Bubbling Under: Fleetwood Mac’s “Albatross”

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The albatross is a sea bird, and lends its name to a famous rock song. (Getty Images/Cameron Spencer)

The albatross is a sea bird, and lends its name to a famous rock song. (Getty Images/Cameron Spencer)

It is one of the most famous songs in [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Fleetwood Mac[/lastfm]‘s catalog, instantly identifiable — to fans in the UK. But many American listeners, even those who consider themselves Fleetwood Mac fans, don’t know it at all.

“Albatross” was written by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Peter Green[/lastfm], and performed by Green with guitarist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Danny Kirwan[/lastfm], along with the band’s rhythm section, drummer [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Mick Fleetwood[/lastfm] and bassist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]John McVie[/lastfm]. (Guitarist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jeremy Spencer[/lastfm] did not play on the recorded version.)

It appeared in the UK on the album Pious Bird of Good Omen, and in the States on English Rose, both albums compilations of singles, B-sides, and tracks from previously released Mac albums.

When “Albatross” was released as a single in Britain in early 1969, it went to #1. Four years later, it was re-released in Britain and it was a smash again, reaching #2.

In the States, “Albatross” bubbled under the American charts in the spring of 1969, reaching #104 in a four-week run. The early Fleetwood Mac would chart again in America a year later with “Oh Well,” but their domination of the singles charts wouldn’t begin until 1975, when the band’s identity was far different than it had been in the days of “Albatross.”

“Albatross” bears a resemblance to [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]the Beatles[/lastfm]‘ “Sun King,” which was recorded later and could have been inspired by it. The song is remarkably beautiful, with a peaceful, ambient mood set by haunting guitar lines and gentle tom-toms. The version below, from a vintage TV performance, runs only about three minutes, but if it went on for half-an-hour, we wouldn’t mind.

Explore more bubblers.

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