10 Best Fleetwood Mac Songs from the Buckingham-Nicks Era

On New Year’s Eve 1974, Mick Fleetwood invited guitarist Lindsey Buckingham to join Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham insisted that his girlfriend Stevie Nicks was part of the package, and Fleetwood Mac’s tenth and most successful line-up was formed.

The line-up of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, and keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie recorded five albums between 1975 and 1987, while 2003’s worthwhile Say You Will was recorded as a quartet without Christine McVie. 1997’s live album The Dance is also a significant item in their catalogue, shining attention on overlooked older songs like ‘Silver Springs’ and ‘Landslide’. It’s a miracle that this line-up remained intact for a dozen years – by 1976 the McVies had divorced, Fleetwood had divorced his wife, and Buckingham and Nicks had split, leaving the group dynamics fraught with tension. These tensions fed into the classic 1977 album Rumours, where the songs read like dialogue between ex-lovers.

Stevie Nicks enjoys a lot of adulation for songs like ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Dreams’, but the group’s lynch-pin is Buckingham. A fan of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, his studio skills allowed him to enliven McVie’s blues songs with unexpected production touches, and to organise Nicks’ intimate ramblings into radio hits. His guitar skills and impassioned vocals bring an edge to the classy Californian soft-rock band.

With three talented writers, Fleetwood Mac have a plethora of great material- apologies in advance to ‘Rhiannon’, ‘I’m So Afraid’, ‘The Chain’, ‘Silver Springs’, ‘Sisters of the Moon’, ‘What Makes You Think You’re The One?”, ‘Seven Wonders’, ‘Tango in the Night’, ‘Say You Will’, and ‘Miranda’.

10 Best Fleetwood Mac Songs

#10 – Little Lies

Christine McVie, from Tango in the Night (1987)
Of the five records that Nicks, Buckingham, and Christine McVie recorded with Fleetwood Mac, 1987’s Tango in the Night is my least favourite. Stevie Nicks’ material is weak, as she was distracted by her solo career and drug rehabilitation – the hit ‘Seven Wonders’ is great, but was donated by an outside writer. Buckingham and especially McVie shine on Tango in the Night, and the most magical moment is the beautiful synth intro to ‘Little Lies’. The chorus hook where the three vocalists trade lines is also brilliant; Christine sings “Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies”, Stevie rasps “Tell me lies”, then Lindsey finishes with “Tell me, tell me lies.”

#9 – Gold Dust Woman

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

Stevie Nicks, from Rumours (1977)
I’ve mostly opted for radio hits on this list, as Fleetwood Mac are a pop band and their catchiest songs are often their best. But the closing song from 1977 mega-seller Rumours is one of their key tracks. Fleetwood Mac’s personal lives were in a mess around Rumours, with the two band couples splitting up and drug use frequent. Nicks told VH1 Classic Album Series that ‘Gold Dust Woman’ was “my kind of symbolic look at somebody going through a bad relationship, doing a lot of drugs, and trying to make it.” Musically, ‘Gold Dust Woman’ is tightly wound – even the chorus doesn’t offer much respite.

#8 – Landslide

Fleetwood Mac 1975 Album

Stevie Nicks, from Fleetwood Mac (1975)
‘Landslide’ wasn’t initially a single from 1975’s career reboot album Fleetwood Mac. Over time, however, this gentle Stevie Nicks ballad has become one of the band’s best-known songs. It’s been covered by The Smashing Pumpkins and the Dixie Chicks, and Fleetwood Mac’s live version from 1997’s The Dance was released as a single. Nicks wrote ‘Landslide’ in Colorado, contemplating whether to pursue a career in music after the failure of Buckingham Nicks.

#7 – Walk A Thin Line

Fleetwood Mac Tusk

Lindsey Buckingham, from Tusk (1979)
The double album Tusk was a brave follow-up to the mega-selling Rumours – reportedly when executives at Warner Brothers first listened to it, they “all saw their Christmas bonuses flying out the window.” In hindsight it stands as one of Buckingham-era Mac’s finest achievements. It’s dominated by Buckingham – he wrote nine of the twenty tracks, and was determined to keep Fleetwood Mac relevant in a post-punk environment. ‘Walk A Thin Line’ is less Talking Heads and more Beach Boys – Buckingham was fascinated by Brian Wilson’s productions, and its multi-tracked vocals are reminiscent of Wilson’s arrangements. The song was actually inspired by a Charlie Watts’ drum fill on beloved Stones album track ‘Sway’.

#6 – You Make Loving Fun

Christine McVie, from Rumours (1977)
I feel sympathetic for John McVie – playing bass on this Christine McVie song celebrating the prowess of the band’s lighting director. Christine tried to smooth things over, telling him during recording that the song was about her dog. Buckingham’s usually the group’s studio mastermind, but he was absent for the early stages of recording ‘You Make Loving Fun’, and Christine’s electric piano and clavinet parts give the song a funky foundation. That staccato guitar fill that Buckingham drops into the last chorus is magical.

#5 – Second Hand News

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

Lindsey Buckingham, from Rumours (1977)
The opening track for Rumours is a breakup song like much of the album, but it’s barely regretful. Instead it’s an upbeat piece of folk-rock about the joy of rebound relationships. I never thought too deeply about the line “lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff”, and now I wish I hadn’t. The song’s best part has no words – “Bow-bow-bow-bow-buh-bow bow, bow bow, doo da doodladoo!”

#4 – Gypsy

Stevie Nicks, from Mirage (1982)
‘Gypsy’ is written about two different events in Nicks’ life. “So I’m back to the velvet underground/Back to the floor that I love” is a nostalgic reference to her simple life with Lindsey Buckingham when the young couple would sleep on a mattress on the floor. The song is also written about Nicks’ best friend, Robin Snyder Anderson, who would pass from leukemia a month after the song’s release – Nicks was the “gypsy that remained.” ‘Gypsy’ also features a great finger-picked outro from Buckingham.

#3 – Hold Me

Christine McVie, from Mirage (1982)
The first single from Mirage is bonkers – Buckingham transformed a bluesy Christine McVie vamp into a bizarre pop song. Despite the weirdness, there’s plenty to enjoy – McVie’s piano hook is memorable, and McVie and Buckingham harmonise beautifully. The ridiculous music video for ‘Gypsy’ is shot in the desert. With band tensions high, only Mick Fleetwood and John McVie look as though they’re on speaking terms.

#2 – Go Your Own Way

Lindsey Buckingham, from Rumours (1977)
The lead single from Rumours was Lindsey Buckingham’s roaring rocker ‘Go Your Own Way’. It was a blatant kiss-off to Stevie Nicks at the end of their relationship, and understandably she wasn’t thrilled with the line “Packing up/Shacking up is all you want to do.” Buckingham layered on multiple guitar tracks, including the acoustic guitar that punctuates the verses. The solo was created by producer Ken Caillat from six different lead guitar tracks.

#1 – Sara

Stevie Nicks, from Tusk (1979)
“Wait a minute baby/Stay with me awhile/Said you’d give me light/But you never told me about the fire” are the evocative opening lines for Nicks’ majestic ‘Sara’. The band backs Nicks’ most memorable and personal imagery with smooth soft-rock. There are multiple meanings for the name Sara for Nicks:
– an alter-ego, “Sara, you’re the poet in my heart”.
– a close friend of Nicks’ whom Mick Fleetwood began a relationship with, ending Fleetwood and Nicks’ romance in the late 1970s
– the name that Nicks gave to the child she conceived with Eagles drummer Don Henley. Henley said she “wrote the song of the same name to the spirit of the aborted baby. I was building my house at the time, and there’s a line in the song that says ‘And when you build your house, call me.'”
According to Nicks, ‘Sara’ was originally sixteen minutes long and had nine extra verses.

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  1. Solid list. I have think about mine now! I’ve seen the classic Mac line-up three times live (including the last show they did before Christine retired, in Albany, New York, 1998), and also Buckingham solo once, and one show from the Buckingham-McVie tour. Every show was great, though the Albany one was probably my least favorite of the bunch as Stevie’s voice was shot and they were touring with way too many distracting extra hands on stage. I think they’ve now cut off their noses to spite their faces in ejecting Buckingham from the group. He is, indeed, what takes a solid soft-rock/pop band and turns it into something titanic.

    • Ditching Buckingham was a weird move – he’s pretty irreplaceable, even though I really like Neil Finn and Mike Campbell.
      When Buckingham left the first time, Rolling Stone said “the addition of Rick Vito and Billy Burnette is the best thing to ever happen to Fleetwood Mac.”

  2. I like all of those and I like this iteration of the band quite a bit. I’ll add a few:
    “Monday Morning,” “Over My Head,” “Say You Love Me,” and “World Turning,” all from the Fleetwood Mac album prior to Rumours when they went stratospheric. “The Chain,” “I Don’t Want to Know,” from Rumours. “Tusk.” “Big Love” from Tango. I love Lindsey’s guitar playing. “Rhiannon” is a good song but I’m so, so sick of it and it doesn’t hold up well for me.
    Lotsa good stuff. I hate their album covers. So affected, stylized and phony.

    • “Tusk” is one of those tunes that’s so weird and sp brilliant at the same time. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall, watching the stupid record company executives’ faces when they listened to that track!

    • 1975 album is interesting because most of the songs are really good, but it doesn’t have as much personality as the others. I think Buckingham hadn’t quite seized control as a producer and arranger like he did later.

      • Maybe not but for me it doesn’t make it a lesser album in terms of songs, performance, or recording. It still very much stands up. “Over My Head” has that feel of falling in love, “World Turning,” still sounds kind of ominous. And let us not forget “Rhiannon” is on there. So, strongly disagree.

    • It’s about so many different things. Confused as to why Nicks would date Fleetwood and Henley. And McVie was dating Dennis Wilson. You’d think their mums would warn them to stay away from the drummer.

    • ‘Sara’ is also interesting because there’s not a whole lot of Buckingham in it. I’m sure the production was his, but it’s mostly Nicks, keyboards, and rhythm section.

      • Beautiful song. Never did see this band. We had an opportunity some years ago when they swung through town. But we had just bought tickets for some other band and could not then spend what was at that time the princely sum of $75 per ticket. I’ve since their “Live in Boston” video and said well, that’s good enough. (Not sure but I think they have an affinity for the area due to the Peter Green/Boston Tea Party club connection.)

  3. That classic line-up of the Mac was quite a hit machine. I dig all of these tunes. I’m also fond of “Never Going Back Again” from “Rumours,” a great illustration of Buckingham’s acoustic guitar chops.

  4. Good list…you could make one from the first two albums if you wanted to. One that I really like also is Monday Morning…I rarely hear it but I always liked it…it doesn’t compare with Go Your Own Way but it’s good.
    I didn’t know that about Sara…I’ll never hear it the same way again.

    • ‘Monday Morning’ is really good – one reason I didn’t include it is that it’s quite similar to ‘Second Hand News’ from the next record. Those ‘Sara’ facts were amazing.

      • I know some Mac fans that don’t mention Monday Morning much but I really like it. I would assume it’s about Stevie…and that was before Rumors… it is similar.
        Yes they are.

  5. Second Hand News
    I Don’t Want to Know
    Monday Morning
    That’s All For Everyone
    Think About Me
    I Walk a Thin Line
    Go Your Own Way
    Sisters of the Moon
    World Turning
    Hold Me

    • Angel is a good one – Stevie Nicks’ songs on Tusk are all great. Not much of a McVie fan – I think we’ve discussed that before? Have you heard the demo of Hold Me – it’s real interesting to see what Buckingham did to it.

  6. The Chain is my #1 – perhaps the best argument in favour of vinyl’s side 1/side 2 format as well. It’s meant to be a side-opener, rather than a mid-running order track!

  7. Good list band it was the “lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff” lyrics why I love “Second Hand News.” Then again, lyrics like that are always amusing to a 16 year old. That’s my excuse anyway. I agree, this is Mac’s most successful line up by far.

  8. Awesome list from a brilliant era of a great band. It’s so brilliant, indeed, that one can barely do any wrong when choosing the top 10 songs. The problem is narrowing the greatness down to that number.

    • I made the list a few years ago when I wrote the Fleetwood Mac page – I changed Rhiannon for Landslide, but otherwise I still agreed with all of my choices.

  9. No I never heard the demo of Hold me. Is that on a deluxe edition of Mirage or something? I’ve heard the deluxe edition of tusk and I think it was real interesting. I think Christine’s tracks on tusk are better than usual. But I think it’s just because of the great production and sound rather than because her songwriting improved or anyting. They just SOUND better. Even when the songs on tusk aren’t that great, it still sounds great anyway. None of Lindsey Buckingham songs on tusk are as great as his great ones on Rumours, but the sound and the music make up for it.

  10. I started listening to The Mirage deluxe edition and it’s got a lot on it but not nearly as much as the Tusk Deluxe. That version of hold me isn’t even half as good without all the vocals during the chorus. That’s what made the record great in the first place. The Deluxe Tusk has a lot of alternate tracks that don’t sound so unfinished. Some are really interesting and really pretty good. Like a version of Angel that has a completely different style of singing on it the way she sings it. And there’s a shitload of versions of Tusk that could have made it onto the album. A few others are good enough that I wouldn’t have minded if they would have used those ones instead on the finished album. They don’t have that unfinished demo sound like a lot of tracks that you hear on deluxe edition albums.

    • The chorus vocals on ‘Hold Me’ are so bizarre and cool – just takes the song to the next level. I don’t normally dive into demos etc, but I was really interested in how that song developed since it’s so idiosyncratic.

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