Fleetwood Mac – Stretcted (1979)

Back in the dim distant days of August 2020, I posted a couple of what if albums highlighting two possibly albums by ex Fleetwood Mac guitar player, Danny Kirwan. You can read about those LPs here (https://www.thesquirepresents.co.uk/danny-kirwan-mind-of-my-own-sands-of-time/) but in a nutshell, this post looked at the imagined story that the Mac split in 1971 when Jeremy Spencer left. Kirwan looked at what songs he had written and employing his ex band members as sessions players, released two albums. Well, this continues that imagined story.

After leaving Fleetwood Mac again after their 1971 tour of the US (where he helped out the band after Spencer had left), Peter Green made some additional recordings before his drug taking and mental illness finally took their toll. Green was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent some time having treatment in some psychiatric hospitals. By 1979, Green was ready to reemerge and got in touch with Mick Fleetwood. Fleetwood had spent the 1970s as a session player along with ex band mate, John McVie. Both Fleetwood and McVie have never been short of work but both had reached the end of the decade and fancied playing in a band again. Green getting back in touch could not have happened at a more opportune moment. 

Green, McVie and Fleetwood start jamming and even though they liked the experience, they realised that they need some additional musicians to flesh out the sound. Green was keen to recruit his friend Nigel Watson, who had played on the two Reprise singles that he had released in the early 70s. Fleetwood, feeling that if anything were to come of this re-union, they would need a manager, contacts Clifford Davis. He had been Fleetwood’s Mac’s manager and is more than happy to come on board. Davis has also been representing Danny Kirwan since band split. Kirwan had continued to release albums throughout the 70’s but, like Green, had been suffering from the effects of drink and drugs. Davis felt that having Kirwan and Green playing together would be good for them both. Davis then played Green some live tracks from Mac’s US tour in early 1970 to show how good the two players had been, feeding off each others guitar licks. Green was sceptical, but agreed that having Kirwan in for a jam. 

Kirwan looks similar to the last time anyone saw him, it is clear that all is not well with him. Years of alcohol and drug abuse have taken their toll. However, when the four musicians start to relax around each other, the music flows out of them, even if the playing from the two guitar players is not have the fire they once had. Inspired by the jam sessions, both Kirwan and Green agree that they will see if they can come up with some suitable material for an album. 

Jeremy Spencer on the other hand has spent the majority of the 70’s working on behalf of the Children of God, recording a good deal of music for the benefit of the organisation. By 1978, he had written some material that he felt should be released on a commercial record. Looking in the organisation for fellow players, Spencer put together the Jeremy Spencer band and they start to rehearse. Hiring entertainment moguls Martin and Steven Machat, the pair are able to secure Spencer a one off deal with Atlantic Records. Sessions begin but Spencer is not happy with some of the results. He feels that instead of the breezy Californian sound he was going for, the record label are trying to steer him towards a disco record. Spencer is close to giving up when Ahmet Ertegun, the Head of Atlantic Records comes down to the studio to play him a visit.

Ertegun has heard that Fleetwood Mac are jamming together and wonders if Spencer would be interested in joining them in a reunion (as well as having the band sign for Atlantic). Spencer is unsure that this would be a good idea, especially as it was him leaving that caused the band to fold in the first place. Ertegun says he would make some enquiries, and contacts Davis. Davis is surprised to hear that anyone has heard that the jam sessions are happening at all, but is excited that there could be a potential Mac reunion with all five members actively involved. Ertegun sweetens the deal by suggesting that a record deal is waiting for them if they choose to accept it, but only if Spencer is involved. A sizeable advance is also mentioned. 

Davis tells Green, Kirwan, McVie and Fleetwood about Ertegun’s offer. McVie and Fleetwood are keen to go into the studio straight away, but this was before Davis told them the deal about having Spencer on the recording. Kirwan does not react at all and Green looks horrified. He has not been in a recording studio for years, and his guitar playing is decidedly rusty. The four band members mull it over and even though they each have doubts, the seizable advance is enough to swing it as both Kirwan and Green are short of funds. The money would also mean Kirwan can buy himself out of his contract DJM Records who he still owes an album too. The contracts are signed and the five man Mac meet up and start to rehearse. The first meeting with Spencer is a little tense, but once the formalities are out of the way and they start to play some old blues standards, they all remember how much fun it was to play together. 

It has been ten years since they last recorded an album together (even though Spencer hardly played anything on the ‘Then Play On’ album). The three songwriters have changed as people and the music landscape has changed as well. Disco and soft rock are the order of the day. Both Spencer and Kirwan produce some material that is similar to those popular at the time. Green on the other hand, has struggled to come up with material of his own and at one point, almost walked out of the sessions. Fleetwood is able to coerce Green back to at least finish the album but by the end of proceedings, all five realise that this was a mistake. The album sounds good, but the fire is no longer there and the three songwriters are sining from the same hymn sheet as once they were. Unfortunately, they are under contract and the album has too comes out. 

The reviews are not kind, with everyone expecting the band from 1969 with their blues rock fusion. Even though concert promotors throw some big money at the band to go on the road, especially if they are going to play their old material, the band decide that going on tour would not be in anyones best interest and they split once again. The album fails to chart anywhere in the world and Fleetwood Mac are once again, no more.   

Side A

  1. Flee – Jeremy Spencer Band (Flee)
  2. Wings Of A Dove – Danny Kirwan (Hello There Big Boy!)
  3. Seven Stars – Peter Green (In The Skies)
  4. Caroline – Danny Kirwan (Hello There Big Boy!)
  5. Travellin’ – Jeremy Spencer Band (Flee)

Side B

  1. In The Skies – Peter Green (In The Skies)
  2. Summer Days & Summer Nights – Danny Kirwan (Hello There Big Boy!)
  3. Just For You – Peter Green (In The Skies)
  4. Cool Breeze – Jeremy Spencer Band (Flee)
  5. Apostle – Peter Green (In The Skies)

I was inspired to put this what-if album together after playing Danny Kirwan 1979 album ‘Hello There Big Boy!’ for the first time in years. I remember being incredibly disappointed with this when I first heard it over thirty years ago now but on reflection, it was not as bad as I remember. The playing was solid and there were some half decent songs on it. The production of the record was obviously trying to ape the style of the then current Fleetwood Mac and their massive selling ‘Rumours’ LP. It was then that I remembered that Jeremy Spencer released his ‘Flee’ album in the same year. I had played this record quite a lot when I was younger, especially the B-Side which was also trying to emulate the ‘Rumours’ sound. The B-Side has aged considerably better than the A-Side, which sounds like a poor mans disco record. 

Considering I have all Spencer’s and Kirwan’s releases from the 1970’s, I have never bought or even listened to a single Peter Green solo album. Well, from 1979 onwards anyway as I do have ‘End Of The Game’ and the two singles he recorded with Nigel Watson. A Green fan would be  disappointed if they were expecting the fiery blues man of just a year or so before. Anyway, I looked at Green’s solo work and found that he had also released an album in 1979. It was just a case of listening to all three and seeing if there was enough self penned material for an album. There was but this, if it had actually happened, I feel it would have disappointed much in the same way the Small Faces re-union releases were earlier in the decade. An interesting experiment though. 

The name of the album is a reference to the fake Fleetwood Mac who were sent out on the road in place of the real thing in 1974. You can see a video detailing this incident here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKk692YLB1M). After the fake Fleetwood Mac debacle, that band became Stretch and released the hit single ‘Why Did You Do It?’.

The cover is adapted from the Jeremy Spencer Bands ‘Flee’ album. 

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