When Christine McVie passed away on Nov. 30, 2022, the tributes poured in from around the world. Deservedly so. We pay our respects to the legendary Christine Perfect the way we do best– by taking an in-depth look at one of her biggest hits from the classic “Rumours” album, along with an overview of Fleetwood Mac’s tortured history.
Also in this episode, I recommend the “Fakewood Mac” episode of the Rock And/Or Roll Podcast— my favorite podcast. I highly recommend you check out this episode:
“You Make Loving Fun” (Christine McVie) Copyright 1976 Fleetwood Mac Music, USA – BMG Music Publishing Limited
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Welcome to the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast. I’m Brad Page, your host here on the Pantheon Network, where each episode, I pick one of my favorite songs and we listen to it together, listening for all the little moments, those special touches that make it a great song. No musical skill or knowledge is required. All you need is a love of music and you’ll fit right in here.
At the time of this recording, it’s been a little over a month since the passing of Christine McVie from Fleetwood Mac. There have been plenty of tributes to Christine; she deserves every one of them. And we’re going to pay tribute in the way that we do best– by doing some serious listening to one of her classic songs. This is “You Make Loving Fun” by Fleetwood Mac.
The history of Fleetwood Mac is about as convoluted as a band history can get, and we don’t have time to go over every detail, but the history is important. So, some kind of overview is warranted, centering around Christine.
So, let’s start in 1968, where one of the hot new guitarists on the scene, Peter Green, left John Myall’s Bluesbreakers and started a new band, eventually taking the Bluesbreakers drummer and bass player, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie with him. He named this new band Fleetwood Mac, after the drummer and bassist, and soon they were joined by a second guitarist, Jeremy Spencer. Together, they recorded some of the seminal works of the British blues bands.
In 1968, they recorded their second album called “Mr. Wonderful”. There were a few guest musicians on this album, including a young keyboard player named Christine Perfect.
Christine Perfect was born in Birmingham, England in 1943. Her father, Cyril Perfect, was a violinist in the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Her mother, Beatrice, was a psychic. Christine started making music young, playing along to Everly Brothers records. And after graduating from art college, she joined the band Chicken Shack. Chicken Shack was signed to the same record label as Fleetwood Mac, Blue Horizon. Christine recorded two albums with Chicken Shack, and they had one hit in the UK with “I’d Rather Go Blind” featuring Christine on lead vocal.
Christine left Chicken Shack in 1969 and released her first solo album in 1970. Here’s a track from the Christine Perfect album.
Christine and Fleetwood Mac’s bass player John McVie had been seeing each other, and by this time, had gotten married. They spent the first year or so of their marriage away from each other, as each of them were on the road with different bands.
Back in the Fleetwood Mac camp, a third guitar player had joined Fleetwood Mac. His name was Danny Kirwan. The interplay between Kirwan and Peter Green was really something special, but it didn’t last. By 1970, Peter Green had left Fleetwood Mac; mental illness had taken its toll, and Peter Green would never really recover.
If you’d like to learn more about Peter Green and explore this era of Fleetwood Mac further, go back and listen to episode 67 of this podcast, where we dig into the legendary track “The Green Manalishi”.
So, Peter Green had left and Fleetwood Mac was without their star player, but Mick Fleetwood held the band together. They retreated to Southern England and recorded their fourth album, “Kiln House”. Christine once again made a guest appearance on this album, though she’s uncredited. She even drew the cover art for this album. But after the release of the album, she officially joined Fleetwood Mac as a full time member. Here’s a song from “Kiln House”, It’s a Danny Kirwan song called “Station Man”, with Christine on electric piano.
The chaos continued, though, when Jeremy Spencer quit the band. He left and joined a religious cult and never came back. Once again, the band was forced to reinvent itself.
They recruited a new guitarist-vocalist-songwriter named Bob Welsh. They recorded and released their next album, “Future Games”, in 1971. “Future Games” was the first album to feature both Bob Welch and Christine as a full-time credited band member. Christine wrote two of the songs on “Future Games”. Here’s one of them, this one’s called “Morning Rain”.
“Bare Trees” was released in 1972. This one featured the song “Sentimental Lady”, which Bob Welch would later rerecord and release as a solo hit. It also includes the song “Spare Me a Little of Your Love”, which features a great vocal by Christine.
Things still wouldn’t settle down for Fleetwood Mac. Christine and John McVie’s marriage was on the rocks, and now Danny Kirwan was showing signs of self-destructive behavior. One night, Kirwan refused to go on stage and instead heckled the band from the audience. Mick Fleetwood had no choice but to fire him. Another key member of the band gone.
Kirwan would spend the remainder of his life wrestling with addiction, homelessness, and mental illness.
Two new members were brought into the band: vocalist Dave Walker from Savoy Brown, and guitarist Bob Weston. This lineup released the album “Penguin” in 1973. But this lineup didn’t last long, either. Dave Walker was out after only one album. Here’s one of Christine’s songs from the “Penguin” album. This one’s called “Remember Me”.
Now back down to a five piece, they released their next album, “Mystery To Me”, in October 1973. This album includes the song “Hypnotized”.
Things seem to be going OK for the band when they set out on a US. tour, but when Mick Fleetwood found out that Bob Weston was having an affair with his wife, Mick had enough. He fired Bob Weston, and told the rest of the band he needed to take a break and just couldn’t finish the tour. And thus began one of the most bizarre events in rock history.
While the band was on a break and scattered around the world, Fleetwood Mac’s manager put together his own version of the band– with no actual Fleetwood Mac members, just a bunch of nobodies, and sent them out on the road as Fleetwood Mac. It’s really a story you’ve got to hear. My podcasting friend Brian Cramp did an excellent episode on his podcast about this whole fiasco. You should really listen to that show; it’s episode number 308 of the “Rock And/Or Roll” podcast. That episode’s called “Fakewood Mac”. Check it out. I’ll put a link in the show notes.
So, by the beginning of 1974, things were as bad as they would ever get for Fleetwood Mac. Their record company was about to give up on them, they were being sued by their manager, and that whole “Fakewood Mac” tour just ruined their reputation. The band relocated to Los Angeles and went back into the studio as a four piece. Bob Welsh, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. And they recorded the album “Heroes Are Hard To Find”, their 9th album, released in September 1974. Christine wrote four songs on “Heroes Are Hard To Find”, including the title cut and this one, called “Prove Your Love”.
By the end of 1974, Bob Welsh had left the band. Fleetwood Mac had lost five guitar players and one singer in the last four years.
Meanwhile, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were kicking around Los Angeles after leaving the San Francisco band Fritz and embarking on a career as a duo. They were working with producer Keith Olsen at Sound City Studio in Van Nuys. Olsen got them a record deal and they released their first album, “Buckingham Nicks”, in 1974. But the album received little promotion. It didn’t sell, and Buckingham Nicks were unceremoniously dropped by their record label.
Mick Fleetwood was still keeping Fleetwood Mac alive and was looking for a studio to start their next record. A friend suggested Sound City, so Mick went to check it out. He met with Keith Olson at the studio, and Keith, as an example of the studio’s capabilities, he played the Buckingham Nicks album for Fleetwood. And Mick Fleetwood was impressed with what he heard.
Eventually, Buckingham and Nicks were asked to join Fleetwood Mac, and after some soul searching, they decided to give it a shot. And that is the short story of how the version of Fleetwood Mac we all know and love got together. The longer story– and there is a longer story– well, that you can read all about that yourself.
So, in January 1975, the new lineup of Fleetwood Mac went into Sound City studios to record their first album together, which they simply named “Fleetwood Mac”. It took a while, but the album eventually made it to number one by September 1976, after 58 weeks of climbing the charts.
You would think that things ought to be great for the band, but things were rough on a personal level. John and Christine had already split up; Lindsay and Stevie were calling it quits, and Mick was getting a divorce. By the time they headed back into the studio to make their next record, it was an emotional minefield. And all of that turmoil is famously reflected in the songs.
The album that would become “Rumours” took over six months to complete. It was recorded at a number of studios, including the Sausalito Record Plant, Wally Heider in LA, and Sound City in Van Nuys; the album was mixed at Sound City and at the LA Record Plant.
Much has been said about Lindsay Buckingham’s obsessions with getting everything perfect, but Christine McVie was just as dedicated. Recording engineer Chris Morris said Christine spent every minute of every day there, she was one of the hardest working women he’d ever worked with.
“Rumours” is chock-full of great songs and big hits. We’re going to take a deep dive into “You Make Loving Fun”. It’s easy to think of this song as a slight pop song, compared to some of the more adventurous tracks on the album, like “The Chain” or “Gold Dust Woman”. But “You Make Loving Fun” is an extremely well-crafted song. 3 minutes and 34 seconds of crafty songwriting, tight performances and recording perfection.
It was written by Christine McVie, produced by the band, along with Ken Caillat and Richard Dashutt, and with Lindsay Buckingham contributing a lot to the arrangement. So, let’s get into it.
Mick Fleetwood counts the song in with three hits on his hi-hat and then a drum hit on the four, and we’re off.
Christine McVie is playing two keyboard parts here. There’s a Fender Rhodes electric piano, it’s panned a little bit to the right, and a Honer clavinet, more or less in the middle. This clavinet is probably the most prominent element of the song. It’s what gives the song its groove. And that clavinet is fed through a wah-wah pedal, which was actually manipulated by Mick Fleetwood. He was laying on the floor, rocking it back and forth while Christine played the part. Listen to the way she weaves those two keyboard parts together.
You can also hear some simple percussion parts there that are a little less obvious in the final mix. Let’s pick it back up at the top.
Lindsay Buckingham is playing some short little guitar licks that he’s going to continue to throw in throughout the song. There’s also another guitar part deeper in the mix. We’ll listen to that a little later. Let’s move on to the first verse.
Fleetwood Mac fans know the story behind this song: Christine and John’s marriage was over. John had his girlfriends, and Christine was going out with Curry Grant– who just happened to be the band’s lighting director– and she wrote this song for him. Think about the emotions swirling around Christine and John and Curry while this song was being recorded. And that’s just one of the complex relationships around this band. This whole album is infused with that. Let’s listen to Christine’s vocal track.
I’ve always liked this part right here. I mentioned Lindsay Buckingham’s other guitar part earlier. Here’s a little bit of what he’s doing in the background. It’s very simple, but it has to be because the keyboard parts are so full. There’s no room for a busy guitar part. The song just doesn’t need it. And part of Lindsay’s genius, like all great guitar players, is to know what to play and what not to play. And even when not to play at all. You barely notice this part is even there but it’s all part of the big picture.
So let’s listen to this verse again, this time without the vocal so we can hear just the instrumental track.
That brings us to the bridge, which I think is pretty magical. The verses have kind of a funky feel to them, especially with that clavinet. But the bridge drops in with this really dreamy feel, like a headrush. It’s that “head in the clouds” blissful feeling, which is a great match for the lyrics.
Those layered backing vocals really make that dreamy feel. Let’s listen to the vocal tracks.
Mick Fleetwood is playing kind of an interesting pattern on his tom drums here. Again, it’s another simple part, but it’s where he places the fills. That’s not exactly where I would expect them.
And that leads us into a guitar solo by Lindsay Buckingham. Just one verse, one bridge and then a solo. There’s no second verse or chorus here. Just right into the solo. Not a typical arrangement, but this is a great guitar solo. Sounds like he’s doubled the guitar parts and panned one to each side. There’s some echo on the parts as well.
The end of the solo takes us back to the bridge. Now notice that we’re what, halfway through the song, and we still haven’t heard the chorus yet.
Now, we’ve already taken a look at the vocal parts and the drum track during the bridge. So this time, let’s hear Lindsay’s guitar parts. I really love what he’s doing here. See how he changes up the part for the second half of the bridge:
One more thing that I want to listen to before we move on is John McVie’s bass part on the bridge. McVie is not a flashy or busy player. He’s just a rock solid in the groove player. But I like this part.
For this last verse, let’s listen to how the bass and the drums are locked in together for a simple, driving rhythm that almost has a disco feel to it. This was 1977 after all.
Lindsay plays some tasty little guitar parts during this verse. Let’s go back and just hear his guitar there. It’s after this last verse that we finally get to the chorus. The chorus doesn’t appear until the very end of the song. It’s very unusual for a pop song.
The chorus starts on the same chord as the bridge, but simplifies it, cycling through a simple I-V-IV chord progression. Those are chord changes you’ve heard in a million songs. But it’s what Fleetwood Mac adds to it, and layers on top, that makes this special.
Let’s listen to Lindsay’s guitar again, because what he’s playing here is more like guitar orchestration rather than soloing.
Now let’s go back and hear how that fits in with all the other parts in the final mix.
Let’s check out those great layered vocal parts here, too.
Let’s check out those last few guitar licks Lindsay gets in at the end.
We’ll go back and wrap it up with that final fade out.
“You Make Loving Fun” by Fleetwood Mac.
Christine McVie didn’t have the immediate eye-catching and marketable image the way that Stevie Nicks did. And she wasn’t perceived as the genius, a Brian Wilso- like visionary, as Lindsay Buckingham was. I think she was often overshadowed in the press, by the fans, and on stage by the other two. And her role in the band wasn’t always an easy one.
But she was an essential songwriter in the band. She wrote some of their biggest hits. “Don’t Stop”, “Songbird”, “Over My Head”, “Say You Love Me”, “Think About Me”, “Hold Me”. She wrote those songs. She was a critical part of the Fleetwood Mac magic. And as far as I’m concerned, the band was never as good when she wasn’t in it.
A lot of musicians have been lost over the last few years. One of the things I try to do on this show is to remind people of who they were, and just do my small part to keep their memory alive. Losing Christine was a big loss, but one thing I think we can all safely say is that Fleetwood Mac is in no danger of being forgotten anytime soon. Right now, they’re still hugely popular and they’ve been rediscovered by a whole new audience. That’s a testament to the lasting beauty and power of their music. And Christine is a big, big part of that. This songbird is gone, but the music lives on.
I used a number of resources to put this episode together. I wanted to mention a couple of them. The “Rumours” episode of the “Classic Albums” TV show, which is absolutely worth watching; and the book “Never Break the Chain” by Kath Carroll, which is a good history of Fleetwood Mac in general. And it really goes deep on the making of both the “Fleetwood Mac” and the “Rumours” albums. I really recommend both the show and that book. Check them out.
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On behalf of everyone here on the Pantheon Podcast Network, I thank you for taking the time to listen to this episode on Fleetwood Mac and “You Make Loving Fun”.