Sep 06

FLEETWOOD MAC – “Albatross”

FT + Popular77 comments • 9,162 views

#264, 1st February 1969


The appearance of not one, but two instrumentals in the late 60s lists shouldn’t be taken as any great sign of a revival: the first months of the year are generally the time when minority tastes can break through. This represents a hiccup in their long decline, but the days of pop instrumentals regularly reaching the top had long gone. Those older hits were light, frisky, dance-ready; “The Good, The Bad…” and “Albatross” are both thicker concentrates of pure mood.

In the case of “Albatross” there’s not even a film to prompt you, so its associations need to be even more compelling. Of all the instrumentals to reach number one, “Albatross” is closest to the ‘exotica’ and lounge music that enjoyed 50s and 60s popularity: a collection of ruthlessly pared-down sound-ideas. The tidal throb of the bass and drums, the seaspray brushes and cymbals – this is soundscaping the Martin Denny way, with a one word title setting the tone like a cherry in the cocktail glass.

It teeters close to kitsch (and is no worse for that) but the glory of the record is the marriage of this briney confection with Peter Green’s wistful, wandering guitar line – an element of subdued individuality that is quite foreign to exotica. Green’s appearance in the track is like a single figure on a postcard seascape – it lends the vista scale and makes it feel more wild and mysterious and lonesome, not more human.



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  1. 31
    intothefireuk on 14 Sep 2006 #

    ok just Bert then

  2. 32
    Doctor Mod on 15 Sep 2006 #

    I think the point was that Duane Eddy had a strong appeal in the UK, quite likely more than he did in his own country, where surf music held the spotlight for awhile.

  3. 33
    koganbot on 16 Sep 2006 #

    1967 = happy happy pop-will-save-the-world
    1968 = turmoil and chaos everywhere (which rock culture reflects and expresses)
    1969 = the grim morning after (even if you DIDN’T have the flu)

    She is like a kid in the dark. Then she is the darkness. Dreams unwind and love is hard to find.

    My actuality, btw: 1967, generally unhappy, terrified; despised self, occasional resurrection of esteem as year goes on. 1968, tentatively taking initiative. 1969, flat-out happy, esp. the second half (and on like that through mid 1970).

    U.S. actuality, 1969: Jets and Mets win championships. Everything is wonderful. Billboard Top Ten: 1. Sugar, Sugar, The Archies 2. Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In 5th Dimension 3. Honky Tonk Women, The Rolling Stones 4. Come Together/Something, The Beatles, 5. Everyday People, Sly &The Family Stone, 6. Crimson And Clover, Tommy James &The Shondells, 7. I Can’t Get Next To You, The Temptations 8. Get Back, The Beatles W/Billy Preston, 9. Someday We’ll Be Together Diana Ross &The Supremes, 10. Dizzy, Tommy Roe. (Well, not everything is wonderful, but just want to bring in other perspectives.)

    Summer of Love, 1967: Newark, July 12 to July 15, 23 people dead, 725 injured, property damage $10 million. Detroit, July 23 to July 28, 43 dead, 467 injured, property damage $40 to $80 million.

    Not that Mark’s line is wrong for the general movement of the counter culture; listen to the Airplane’s buoyant “Ballad of You, Me & Pooneil” from early ’68 and then to the grim “Ballad of Pooneil Corners” later that year. (Grace, though, got grim before everybody else.) But (1) that’s only the counterculture (“La La I Think I Love You” and “Yummy Yummy Yummy” don’t reflect turmoil and chaos, and there’s a lot more of that on the charts than anything that does; highest ranking rock-that-is-supposedly-not-also-pop-song is “Sunshine of Your Love”), and (2) counterculture mood ’69 not a morning after at all in U.S., but rather, now we resist and organize. And 1969 much more than 1967 has the idea We Are Something New And We Will Win.

    Also, spring ’68 in Europe, spring ’70 in U.S. So, different time-line.

  4. 34
    koganbot on 16 Sep 2006 #

    Very similar guitar instrumental styles were packaged as country guitar boogie, cowboy music, surf music, and spy music. So the fact that (for instance) “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” wasn’t being sold as surf music doesn’t mean you weren’t basically hearing surf-style guitar in it. Hard to think of the Shadows as being different in kind from the Ventures (though I don’t know the Shadows music that well, and I might think otherwise if I did).

  5. 35
    koganbot on 16 Sep 2006 #

    I barely know the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac at all – “Albatross” may be the only track I’ve heard. Don’t even think I’ve heard their “Black Magic Woman.” In 1970 and 1971 I’d visit my friend Hoppity and we’d listen to albums from the next era (what is generally known as The Penguins Fucking Era). I remember liking this but honestly can’t tell you what it sounds like. I’m sure I’ve heard some of the Bob Welch stuff, but again I can’t really tell you anything about it. And way-back-when I owned the famous Clapton-era John Mayall’s Bluesbreaker album, but can’t tell you anything about the bass playing.

    So I’m going to basically make up some things that might connect the early and the late Fleetwood Mac. Let’s say in the mid ’60s McVie and Fleetwood aren’t just listening to “real” American blues music, they’re listening to the Yardbirds and the Kinks and taking in those groups’ experiments with drones and crescendos and with simple note repetitions that erupt out of a song and become the basis for rhythm-built rave-ups. So, whenever it is in late ’74 or ’75 that Fleetwood hears Lindsey Buckingham, he’s hearing something he’s familiar with, a guitarist who uses drones and single-note leads and rhythms to build up an overall sound, rather than one who takes his guitar to the center; so, one who can work with Christine’s piano atmospherics. (Well, Fleetwood’s hearing something I’m familiar with, at any rate. As I said, I’m making this up.) Lindsey and his cute girlfriend (part of Lindsey’s condition for joining the group is that Stevie be invited as well) can also create catchy songs out of such drones and repetitions (e.g., “Dreams,” “Rhiannon”) and can create songs from which drones and repetitions take over (“Gold Dust Woman,” “The Chain,” and live versions of “Rhiannon”, one of which I’ve linked for you). In addition, the cutie-pie girlfriend turns out to be a spitfire of a vocalist. And the group can layer California harmonies atop all. But really, underneath, the form has more in common with the Yardbirds, Kinks, and Velvets than it does with the Eagles or Linda Ronstadt. At least on the songs of theirs I love.

  6. 36

    diff between shads and ventures = glide vs drive? something like that — in the big well-known hits, anyway, the shadows hit that thing which classical music also does, of encouraging you to forget that this is a bunch of guys PLAYING this in real-time: it’s more ethereal and bodiless than that (is that true of the ventures? memory sez no)

    but yes, the point abt a particular appraoch to guitar spreading simultaneously across otherwise disconnected genres is spot-on: i would (partly) explain this by the emergence in the mid-late 50s of new models of amp and pick-up, and recording studio techniques to harness the newly possible sound

    (do musicians listen “cross-genre” more than listeners? probably silly to generalise, but when it comes to “picking up useable tips”, i wd imagine players are just more magpie-ish than the “ideology of genre” inclines fans to be — plus of course fans have no pressure to “pick up tips”, bcz why wd they?)

  7. 37
    Tom on 16 Sep 2006 #

    According to the history of Britain in the 60s I’m reading, the post-67 gloom crash wasn’t just a counter-cultural thing over here, indeed the counter-culture seems to have been a bubble of relative immunity to a wider hand-wringing that accompanied general “Britain in decline” angst (crystallised by the devaluation of the pound towards the end of ’67).

  8. 38
    Mark M on 11 May 2009 #

    So it turns out from that doc they showed on BBC4 the other night that Peter Green says “telly-vision”, which is great. What was lacking was any archive interview with him, so it is hard to know whether he sounded as strongly old East End Jewish in the ’60s as he does now – if so, that would have been a big contrast to much of the rest of the British blues scene, which as a couple of people pointed out in the Blues Britannia programme, was very middle class.
    The classic bit in the Peter Green documentary was Mick Fleetwood sitting there going “John feels very strongly about this…” with McVie right beside him and completely silent.

  9. 39
    Waldo on 3 Aug 2009 #

    This was a rare case of a record being loved by all and sundry in my family including my dear old Edwardian dad, who despised pop/rock and all its works. The old bugger was 48 at the time of “Albatross”, which in today’s money is about 73. I still maintain that this piece of music is superb and will always stand the test of time. I had totally forgotten that it came back in the seventies and got within a whisker of repeating the trick again. As has been mentioned, “Man Of The World” and “Oh Well” followed for Mac and both stalled at number two. Far from finding these “bleak” (Marcello!), the child Waldo thought they were both cracking and, after all, quite different from each other, the former a rather sad, soft little ballad and the latter a Zeppelin-esque rock blast. The fact that we don’t get to discuss either of them in their own right I think is a pity.

  10. 40
    AndyPandy on 3 Aug 2009 #

    My dad loved this too – I’ve got extremely early memories (possibly from the time this was originally big or very soon after) of him saying how much he liked it – and being born in 1933 his taste’s were completely non rock n roll.
    And you’re right it is a classic and a pretty unique type of Number One too.

  11. 41
    Lazarus on 5 Feb 2011 #

    Some interesting comments here on the only Mac song to make the list, but in all seriousness does anyone know if the ‘latterday’ incarnation ever performed this in concert? I can just about imagine Lindsey taking the lead (“tonight Matthew, I’m going to be Peter Green!”) but what would Stevie have done – stood patting disconsolately on a tambourine? Same goes for their other other 60s hits, I suppose it would have been difficult for the ‘classic’ lineup to carry them off. I always liked ‘Man of the World’ though.

    Oh and hello, by the way.

  12. 42
    wichita lineman on 6 Feb 2011 #

    Hello Lazarus. That’s a good question. A quick of their 2009 set list shows Oh Well, which I’d love to have seen. I can’t imagine them doing The Green Manalishi, though.

  13. 43
    enitharmon on 6 Feb 2011 #

    As far as I’m concerned the Peter Green lineup is the classic lineup.

  14. 44
    swanstep on 7 Feb 2011 #

    Amazing record – and amazing that it got to #1. Tears for Fears’s Everybody wants to rule the world has always sounded to me like a 1.5x-speed version of this (and excellent for it). Abba’s (excellent) Eagle also seems indebted. I dunno, from this and Telstar and I Feel Love you can probably compute most of the good, instrumental audio/studio ideas anyone’s ever had in pop.

  15. 45
    punctum on 7 Feb 2011 #

    Even in the Motown/Stax-a-go-go euphoria of the 1969 chart cheerfully counted down by Blackburn on Saturday’s POTP (well, he has every right to be cheerful about this chart since he was directly responsible for most of it), “Blackberry Way” at number one and this at number two made a suitably sobering, if somewhat deflating, British cherry for the cake; Stevie bursting out of “For Once In My Life” for post-MFK/RFK America, followed by…um, it’s raining, wonder if my Co-Op Dividend Stamps book will be filled up today…

  16. 46
    Erithian on 7 Feb 2011 #

    Poignant BBC4 doco on Peter Green on Friday, detailing the dark experience he had at a drug-fuelled “happening” in Munich which led to his disintegration and mental illness. He took a long time to get to the other side, and you wonder what kind of career he missed out on. You wonder about the band’s reaction when he presented them with “Green Manalishi” too.

  17. 47
    Cumbrian on 7 Feb 2011 #

    #46: Don’t know what their reaction to it initially was but their musical reaction was pretty great – Green Manalishi is alive with malevolence, a really fat groove played loud and driven into the brain. Fleetwood and McVie in particular play the hell out of it. I think Peter Green’s ululations in the fade out sound like what he was about to go through (or at least a decent metaphor of it – the descent into hell, with the spectral vocal lost in the fire). For me, it’s one of the best “drug” records – and, a bit like Renton coming off heroin in Trainspotting or pretty much all of Requiem For A Dream, it doesn’t make them sound like much fun at all.

  18. 48
    Mark G on 9 Feb 2011 #

    Although the doc pointed out it was more about “money”, being green, etc..

  19. 49
    Snif on 9 Feb 2011 #

    Even Kermit the Frog was sympathetic to Pete’s plight….”It’s not easy being Green….”

  20. 50
    Jimmy the Swede on 11 Feb 2011 #

    I could imagine the very pleasant Caroline Lucas being persuaded to give us a chorus of that for the benefit of Children in Need/Comic Relief etc, which seem to come round every other month now.

  21. 51
    Mark M on 27 Mar 2011 #

    Half-overheard in M&S yesterday, possibly do with the anti-cuts demonstration/(Italian, apparently) anarchist hijacking of same:

    Precocious child: “…did David Cameron do that?”

    Know it all dad: “No, it was Peter Green, the owner of TopShop.”

    Immediately start trying to imagine a Britain where Peter Green had been our dominant business mogul…

  22. 52
    Lazarus on 27 Mar 2011 #

    Not the top man at TopShop no, but certainly a leading supplier of chilled and frozen produce. I don’t know if Albert Ross is on the payroll …

  23. 53
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #


    Phil Edmonds, Cricketer(1986)

    Duke of Westminster, property developer(1995).

  24. 54

    some notes i made on the peter green documentary (which was on telly-vision last night)

    like Mark M above, I was amused by Fleetwood speaking on behalf of a glowering McVie, right there beside him: rhythm sections eh?

  25. 55
    Mark M on 31 May 2012 #

    Re 54: In his notes, Lord Sukrat points out that Noel Gallagher is wheeled out in the Peter Green programme to make the case for his enduring importance. Now, I don’t know if he was the only contemporary-ish talking head because a) the producers thought he was a true trump card and no other was needed or b) there was no one else, possibly because (as Sukrat suggests) the British blues boom is a historical irrelevance, not least because (I suggest) nobody under 50 (60?) bar Jack White* believes that rock needs to legitimise itself by establishing its roots in the blues. Also, the idea of a musically tasteful guitar hero is a pretty bizarre one in 2012. The Peter Green story, of course, is an amazing one whatever you think of his music.
    I was thinking of this because by way of contrast, BBC4’s John Cooper Clarke doc was highly thorough in establishing his standing in his own generation, the one that followed (Stewart Lee, Miranda Sawyer, Javis) and ver kids, as represented by Alex Turner and Kate Nash (who were taught JCC in skool) and Plan B, who said he stumbled across Clarke via The Sopranos, and was taken with his flow.

    *And possibly The Roots, here jamming with Green’s successor in the Bluesbreakers, an initially very uncomfortable-looking Mick Taylor.

  26. 56
    Tommy Mack on 2 Jun 2012 #

    I can’t imagine there are many performers in the charts who’ve heard of, let alone are influenced by Pete Green, so it was probably the later. I’ve always instinctively recoiled from ‘good taste’ as it’s often used by the likes of Noel Gallagher to mean an avoidance of excess or looking silly: that is, as John Robb says, good taste is the enemy of the revolution because good taste is ultimately conservatism: it’s all about what you musn’t do. Some of Pete Green’s playing though has a delicacy and beauty to it that feels ‘tasteful’ in a different way: pretty, nuanced and rich and makes me (grudgingly) admit that good taste can sometimes equal great music.

    Jamming with old blues dudes could surely be just as much about having fun playing with a cool old-timer with killer chops as it is about legitimising your music through association with respected elder statesmen, no? (except when Noel G got up with Crazy Horse and then bragged that ‘we’re already respected by bands from the 60s: you don’t see Thom from f*ckin’ Radiohead jamming with the Velvet f*cking Underground’)

  27. 57
    Tommy Mack on 2 Jun 2012 #

    And on the subject of cross-generational collaborations, sad to see Bruce Springsteen doing Hungry Heart with Mumford and Sons: like seeing an obnoxious classmate get picked for a team by a cool teacher you respected…:-(

  28. 58
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 2 Jun 2012 #

    Well we’re going to get plenty of chance to talk about the Gallaghers, sadly. I love John Robb but his grasp of the politics of culture is sketchy at best: how is he not simply arguing in favour of Jedward? He kind of IS Jedward in fact: this is why I love him.

  29. 59
    thefatgit on 8 Jun 2012 #

    Tragic news surrounding Bob Welch’s apparent suicide. He was 66.


  30. 60
    punctum on 8 Jun 2012 #

    Fuckity fuck fuck fuck :-((((((

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