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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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18

“Hypnotized”

During the early Seventies, Fleetwood Mac gradually transformed from a blues unit into a much poppier band – and this beguiling contribution from singer-guitarist Bob Welch was a key link in that progression. Inspired by Welch’s fascination with UFOs, “Hypnotized” features Christine McVie’s bright harmonies and a fluid, jazz-influenced guitar solo by then-band member Bob Weston. “[The song is] classic Bob Welch from a relatively unknown era of Fleetwood Mac that goes overlooked,” said Fleetwood. “This is also the beginning of the vocal harmonies, which later became our trademark.”  

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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17

“Never Going Back Again”

“That was a very naive song,” Buckingham said of this solo-acoustic ballad, one of the prettiest moments on Rumours. “I had broken up with Stevie and maybe met someone,” he recalled of the song’s inspiration. “It could have been someone who really didn’t mean a thing.” In the studio, co-producer Ken Caillat asked Buckingham to restring his guitar every 20 minutes. “I wanted to get the best sound on every one of his picking parts,” Caillat said. “I’m sure the roadies wanted to kill me. Restringing the guitar three times every hour was a bitch. But Lindsey had lots of parts on the song, and each one sounded magnificent.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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16

“Albatross”

Fleetwood Mac’s first Number
One U.K. hit had two inspirations: Eric Clapton’s guitar work on the
Bluesbreakers’ version of “The Last Meal,” and Santo and Johnny’s
surfy, Fifties steel-guitar showcase “Sleep Walk.” “You put the
two together – they don’t fit in any way,” Peter Green once said. “But
that’s how I got ‘Albatross.’ ” It’s one of the bestselling instrumental
songs in English history, and its heavily reverbed guitar partially inspired
the Beatles’ “Sun King.” “We said, ‘Let’s be Fleetwood Mac doing
“Albatross,” just to get going,’ ” George Harrison recalled. “It
never really sounded like Fleetwood Mac  …  but that was the point of origin.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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15

“Big Love”

Buckingham described the
smoothly rolling first single from Tango in the Night as a “lustful
mid-to-up-tempo number featuring love grunts.” As it turns out, the
sex-soaked “ah” to Buckingham’s “uh” that we
hear wasn’t a vocal throwdown with Nicks, but his own voice sped up. “It
was about a guy who was kind of a lonely guy on a hill in a house kind of
hanging out by himself,” Buckingham said of “Big Love” in 2005. “When
I look back on it now, I’m still living on the same hill, but in a new house
and with a family, from a whole different perspective. So the song has taken on
kind of an irony.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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14

“Silver Springs”

Inspired by a road sign she spotted on tour, Nicks intended this simmering requiem for her romance with Buckingham to be her crowning moment on Rumours. “As far away as Lindsey goes from me, he’ll never get away from the sound of my voice,” she said, according to co-producer Ken Caillat. But the song (which originally ran almost 10 minutes) was too long to fit on the finished LP and was dropped. “They didn’t even ask me,” Nicks has said. “I was told in the parking lot after it had already been done.” A live version on 1997’s The Dance was nominated for a Grammy – belated recognition for one of Nicks’ masterworks.

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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13

“You Make Loving Fun”

In 1976, Christine McVie’s
patience with husband John’s alcoholism reached its end, and she started dating
the band’s lighting director Curry Grant. The exaltation of that new
relationship can be heard on “You Make Loving Fun,” a buoyantly
funk-infused snapshot of a woman availing herself of rock-star sexual freedom.
(To protect John’s feelings, Christine told him it was about her dog.) Rumours
co-producer Ken Caillat was amazed during the session for “You Make Loving
Fun,” when he witnessed Buckingham and Nicks get into a vicious argument
while recording backing vocals, then pause and nail their parts perfectly.

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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12

“Little Lies”

Christine McVie wrote this song with Portuguese songwriter and keyboardist Eddy Quintela, whom she married in 1986. The band’s last Top 10 hit, “Little Lies” showed that McVie was still able to effortlessly tap into the restless longing that’s infused her best songs. “My writing ability all stems from the blues,” she said. “ ’Don’t Stop,’ ‘Say You Love Me’ – they all have that boogie-bass left-hand thing. Even the more recent things, like ‘Little Lies.’ ” She later mused that Fleetwood Mac should have unearthed this song – and not “Don’t Stop” – when they performed at Bill Clinton’s inauguration.

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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11

“Say You Love Me”

“Say You Love Me” was a watershed moment for Christine McVie, her second straight Top 20 single. It was also a watershed moment for the band itself; when McVie played it for Fleetwood Mac at their very first rehearsal, it offered a potent indication of their new lineup’s easeful chemistry. “I started playing ‘Say You Love Me’ . . .  and fell right into it,” McVie recalled. “I heard this incredible sound – our three voices – and said to myself, ‘Is this me singing?’ I couldn’t believe how great this three-voice harmony was. My skin turned to goose flesh, and I wondered how long this feeling was going to last.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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10

“Sara”

Released in December 1979,
this somber, elegant ballad was Fleetwood Mac’s first hit of the Eighties. Don
Henley of the Eagles claimed the song was named for a baby Nicks was pregnant
with and decided not to have during their brief late-Seventies affair.
Thirty-five years later, she confirmed that he was partially correct. “Had
I married Don and had that baby, and had she been a girl, I would have named
her Sara,” she said in 2014. “But there was another woman in my life
named Sara, who shortly after that became Mick’s wife, Sara Fleetwood.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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9

“Dreams”

One afternoon during the recording of Rumours, Nicks disappeared into a small studio in the Record Plant, which belonged to Sly Stone. “It was a black-and-red room with a sunken pit in the middle where there was a piano, and a big, black-velvet bed,” she said. “I sat down on the bed with my keyboard in front of me  …  and wrote ‘Dreams’ in about 10 minutes.” “Dreams” became Fleetwood Mac’s only Number One single, Nicks’ mystical assessment of her dying relationship with Buckingham: “[In ‘Go Your Own Way’] Lindsey is saying go ahead and date other men and go live your crappy life, and [I’m] singing about the rain washing you clean. We were coming at it from opposite angles, but we were really saying the same exact thing.”

The 50 Greatest Fleetwood Mac Songs

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8

“Landslide”

Nicks was still a young woman when she wrote the reflective ballad “Landslide” – but she already sounded like an old soul. “I was only 27 – I wrote that in 1973, a year before I joined Fleetwood Mac,” she told Rolling Stone. “You can feel really old at 27.” “Landslide” is Nicks’ acoustic meditation on growing up and the passing of time, with her brooding, “I’m getting older too.” A surprising sentiment on Seventies rock radio – yet “Landslide” became an AOR staple, and has only grown throughout the years, with the Dixie Chicks taking it to a new audience with their country version. The fear in the song is real: When Nicks wrote “Landslide,” she and Buckingham had only been in L.A. for two years. She waitressed at a singles bar. “It makes me remember how beautiful and frightening it all was,” Nicks said. “Asking each other, ‘Now what? Should we go back to San Francisco? Should we quit?’ We were scared kids in this big, huge, flat city where we had no friends and no money. But we didn’t quit.” The world has been taking “Landslide” to heart ever since.