Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy

And so it is back to me waffling on about my favourite tunes, once again. This time I'm looking at a song from the lighter end of my record collection. It is a pop song, and this particular song is as good as a pop song gets. No ifs, no buts. It has all the right ingredients.

It's called Gypsy. It's by Fleetwood Mac. I've always had a soft spot for Fleetwood Mac, regardless of the lineup, though it has to be said the band in my eyes was at its best when it had Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks at the forefront of the group. Peter Green's lineup is blues orientated and there is so much good stuff there. But for me it's the aforementioned "Rumours" line up that is my Fleetwood Mac of choice, and certainly the most commercially successful.

The song I've chosen here is an overlooked single (it reached no. 46 in the UK charts) taken from the 1982 album Mirage. Mirage, which is probably their weakest effort, came after the more experimental album Tusk, which alas didn't sell in the same quantities as Rumours so was instantly branded a flop (I'd love a flop that sold in excess of five million copies, thankyou very much). So Mirage saw the band revert back to a more rock / pop sound.

Gypsy was written by Stevie Nicks back in 1979 during the height of her fame and was initially going to be included on her debut solo album Bella Donna. However, it was held back for Fleetwood Mac. To understand the song itself, if you are so inclined, we need to understand the inspiration behind it. Put simply, it took Stevie back to a time before the height of success and fame. In fact, back to a time when Stevie and Lindsey Buckingham were still a couple with no money, just an apartment with a king size mattress on the floor. According to Stevie in an interview in 2009:
"To this day, when I'm feeling cluttered, I will take my mattress off of my beautiful bed, wherever that may be, and put it outside my bedroom, with a table and a little lamp".

Add to this the name of the shop where she bought her clothes (as did Janis Joplin, incidentally) and you have the opening lyrics of the song -

"So I'm back, to the velvet underground
Back to the floor, that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was
To the gypsy... that I was".

The lyrics were pretty much complete back in 1979. However a small section of lyric including the line at the end "I still see your bright eyes" was added on as a dedication to Stevie's best friend Robin who died of leukaemia.

If, however, you really aren't that bothered by the lyrical content of this song (and if not, why not?) then all you have to do is focus on the musical part of the song. It has a melody you'll be whsitling or singing to yourself for weeks. The wonderful lead vocals by Stevie are helped by some excellent harmonies from Christine (McVie) and Lindsey. Mick Fleetwood plays a steady but rock solid drum beat throughout and John McVie plays a reliable bass line that bounces along and compliments Mick's drumming. But the real icing on the cake for me is Lindsey Buckingham's guitar work. Understated throughout the song, there is nothing that isn't needed. The last part of the song features a melodic guitar break that finishes the song perfectly to the fade-out. Lindsey must be one of the most overlooked guitarists in the business. He knows what to play, when to play it. 

You can find Gypsy on Mirage or any of the hits compilations. Which versions are my favourites? The original and also the live performance from 1997 DVD "The Dance". If you can find a copy of this concert, get it. In the mean time, watch the promo video for Gypsy: