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Fleetwood Mac, Label Clash Over Continued ‘Albatross’ Success

The band refuses to play the song without Peter Green despite its continually favorable chart performance

Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac in London.

Michael Putland/Getty Images

LONDON — Fleetwood Mac returned to England from America in 1969 to find their instrumental “Albatross” high on the BBC chart. They returned to England from America in 1973 and, again, “Albatross” was high up there – in the Top Three. The problem was that only two members of the 1969 edition of Fleetwood Mac are still in the group, and the current edition has resisted audience chants to play the hit.

The trouble started when CBS, Fleetwood Mac’s former record company, issued a series of 25 oldies in browser boxes. “We didn’t give the records any promotion,” a CBS spokesman recalled, “but ‘Albatross’ started selling along with, and we can’t explain it, Doris Day’s ‘Move Over, Darling.'”

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When the single entered the charts, Top of the Pops showed a four-year-old film of the group, and MC Kenny Everett announced the band no longer existed. The current Fleetwood Mac demanded and received an apology the next week, and pop papers headlined that Peter Green was coming out of retirement to do six albums. Cued from television that Fleetwood Mac were still extant, fans unfamiliar with their current material turned up at concerts and shouted for “Albatross.” The CBS Greatest Hits album featuring Peter Green entered the charts, outselling Reprise’s current Penguin. But, the group held firm and refused to perform “Albatross.”

“I think we’ve been very brave,” said vocalist Dave Walker, “especially John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, since they’ve been with the group from the beginning. In America they’ll let you get on to what you’re doing. Here they won’t let you progress.”

McVie himself was puzzled by the reports of Green’s return to recording. “I talked to him and he has no such plans. Soon he’ll be going to Tahiti. When he left the group he gave away the £84,000 [$200,000] he’d earned, and now he’s getting rid of his guitars, all his possessions.”

Walker said Green’s fame was one reason Fleetwood Mac would not play “Albatross.” “That song will go down in British pop history,” he predicted, “but it’s identifiable with Peter Green and nobody else. What’s the point of our doing it? Bob Weston could play it well today, but some fucker would say, ‘Where’s Peter Green?'”

McVie said the group had broken in America after “Albatross,” and added the recent tour had shown Americans were more receptive than Britons to the current material. He remembered vividly the Stockton performance, which had turned into a free-for-all (Rolling Stone, June 7th, 1973). “It was one of the best things the band has ever done, and we were left like dummies up there when they pulled the power.”

Walker was more expressive. “We were having a laugh with some cops, and then ten minutes later they’re acting like animals. They tear-gassed the dressing rooms before they gassed the kids! Kids who hadn’t done a thing wrong were getting gassed!”

Walker and Fleetwood Mac will not receive a gold record for “Albatross.” “The purpose of presenting a gold record is to please the artist and get publicity for the company,” a CBS press officer remarked. “But in this case the artist wouldn’t be pleased and the company doesn’t want the publicity. So there’s no point, is there?”

This story is from the September 13th, 1973 issue of Rolling Stone.


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