During the '80s, it was easy and forgivable to view Fleetwood Mac as a bygone '70s rock band that had become something of a relic on classic rock radio. However, the group not only survived into the next decade but produced three albums of solid material that experienced nearly equal amounts of commercial and critical success. Anchored by the songwriting trio of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, the band managed to define the '80s despite long periods of studio dormancy. Here's a chronological look at the best '80s Fleetwood Mac songs.
Though released in the fall of 1979, sprawling double album Tusk certainly continued to make its presence known well into 1980. This easygoing rocker became a modest hit in March of the latter year, but it's truly an all-time Fleetwood Mac gem - a McVie tune fueled by Buckingham's driving guitars and spirited backing vocals. The tune comes in just under three minutes and packs a welcome straight-ahead punch on an LP featuring plenty of experimental moments. Pure listening pleasure here.
As a classic deep cut that proves the Mac's almost unparallelled consistency as pop/rock giants, this song also happens to spotlight Buckingham at his most passionate and inventive. The lead vocal and lead guitar touches here could simply have come from no one else, and although the contributions from the other four members seem minimal, this is essential Tusk material. As a bonus, the central lyric "What makes you think you're the one/Who can live without dying?" perfectly captures the conflict so vital to the band's magic.
3. "Hold Me"
Another McVie composition, this popular single from 1982's Mirage features some excellent rhythm guitar subtlety from Buckingham. However, the tandem lead vocal between him and McVie steals the show completely, providing plenty of drama up until Buckingham cuts loose with one of his most tasteful finger-picked electric guitar solos of his career. All three main songwriters had already dabbled in solo careers by this point, but the muted input of Nicks here would not be a lasting trend quite yet. As needed here, though, she steps aside to allow an impeccable Buckingham arrangement to win out.
This single failed to match the Top 10 pop showing of its predecessor, but it still registered undeniably as a major Fleetwood Mac classic with Nicks squarely at the helm. Moody piano layers and ethereal backing vocals set the stage in fine fashion, but Nicks' uniquely mesmerizing vocals and lyrical talents clearly dominate the proceedings here. During all their years of collaboration even through years of personal turmoil, Buckingham and Nicks complement one another to great effect. The ultimate dividend here pays out in surplus to both the band and its fans.
In many ways this song feels like a Nicks solo offering, which is not surprising given the fact that she generally recorded her vocal parts remotely for the whole Tango sessions. Nevertheless, it again proves the mystical wonders of her substantial talents. Taken together, in fact, the contrast between the creative styles of Fleetwood Mac's three songwriters always helped the band's records hold up so well anyway. So the lack of band member harmony at this point remains almost completely shrouded by the collective rush of talent and studio execution.
Five long years passed between the release of Mirage and 1987's even more successful LP Tango in the Night. The band was arguably in a shambles at this point, as the lengthy recording process included a studio contribution from Nicks that was made almost totally in absentia. Nevertheless, the wait was often worth it when the results were this good. Once again, Buckingham and McVie help generate unmistakable musical kismet, so much so that Nicks' occasional backing vocal touches sometimes feel jarringly out of place here. Completely deserving of its Top 10 pop chart showing.
Fleetwood Mac detractors undoubtedly point to the inarguable slickness of the band's recordings, and that's probably exponentially true as the '80s wore on. Even so, this McVie/Buckingham collaboration celebrates everything that is great about the band: uncommonly astute melodic instincts, transcendent singing and Buckingham's own underrated but fiery lead guitar. Again, Nicks doesn't particularly merit mention here, which removes an important dimension. But that just reinforces how great this band has pretty much always been through the years.