All instruments and arrangements performed by Bob Welch. The recordings contained on this compact disc are new rerecordings by Bob Welch of songs he performed while a member of Fleetwood Mac, and his solo career.
BOB WELCH: HIS FLEETWOOD MAC YEARS AND BEYOND
If you're reading this then you already must have an interest in the music I've been involved with for the past 30 years or so. First of all, thanks for staying with me all these years! I've been one of the few lucky people on this planet who have been able to base their entire lives on and make their living from music. I've only been able to do this because fate or luck or the too (sic), or something, has granted me an audience. So thank you!
Why on earth would I choose to recreate these 15 pieces? Why not just leave it well enough alone? After all, this music has survived for 30 years in its original forms on 5 Fleetwood Mac albums and on my various solo albums. One reason for wanting to do this project is that I enjoy the work of putting recorded music together. There's a satisfaction in the sheer doing of it, kind of like a kid building model airplanes. Recording is not like performing live. There is no element of grandstanding involved because there are no visuals, only sound, which is the way I like it. The craftsmanship is also fun for me. Like doing needlepoint or painting mosaics, it's painstakingly careful work. It's also very honest work. The stdio doesn't lie and what you hear is what you get. Image and glitz be damned!
Modern technology allows me now to accomplish certain things that just weren't possible for an individual to do in the past. Contrary to some other opinions, I don't think that the sound of older recordings on analog tape on vinyl discs sound anywhere near as good as modern digital recordings. I began to wonder what some of the older stuff would have sounded like if it were recorded today with digital equipment. I personally think that the sound of these new versions blows away, stomps on, and trounces on the original recordings. I also know that I'm singing better today than I did 30 years ago. And technically my voice sounds better than it did on the original records.
The old vinyl discs just could not handle the dynamic range that today's systems can produce. The average high school kid today with a subwoofer-equipped set up in his car can shake a whole neighborhood with a current CD. I wanted to be able to do that with this older music, too. In perticular, the "bottom end" on the old records played on hi'fi sets was almost non-existent compared to the bass that you can get today. And the bass is my favorite musical element next to the melody and vocals.
One of the more important motives to my wanting to do this project is because these songs are not, and probbaly never could or would be, all together on any other available CD for a lot of complicated and mostly boring reasons. The songs are in the chronological order in which they were originally released, starting with the Pete Green classic, "Oh Well", and concluding with a brand new song I wrote in '03 called "Like Rain".
The numberous (sic) factors propelling me to complete this particular project could go on forever. I love the technical challenge of remaining 100% true to the original structure of these songs, while fitting in some 2003 elements without detracting from the original feeling or "spirit". These are not just my new arrangements of the old tunes; they're painstaking re-creations with some subtle changes. For people who are musicologists and those who listen carefully with headphones, there are some striking differences. And like I said, as a musician, this was just plain fun to do!
All of the other motivations for doing this are emotional, not technical. This was a very personal trip down memory lane for me. Ordinarily I would not want to share what these songs are about because I prefer leaving the meaning to the listener's imagination. But in this case, since I'm revisiting the history of these songs, I thought it would be of interest.
When I was living in Paris, France, in 1970, after my R&B group The Seven Souls had lost a bid for contract with Epic records to Sly and The Family Stone, I remember hearing "Oh Well" constantly on the radio and all of the jukeboxes in the little cafes that we'd stop at on one of those endless (though scenic) driving tours through the European countryside to the next gig. I thought then that it was one of the coolest things I'd ever heard. It was so unique and it didn't sound like anything else that was going on at the time.
About a year later when Judy Wong had introduced me to Mick and the other members of Fleetwood Mac, their guitar genius Pete Green and writer of "Oh Well" had already quit the band. Mick told me that Pete had been hanging around with some German jet-setters who had been feeding him acid (L.S.D.) nonstop. Shortly after this, Pete began thinking that making money and touring with a band was not the right thing to do...that he ought to give all his money to the poor, that it wasn't right to profit from music and so on.
When I first met Pete and Mick and John's mansion south of London, he seemed very disheveled and disoriented. I remember that his hair was unkempt, and there was an odd piece of what looked to me like white cheddar cheese stuck in his front forlocks. After a five-day weekend at the house, Pete left to pay an unannounced visit to Eric Clapton by climbing over his front gate, and that same piece of cheese was still there.
Pete had evidently become a shadow of the "Green God" guitarist that he had once been, and I was very nervous that Fleetwood Mac expected me to fill Pete's shoes in some sort of "guitar hero" way. I considered myself at that point a band player and not some kind of guitar gunslinger. Because my voice bore closely resembled Pete Green's than Danny Kirwan's did, I was elected to sing "Oh Well" on stage. For five years Pete's song was in every set Fleetwood Mac ever played, usually as an encore. It was always a dramatic showstopper and people seemed to love it.
I performed "Oh Well" live so many times that it kind of felt like my own, which is why I've included it here. The words to this song, as well as a lot of other Pete Green songs, are sentiments that I also feel and resonate to. "Oh Well" takes a pretty dim view of the human condition, and there's a certain real world-weariness and cynicism in the lyrics that can also be found in some of my own compositions, so I'm told. But I also feel a hopeful side to life, which it seems to me Pete Green may not have felt.
Chronologically, the next song after "Oh Well" is "Future Games", which I wrote before I joined Fleetwood Mac, while living in France, sitting in my underpants looking out from the window of our apartment onto the streets of a very rich suburb of Paris near the Eiffel Tower. It was a couple of months before flying to England to audition for Fleetwood Mac, and I was living with my musical partner from North Carolina whose wife would periodically "turn tricks" in order to pay our rent. I told her I felt terrible about living like a second-string pimp. How low could a man go? She was supporting her husband, who was supporting me. I didn't want this situation to last any longer than it had to.
At the time, the Vietnam War continued to escalate, and groups like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were in full bloom with epic pieces like "Woodstock". Many bands from this immediate post-hippie era saw themselves not just as entertainers, but as a part of some kind of ill-defined, but worldwide "change-in-consciousness". Songwriters were now expected to take on political and philosophical ideas in their lyrics, instead of just love themes.
"Future Games" was my attempt to sort of do what CSN&Y were doing. The point of the song is really that you create your own reality, and that, by extension we as a society create our own reality. This is something that many spiritual leaders have been saying for a few thousand years. Back when I wrote the song in 1971, I'm sure that I thought that by 2003 (which seemed like a long, long time in the future) the human race would get it together, and we'd be exploring other dimensions with our newfound friends from other planets. How naive I was!
Much of what I had expected to be an audition for Fleetwood Mac didn't happen. Instead, we sat around Christine's kitchen table smoking hash, drinking brandy and philosiphizing endlessly about what could have been going on in Jeremy Spencer's mind. Spencer became the second sudden departure from the band when he joined a religious cult after playing a gig at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles. What did it all mean? Where was the band going? And the band even want to go on without their two founding guitar players? Decision-making was always like that in Fleetwood Mac. It was always based on emotions, not cold blooded reasoning.
"Future Games" was my first song recorded with Fleetwood Mac and was also the title of the record, quite an honor for a newcomer.
I'm letting the 1978 version of "Sentimental Lady" included toward the end of this collection represent the BARE TREES album on this project. In case you didn't know, I recorded "Sentimental Lady" for the first time with Fleetwood Mac on BARE TREES and later for a second time on FRENCH KISS because it never got the amount of promotion I felt it deserved. I just had that gut-level feeling that it would be a hit and had the potential to receive a good bit of radio air-play, which it later did.
"Revelation" is from the PENGUIN album in late 1972. We were turning in two albums that year and changing personnel at the same time. We sadly had to ask Danny Kirwan to leave after an incident he pulled. Instead of being on stage with the band, Danny watched an entire set from the soundboard in the audience, leaving us all looking silly, playing without him and his guitar parts and vocals. Musicians, even great ones like Danny, are supposed to be troopers and not pull stunts like that.
Following the tradition of Pete Green's "Green Manalishi" and the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil", "Revelation" is also about the devil -- or more exactly about the battle between good and evil or, as I now think of it, between selfishness and unselfishness. At the time I was recording a lot of things like CRACK IN THE COSMIC EGG by Joseph Chilton Pearce, THE SUPREME IDENTITY by Alan Watts, and some other books touching on the mystical reality behind such things as the book of Revelation in the Christian bible. Were these things visions, revelations, hallucinations, or something undiscovered like travels on some sort of astral plane? I really wanted to know. I still want to know...but it's a mystery to me.
In my opinion, the MYSTERY TO ME album is overall the most solid album that I did with Fleetwood Mac. Some reviewer called it the "RUMOURS of the Bob Welch era", and I agree. Recreating three songs from that album was really no work at all. It was fun putting myself in the headspace of 1973 England in my studio in Nashville in 2003!
Back then Dave Walker and John McVie would go down to the local pub every night and get plastered after the band did its thing, while I would be sitting in Christine McVie's upstairs living room at Benifols, feverishly writing lyrics. Benefolds was the 20-room country house south of London where were all communally lived -- players, wives, roadies...everybody.
Dave Walker, ex lead singer from Savoy Brown, was still in the band when we first began the MYSTERY TO ME album. Originally wrote "Hypnotized" for Dave to sing as a blues shouter kind of thing, which was his speciality. Several weeks later we realized that Dave, although brilliant, was not the right sound for Fleetwood Mac, so I had to rewrite "Hypnotized" for me to sing.
The lyrics changed from a blues "baby I'm gonna love you till you're hypnotized" macho type of thing to a pastiche of images from the current things I had been hearing and reading about that had to do with UFO's, Yqqui Indian sorcerers, and astral travel. The highly publicized Pascagoula, Mississippi, UFO encounter had just happened, and the guy I used to work with from North Carolina (the same guy whose wife had been supporting us earlier in France) had told me a spine tingling story about coming across a very strange crater in the ground with sides like melted glass while riding 30 miles deep in the woods on dirt bikes. The old "Hypnotized" is probably the most atmospheric song I ever recorded...and so is the new one, if not more so.
One of our more up-tempo tunes at the time was "Miles Away". It's fun to play because a guitar player can really take off. I tried in the remake to stay faithful to the spirit of the type of thing Bob Weston had played on the original. "Miles Away" is a very cynical look at our collective slide into chaos (the swamp) and numbness (too much Warhol hangin' off the wall...). About that time, we were also starting to live a little bit of that decadence ourselves, although it was not much more than a Mandrax and a Heineken, and a sweaty way-too-close dance with Ronnie Wood's wife.
Also originally from the MYSTERY TO ME album is "Emerald Eyes", about the Jungian idea of the female "anima" inside every man that you look for, but never find. It is that search for the mystery at the heart of life that gnaws at us. We know it's there. The truth is out there...if only we could ever find it. My favorite emotion (and taste) is bitter-sweetness, and I like to think "Emerald Eyes" captures that bittersweet feeling. Fleetwood Mac jumped into a whole new, scary world after that. The energy got totally different and a little but ragged and frayed. The line up of Mick, John, Chris, Bob Weston and I was the most powerful one to date. If it had stayed together, I have no doubt that the band might have achieved something close to the success they later had with Stevie and Lindsey. But fate, as usual, intervened. Bob Weston, our other intuitively gifted guitar player, was having a not-so-clandestine affair with Mick's first wife Jenny, sister to model Patti Boyd, who was ex-wife to both George Harrison and Eric Clapton.
While this was going on, we were on the road and Mick had to get up on stage with Bob Weston every night. The band was doing very well, selling out in a lot of places, and the album was getting heavy airplay. But then Mick, understandably, decided that he could no longer tolerate having to work with Bob Weston every day, so we cancelled the rest of our tour, which was something like another six months worth of shows. We all agreed that this was best for Mick's mental health, but our manager, Clifford Davis, was (quite understandably) furious. We were just starting to build big momentum, and he said if we canceled all those dates, our hard earned gains with promoters and radio would go down the tubes. He wouldn't stand for it.
When we got home, me to LA and John and Chris to England (Bob Weston had been fired at that point), Mick took a vacation to Africa. Clifford wrote us all a letter saying that he was planning to put Fleetwood Mac back on the road, with or without us. He offered us first choice at working in this "new" Fleetwood Mac, but we'd better be quick.
There the matter sat for about a month, until I offhandedly called a promoter in Pittsburgh that we knew who told me that he was looking forward to seeing me next week at the Fleetwood Mac show at the Syria Mosque Auditorium. I said "WHAT"? I knew we weren't playing the Syria Mosque, but some "Fleetwood Mac" concoction was. Clifford Davis had hired some musicians and put them on the road...as us! From that point life descended into a year-and-a-half of lawsuits between Davis and us.
The issue was who had the right to use the name "Fleetwood Mac", us...or the former manager. At the same time, Mick and I proposed that the band move to Los Angeles where we would be closer to our potential future lifeblood - the head offices of Warner Brothers Records in Burbank. This was very hard on all of us because we haad not saved up much cash and we were "frozen" in place. No one would let us work or record until the case was settled. Although we were all musicians and not left-brained lawyers, our days consisted of nothing but anxious, endless hours of calls to attorneys and to execs at WB like Mo Ostin, who, although very warm and supportive of our position, could do nothing without a clear cut legal opinion. We were in limbo.
Finally the logjam was broken, and we were able to sign a new contract with Warner Brothers. But by then some of the bloom was off the rose. Warner put together a whole new campaign to reintroduce us to record retailers and radio programmers. Cameron Crowe (director of JERRY MCGUIRE and ALMOST FAMOUS) wrote a piece on us for Rolling Stone magazine called "Will the Real Fleetwood Mac Please Stand Up?", taking a line from an old TV quiz show. We were glad to be back, but it was very dispiriting talking about lawsuits in interviews, instead of talking about our music.
After doing a ton of play dates, the album HEROES ARE HARD TO FIND ("Hero" - former manager Clifford Davis) was doing respectably, but the momentum we had with MYSTERY TO ME tour had been lost. I was now doing all the guitar work, and more than half of the lead vocals. My nervous system was fried, and I felt like I had aged 10 years in one single year.
You'll find three songs from the HEROES album on this project. The first one, "Bermuda Triangle", is a good example of my continued interest in the unexplained. I love the mood it invokes, like telling a ghost story around a campfire. It was hard to recreate because the original was done very haphazardly by using the then almost unknown technique of cutting up various pieces of a drum track and mixing and matching them to get a new and unexpected sound. I think I pulled it off though. "Silver Heels" is my attempt to do a rockin' "about-a-girl" song, like "Sherry" by the Four Seasons or Eric Clapton's "Layla". I slipped in a more modern reference in the lyrics of this remake, which you may or may not notice. If you do catch it, write me on my website and I'll tell you if you're right.
"Angel", a song about reincarnation, questions whether or not there may be a hierarchy of beings beyond us (angels?), just like there is a huge hierarchy of beings between us and, let's say, frogs. Or let's go even lower down the chain and say between us and clams. Maybe there are beings somewhere that are to us as we are to shellfish. Wouldn't that be a kick in the rear?
In December of 1974, I told the band that I wanted to leave at the end of the tour. Mick had told me about he had heard at Sound City studios in the San Fernando Valley, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. He also thought that studio would be a good one for a post - HEROES album. We discussed the possibility of my staying with the band and adding Stevie and Lindsey. I seriously thought about this, but decided I had to make my move and leave the band anyway. The lawsuit had taken a tremendous emotional toll on me.
Musically, I felt strongly about trying some new things. I wanted to go for a heavier, denser sound than Fleetwood Mac had been getting. I had been listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin and admired the powerful sound that they were able to get on their records. So Glenn Cornick from Jethro Tull, Tom Mooney from Todd Rundgren's band, and I started a hard rock trio along the lines of Zeppelin called Paris. Drummer Hunt Sales (Soupy's son), from Iggy Pop and Tin machine fame, later joined Paris on the second album, replacing Tom Mooney. I didn't have the space here, but I may very well do some Paris music on some future project. That band was powerful and fun, but it was probbaly too far ahead of it's time.
In 1976, a guy by the name of Paul Ahern, who was helping to promote the Fleetwood Mac "WHITE" album (the first one with Stevie and Lindsey), was managing a band called Boston, whose record came out and went straight to the top. I was very impressed by the way Boston combined sonic heaviness like Led Zeppelin with pretty Fleetwood Mac-like melodies. So I sat down in my apartment on the beach in Malibu and tried to write some songs that achieved that heavy/pretty synthesis. Paris had just broken up, so I took these songs to my producer at Capitol Records, John Carter, and he said something like "my god they all sound like hits!"
Carter suggested we go in the studio with drummer Alvin Taylor, who had played witha lot of people including Barry White and Elton John. From the very first, could tell we had a sound. The FRENCH KISS album was basically me playing the guitar and bass parts and Alvin on drums. We got the late Gene Page, Motown's string arranger, to put some strings on a lot of the cuts and the result was really interesting. It was kind of a combination of heavy guitars, pop-R&B drumming, and "Mowtown" style arranging. The songs had a lot of sections and changes, but still kept a flow going.
When "Sentimental Lady" was released as a Fleetwood Mac song, the single didn't do much, even though a lot of people liked it. I honestly forget who suggested re-recording "Sentimental Lady" with Fleetwood Mac's rhythm section and Lindsey producing, but it was probably Mick Fleetwood, who had at that point decided to be my manager. Anyway, when I did it for a second time, it became my first top-ten hit single. Now that I've redone it for this project, that makes three times. That must be a record...call Guinness!
The second hit from FRENCH KISS, "Ebony Eyes", is revisited here, along with "Hot Love Cold World", the third hit from FRENCH KISS. "Ebony Eyes" resulted from a picture I had in my head of a young girl I saw having dinner with her family late one night in Mexico City. I was by myself putting down the brandies in this restaurant, but I was surreptitiously stooing glances at this extraordinarily beautiful, black-haired, dark-eyed daughter of "Mr. and Mrs. who knows"? She was "that girl in the corner".
"Hot Love Cold World" was written with an engineer named John Henning, who worked at the Record Plant studios. We came up with it one night when speeding out of our brains on something or other, most likely good Colombian coffee. No, really! Those were the days of all night/all day sessins at Sly Stone's custon built studio in San Francisco. It even had a master bedroom with microphone jacks on the headboard, just so you could do your vocals under the covers with a "friend" if you wanted to. This was 1975 and decadence was escalating for sure.
I wrote "Precious Love" and "Church" for the second Capitol solo album. I wanted "Precious Love" to have a summery, girl-watching feel, like when I was a teenager and would go to Balboa Island for Easter weekend. There was nothing but guys in their hot-rodded cars and girls everywhere...hot sun, tight jeans, you know what I mean!
"Church", another bittersweet song about unattainable love or love mixed with regret, has that feeling I seem to keep coming back to with my love songs. It's just because I like that "bittersweet", unrequited love thing so much.
Finally, I've also included a new, previously unreleased song, "Like Rain", that I feel would have fit right in with any of the songs on my solo or Fleetwood Mac albums. "Like Rain" is a story about taking in a stray, could be a person...could be a little dog, and taking care of her no matter where she's been before. The melody contains a taste of that "love for the bittersweet" I was talking about.
The seventies were a unique era in music which will never exist again. You could be yourself and sing about anything, take chances with melody and structure. Some of us were occasionally bad boys, but in many ways we were more innocent and childlike, more naive and hopeful than kids can be today. Some of us actually believed we could change the world for the better! Oh well...
I'm very lucky to still be writing and playing music. That is truly what gives my life meaning. I hope you enjoy these songs as much as I enjoyed recording them!
This album is dedicated to Miss Annie, my sister Maggie who was there from the beginning, and my wife Wendy who is my "Rock".
Special Thanks go to: Eddie Wilner, who made this project happen because he believed in my music; One Way Records; Mike Lawson and Artist Pro; Anthony Kornarens; Bobby Armistead; Betty Cartwright; Greg Ondo and Steinberg; Scott Wilkinson and AMD; Mike Scheibinger and Sonic Foundry; Javanco; Nashville; Gibson Guitars, Nashville; Fleetwood Mac, who hired me when I was out of a job; and The Seven Souls, Paris, and all the other wonderful musicians I worked with over the years.
All new digital re-recording.
(P) & (C) 2003 Bob Welch, Nashville
Manufactured and distributed by:
One Way Records
4250 Coral Ridge Drive
Coral Springs, FL 33065
Visit Bob Welch at: www.bobwelch.com
Visit One Way Records at: www.onewayrecords.com
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