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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.   

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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7

“Tusk”

A landmark of badass rock
& roll bravado: The world’s most popular group, after perfecting an L.A.
rock formula that went megaplatinum around the world, decided to rip it up and
start again. “Tusk” sounded like commercial suicide – yet it turned
into one of the weirdest Top 10 hits any megastars ever dropped. Buckingham and
co-producer Richard Dashut took a drum riff that Fleetwood devised to warm up
before shows and looped it into an evil-sounding sex-and-drugs chant, with the
singers practically whispering, “Why won’t you tell me who’s on the phone?”
Halfway through, it explodes into a free-for-all rock jam. Not weird enough?
They added the USC Marching Band, inspired by a brass band Fleetwood saw at a
village festival in France. It was excess in every sense of the word. “There
was blood floating around in the alcohol,” Christine McVie later said. “Recording
Tusk was quite absurd. … The studio contract rider for refreshments
was like a phone directory. Exotic food delivered to the studio, crates of
Champagne.”

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6

“Gypsy”

Like so many Mac classics, “Gypsy” has its roots in the ballad of Buckingham and Nicks. As Nicks told Rolling Stone in 2014, “We write about each other, we have continually written about each other, and we’ll probably keep writing about each other until we’re dead.” Back when she and Buckingham were just another struggling pair of hungry songwriters in San Francisco, Nicks used to visit a downtown store called the Velvet Underground, where Janis Joplin and Grace Slick shopped, and fantasize about being able to afford the clothes. She told herself, “I’m not buying clothes, but I’m sure as hell standing in the place where the great women have stood.” By 1982, she could afford to buy the whole damn store – but in “Gypsy,” she looks back to the freedom of those early days. As Nicks said in 1988, “In the song ‘Gypsy’ it says, ‘Going back to the Velvet Underground/Back to the floor.’ … which means my bed went back on the floor. … There’s a part of that [era] that there will never be again.”

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5

“The Chain”

Side Two of Rumours opens with a tortuously pastiched collaboration that remains the only song in the band’s history on which all five members of Fleetwood Mac are credited as songwriters. Though the song was built from a handful of disparate musical fragments, at its core is the Christine McVie composition “Keep Me There” (also known as “Butter Cookie”), a tense, keyboard-driven track that remained incomplete during the early album sessions in February 1976. “We decided it needed a bridge, so we cut a bridge and edited it into the rest of the song,” Buckingham told Rolling Stone in 1977. They settled on an ominous 10-note bass passage played by John McVie over Fleetwood’s ascending drum pattern. “We didn’t get a vocal and left it for a long time in a bunch of pieces,” Buckingham said. “It almost went off the album. Then we listened back and decided we liked the bridge, but didn’t like the rest of the song. So I wrote verses for that bridge, which was originally not in the song, and edited those in.”

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4

“Don’t Stop”

“Don’t Stop” was Christine McVie’s sunny, optimistic advice to John McVie at the end of their marriage, doubling as a snapshot of her own happiness. (She was then dating the band’s lighting director Curry Grant, creating another layer of tension within Fleetwood Mac’s stormy working environment.) “ ’Don’t Stop’ is Chris saying ‘I love you, but I’m not in love with you’ to John,” Fleetwood later said. As Christine put it, “ ’Don’t Stop’ was just a feeling. It seemed like a pleasant revelation to have. …  It would make a great song for an insurance company, but I’m definitely not a pessimist. I’m basically a love-song writer.” The song made it to Number Three on the Billboard charts, and took on an even wider resonance in 1992 when presidential candidate Bill Clinton used it as his campaign theme song. The members of Fleetwood Mac were barely communicating at the time, but they still got back together to play “Don’t Stop” at Clinton’s inaugural ball. When Christine rejoined her bandmates at a Dublin gig in 2013, after 17 years away, it was the first song they played.

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3

“Gold Dust Woman”

The chilling climax of Rumours is a seductive guitar ballad that doubles as a horror show. Nicks sings about a dark, sexual obsession and a drug rush as if they’re the same addiction, taunting, “Did she make you cry?/Make you break down?/Shatter your illusions of love?” over woozy, phased guitars. According to engineer Chris Morris, the song took “20 or 30 takes” to get right, with Nicks recording her vocals late at night wrapped in a shawl and standing on a chair as someone slowly dimmed the lights in the recording booth. Nicks still performs “Gold Dust Woman” live, with an interpretive dance. “It’s me being some of the drug addicts I knew, and probably being myself too – just being that girl lost on the streets, freaked out with no idea how to find her way,” she told Rolling Stone. “When Christine saw it, she said, ‘Wow, we’ve always known that “Gold Dust Woman” was about the serious drug days, but this really depicts how frightening it was for all of us and what we were willing to do for it.’ We were dancing on the edge for years.”

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2

“Rhiannon”

Shortly before she and Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac, Nicks picked up a novel called Triad at an airport. The book told the story of a Welsh woman who believes she’s been possessed by another woman, named Rhiannon. “I wrote this song and made her into what I thought was an old Welsh witch,” Nicks said. “It’s just about a very mystical woman that finds it very, very hard to be tied down in any kind of way.” Envisioning a “Welsh country song,” Nicks began with stark, autumnal piano chords, around which Buckingham built a guitar part. “My tendency is to want to add rhythm and to rock it up,” he recalled. Nicks later learned that Rhiannon was a character from Welsh mythology, but the real myth she invented on Fleetwood Mac’s first American Top 10 hit was her own – the shawl-wearing California enchantress who left crowds stunned by her smoldering, trancelike performances. “She’s like your fairy-princess godmother,” Courtney Love once said, “who lives in a magical kingdom somewhere and has, like, fabulous romances.” 

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1

“Go Your Own Way”

In 1976, early in the
recording process of what would come to be Fleetwood Mac’s epochal album Rumours,
they took some time off from touring and rented a house in Florida to work on
new material. With the two relationships at the center of the band unraveling,
it may not have been the best time for a family vacation: “Aside from the
obvious unstated tension, I remember the house having a distinctly bad vibe to
it, as if it was haunted, which did nothing to help matters,” Mick
Fleetwood wrote in his memoir. While there, Lindsey Buckingham wrote a bruising
new song that channeled the darkening anger brought on by his impending breakup
with Stevie Nicks. “ ’Go Your Own Way‘ was filled with anger, it was
filled with angst,” he recalled. With an inverted stomping drumbeat and a
taut, aggressive guitar part, it was also a hard-driving departure from the “light
rock” with which Fleetwood Mac were being grouped. “I had this idea
taken from ‘Street Fighting Man,’ by the Rolling Stones,” Buckingham said
of the song’s rhythm. “And Mick couldn’t quite get that, and he did his
own thing.” Released as the first single from Rumours, “Go
Your Own Way” became a Top 10 hit as well as their tempestuous set-closer,
reigniting the drama at the heart of the band’s music every night. “I
very, very much resented him telling the world that ‘packing up, shacking up’
with different men was all I wanted to do,” Nicks told Rolling Stone in
1997
. “He