For months now I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts or one long post here on the blog about the interesting solo careers of ex-Fleetwood Mac band members Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, Danny Kirwan, Bob Weston, and Bob Welch. I’ve kept putting it off for one reason or another, but the news of Bob Welch’s suicide yesterday has me thinking I should start my little series now.
Of those musicians listed above, Welch’s music is the music that’s always connected with me the most. He wrote some great songs, both with Fleetwood Mac and after. His interest in “strange phenomena” (UFO’s, the Bermuda Triangle, etc.) fueled songs such as “Hypnotized” and served as a nice connector to later period Mac (after he’d left the band) when Stevie Nicks continued that aspect of the band’s music. In fact, he and Nicks established a friendship, which was pretty unusual considering he’d just quit the band she’d joined.
During his tenure with Fleetwood Mac from 1971-1974, he was the primary songwriter and guitarist of the group- especially after Danny Kirwan was fired in 1972. The four albums released during that time were the least commercially successful of Mac’s career, but they’re full of hidden gems. Welch’s “Future Games”, “Lay It All Down”, “Revelation”, “Emerald Eyes” are just a few lying alongside “Hypnotized” and the original version of “Sentimental Lady”. A talented guitar player, he could do heavy rock (as in his mid 1970’s band Paris) to jazz (he even recorded a whole jazz album called Bob Welch Looks At Bop), yet he’ll probably be most remembered for his soft rock standard “Sentimental Lady”.
There were some unfortunate aspects of Welch’s career, however (in addition to his early 80’s drug addiction). His website, which he had designed and maintained himself, was very amateurish in appearance and through it he came across as a slightly nutty paranoid obsessed with government conspiracies and UFO cover-ups. And there was the whole late 1970’s “French playboy” persona, typified in album covers such as the one for his most successful album French Kiss. Yet, despite these drawbacks, the music was usually of high quality. He had a knack for writing irresistible hooks and even if some of the 1970’s songs may sound a little dated now production-wise, there’s almost always a strong foundation underneath. In fact, French Kiss is a near perfect album, with no filler, and included (along with his solo version of “Sentimental Lady”) his other big hit “Ebony Eyes”.
Things began wavering a bit after that, unfortunately, with diminishing returns as each new album was released through the early 1980’s. There was a comeback of sorts, at least artistically, with 2003’s His Fleetwood Mac Years & Beyond. A collection of re-recorded Mac songs and solo works, it’s an extremely listenable and well-done record.
I still remember driving around listening to the radio back in the early 90’s and WMNF, the community radio station in Tampa, FL, playing Bob Welch/Paris’ “Starcage” and then fellow ex-Fleetwood Mac member Jeremy Spencer’s “Flee” after. I had no idea who sang either song, but it was a real one-two punch that set me on an exploration of both of their music (and Danny Kirwan’s later on).