Christine McVie: Her 20 Greatest Songs Ranked

MOJO pays tribute to Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie and selects the finest songs from across her career.

Christine McVie 2015

by mojo |
Updated on

Christine McVie might have been characterised as ‘the sensible one’ in Fleetwood Mac’s classic line-up, quietly getting on with the job while her bandmates warred and buried themselves in a mountain of cocaine, but she was also the rock upon which the band and their music was built. Coming aboard while Fleetwood Mac were still lost in post-Peter Green limbo, it was she – alongside guitarist Bob Welch – who helped shape the sumptuous sounds that would go on to define them and she authored some of the band’s greatest work, writing songs of rare melodic beauty and warmth. Here, MOJO picks some of McVie’s best songs from both inside and outside Fleetwood Mac.

"I’m good at pathos. I write about romantic despair a lot..."Christine McVie Interviewed

20. I Would Rather Go Blind

(from Blue Horizon single 1969)

Led by guitarist Stan Webb, Chicken Shack were in the shadow of many of their blues boom contemporaries, not least Blue Horizon label mates Fleetwood Mac. As Christine Perfect, McVie had written a number of songs for Chicken Shack’s first two albums, but it was her version of Etta James’ I’d Rather Go Blind that gave the group their only major hit. McVie didn’t try to recreate the raw anguish of James’ version, instead putting in a wounded yet dignified performance that somehow felt peculiarly British and foreshadowed the emotional maturity she would soon be delivering for her new bandmates

19. When You Say

(from Christine Perfect, 1970)

McVie left Chicken Shack in 1969 shortly after marrying John McVie. Prior to joining Fleetwood Mac, though, she put out 1970 solo album Christine Perfect. Written by soon to be bandmate Danny Kirwan, When You Say is a delicate piece of baroque pop with an Autumnal chill blowing through its quivering strings and plaintive melody as McVie comes across like an English Nico.

18. The Challenge

(from Christine McVie, 1984)

Recording during the extended downtime that followed Mirage, McVie’s second solo album produced two top 40 hits, but it’s this album track – featuring backing vocals from Lindsey Buckingham and some slick guitar counterpoints by Eric Clapton – that felt like more than just Fleetwood Mac-lite and showed McVie could shine and find her own space away from the familiar turf of the band.

17. Feel About You

(from Lindsey Buckingham/ Christine McVie, 2017)

Recorded in the same LA studio the band had built to record Tusk four daces previously, 2017’s Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie was essentially a new Fleetwood Mac album minus Stevie Nicks. “Lindsey gets me, I love working with him,” McVie told MOJO of the collaboration at the time. “As with everything in Fleetwood Mac, it’s chemistry.” And the chemistry between the pair could still work magic. About You is buoyant, bliss-filled pop who’s bouncing marimba and stacked backing vocals could have fitted snugly onto Tango In The Night.

16. Friend

(from In The Meantime, 2004)

“That was therapy,” McVie told MOJO of 2004’s deeply personal solo LP In The Meantime. “I was coming out of a relationship and just got it all off my chest. It’s about the darkest thing I’ve ever written… I don’t think it sold anything but the point was to prove I could still write, still play, still sing.” A dark, anguished cousin to Rumours' You Make Loving Fun, Friend showed that after leaving Fleetwood Mac she could still very much do all three.

15. Isn't It Midnight

(Tango In Night)

A song so ‘80s it should come with its suit jacket sleeves rolled up, Isn’t It Midnight was the final single to be taken from Tango In the Night. Yes, it’s slick, but amid all the wind tunnel guitar histrionics and booming drums McVie’s songwriting is what shines through.

14. Love In Store

(from Mirage, 1982)

The opening track from 1982’s Mirage, Love In Store felt like a cool spring breeze after the more anguished Tusk. It might have lacked the sonic ambition or emotional rawness evident on the band’s previous two LPs, but it showed that as purveyors of precision-tooled sonic bliss, Fleetwood Mac, and in particular McVie, were second to none.

13. Over My Head

(from Fleetwood Mac, 1975)

The thrill of falling in love was familiar subject matter for McVie, yet she could always spin all matter of songwriting gold from it time and time again. Over My Head’s pitter patter rhythms and bluegrass-flavoured acoustics help provide a gorgeous wave which is impossible not to fall under.

12. The Way I Feel

(from Mystery To Me, 1973)

In the early 70s Christine McVie and Bob Welch were the driving forces behind Fleetwood Mac’s transformation from blues rockers to AOR titans. The albums the pair steered together remain underrated and 1973’s Mystery To Me is arguably the best of the bunch. Sat on side two, The Way I Feel is as affecting as anything from the band’s commercial apex later in the decade, McVie’s piano and lovestruck melodies falling against a backdrop of beautifully plucked folk guitar.

11. Say You Love Me

(from Fleetwood Mac, 1975)

Few songwriters capture the giddy rush of falling in love better than Christine McVie. Say You Love Me is a less openly funky precursor to Rumours’s You Make Loving Fun, the addition of some sprightly banjo and 12 string guitar underneath McVie’s piano chords and freefalling lyrics adding to the feeling of abandon. The song peaked at number eleven in the US charts and helped catapult the band towards the megastardom that lay on the horizon.

10. Sugar Daddy

(from Fleetwood Mac, 1975)

1975’s self-titled LP introduced Fleetwood Mac’s rebooted, Buckingham/Nicks-fired line up to the world they were about to conquer in two years’ time. You can hear just how comfortable McVie felt in these new surroundings here. Sugar Daddy is four minutes of pure joy, McVie sings about while she could do with a man to splash some cash on her, she only had eyes for husband John. For now.

9. Brown Eyes

(from Tusk, 1979)

Brown Eyes was reportedly either written about Fleetwood Mac’s lighting man Curry Grant or Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson. Regardless of the subject, it’s one of the most darkly alluring and openly seductive songs in the band’s canon, a drift of breathy voices moving like plumes of smoke around a stripped down backing of electric piano, bass and drums.

8. Think About Me

(from Tusk, 1979)

Tusk is often thought of as Lindsey Buckingham’s album, his attempt to derail the superstar juggernaut and avoid being forced to make Rumours part two for the rest of the band’s career. However, it also features some of McVie’s finest ever songs to temper her bandmate's more wilful impulses. Think About Me is one of the album’s most straightforward, ‘Fleetwood Mac-y’ moments and a prime example of how perfectly Buckingham and McVie complement each other, the former adding anguished rock grit to his bandmate’s strutting piano-led pop.

7. Remember Me

(from Penguin, 1973)

Christine McVie’s transformation into one of the great pop songwriters was by no means instant, but you can glimpse her on the road to Say You Love Me on this (and, perhaps, Mystery To Me’s comparable Believe Me). Recorded at Benifold on The Rolling Stones’ mobile, the Penguin album’s vibe-setting opener has all the lighter-than-air and sneakily lustful qualities she’d become envied for. Meanwhile, Mick Fleetwood is at his most buoyantly motorik, and Bob Weston’s bottleneck acts as a good-humoured Greek chorus.

6. Everywhere

(from Tango In the Night, 1987)

The CMI Fairlight that jangles through the opening bars of Everywhere gives the quality of glistening music box, yet there’s something curiously detached within this Tango In The Night love song that prevents it falling into cutesy-wutesy schmaltz. Newly remarried to songwriter Eddy Quintela, McVie’s treats her newfound marital bliss with caution. She’s in love but doesn’t quite want to say it out loud yet, which makes it all the more affecting.

5. Over & Over

(from Live, 1980)

Tusk, of course, was perverse, playing counterintuitive games like opening with downbeat ballad Over & Over. How such wilful gestures played with mainstream Mac fans can be gauged by the lack of enthusiasm that greets Christine’s introduction to the song on the Tusk tour live album. But the performance is sublime: McVie’s stoic vulnerability, Lindsey and Stevie’s ragged harmonies lending a newfound comfort, and the elegiac closing guitar solo Buckingham’s most lyrical, emotive work.

4. Songbird

(from Rumours, 1977)

Rumours’ co-producer Ken Caillat heard Christine McVie rehearsing this song one night and suggested they capture it in one of the auditoria at UC Berkeley, settling on the Zellerbach Hall Auditorium. McVie sang and played the song alone on-stage in the empty hall, a dozen red roses on top of her piano. She has described Songbird as:"“a little prayer… an anthem for everybody.” For 21 years, from its release until McVie left the band, it closed every Fleetwood Mac show.

3. Little Lies

(from Tango In The Night, 1987)

Big-haired, soft-focused and digitally buffed, there’s desolation in this ambient pop-rock ballad’s breathy choral filigrees. Written by Christine and new husband Eddy Quintela, its narrator longs to defer the terminal car crash of the dysfunctional love affair for one more day, but seems guiltily aware of the sweet, masochistic kick of being deceived (those lies could easily be ‘lines’ – does that explain the knowing tone of backing vocalists Nicks and Buckingham?).

2. You Make Loving Fun

(from Rumours, 1977)

A thoughtful Christine McVie rocker with an R&B stride and Superstition-like clavinet, You Make Loving Fun belies its consequence-free title. Though written in the flowering of her romance with the Mac’s brown-eyed handsome lighting man Curry Grant – everything was so in-house – her eagerness to reassure her lover suggests foreboding, while sardonic Buckingham guitars and her ex-husband John on bass make this the Mac ménage à cinq plus in troubled miniature. Allegedly, Christine told John it was about her dog.

1. Don’t Stop

(from Rumours, 1977)

As bright and urgent as an affirmation stuck to a mirror, Christine McVie’s blast of post-marriage positivity is a masterclass in moving on. The heads-down tack piano roll, wind-in-hair drums and supportive vocal relay between McVie and Lindsey Buckingham make bridge-burning fun, but there remains a sense that not everyone is on board with McVie’s motivational mind-over-matter optimism: “I know you don’t believe that it’s true/I never meant any harm to you,” suggests yesterday hasn’t quite gone, after all.

Read MOJO's 2017 interview with Christine McVie HERE

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