Christine McVie: her 10 greatest recordings with Fleetwood Mac and solo

Don’t Stop, Everywhere, Little Lies – the late singer-songwriter, who has died aged 79, was responsible for some of the soft-rock canon’s greatest hits

Christine Perfect – I’d Rather Go Blind (1970)

Before she was Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie, she was solo artist Christine Perfect – a rock’n’roll moniker if there ever was one. Her self-titled 1970 LP (later cheekily retitled The Legendary Christine Perfect Album) features a handful of originals and select covers. Among the highlights is a lovelorn take on 1967’s I’d Rather Go Blind, a hit for both Etta James and McVie’s late 60s band Chicken Shack. McVie ruminates on a broken heart, her velvety voice sounding wistful next to hymn-like organ and reverent horns. However, the brave facade cracks, and her voice rises with despair upon mention of her beloved’s affection, revealing hidden regret.

Fleetwood Mac – Show Me a Smile (1971)

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham linking up with Fleetwood Mac in 1975 inarguably supercharged the band’s creativity. However, the group took their first steps toward megastardom when Christine McVie joined as a full-fledged member starting with 1971’s Future Games. She wasted no time making an impact on the band’s sound, writing the dreamy album closer Show Me a Smile. Notable for a tranquil melody that gently twists and turns like a kite being batted around by the wind, the song embodies McVie’s straight-shooting lyrical approach. Its urgent, explosive chorus, meanwhile, illuminates an acuity with dynamics that later propelled Fleetwood Mac’s biggest hits.

Fleetwood Mac – Why (1973)

The McVie-penned Fleetwood Mac songs that didn’t end up as singles were often just as compelling as the familiar hits. The fan favourite Why, tucked away as the last song on Mystery to Me, offers emotional whiplash in the aftermath of a breakup. With sparse acoustic guitar and torchy, bluesy piano as a foundation, McVie first rationalises that the heartbreak is temporary (“The hurt I feel will simply melt away”). Later, however, she sounds in agony over her ex’s indifference and her own subsequent pain, asking “Why don’t you love me?” while strings crescendo and swell around her.

Fleetwood Mac – Say You Love Me (1975)

Fleetwood Mac became a pop-rock juggernaut starting with their 1975 self-titled LP, the first full-length to feature Nicks and Buckingham. However, McVie wrote the bulk of the album’s charting singles, led by the jangly Say You Love Me. Buoyed up by her forceful, regal piano playing, the song explores how to navigate the whims of a mercurial significant other. McVie sounds firm but slightly exasperated as she calls out the hot-and-cold behaviour of her partner and interrogates her own insecurities. In the end, she asks for emotional clarity, pointedly repeating the phrase “Say that you love me” several times.

Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks in 1977.
Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks in 1977. Photograph: Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Fleetwood Mac – Don’t Stop (1977)

Rumours was an album born out of real-life romantic tumult, imperfect breakups and messy affairs. McVie herself had divorced bassist John McVie in 1976, although she preferred to stay optimistic in the wake of the marriage ending. Don’t Stop espouses the power of looking on the bright side of things, with lyrics about keeping an eye on the future and avoiding dwelling on yesterdays. Although Buckingham mostly handled lead vocals – adding an extra layer of intrigue given his up-and-down relationship with Nicks – McVie propelled the song’s upbeat attitude with fluid bar-band boogie piano, as if entertaining a rousing honky-tonk.

Fleetwood Mac – Songbird (1977)

Songbird was an outlier on Rumours: an unabashed declaration of love featuring a stripped-down arrangement. Recorded in an auditorium with McVie on voice and Steinway piano, the song boasts some of her most tender lyrics (“And the songbirds are singing / Like they know the score”) and Buckingham contributing barely perceptible acoustic guitar. However, the sparse instrumentation was also an ideal canvas for her meditative playing style and keening vocals, especially since co-producer Ken Caillat used multiple mics to soak up the room’s echoing ambience. Songbird later took on even greater poignancy when it was covered as the title track on the posthumous 1998 album from folk singer Eva Cassidy.

Fleetwood Mac – Think About Me (1979)

McVie didn’t just excel at writing delicate ballads and introspective folk songs – she could also do biting rock gems with the best of them. On the sonic grab bag Tusk, she wrote Think About Me, a swaggering tune with a Stones-y blues-rock groove and stinging keyboards. Fittingly, the song’s title is a command rather than a suggestion. McVie’s protagonist acknowledges being low-maintenance, but warns they have no patience for a wishy-washy partner who isn’t all-in on the relationship, and implores the other person to stop being so self-centered.

Fleetwood Mac – Hold Me (1982)

At the start of the 80s, McVie helped propel Fleetwood Mac up the pop charts once again, co-writing the propulsive Mirage hits Love in Store and Hold Me. The latter boasts fanciful music that felt more lighthearted after Tusk’s many laboured experiments: after starting off with several bars of twinkling piano, Hold Me blooms into an effervescent pop song with whirling percussion and braided vocal harmonies. Lyrically, however, there was more uncertainty lurking. McVie’s narrator is casual about letting a potential partner know she’s available, while at the same time lamenting: “You hold the percentage / But I’m the fool payin’ the dues.”

Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere (1987)

Thirty-five years after its release, Fleetwood Mac’s lush Tango in the Night LP remains a vibrant cultural touchstone. That’s largely due to the effervescent Everywhere, a gauzy song that’s endured thanks to high-profile commercials (a 2013 ad for the mobile phone company 3) and faithful live makeovers (Paramore’s ebullient 2017 cover). Everywhere also just so happens to be one of the best pop songs ever written about the first blushes of infatuation, courtesy of McVie’s hopeful vocal tone and joyous chorus (“I want to be with you everywhere”) and giddy keyboards that sparkle like sun glinting off the ocean.

Fleetwood Mac – Little Lies (1987)

Coping with romantic distress isn’t easy, although there are ways to ameliorate the pain. On the shimmering, synth-heavy Little Lies – a co-write with then-husband Eddy Quintela – McVie offers one solution: she requests that a soon-to-be-ex “tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies” to cushion the blow of rejection and the realisation that a relationship is on its way out. Little Lies’ music reinforces the soft landing, from the well-placed chorus backing vocals from Nicks and Buckingham to the ghostly, whispered cries of “close your eyes” floating on the verses.


Annie Zaleski

The GuardianTramp

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