When asked for the lineup of Fleetwood Mac, most people would say Fleetwood, Nicks, McVie, McVie, and Buckingham. Understandably so; this is the group that has existed (more or less) since Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled album, and it’s the one with which most people are familiar.
But that wasn’t the original lineup. Half of the recognizable members hadn’t even joined yet, and the guitar was played by a chap named Jeremy Spencer.
Spencer was one of the original members of Fleetwood Mac, predating Nicks and Buckingham by several years. Fleetwood Mac was a big part of the British blues scene at the time with a sound almost unrecognizable from the bestselling band with which we’re all familiar.
Spencer left the band abruptly after some difficulties to join the Children of God, at which point he largely vanished from the public eye. He also recorded a handful of solo albums, a few of which were released during his time with the Children Of God (and were, by his own admission, not very good). His first solo album, eponymously titled Jeremy Spencer, was released in 1970 during his time with Fleetwood Mac, and has never been released on CD.
Until now. (Obviously.)
Thanks to the fine folks at Real Gone Music, who are doing work so good that I think they need to be in the conversation for canonization, we have Jeremy Spencer on CD, and it’s a blast.
It’s inaccurate to call this a comedy album, but it’s made up almost exclusively of parodies, tributes, and pastiches. Spencer is a gifted mimic, with his impressions ranging from “in the ballpark” to “uncanny.” This is clear from the first note of the first track; the drums, lyrics, and vocal hiccups make it immediately clear that it’s a Buddy Holly tribute. Some tributes’ inspirations — such as the Jan and Dean/Brian Wilson-esque “Surfin’ Girl” — are obvious due to their titles and they sound exactly like their names suggest. Others, like the Elvis-inspired ballad “If I Could Swim The Mountain,” are direct tributes to specific artists, and Spencer milks his melancholy Elvis impression for all that it’s worth. Then there’s the pastiches of several artists, such as “Jenny Lee,” a clear combination of Dion, Holly, and the doo-wop genre. He even manages to simulate a live recording for “Mean Blues (sic),” recreating the sounds of a liquor-filled blues hall — a sound he knew incredibly well from performing in them with Fleetwood Mac.
In the liner notes, Spencer indicates that he intends the songs as homages but knew he could only sell them as satire; while he loved the music of the 1950s, it was seen as lame to 1960s hippies. He hoped, though, that his “sincere love for that music did show through.”
And indeed it did. Jeremy Spencer is a fun album, in large part because Spencer had fun making it. This was clearly made by a man who loved this kind of music and who studied it carefully.
Not enough can be said about the audio quality; the producers at Real Gone know how to tidy up a track and make it sound like it was recorded yesterday instead of, say, 40-odd years ago. The crisp quality also makes it clear just how sparse the production was, which makes every part of this more impressive. Spencer was able to create such detailed tributes with such little instrumentation.
The album also features the musical talents of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Danny Kirwan, and Peter Green, which should do a good job at fitting it in the to-listen list of every Fleetwood Mac fan, old and new.
Jeremy Spencer is a worthy addition to the library of any Fleetwood Mac fan or, even more specifically, any ’50s music fan. Besides being a bit of lost history recovered, you’ll have a hard time finding a more loving tribute that stands on its own so well.
To get your copy of Jeremy Spencer’s eponymous album, head over to the Real Gone Music online shop.