McVie hooked up with the Southern California songwriting team of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Our list of the band’s 50 Greatest Songs pulls from all these eras. What brings it all together is an almost mystical chemistry wrought from grueling personal drama and heartbreak that they somehow found a way to turn into some of the most beloved rock & roll of all time.   

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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50

“I Don’t Want to Know”

For any other band, a song like “I Don’t Want to
Know” might be a focus track. On Rumours, it was just an
afterthought, tacked on when the band realized that Nicks’ “Silver Springs”
was too long to fit on the LP. Nicks later speculated that it was chosen to
assuage her because it was one of her own compositions, written before she
joined the group. “That always put a shadow over ‘I Don’t Want to Know,’ ”
she recalled. “Even though I love it and it came out great.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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49

“That’s Alright”

Fleetwood Mac have exerted a massive influence on country music, with artists from the Dixie Chicks to Little Big Town covering them. Nicks grew up singing old-time country with her grandfather, and that side is especially present on “That’s Alright,” a lilting shuffle first recorded as the acoustic “Designs of Love,” in the Buckingham Nicks days, then slicked up years later for Mirage. The rootsier alternate take is a gem among the extras on the 2016 reissue of Mirage.

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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48

“The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)”

Written by Peter Green shortly before he left
Fleetwood Mac, this miasmic proto-metal blues freakout was inspired by a dream
that Green had while on mescaline, in which he was visited by a green dog that
represented money. “It took me at least two years to recover from that
song,” Green recalled. “When I listened to it, there was so much
power there, it exhausted me.” 

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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47

“The Ledge”

“Lindsey was really making a stand,” Nicks
said of Tusk. And never so much as on “The Ledge,” a happily
demented leap into post-punk primitivism and noise for its own sake. He
recorded the song alone, turning his guitar down until it emitted an ugly
rumble as he yammered another thinly veiled screed about his relationship with
Nicks. “I was trying to find things that were off the radar,” he recalled of the song and others like it on the LP. “On this, that one
guitar was covering everything. It was a concept piece on that level. There was
nothing for John or Christine to do.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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46

“Earl Gray”

Guitarist Danny Kirwan was in Fleetwood Mac for only a brief period; he was a Peter Green acolyte brought on when he was just 18 years old. But he left his mark, and you can hear his pastoral blues-rock style on this lovely Kiln House instrumental, a pretty guitar exploration that sounds like it could’ve been on Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky. Decades after Kirwan’s drinking and mental-health issues got him fired from the band, Fleetwood proudly displayed his photo in his home in Hawaii. “Danny was wonderful,” Fleetwood told Men’s Journal in 2014, “but he couldn’t handle the life.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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45

“Farmer’s Daughter”

At the tail end of their 1980 live double LP, Fleetwood Mac sneaked in a shimmering cover of the Beach Boys’ 1963 deep cut “Farmer’s Daughter,” from a Santa Monica soundcheck. It was more than just a link between different generations of California rock; it was a sincere tribute. “The Beach Boys showed the way, and not just to California,” Buckingham wrote in a piece for Rolling Stone. “They may have sold the California Dream to a lot of people, but for me, it was Brian Wilson showing how far you might have to go in order to make your own musical dream come true.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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44

“Underway”

A vintage Peter Green guitar showcase, “Underway” was a highlight from his final album with the band, Then Play On, in 1969. As Green told Rolling Stone in 2001, “It was spontaneously composed by the whole lot of us all just playing in the studio and recording whatever we came up with – free-form. It’s what I used to play before I had my problems.” (See the 2009 documentary Peter Green: Man of the World for his full sad story.) Onstage, Green and the band would stretch “Underway” into a dazzling 16-minute jam, as best heard on subsequent live collections like The Vaudeville Years.

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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43

“Storms”

This gentle meditative
ballad is Nicks’ lament for her brief, messy affair with Fleetwood. “That
relationship destroyed Mick’s marriage,” she later recalled.
Unsurprisingly, “Storms” hit a sore spot for Buckingham. His
girlfriend, Carol Ann Harris, recalled Nicks bringing it to the band, only to
receive venomous criticism by Buckingham that led to a screaming battle. “These
fights left their bloody marks, over and over again,” Harris remembered. “Added
to the weight of the battle scars from Lindsey’s and Stevie’s past personal
relationship, they made the atmosphere of the studio even uglier with each
passing day.” 

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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42

“Monday Morning”

When Buckingham and Nicks’ 1973 debut album proved a commercial failure, Polydor dropped the duo. But Buckingham had already written a handful of songs for a follow-up. “[They] were showstoppers, even as rough sketches recorded on Lindsey’s four-track,” Fleetwood raved years later. Among these was “Monday Morning,” and after being fleshed out in the studio, it became the lead track on Fleetwood Mac. When John McVie wondered if the band’s new material had wandered too far away from the blues, producer Keith Olsen responded, “We’re doing pop rock now. It’s a much faster way to the bank.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs
41

“Black Magic Woman”

Fleetwood Mac’s first Top 40 single in the U.K. was written by Peter Green after he’d seen a scary play on TV. “There’s a whole group of skulls and things,” he recalled. “It was so frightening.” On “Black Magic Woman,” he set that imagery to scruffy white-boy blues. The song might have become an obscurity had it not been for Santana’s hit remake two years later, which adhered to the original Mac arrangement. (The idea came from Santana keyboardist Gregg Rollie.) When Fleetwood Mac were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, Green was on hand to play “Black Magic Woman” live with Santana.

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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40

“Blue Letter”

“Blue Letter” was written by Michael and Richard Curtis, two brothers who met Buckingham and Nicks during their pre-Mac Polydor days. The four musicians cut two demos together: “Blue Letter” and “Seven League Boots” (which Crosby, Stills and Nash later reconfigured as “Southern Cross”). Fleetwood Mac decided to record “Blue Letter” at the last minute, as they were finishing work on their self-titled ’75 LP. “The idea came to us literally on the spot,” wrote Fleetwood. “The Curtis brothers were recording demos at Sound City, and when we heard them play the song, we decided to give it a go.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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39

“Seven Wonders”

The lush 1987 single “Seven
Wonders” was the rare Fleetwood Mac hit not primarily credited to one of
the group’s many estimable songwriters. Nicks collaborator and Eighties
synth-rock also-ran Sandy Stewart penned the harmony-soaked tune, and the demo
was the first song Nicks presented to the band for Tango in the Night.
Her lone contribution stemmed from misunderstanding one of Stewart’s lyrics,
producing the phrase “all the way down to Emmaline.” “I thought
she said that, and she hadn’t,” said Nicks. “And I had become so
attached to the name Emmaline that we kept it in, and she gave me a small
percentage.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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38

“Think About Me”

The millions of people who
bought Tusk hoping for a follow-up to Rumours that sounded like
its predecessor could breathe a sigh of relief when they got to its third song,
“Think About Me,” Christine’s bright pop-rock ode to a no-pressure
relationship. “[Stevie and I] didn’t really like [Tusk],”
McVie admitted in a recent interview. “We just kind of went, ‘O-kaaay.
Because it was so different from Rumours. Deliberately so. In hindsight,
I do like that record, but at the time me and Stevie would be like, ‘What the
hell is he doing in the toilet playing an empty Kleenex box for a drum?’ ”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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37

“Sisters of the Moon”

Fleetwood ranked “Sisters
of the Moon” among “the greatest ‘band moments’ in our career.”
Unlike many Tusk songs that emerged from Buckingham’s work in his home
studio, the moody “Sisters of the Moon” was a product of jamming that
took place during long sessions at Village Recorder in Los Angeles. “I
honestly don’t know what the hell this song is about,” Nicks said. “It
wasn’t a love song, it wasn’t written about a man. … It was just about a
feeling I might have had over a couple of days, going inward in my gnarly
trollness. Makes no sense. Perfect for this record.” 

Fleetwood Mac greatest songs

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36

“Sentimental Lady”

In 1971, L.A.
singer-guitarist Bob Welch was playing with a band in Paris when he was
recommended to Fleetwood Mac by a secretary for their management. “I said,
‘I’ll be there in two seconds,'” he recalled later. “‘Could you send
me plane fare?’ I knew I was being scrutinized not so much for my musical
talents but for my psychological soundness.” Welch joined a group moving
past its blues origins. The highlight of his time with Fleetwood Mac,
“Sentimental Lady,” was a tender ode to his wife, Nancy, with a
mellow California feel that was new to Fleetwood Mac. After Welch left the
band, a somewhat slicker version of the song (recorded with Buckingham,
Christine and Fleetwood) became a solo hit for him. It remains a beloved soft-rock
chestnut. “I had many great times with him after Lindsey and I joined
Fleetwood Mac,” Nicks said when Welch died in 2012. “He was an
amazing guitar player. He was funny, sweet – and he was smart.” As
Fleetwood put it
, “If you look into our musical history, you’ll see a huge
period that was completely ensconced in Bob’s work.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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35

“Oh Daddy”

“That’s probably my
favorite Christine song of all time,” Nicks confided in the liner notes to
the 2013 reissue of Rumours, “and probably one of the only dark
songs she wrote.” Fleetwood has claimed that the lonely, foreboding ballad
was written with him in mind, as he was the only father in the band at the
time. But it was likely another ode to McVie’s new boyfriend, Fleetwood Mac
lighting director Curry Grant. McVie later described the ease with which she
composed her songs on Rumours: “One day in Sausalito, I sat and
wrote in the studio, and the four and a half songs of mine on the album are a
result of that.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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34

“I’m So Afraid”

Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled
1975 LP ends with this paranoid blues blowout, which immediately became a live
showcase for Buckingham’s guitar playing. “I’m no Jimi Hendrix,” he
said when asked about his approach to guitar solos. “I don’t have the
level of proficiency to just let myself go off into something completely
different every night. Nor do I think I would want to. I am someone who values
musical themes. Someone who feels there should be a consistency from night to
night with something. I’m not one of those people that can slam out a
completely different solo every night, because I don’t have the skill to do
that.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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33

“Oh Diane”

Growing up in Palo Alto, California, Buckingham used to spend hours alone in his room listening to 45s by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and Little Richard. That Fifties influence came out on “Oh Diane,” the fourth single from Mirage. According to Fleetwood, Buckingham wrote “Oh Diane” while the bandmates were in a mansion in Hérouville, 20 miles outside Paris, where they recorded the album. “He’d done what he needed to do on Tusk and was eager to get back to recording as a band,” Fleetwood says. “His playing and approach was back to basics and called to mind his appreciation for early rock & rollers.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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32

“What Makes You Think You’re the One”

Buckingham rocks out with the raw spirit of a freewheeling garage band, while Fleetwood cuts loose on the drums. “That’s one of the great drum tracks that I’ve ever heard,” Buckingham said. “That’s up there with ‘Instant Karma.’ That was a great moment. That was just Mick and myself late at night in the studio, me at the piano.” Buckingham set up the mics to get the right “garage, trashy” sound, and something about the song’s deceptively snide pop melody seemed to bring out Fleetwood’s wild side. “He turned into an animal,” Buckingham recalled. “And it was just two-piece, there was no Christine or anybody putting any constraints on what could or couldn’t be done. That has to rate as one of my top-five moments in the band.” In the liner notes of the 2015 deluxe reissue of Tusk, Buckingham described his attitude at the time: “There was a ‘fuck you’ thing about it on some level. Not directed at anybody in particular but at the business, the need to conform to some vague set of commercial standards.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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31

“Jewel Eyed Judy”

An obscure gem from the years between the original Mac with Peter Green and the modern Buckingham-Nicks incarnation. Guitarist Danny Kirwan was a great songwriter in his own right, fond of dreamy Beatle-struck ballads like this 1970 single, which chimes in the mode of Badfinger or Big Star. Kirwan led the band on albums like Bare Trees and Future Games, with his George Harrison–style guitar. But, tragically, Kirwan slipped into a void much like his fellow Mac guitarists Green and Jeremy Spencer – he suffered a mysterious mental breakdown, vanished from the music world and drifted into homelessness.