Before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac’s lead vocalist chair once upon a time featured Bob Welch. From 1971 until 1974, he served as their frontman after replacing Jeremy Spencer. Fans who’ve followed Fleetwood Mac’s career since their original formation in 1967 will recall Bob Welch’s contribution as a lead singer that brought forth a string of hits during the first half of the 1970s. From that list, which are the top ten Bob Welch songs as a Fleetwood Mac contributor that come to mind? Do they match our list? Let’s find out.
What About Bob
Bob Welch was born and raised in Hollywood, California on August 21, 1945. As a child growing up in Tinseltown, one would assume he grew up in a household that knew a thing or two about show business. This assumption would be correct as his father, Robert L. Welch Sr., was a producer and screenwriter employed with Paramount Pictures. His mother, Templeton Fox, was an actress and singer who worked in movies, television, and theatre. When he was a child, the first musical instrument Bob Welch learned was the clarinet. However, the influence of jazz, R&B, and rock and roll gave him cause to pick up the guitar while he was a teenager. When he reached the age to attend college, instead of staying in the United States he went to Paris, France instead. He later returned home with the intent to attend the University of California to study French. However, he didn’t finish what he started as the calling to further venture in his music career won out as the preferred path of choice.
In 1964, Welch joined The Seven Souls as their guitarist. Based in Los Angeles, California, they competed in a Battle of the Bands competition. It was the same one that witnessed Sly and the Family Stone earn the win, as well as a contract with Epic Records. However, The Seven Souls still managed to release “I’m No Stranger” as a single and “I Still Love You” on its B-side. The single failed to make an impression while “I Still Love You” wound up becoming the unexpected favorite. Unfortunately for The Seven Souls, their inability to make the kind of impression they hoped for resulted in the band breaking up in 1969. After this, Welch went back to Paris and began his own group, Head West. As a trio, they didn’t last long as this new venture proved to be an unsuccessful one.
The lack of success Welch experienced sent him to England when Fleetwood Mac returned to their home nation after losing guitarist Jeremy Spencer from the lineup. Luckily for Welch, this popular band was on the hunt for Spencer’s replacement and he proved to be the right man for the job. This opportunity came about courtesy of his former schoolmate, Judy Wong. The two maintained a friendship over time and she just happened to be on Fleetwood Mac’s payroll. Trusting Wong’s judgment, Mick Fleetwood and his bandmates brought Bob Welch on board as their new guitarist after listening to enough of his taped material to like what they heard. Originally, Welch was hired to play rhythm guitar while Danny Kirwan served as the band’s lead guitarist. Now with Fleetwood Mac’s band roster complete again, the group borrowed some mobile equipment and proceeded to record three albums.
At this point, because of Kirwan’s influence on guitar that leaned closer to rock music, Fleetwood Mac’s musical direction wasn’t as bluesy as it started out in 1967. Until April 1970, Peter Green served as the band’s lead singer before he and his bandmates parted company. At the time, Christine Perfect was also part of the lineup and had an unsuccessful attempt at a solo career before using her married name, Christine McVie . It was at this time she was the wife to fellow bandmate, John McVie. They, along with Mick Fleetwood, Danny Kirwan, and Bob Welch, Fleetwood Mac released Future Games in September 1971. Because of this particular lineup, the production resulted in an entirely sound. While this new direction was favorable in the United States, Fleetwood Mac’s fifth studio album experienced its first unsuccessful appearance on the UK Albums Chart. As a result, the popularity of Fleetwood Mac in North America was growing.
In 1972, Bare Trees became the sixth studio album recorded and released by Fleetwood Mac. This featured Welch’s written single, “Sentimental Lady.” He, as well as Christine McVie , shared lead vocalist duties on the album that also included one of McVie’s signature songs, “Spare Me a Little of Your Love.” At this time, the recipe of success Fleetwood Mac experienced as a recording artist continued to flourish. However, trouble was brewing when it came to live concerts. Unfortunately for Danny Kirwan and his bandmates, his addiction to alcohol was taking its toll. It was enough to cause a rift between himself and the rest of Fleetwood Mac’s lineup. The breaking point was the erratic behavior that came from Kirwan just before a live performance that was scheduled in August 1972. Fleetwood Mac had no choice but to fire the man and let him handle all his personal demons on his own.
With Kirwan out of the lineup, Fleetwood Mac went through a series of replacements that briefly included guitarist Bob Weston and vocalist Dave Walker. In the process, Fleetwood Mac also hired road manager John Courage. Courage and Walker once upon a time was part of Savoy Brown’s lineup. It was this particular Fleetwood Mac formation that produced the 1973 album, Penguin. After this, the lack of chemistry Walker had with the Fleetwood Mac lineup resulted in removing him from it. Without him, Fleetwood Mac recorded and released its eighth studio album, Mystery to Me. This was the album that gave Bob Welch further recognition as a vocalist as “Hypnotized” became one of the most popular singles Fleetwood Mac had released as a recording artist so far. As successful as the album was, which became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America, trouble among the ranks of Fleetwood Mac once again began to surface.
Between John and Christine McVie, their marriage was on the rocks. As ideal as it may seem to work and live with your spouse all the time, sometimes it can be a bit much, especially if each person likes to have their own space. When alcoholism joins in to complicate matters even further, this can be a real nightmare. For the McVies, that nightmare became impossible to contain. While their drama ensued, as an affair erupted between Mick Fleetwood’s wife at the time, Jenny Boyd, and his bandmate, Bob Weston. For the albums Penguin and Mystery to Me, Weston served as the band’s lead guitarist. As soon as Mick Fleetwood learned of the affair, he became distraught. Although this wasn’t enough to completely disband Fleetwood Mac it was enough to discourage the group from touring to promote Mystery to Me. Because of this, the popularity of the album waned and it looked like Fleetwood Mac’s days as a band were numbered.
Adding to Fleetwood Mac’s woes as a group was the collapse of the 1973 US Tour that should have catapulted the band’s popularity even further. Instead, the troubles that were brewing at the time resulted in each band member going their own way, including Bob Welch. For the time being, Fleetwood Mac was on hiatus as a group. It was also during this time they had a manager named Clifford Davis. Because of what happened, Davis became worried about his own reputation which resulted in making a business decision that would lead to a lawsuit.
The first mistake Davis made was claiming Fleetwood Mac as a trademarked name that belonged to him. It was his belief he could replace the entire lineup with whomever he saw fit. In 1974, Davis promoted The New Fleetwood Mac and gave them a tour schedule to follow. As good as this particular lineup was, this was not an authentic Fleetwood Mac. In defense of the musicians involved, they were told by Davis the original Fleetwood Mac lineup would join them. When the first concert of this tour took place on January 16, 1974, the fans who attended didn’t know any better, either. As soon as word got out, the fans became hostile as they wanted the real Fleetwood Mac, not imposters. After a disastrous concert in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the Clifford Davis version of Fleetwood Mac became no more.
In a lawsuit that took four years to fight, a settlement was finally reached that had both sides of the argument reach an agreement. Fleetwood Mac remained as a name belonging to its founders, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie while Clifford Davis could no longer claim he owned the name. Oddly enough, instead of being angry with Davis, Fleetwood and McVie were thankful as the lawsuit proceedings had the band call California their home. This move wound up putting Fleetwood Mac in the right place at the right time to come together again as a band and rise from the ashes, better than ever before.
So where did Bob Welch fit in all this? While the authentic Fleetwood Mac wasn’t receiving the amount of attention Welch felt it deserved from Warner Bros, this played a factor in Clifford Davis and his own band carrying out their actions until it met with fan hostility. When all this drama became a legal issue, Welch remained in Los Angeles, California, and kept in touch with entertainment attorneys. He, along with promoter Bill Graham, played an instrumental role to force Warner Bros to recognize Fleetwood Mac belonged to Mick Fleetwood, the McVies, and Bob Welch. In the meantime, it was he who convinced members of Fleetwood Mac to move to California, a move that he knew would work in their favor.
In September 1974, this Fleetwood Mac lineup signed a new contract with Warner Bros but strictly on the Reprise Records label. That year witnessed the release of the group’s ninth studio album, Heroes Are Hard to Find. This recording was the first time a band as popular as Fleetwood Mac took over the reins of management themselves. Unfortunately for the group, the drama of Mystery to Me was still too fresh. This impacted the success of Heroes Are Hard to Find as the momentum Fleetwood Mac had up until 1973 was gone. Because of this, each band member within the ranks of Fleetwood Mac felt a range of emotions that Bob Welch personally felt was exhausting. He made the decision to move on, which opened up the door for Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to come in.
After Fleetwood Mac
Life for Bob Welch after Fleetwood Mac did meet with success as a solo artist that included his “Sentimental Lady” as a hit that would once again appear on the music charts. It did even better, adding fuel to Welch’s success as a recording artist. This lasted until 1981 before his career began to see a decline. It would be at this time he adopted a fast-lane lifestyle that included partying with band members from Guns N’ Roses. When his addiction to drugs resulted in hospitalization in 1985, Welch knew he needed to clean his act up. It would be after detoxifying his body from drugs he’d meet his future wife, Wendy Armistead. Before 1985 was over, he and his new bride moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Until the day of his death on July 7, 2012, he made a point to stay clean from taking any further controlled substances.
Although no longer officially with Fleetwood Mac, Bob Welch’s relations, at least with Mick Fleetwood, remained amicable. This changed in 1994 after Welch sued Fleetwood, the McVies, and other involved parties in a royalties-related breach of contract. Welch’s argument pointed out that what he signed with his fellow bandmates in 1978 should have been honored instead of the new agreement the defendants arranged with Warner Bros that he felt cheated him out of what was owed. In 1998, Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Among the core band members whose names were mentioned, Bob Welch was excluded.
It was believed the court battle he recently had with them was the main reason why his name was kept out. Without Welch’s involvement when Fleetwood Mac’s name and reputation were on the line in 1973, the outcome of what Clifford Davis did would have changed the course of history where the band was concerned. It was Welch who introduced Mick Fleetwood to Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, two key members who played instrumental roles in spiking Fleetwood Mac’s popularity to new heights. As far as Bob Welch was concerned, refusing to recognize him as a Fleetwood Mac honoree was hurtful. It wouldn’t be until 2003 he and Mick Fleetwood were able to set aside their differences and reconnect. Together, they released His Fleetwood Mac Years and Beyond that same year. In 2006, His Fleetwood Mac years and Beyond 2 was released. The second of these two albums featured a collection of new material Bob Welch came up with.
As mentioned, July 7, 2012, marked the day of Bob Welch’s death. This came about after the man claimed his own life three months after undergoing spinal surgery. The surgeons who operated on him explained the odds of recovery were unlikely and that he would be facing the rest of his life as an invalid. For Welch, the combination of physical and spiritual pain was too much for him to handle. Before his death, he wrote out a lengthy letter to his wife, Wendy. In it, he explained he didn’t want to be a burden on a woman he loved so much. Aside from this tragedy, the legacy of Bob Welch continues to live on in his music. When he was featured in The Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, Mick Fleetwood wrote a tribute, honoring Bob Welch. At the moment, several fans have been advocating the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame consider putting Bob Welch’s name in as an inductee as the argument continues that without him, the Fleetwood Mac we know and love today wouldn’t have existed.
Top 10 Bob Welch Fleetwood Mac Songs
#10 – Good Things (Come to Those Who Wait)
Originally, “Good Things (Come to Those Who Wait)” was supposed to be featured on the album, Mystery to Me, in 1973. This 1965 original from The Yardbirds was a song Bob Welch covered as Fleetwood Mac’s lead vocalist. It wouldn’t be until a remastered version of Mystery to Me would include Bob Welch’s song. This didn’t come about until 2020, eight years after his death. There was an altered version of this song that was performed by Welch when he became a solo artist. As “Don’t Wait Too Long,” this song was featured on his 1979 album, Three Hearts. After years of being shelved since its 1973 live performance, “Good Things” finally found its way on an album as a recording. The compilation album, Fleetwood Mac: 1969 to 1974 would finally put an end to the wait as fans wanted to hear this song from Bob Welch in its original format.
#9 – Bermuda Triangle
“Bermuda Triangle” was one of the final songs Bob Welch performed while he still sang as Fleetwood Mac’s lead singer. He was also the band’s sole guitarist at the time when they recorded Heroes Are Hard to Find in 1974. Of all the songs on the album, “Bermuda Triangle” was the most successful, and for good reason. Similar to “Hypnotized,” the musical narrative took on a mystical yacht-like approach that became a major influence in the songs that took mainstream radio stations by storm. At the time, Welch was a big fan of the occult and the paranormal. Putting together a song about the infamous body of water in the Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami, and San Juan was just too irresistible for Welch to pass up. With his jazzy influence as a guitarist and singer, this song added depth to an album that saw Fleetwood Mac undergoing their own version of a “Bermuda Triangle” themselves.
#8 – Future Games
With Bob Welch in the Fleetwood Mac lineup at the same time as Danny Kirwan, he often dueled with his bandmate as a guitarist. This was evident in “Future Games” as he and Kirwan seemed to chase each other in what was about eight minutes of jazzy rock. In the meantime, Welch performed as the group’s lead vocalist in a song that proved how valuable he was as a singer-songwriter. This also became one of Welch’s signature songs and was recorded on his 1979 solo album, The Other One. This happened again in 2003 with His Fleetwood Mac Years & Beyond. The original “Future Games” was featured in the 2000 Kate Hudson comedy, Almost Famous. Recorded and released as the title track to Future Games, it marked the debut of Welch as a newcomer to a lineup that was on the verge to realize superstardom.
# 7 – The City
“The City” came about after Bob Welch and Fleetwood Mac found New York City too busy for their liking. There wasn’t anything political about it but it did point out there was something spiritually wrong about the place they could feel. This came at a time when Welch and his bandmates were going through a transition that didn’t come easy. As a songwriter, Welch was deeply sensitive to so many issues that were going around him. New York City has always been a busy place. For people who prefer a calmer environment, that’s not the city to go to. Welch realized this while he was there, He was also into the paranormal at the time. If you want a city loaded with an occult-like vibe, New York has an abundance of it. Welch could feel that, which came through loud and clear in his lyrics. He knew there was more to the place than its cityscape. Was it as evil as his song seemed to suggest? In truth, demographics don’t dictate this. It’s the manipulation of the human psyche that does.
# 6 – Revelation
Bob Welch’s “Revelation” while singing as lead singer for Fleetwood Mac lyrically discussed God and his power. This was a song that came from Penguin, a 1973 release that had Bob Welch seemingly caught in a spiritual transition. He, along with his Fleetwood Mac bandmates, was indeed going through some changes. This applied to their personal lives as well as musical direction as artists. Lineup changes played a factor, as well as how the music industry was reacting to the trends that were going on at the time. Like Welch, Fleetwood Mac was caught in the middle in an attempt to cope with all the changes that were taking place in what sometimes felt like the world grew too cold for comfort.
# 5 – Night Watch
“Night Watch” was a Bob Welch song that was part of Penguin’s tracklist, which was released in 1973. This Fleetwood Mac gem of a tune was written by Welch during a time he and the group were experiencing a psychedelic phase in their career. Welch was a fan of the supernatural, which was evident in the lyrics when making references to magic shadows. Speaking as a fan, it seemed as if the dark realm of depression played a factor in a song that suggested there was a man trying to scratch his way out of a situation that felt too lonely for comfort.
# 4 – Bright Fire
Mystery to Me was a 1973 work of art that demonstrated how well Fleetwood Mac could play even without Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, and star guitarist Danny Kirwan. “Bright Fire” was one of the highlights of the album’s tracklist as a Welch-era favorite. The beauty behind “Bright Fire” was the refusal to let evil get in the way of good in a world that continually sends out mixed messages. This was a song of encouragement, sung by Bob Welch that struck a powerful chord among fans.
# 3 – Emerald Eyes
Bob Welch had a knack for progressive rock. He also had a niche for ballads as he performed as if a man’s heart was truly sympathetic. “Emerald Eyes” brought out the best in Welch as a singer as one of the highlight songs from the 1973 album, Mystery to Me. Regarded as heavenly and sinister at the same time, Welch’s combined performance as vocalist and guitarist made this song a true gem. The title of the song was part of a line taken from another song featured on the album, “Mystery to Me.” When factoring “Emerald Eyes” as a tune that gives way to “Believe Me,” the match-up between these two songs shows off Welch’s progressive style as a songwriter. “Emerald Eyes” was about a woman whom Welch regarded as a source of serenity. If you’re looking for a great song to address that special lady in your life with appreciation, this would be it.
# 2 – Hypnotized
“Hypnotized” was a single recorded and released by Fleetwood Mac in 1973. Bob Welch sang as lead vocalist to what became one of the group’s most popular songs to date. It came from Fleetwood Mac’s eighth studio album, Mystery to Me. The song itself felt hypnotic as Mick Fleetwood’s metronomic drumming complimented Welch’s vocal performance well enough to make it a fan favorite. Even after Welch left the group, the fans loved the song so much that his replacement, Lindsey Buckingham, performed it often in concert. “Hypnotized” became a timeless classic that still receives airtime on radio stations today. Originally, this was released on the B-side of a record that had “For Your Love” released as a single. While Welch’s cover of “For Your Love” was great, it was “Hypnotized” that won over the fans. This jazzy number included a great guitar solo performed by Bob Weston while he was part of the Fleetwood Mac lineup. According to Welch, the inspiration behind the song came from a spooky summer experience he had at the Benifold Mansion in Hampshire, England.
# 1 – Sentimental Lady
In 1972, “Sentimental Lady” was a song performed by Bob Welch while he was a lead singer for Fleetwood Mac. From the album, Bare Trees, this wound up becoming Welch’s signature song. When he parted ways with Fleetwood Mac to embark on a solo career, he recorded it again for his own album, French Kiss. Even though he was no longer technically with Fleetwood Mac as a regular band member anymore, Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie worked with him to produce this album in 1977. “Sentimental Lady” came to Welch while he was staying in New York City, using the experience he had with his first wife as a source of inspiration to write out the lyrics. The Fleetwood Mac version featured Christine McVie as the backing vocals as Welch sang the lead. She’d do this again, along with Lindsey Buckingham, in the 1977 recording. Also, just like 1972 original, Mick Fleetwood’s drum talent was also performed in Welch’s 1977 solo.
What Welch accomplished with “Sentimental Lady’ was edging Fleetwood Mac closer to a softer style of music. This was a commercially favorable move in the eyes of the music industry as Welch’s vocal talent was smooth enough to win over an audience. This was a ballad that glorified the best qualities of a woman who apparently kept her heart on her sleeve, a trait that Welch admired as he performed this song. While Fleetwood Mac’s version of this song didn’t become an official hit on the charts, Welch’s solo version did. It was a number eight hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, and a number ten hit on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. It was even more popular in Canada as it peaked as high as number three on its RPM Singles Chart, as well as number four on its Adult Contemporary chart.
Top 10 Bob Welch Fleetwood Mac Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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