Let’s go back to the summer of 1969. I was a strapping lad all of 10. Of course, I had not heard of this band then, much less this particular song. The name “Fleetwood Mac” didn’t hit my radar until much, much later with their “Rumours” album in 1977. And, like the majority of my male friends, I was trying to get with Stevie Nicks.
But, as usual, that’s not what I came here to talk about. Fleetwood Mac started out, not as a rock or pop band, but as a blues band. We all know, or if you didn’t know, you do now, that rock is very heavily influenced if not down right a derivative of, the blues. And I am very much into the blues.
“Oh Well” was recorded by the first version of Fleetwood Mac, and this a band that has had many changes.
Fleetwood Mac was founded by guitarist Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarist Jeremy Spencer. Bassist John McVie completed the lineup for their self-titled debut album. Danny Kirwan joined as a third guitarist in 1968. Keyboardist Christine Perfect, who contributed as a session musician from the second album, married McVie and joined in 1970. At this time it was primarily a British blues band, scoring a UK number one with “Albatross“, and had lesser hits with the singles “Oh Well” and “Black Magic Woman“. All three guitarists left in succession during the early 1970s, to be replaced by guitarists Bob Welch and Bob Weston and vocalist Dave Walker. By 1974, all three had either departed or been dismissed, leaving the band without a male lead vocalist or guitarist.
The single’s peak position in the UK Charts was No. 2 for two weeks in November 1969, spending a total of 16 weeks on the chart. In the Dutch Top 40, it peaked at No. 1, staying in the chart for 11 weeks. It also reached the top 5 in Ireland, Norway, New Zealand and France, and the top 10 in Germany and Switzerland.
“Oh Well” was a minor hit in the USA, where it reached #55, thus becoming Fleetwood Mac’s first single to reach the Hot 100, as well as their only pre-Buckingham/Nicks song to earn this distinction. The song still received some airplay on many FM rock stations and its reputation has grown in the years since its release. It has been also re-released in many countries as a ‘Golden Oldies’ single.
I am taken by the little guitar riff then the vocals alone. I always thought the juxtaposition of the fast guitars, then a single voice was cool. There are two parts to the song, but both parts were never played live. Each part was released as the A and B side of a single. Peter Green says to have written part two first, and wanted it released as the A side with the now more popular part one as the B side. But that’s not what happened, and as the saying goes… “the rest is history”.
Here is “Oh Well, Part 1”, live from a 1969 BBC TV show. Enjoy!
And since this is St. Patrick’s Day, I give you this: