I remember one of the first albums I bought from the Columbia Music Record Club as a teenager was Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage. By the time I got it in 1983, it had thrown up four of its five singles on the pop charts, most of them in the top 20. I had grown up listening to Fleetwood Mac on my AM radio, so when I made the jump to my first turntable (that did not have a Peter Pan carrying case), I could count myself as a veteran fan.
Mirage was Fleetwood Mac’s 13th album and marked a move away from the trademark Victorian/Renaissance rock of the past. After more than a year of touring behind “Tusk”, the public (and the band) was more than ready to embrace a new direction for Fleetwood Mac’s material. The previous Fleetwood Mac (FM) album Tusk, was dominated by Lindsey Buckingham’s funky experimentation with occasional bursts of FM traditionalisim as in songs like Sara. Mirage added a more consistant mainstream flair to the band’s signature sound.
Solo projects from both Nicks and Buckingham gave the public a taste of all the possible aspects of the FM sound. In the end it would be Stevie Nicks brand of radio friendly mysticism that won over audiences. All the familiar FM touches were still in place like John McVie’s tight almost funky bass and Christine McVie’s backing vocals and keyboarding. The highlights of course continued to be the unique harmony and tension from Nicks and Buckingham. The public could not get enough of Nicks it seemed as her debut solo album Bella Donna was also at the top of the rock album charts.
The glut of Nicks material had no bearing on Mirage’s success (there was also a less popular Lindsey Buckingham solo project out too). The first single Hold Me made the biggest impact on the charts reaching #4 on the pop charts, but it would be the Nicks pinned Gypsy that would give vision to a generation of would-be witches. Finally, there was an alternative to the Pat Benatar tough girl look that traded leather for lace – literally. The video for Gypsy set standards for the still emerging promotional tool that would boost Fleetwood Mac into regular rotation on MTV.
Mirage remains the last album from Fleetwood Mac that bridges the classic rock sounds of the past with pop melodies and video friendly writing for the 80s. Although much of it is familiar to anyone who’s listened to rock radio in the last 20 years or so, its most interesting songs are the non single tracks like the funky Eyes of the World and the beautiful yet mystical Straight Back. While not the most critically acclaimed FM album, Mirage is a great starting point to go backwards from to discover the Fleetwood Mac sound.