Fleetwood Mac: "Rhiannon" live, 1976

Continuing to fuel my rekindled love affair with Fleetwood Mac's California cocaine trilogy is this scorching version of "Rhiannon" live on The Midnight Special, June 11, 1976. Trust me, stay with it 'til the end. The original track is from the 1975 album Fleetwood Mac. (Thanks, Tristan Eldritch!)


  1. Woah–don’t miss the crescendo starting at 5:00. Didn’t expect that at the end of my nice, mellow Fleetwood track. Go, girl!

      1. Nicks based the song on Mary Leader’s novel “Triad,” a then-fashionable novel about a woman, Rhiannon, with a split personality (Bronwen). I realized it the second I first heard it (I’m reluctant to admit it was the first airing of this very Midnight Special episode). Tears later Stevie Nicks said in an interview that she’d based it on a “popular novel.”

  2. Anyone who dropped out of this video in the first third, go back. From the guitar solo at 3:30 all the way the the end, it’s an example of how absolutely great this band was live. 

    1. And yet somehow the audience remains seated!
      How’d they manage that?

  3. Here’s my favourite Fleetwood Mac video; Stevie Nicks breaking into Wild Heart during a Rolling Stone photo shoot. It’s probably among the better videos on YouTube:

    1. That was awesome.

      I’d like to add this one too. It isn’t live performance footage but this demo to Silver Springs is beautiful, broke down and haunting. Mostly because of the sparseness of the original recording but helped in no small way by accidental audio decay, buzzing and echoes. I saw it on You Tube a few years ago and it deserves a listen.

  4. Not to be Mr. Silly Noob, but what is  The California Cocaine Trilogy? I’ve never heard of it, and Google just sent me back to boingboing.

    1. I’m guessing it’s the first three albums with Buckingham & Nicks: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, and Tusk.

      1.  Google just sent me back to boingboing

        For a moment there, we were all in danger of being stuck in an infinite loop.  But @boingboing-f35fd567065af297ae65b621e0a21ae9:disqus showed up to save the day… time… continuum… or something.

  5. Grey-Eyed Man, the cocaine trilogy refers to the version of the band from the time Buckingham/Nicks joined (the eponymous Fleewood Mac album), then Rumors (a masterpiece), and culminating in Tusk (a bloated 2-record set that would have been a masterpiece too if it had been edited down to one record).  These albums represent a highly volatile creative peak for a band chock-full of talent, fueled by drugs, sex, and money in the post-hippie California scene.

  6. Sounds pretty much as vacuous as I remember it from the day. This is what happens when blues goes to California to die.

    1. Wow, what blues are they perverting? I don’t mean “all of it,” in the “Muddy Waters, man. All rock comes from the blues” way, but if you’re thinking this song is some direct derivative of some style of blues, even in parody, I’m curious to know what that is so I can listen to more of it. I’m not a huge Mac (or blues) fan, but I do like those gray areas.

      1. From the All Music Guide: “While most bands undergo a number of changes over the course of their careers, few groups experienced such radical stylistic changes as Fleetwood Mac. Initially conceived as a hard-edged British blues combo in the late ’60s, the band gradually evolved into a polished pop/rock act over the course of a decade. . . The roots of Fleetwood Mac lie in John Mayall’s legendary British blues outfit, the Bluesbreakers. Bassist John McVie was one of the charter members of the Bluesbreakers, joining the group in 1963. In 1966 Peter Green replaced Eric Clapton, and a year later drummer Mick Fleetwood joined. Inspired by the success of Cream, the Yardbirds, and Jimi Hendrix, the trio decided to break away from Mayall in 1967.”

        And from the review of their debut LP: “Fleetwood Mac’s debut LP was a highlight of the late-’60s British blues boom. Green’s always inspired playing, the capable (if erratic) songwriting, and the general panache of the band as a whole placed them leagues above the overcrowded field. Elmore James is a big influence on this set . . . ”

        So not this song, specifically, but the band as a whole.

        1. I see, you’re saying FM was a blues band, rather than “Rhiannon” being some form of perverted (or murdered) blues, which I can see, but bands change styles all the time.

          1.  True enough. But I can’t think of one that has shifted as far as this one did other than Spinal Tap. Rhiannon is about as far from Elmore James as it is possible to get without a bubble machine.

    2. pjcamp is here to remind everyone that the music they love is vacuous.

      Let’s all thank pjcamp for contributing his musical wisdom to the conversation.

      1.  No, pjcamp is here to express purely his own tastes. Yours may vary. I never liked Fleetwood Mac, but that doesn’t mean no one can or should. As Umberto Eco wrote, “The beauty of the cosmos derives not only from unity in variety but also from variety in unity.”

        1. Nothing wrong at all with any kind of musical taste.  I agree with Eco that variety is a great thing, but I don’t know if even he would understand the impulse to tell a group of people who are talking about how much they enjoy a piece of music that the piece they’re enjoying is vacuous.

          What’s the point?  Obviously, your opinion isn’t inherently less valuable than anyone else’s, but in a room of positive reactions, your lone negative reaction (not merely a description of your opinion, like, “Not really my thing,” but an aspersion of the work itself) contributes less than nothing.

          Contrarianism can be useful in practical matters, but no amount of analysis can keep it from being quite useless when it comes to art.

          1.  “but in a room of positive reactions, your lone negative reaction . . . contributes less than nothing.”

            So the “variety in unity” part, not so much?

            Don’t express your opinion if it is not in the groove. Got it.

        2. So the “variety in unity” part, not so much?

          You had no part in the “unity.”  You simply came here to shit on everyone’s appreciation of a song.  It’s not a huge deal, but you should at least have the balls to own it.

          Don’t express your opinion if it is not in the groove. Got it.

          No, no.  It’s “Don’t express your opinion in an inconsiderate and obnoxious way, and then become defensive when you get called on it.”

          It’s not about banal truisms regarding the value in a variety of opinions or expressing them.  It’s about you sticking your head into a room full of people celebrating something positive, just so everyone can know that you think the thing that makes them feel so good is, in fact, vacuous.

          Having an opinion and expressing it is easy.  It’s one of the first things children learn to do.  Knowing when and how to express that opinion so as to maintain a sense of basic courtesy is not as easy, but it’s well worth learning how to do.

          That’s all I have to say about this. Take care.

          1.  So don’t participate unless you agree. Yeah.

            You could take a lesson from niktemadur, below, who disagrees with me but acknowledges others might disagree with him. Which pretty much was my position as well and that of anyone older than 13.

    3. This is what happens when blues goes to California to die.

      I don’t know about that.  Fleetwood Mac may have started as a rock-blues band, but during the Bob Welch era they turned into mellow power pop, and they were still in the UK at that time.  Granted, Welch was “a yankee in King Arthur’s court”, and it was he who convinced the other band members to move to the United States.

      Then there’s that weird, wonderful phenomenon where so many British teenagers in the early sixties got their eager hands on old blues records, imitated at first, then filtered it in their own way and made it their own, always in loving tribute.  Fleetwood Mac “going California” (just like Zeppelin did, in their own way) is just another event in a constant, fascinating evolution of music.

      The presence of Buckingham/Nicks finalized a transformation of the blues origins of Fleetwood Mac, ironically taking that yearning for “the mythic America” in the UK and twisting it back into a yearning for ancient Celtic culture in the USA, case in point – “Rhiannon”, a song about a Welsh witch, written by a girl born in Phoenix, Arizona, of all places.

      One last point and back to your other statement:  Sounds pretty much as vacuous as I remember it from the day.

      You know, gimme Freeman Stowers’ “Railroad Blues”, Geeshie Wiley’s “Last Kind Word Blues”, Furry Lewis’ “Kassie Jones”, and I’m a happy, happy camper.  But you can also give me “All Over My Head” or “Second Hand News”, because I find it equally nourishing.

  7. Okay, that was actually pretty damn good.  A few thoughts:

    Sexy yet disturbing how the person in the production booth kept the zoom on Nicks for so long.  Contrast how we get to see McVie (nee Perfect) splitting the screen with Nicks for about 10 seconds, and that’s it.

    The guitar freakout is tame by Buckingham standards, but hey, Buckingham phoning it in is still superior to almost everyone else.

    I can picture people back in the day, watching TV late on Saturday, then this comes on, and they’re like “What the hell was that?”, as in “OK, game changer”.  Quite a setup for Rumors.

    Finally, why does YouTube now reload the whole thing when one clicks “Replay”?

      1. At first glance, that makes sense, but then I started thinking (oh no, run and hide quick, everyone) aloud towards the general direction of YouTube:

        A 5 minute grace period between repeats sounds like a reasonable proposition, I doubt repeats spaced ten seconds, or even a minute or two apart, will generate much useful information for YouTube. Too much statistical deviation noise.

        Maybe I have to “rewind” because I started daydreaming while looking at the video, maybe I had to use the restroom, maybe I had to direct my attention to an annoying mosquito or a text message or a thousand other things… you get the idea.

  8. When Peter Green was asked why he named his group after the drummer and bass player he said it was because front men always move on and he wanted to leave them with a workable legacy. Consequently they got to sit center stage through three different mega-hit eras. They were (are?) performing a few Peter Green songs all the way through, World Keep on Turning for example.

    The first Fleetwood Mac was awesome, too. No?

    1. I really, REALLY like the Bob Welch era, too.  So many personnel changes, I believe Welch would be part of the third lineup stable enough to put out two or more albums.

      Now’s a good time to say it was a crime to exclude Green and Welch from the Fleetwood Mac induction into the Rock And Roll HOF, chalk up yet another reason why that organization sucks.  Example:
      Who’s in? The Chili Peppers, Neil Diamond, Madonna, Abba.
      Who’s not?  Roxy Music, Big Star, Tim Buckley, T Rex, King Crimson, etc.

  9. I saw them play in a Roller Rink in Salt Lake City on the first Rumours tour.  They were in fact perhaps one of the greatest live bands ever — by 1975, when I saw them, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood had been playing live together for many years already, and were pretty much one musician with two heads.

  10. > Trust me, stay with ’til the end

    Ok I give… sounds like the same live version that’s has been played since I can remember…

  11. Saw them on that same tour, a month earlier in Reno, NV.  It was near the end of 9th grade, my second concert ever.  I was on the floor, about 20 feet from her.  Thanks for the memory.

  12. Christine McVie has always been unduly overlooked. She was a huge part of the band’s creativity and sound. And Buckingham continues to release great, albeit more out-there music.

    Great, great video. It’s hard to believe that this music was created during the disco era.

  13. The Midnight Special hosted some epic performances in the Days Before Hair Conditioner.
    My favorite: Peter Frampton, “Do You Feel Like We Do” from 1975.  It was recorded before “Frampton Comes Alive” was released.  http://youtu.be/y7rFYbMhcG8

  14. I saw them play about that time, and they tore it up, they were an outstanding live band. Saw the Eagles play at the same festival, and in comparison to Fleetwood Mac the Eagles looked like some uninspired cover band, not one extra note played or emotion expressed.

    Also, it’s a shame the video didn’t show a the full stage instead of all closeups; Stevie’s dancing was easy on the eyes as I recall. Of course, I was younger then.

  15. Great version,yes, but the most amazing thing to me is that I can play it from YouTube in 720p HD and it has a 16:9 aspect ratio with rich colors. Most TV stock from the 70s looks like it has been deteriorating in a musty basement for 30 years.

Comments are closed.