Fleetwood Mac's 25 greatest songs, ranked

1 March 2024, 15:39

Fleetwood Mac are one of the most beloved rock bands of all time.
Fleetwood Mac are one of the most beloved rock bands of all time. Picture: Getty

By Thomas Curtis-Horsfall

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Few bands have a catalogue of songs that endure like Fleetwood Mac's.

And few bands have been through so many iterations and lineup changes as soft-rock legends Fleetwood Mac too.

Originally led by blues guitar virtuoso Peter Green, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie formed his 'Fleetwood Mac', which later evolved into its own entire entity in the world of rock and pop music.

Keyboardist and singer Christine McVie later joined, followed by couple Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, all of whom would transform the band's fortunes, at least in terms of their careers.

Breaking through to the mainstream consciousness with the 1977 album Rumours - an album mired by personal strife, drug abuse, and messy inter-band relationships - Fleetwood Mac established themselves as a soft rock titan, selling 40 million albums in the process.

In total, the Mac have sold more than 120 million records worldwide, winning two Grammy Awards, a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to music, got a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Since their creative heyday, Fleetwood Mac have remained a bill-topping draw, despite the band's fractious relationships causing friction even still, with Lindsey Buckingham being fired in 2018.

After the passing of Christine McVie in 2022, the future of Fleetwood Mac is unclear. Their legacy as a pop rock phenomenon will remain, and we've ranked their twenty-five best songs to prove it.

  1. 'Tusk'

    Fleetwood Mac - Tusk (Official Music Video)

    A curveball for Fleetwood Mac after the astronomical success of Rumours, Lindsey Buckingham found himself preoccupied with the advent of new wave artists such as Talking Heads.

    The result of his newfound adoration was Tusk, an ambitious double album that puzzled many of their fair-weather fans.

    The title track however was a hit - complete with marching band and bizarre recordings like a leg of lamb being slapped by a spatula - reaching the top ten in both the UK and the US.

    Slang for the male member, 'Tusk' was objected to by Stevie Nicks after Buckingham suggested the title, though it ended up sticking.

  2. 'Over My Head'

    Over My Head

    It was Christine McVie and 'Over My Head' which paved the way for Fleetwood Mac to become one of the decade's most successful rock bands.

    The 1975 song about feeling unsure in a relationship saw them crack the top 40 in the US charts for the very first time.

    It signified a new era for Fleetwood Mac, with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks recently joining, all but leaving their previous blues rock baggage behind.

    After frequent radio play, the song pushed their self-titled 1975 all the way to the top of the album charts too the following year.

  3. 'Never Going Back Again'

    Never Going Back Again (2004 Remaster)

    An innocent enough country-rock ditty on the surface, 'Never Going Back Again' showcases Lindsey Buckingham's master craftsmanship not only as a songwriter, but also as a guitarist.

    The inspiration for the lyrics however came from a one-night-stand he had whilst on the road with the band, after his and Stevie Nicks' recent break-up.

    Despite the fleeting nature of the lyrical inspiration, 'Never Going Back Again' took a painstakingly long time to complete according to recording assistant Cris Morris.

    "It was Lindsey's pet project, just two guitar tracks but he did it over and over again. In the end his vocal didn't quite match the guitar tracks so we had to slow them down a little."

  4. 'Tango In The Night'

    Tango in the Night (2017 Remaster)

    A surging new age rock song which served as the title song of their 1987 album, 'Tango In The Night' was a peak moment on the album.

    Overshadowed by the single releases, it still managed to chart highly based on radio play.

    A song that was initially intended for one of Lindsey Buckingham's solo projects, he eventually invited Fleetwood Mac to record the song with him, with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie's rhythm section laying down arguably their muscliest and meanest work ever.

  5. 'Say You Love Me'

    Fleetwood Mac - Say You Love Me (Live) [HD Remaster]

    Christine McVie proved her songwriting chops with 'Say You Love Me', where she took on lead vocals herself.

    Featuring on the band's 1975 self-titled album, the first to include Buckingham and Nicks, McVie said she could sense the future being bright during rehearsals.

    'Say You Love Me' was the first idea Fleetwood Mac rehearsed with their newest members, with Christine later recalling the magic in the room.

    She was right: the song peaked at No.11 on the US Billboard charts, continuing the band's hot streak of popular singles from the same album.

  6. 'The Green Manalishi'

    The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) (2013 Remaster)

    'The Green Manalishi', one of Peter Green's most memorable riffs, was the result of his LSD experimentation which triggered violent dreams.

    Though, the song wasn't about acid - it was about his obsession with money which distanced him from reality.

    He told Mojo magazine in 1996: "You're not what you used to be. You think you're better than them. You used to be an everyday person like a shop assistant, just a regular working person.' I had been separated from it because I had too much money. So I thought, How can I change that?"

    It reached the top ten of the UK charts, and was Peter Green's final hit as a Fleetwood Mac member.

  7. 'Hold Me'

    Fleetwood Mac - Hold Me (Official Music Video)

    Christine McVie's relationship with The Beach Boys' Dennis Wilson inspired this 1982 hit 'Hold Me', who dated for several years after she divorced bassist John McVie.

    Band tensions continued to linger however, according to Simon Fields who produced the accompanying music video.

    "John McVie was drunk and tried to punch me. Stevie Nicks didn't want to walk on the sand with her platforms. Christine McVie was fed up with all of them," he said in Craig Marks' book I Want My MTV. "They were a fractious bunch."

    Despite the simmering feuds, 'Hold Me' stands up as one of the band's sweeter singles, reaching number four on the US Billboard charts.

  8. 'Silver Springs'

    Fleetwood Mac - Silver Springs (Official Live Video) [HD]

    Though 'Silver Springs' was written for Rumours, it didn't make the cut and was released as a B-side instead, despite being one of Stevie Nicks' finer moments.

    Of course, she wrote the song about her break-up with fellow band member Buckingham: "I'll follow you down till the sound of my voice will haunt you."

    Stevie predicted whilst writing the song that it would be him that haunted her, and she was proved to be correct because of the success they achieved.

    She reflected on the song in 2009, telling Rolling Stone: "It was me realising that Lindsey was going to haunt me for the rest of my life, and he has."

  9. 'Black Magic Woman'

    Black Magic Woman

    Often mistaken for a Santana song after the Mexican-born guitarist covered it in 1970, 'Black Magic Woman' was first a hit for Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac two years prior.

    Drummer Mick Fleetwood later referred to the song as "three minutes of sustain/reverb guitar with two exquisite solos from Peter", a sentiment which was mirrored by Carlos Santana.

    "I used to go to see the original Fleetwood Mac, and they used to kill me, just knock me out," he said in the book The Guitar Greats. "To me, they were the best blues band."

    Peter Green befriended some people who were practising black magic, which supposedly inspired the song, though they'd encourage him to dabble with LSD which ultimately led to his exile and departure from the band.

  10. 'Landslide'

    Fleetwood Mac - Landslide (Official Music Video) [HD]

    Written about her relationship with a supportive father, Stevie Nicks penned 'Landslide' after he encouraged her to return to her studies if music didn't pay off. Fortuitously, it did after she joined Fleetwood Mac.

    "Three months later, Mick Fleetwood called. On New Year's Eve, 1974, called and asked us to join Fleetwood Mac. So it was three months, I still had three more months to go to beat my six-month goal that my dad gave me."

    Appearing on their 1975 self-titled album, 'Landslide' has since become one of the band's most touching moments, with Nicks recently paying tribute to the late Christine McVie with this song.

    When they reunited in 1997 for The Dance tour, Nicks and Buckingham would perform this alone together on stage, with Stevie telling Rolling Stone: "You can go onstage and have a bit of a love affair, and when you go back to your separate dressing rooms, it's over. But while you're on the stage, it's real."

  11. 'Sara'

    Fleetwood Mac - Sara (Official Music VIdeo)

    'Sara' remains a personal favourite of Stevie Nicks' Fleetwood Mac songs, though it has a deeply personal back story.

    In 1977, she dated the Eagles' Don Henley, but aborted the child they had after she fell pregnant. She wanted to call the baby Sara, and the name stuck with her.

    For Fleetwood Mac's 1979 ambitious double album Tusk, Nicks drew from that experience, as well as her relationship with Mick Fleetwood who broke up with her to date her model friend Sara Recor. Complicated, right?

    Stevie confirmed in 2014 that "had I married Don and had that baby, and had she been a girl, I would have named her Sara."

  12. 'Everywhere'

    Fleetwood Mac - Everywhere (Official Music Video)

    Though Fleetwood Mac's style adapted to the times during the eighties, it didn't alter their ability to write timeless hits.

    Case and point in Christine McVie's 'Everywhere' from the seminal album of the era, Tango In The Night.

    It was a sizeable hit for the band, reaching number four in the UK charts, because it's just so effortlessly singable.

    McVie herself must've been on cloud nine when she was writing it too - she married keyboard player Eddy Quintela while they were working on the 1987 album, though later split in 2003.

  13. 'Man Of The World'

    Fleetwood Mac - Man Of The World - 2nd version (1969)

    Without doubt the most affecting song that Peter Green ever penned, 'Man Of The World' offered a glimpse into the fragile mind frame of an artist struggling with his increasing fame and fortune.

    Only a year later, Green left Fleetwood Mac and gave all of his money away to charity.

    The beautiful ballad was a massive hit for the band, reaching number two in the UK after its 1969 release.

    Mick Fleetwood later reflected: "It's a sad song. Had we known what Peter was saying... What's that line? 'How I wish that I'd never been born.' You know, whoa. It's pregnant with passion, it's a prayer, it's a crying out."

  14. 'Big Love'

    Fleetwood Mac - Big Love (Live: The Dance)

    'Big Love', the lead single from Fleetwood Mac's 1987 album Tango In The Night was initially intended to be the cornerstone of a Lindsey Buckingham solo album, until Christine McVie convinced him otherwise.

    Coming back together in 1985 after their 1982 split in the wake of Mirage, things became complicated once again when Stevie Nicks came back into the studio, with tensions boiling over during a dragged-out eighteen months perfecting the album.

    Despite their grievances, 'Big Love' spearheaded the success of Tango In The Night, and the band were welcomed back with open arms, the single reaching number five in the US charts.

    They didn't play the song live however until their 1997 reunion for The Dance tour, in which Buckingham performs a mesmerising solo version with just an acoustic guitar in accompaniment.

  15. 'Gypsy'

    Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy (Official Music Video)

    In her typically mystic and magical fashion, 'Gypsy' was written by Stevie Nicks about the free and fearless nature of being young.

    Intending to include the song on her 1980 debut solo album, Bella Donna, Nicks recorded it with Fleetwood Mac for their 1982 album Mirage, releasing it as their second single from the album.

    By the time it was recorded, she lost her dear friend Robin Anderson to leukaemia, and 'Gypsy' became a tribute to her.

    Mick Fleetwood revealed that it was one of his favourite songs that the band ever released: "It really crystallises that whole period of the early 1980s, when we were in our mid-30s and beginning to look back at our lost youth."

  16. 'Oh Well'

    Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac - "Oh Well", Live@ Music Mash 1969

    Fleetwood Mac at their raucous, bluesy best is 'Oh Well', a riff-heavy rock jam that cemented Peter Green's status as one of the UK's most promising guitar talents of the sixties.

    His reputation was already in ascent, having replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers before forming Fleetwood Mac.

    Released in two parts, the rockier first part of the song captured fans' imaginations, with part two often overlooked much to Green's dismay: "You miss the best bit, the Spanish guitar break."

    Mick Fleetwood bet Peter Green that 'Oh Well' would tank, and he was proven wrong when it reached number two in the UK charts.

  17. 'Songbird'

    Songbird (2004 Remaster)

    Definitely one of Fleetwood Mac's more saccharine offerings, 'Songbird' has in many ways become Christine McVie's signature song.

    A personal song about the sacrifice of true love, the lyrics weren't about anybody in particular, as McVie later explained: "It's universal. It's about you and nobody else. It's about you and everybody else. That's how I like to write songs."

    The touching, gentle piano ballad was often performed as the encore during Fleetwood Mac's Rumours tour.

    After Christine passed away, Bonnie Raitt, Mick Fleetwood, and Sheryl Crow performed 'Songbird' in tribute to her at the 2023 Grammy Awards.

  18. 'Albatross'

    Fleetwood Mac - Albatross, BBC

    Despite its association with the Marks & Spencer adverts, Fleetwood Mac's 'Albatross' was a major hit for years prior to its food-focused resurgence.

    In fact, 'Albatross' is the biggest-selling instrumental music single of all time, and reached number one in the UK after its 1968 release.

    Only using two guitar chords throughout - Emaj7 and F#m - the song became enormously influential, even inspiring The Beatles' 'Sun King' from 1969 album Abbey Road.

    Green was humble in revealing what inspired the track though, saying: "I heard John Mayall's Bluebreakers cover of blues singer Jimmy Rogers 'The Last Meal'. I thought I would take it and develop it."

  19. 'Don't Stop'

    Fleetwood Mac - Don't Stop (Official Music Video) [4K Remaster]

    Undoubtedly one of the most joyous, fist-pumping optimistic songs to ever reach radio airwaves, 'Don't Stop' arrived in 1977 as the third single from Rumours.

    Written by Christine McVie - who also sings lead vocals - it was an ode to moving on with life and love, after her divorce from the band's bassist John McVie, though he didn't realise it at first.

    In 2015 he told Mojo magazine: "I never put that together. I've been playing it for years and it wasn't until somebody told me, 'Chris wrote that about you.' Oh really?"

    'Don't Stop' took Fleetwood Mac to number three on the US Billboard charts and helped propel the band towards superstardom.

  20. 'Rhiannon'

    Fleetwood Mac - Rhiannon (Official Music Video) [HD Remaster]

    Though at the time she wrote 'Rhiannon' with Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks wasn't aware the name belonged to a Welsh goddess, it suited the nature of the lyrics perfectly.

    "It wasn't until 1978 that I found out about (Welsh medieval prose tales) Mabinogion and that Branwen and Rhiannon are in there too, and that Rhiannon wasn't a witch at all; she was a mythological queen," Nicks said in 2013.

    "But my story was definitely written about a celestial being, I didn't know who Rhiannon was, exactly, but I knew she was not of this world."

    The song's mysticism had a major impact on Stevie herself, who began dressing in witch-like shawls and flowing dresses, a look that would embody her artistry.

    Though 'Rhiannon' wasn't a major hit at the time of its 1975 release, it's become one of Fleetwood Mac's most beloved songs in the years since.

  21. 'The Chain'

    Fleetwood Mac - The Chain (Official Music Video) [HD]

    The build-up. The breakdown. That bassline. 'The Chain' is certainly up there with Fleetwood Mac's most iconic and enduring songs.

    It was also one of the rare instances in which all members of Fleetwood Mac - their latter era - had equal input in a song's creation, and is the only song ever credited to all members.

    Beginning as a Christine McVie demo called 'Butter Cookie (Keep Me There)' that the band would jam out, Nicks and Buckingham re-wrote the lyrics to mirror their crumbling relationship, with John McVie and Mick Fleetwood providing the faultless rhythm section.

    Mick Fleetwood later recalled: "'The Chain' basically came out of a jam. That song was put together as distinct from someone literally sitting down and writing a song. It was very much collectively a band composition. The riff is John McVie's contribution - a major contribution. Because that bassline is still being played on British TV in the car-racing series to this day."

    At the time and in the years since its appearance on Rumours, 'The Chain' has come to represent the band pulling back together amid their personal turmoil.

  22. 'Gold Dust Woman'

    Fleetwood Mac - Gold Dust Woman

    If one song pinpointed the tumultuous lifestyles and love affairs that gripped Fleetwood Mac during their Rumours period, it was 'Gold Dust Woman'.

    Penned by Stevie Nicks who has never confirmed the song's meaning, the lyrics thinly veil the band's troubles with both drugs and deceit, who were consuming inordinate amounts of cocaine at the time.

    "Take your silver spoon, dig your grave," she sings, about a character - perhaps herself - who is on the verge of an overdose.

    The dark gospel leanings of the chorus coupled with the slow-burn country rock composition all swirl perfectly in harmony, in one of the band's most compelling songs.

  23. 'Little Lies'

    Fleetwood Mac - Little Lies (Official Music Video)

    "The idea of the lyric is: If I had the chance, I'd do it differently next time. But since I can't, just carry on lying to me and I'll believe, even though I know you're lying," Christine McVie once said about 'Little Lies'.

    At the time of writing it, she was a madly in love newlywed after marrying Eddy Quintela, but would still draw on her relationship experiences with John McVie and Dennis Wilson.

    Even though the song's lyrics detail a lover in denial, 'Little Lies' is one of Fleetwood Mac's most euphoric songs, becoming a huge hit after it featured on 1987 album, Tango In The Night.

    A top-five smash hit in the UK, the US, and Canada, Lindsey Buckingham had one again had enough of the band by this point and quit, again.

  24. 'Go Your Own Way'

    Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way (Official Music Video) [HD Remaster]

    Whilst their relationship rapidly dissolved, Lindsey Buckingham made his feelings clear to Stevie Nicks through his music.

    The result of this was his smouldering guitar-driven song 'Go Your Own Way', which lays bare the bitterness he had towards her.

    It must've been awkward presenting his lyrics to the band, like "packing up, shacking up is all you want to do," a section Stevie wanted to be removed with Lindsey flatly refusing.

    The tensions and inter-band turmoil only ramped up the tangible emotion in their music, with 'Go Your Own Way' becoming a stomping stadium favourite for fans of the band after its 1977 release.

    A top ten hit, it's one of Lindsey Buckingham's finest moments in Fleetwood Mac.

  25. 'Dreams'

    Fleetwood Mac - Dreams (Official Music Video) [4K Remaster]

    Not wanting to be outdone by her former husband, Stevie Nicks penned her own break-up song: the ethereal and enduring soft rock ballad, 'Dreams'.

    In 2009, Stevie recalled: "I remember the night I wrote 'Dreams.' I walked in and handed a cassette of the song to Lindsey. It was a rough take, just me singing solo and playing piano. Even though he was mad with me at the time, Lindsey played it and then looked up at me and smiled."

    "What was going on between us was sad. We were couples who couldn't make it through. But, as musicians, we still respected each other - and we got some brilliant songs out of it."

    Their fabled emotional turbulence certainly inspired the band to produce their most groundbreaking work - Rumours remains one of the most beloved and best-selling albums of all time to this day.

    With 'Dreams' however, Fleetwood Mac scored their only ever number one hit in the US, a surprise given how familiar their music is.