Category Archives: Obituary

Christine McVie obituary | The Times (UK)

Reserved, intelligent singer and songwriter for Fleetwood Mac whose album Rumours was one of the biggest-selling of all time

Christine McVie in 1979: she wrote many of the band’s most famous songs

Under normal circumstances, when Christine and John McVie divorced, they would have gone their separate ways. There were no children to consider and nothing to keep them together — except that they were trapped in the same band, forced to see each other each day and share a stage together every night as they toured the world with Fleetwood Mac.

To rub salt into the wounds, after separating from her husband, Christine had started an affair with the group’s lighting director while at the same time two other members of the band, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, were also breaking up and Nicks began an affair with the fifth member of the group, drummer Mick Fleetwood.

If one had been writing a rock’n’roll soap opera, the emotional maelstrom of this torrid plot would surely have been rejected as too preposterous. Yet for the participants it was all too real and they dealt with the fallout in the only way they knew how. They wrote songs to each other about their collective trauma.

The songs became the 1977 album Rumours, which went on to sell more than 40 million copies worldwide and became one of the biggest-selling albums of all time.

Christine’s compositions for the album included You Make Loving Fun, addressed to her new lover, and Don’t Stop, a message to her husband, which was later famously adopted by President Bill Clinton as his campaign theme tune. On both of them, the jilted ex-husband played bass without missing a beat. Continue reading Christine McVie obituary | The Times (UK)

Peter Green obituary | The Times

The Times

Influential blues rock guitarist who co-founded Fleetwood Mac but quit the band as he struggled with drugs and mental illness

Fleetwood Mac in 1969, the year before Peter Green walked out after suffering a disturbing dream: from top left to right, John McVie, Danny Kirwan, Green, Jeremy Spencer, Mick Fleetwood

One night in 1970 after taking LSD, Peter Green had a demonic dream in which he was visited by a green hellhound that barked menacingly at him.

“It scared me because I knew the dog had been dead a long time,” he recalled later. “It was a stray and I was looking after it. But I was dead and had to fight to get back into my body.”

When he awoke Green concluded that the beast was the Devil and the dream had been telling him that money was the root of all evil. His first reaction was to write a song about his demons. The result was The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) in which he described a satanic creature “Sneakin’ around,trying to drive me mad/ Bustin’ in on my dreams/ Making me see things I don’t want to see.”

The song was both brilliant and harrowing; its sinister riff, eerie howling and tormented lyrics made it one of the most disturbing hit singles to infiltrate the generally sunny terrain of the Top Ten. It was also the last song Green recorded with his band Fleetwood Mac, for his second reaction to his dream was to leave the group and give all his money away. He allegedly threatened to shoot his accountant unless he stopped sending him royalty cheques.

“It was a freedom thing,” he told The Times in 1997, when after long years away from music he was attempting a comeback. “I wanted to go and live on a commune. In the end I never did but I had to get away from the group. Acid had a lot to do with it.” Continue reading Peter Green obituary | The Times

Keith Olsen obituary | The Times

The Times

Producer who turned Fleetwood Mac into superstars only to have a falling out when he banned them from taking drugs in the studio

Fleetwood Mac: Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie and John McVie in 1975

On the last day of 1974, Keith Olsen received a phone call that was destined to change the face of popular music.

On the line was Mick Fleetwood, the drummer with Fleetwood Mac, calling from a payphone at Los Angeles airport. Olsen was booked to produce the struggling English band’s next album in the new year but Fleetwood had some bad news to impart. His services would no longer be required because Bob Welch, the group’s guitarist, singer and main songwriter, had quit and Fleetwood Mac were facing extinction.

The two put their heads together in search of a rescue plan. Olsen had recently discovered a talented young guitarist named Lindsey Buckingham and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks. They wrote songs together and Olsen had produced an album for them. The record had flopped and “sold bupkis”, as he put it: at the time of Fleetwood’s phone call the duo were without a recording contract and Nicks was working as Olsen’s house cleaner for $250 a month.

However, Fleetwood had heard their record and was one of the few to be impressed. Perhaps, he suggested, Buckingham might be persuaded to join Fleetwood Mac? Olsen told him that he thought it was unlikely and, in any case, they wouldn’t be split up and he came as a pair with Nicks.

“Well, maybe that will work. Can you see if you can convince them to join my band?” Fleetwood asked. Abandoning his new year plans, Olsen drove to the couple’s apartment, taking with him “the obligatory bottle of bad champagne”. Continue reading Keith Olsen obituary | The Times

Danny Kirwan obituary | The Times

The Times

Distinctive vibrato-style guitarist who helped his band top the charts before succumbing to ‘the curse of Fleetwood Mac’ in 1972

From left: Kirwan with Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood (rear), Jeremy Spencer and John McVie

When Danny Kirwan joined Fleetwood Mac in 1968 his arrival created a three-pronged guitar attack that turned the group into one of the biggest-selling bands in Britain.

His unique vibrato style helped the instrumental Albatross to No 1, and further chart-topping hits featuring his distinctive guitar work followed with Man Of The World and Oh Well. Yet by 1972 Kirwan and both his fellow guitarists had gone, all three of them succumbing to psychotic breakdowns in what came to be known as “the curse of Fleetwood Mac”.

The first of them, Peter Green, quit in 1970, giving away his guitars and his money after a schizophrenic attack brought on by hallucinogenic drugs. Jeremy Spencer disappeared the next year, walking out of the band’s hotel, saying he was going to buy a magazine. He never returned and was later found to have joined a religious cult.

Yet Kirwan’s meltdown was in many ways the most dramatic of all. Sensitive and mentally fragile, he struggled to deal with fame and responsibility, went days on end without eating and developed a crippling stage fright, which in turn drove him to alcoholism.

His career as a rock star came to a shattering halt one night in 1972 on tour in America. Back stage while the band were tuning up before going on, something snapped and he hurled his Les Paul guitar at a dressing-room mirror, showering broken glass over his bandmates. Smashing his fists and head against the wall until they were bleeding, he refused to take the stage and instead spent the gig heckling from the audience as the band struggled on without him. He was sacked and never played with Fleetwood Mac again. Continue reading Danny Kirwan obituary | The Times

Bob Welch obituary | The Times

The Times

Guitarist with Fleetwood Mac during the band’s transition from hard-driving blues to mainstream rock

Elvin Bishop and Bob Welch, 1980

Bob Welch played a key role in the transition of Fleetwood Mac from gritty British blues band to multimillion-selling American soft-rock heroes. As a guitarist, singer and songwriter, he performed on five albums by the band in the early 1970s, including Heroes Are Hard to Find (1974), which gave Fleetwood Mac its first American Top 40 hit.

Welch was widely credited with keeping the group going through several difficult years. Under his influence Fleetwood Mac swapped its early hard-driving blues sound in favour of a more melodic and radio-friendly style, heard to fine effect on compositions such as Sentimental Lady and Hypnotise. The first American member of the British-based group, he was also instrumental in persuading Fleetwood Mac to relocate to his home town of Los Angeles, a move which was pivotal in their subsequent success.

He left the group in late 1974 and was replaced by Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The new line-up went on to record Rumours, one of the biggest-selling albums of all time and a record which, in many ways, was the logical outcome of the musical direction in which Welch had taken the band.

Initially there was no bitterness on his part at having missed out on the group’s greatest commercial success. He remained close friends with former bandmates Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie, both of whom played on his 1977 million-selling album French Kiss, which also gave him three hit singles with the title track (which he had previously recorded with Fleetwood Mac), Ebony Eyes and Hot Love, Cold World.

But his solo career subsequently petered out, in part due to heroin addiction, and relations with his old bandmates also turned sour. He sued for underpayment of royalties. Although the case was settled in 1996, the resentment lingered. Two years later, when Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, he was not among the former members invited to participate. “My era was the bridge era,” an angry Welch complained at the time. “It was a transition, but it was an important period in the history of the band. Mick Fleetwood credited me with ‘saving Fleetwood Mac’. Now they want to write me out of the history of the group. It hurts.” Continue reading Bob Welch obituary | The Times