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10 Great Christine McVie singles

The global popular culture recently lost an extraordinary voice with the passing of Christine Anne Perfect, popularly known as Christine McVie. She was not just a pop star; she was a legitimate rock star, in an era in which it was primarily men who were defining the rock-n-roll mythology.

Fleetwood Mac’s so-called “White Album” and Rumours came along in the mid-70’s, as FM rock radio and my teenage-boy status were peaking. At a time when Rod Stewart was topping the charts croaking about seduction on “Tonight’s the Night,” Christine’s lyrics were introspective and vulnerable. There were plenty of tender pop songs on the radio, but her tunes were different. This was a girl co-fronting a huge rock band, writing her own stuff from her own perspective.

My older sister scooped a copy of 1977’s Rumours early, and I loved to spin side 2, which led with “The Chain” and then Christine’s “You Make Loving Fun.” I’d listen on headphones, and inspect all the candid photos on the Rumours album sleeve. Christine seemed like the ultimate cool chick. She had great clothes and effortless blonde hair. She wasn’t tragic or tarty. She looked like a self-aware grown up, uncomfortable with stardom but having a good time anyway.

Christine & Stevie Nicks on the inner sleeve of Rumours

“We all just complement each other, because we’re such different writers,” Christine told writer Annie Zaleski in a 2017 interview, referring to Fleetwood Mac’s three principle songwriters. “My contribution is the romance and the warmth. The love songs.”

Not to mention the hits, m’lady. When I heard she’d died, I was saddened by the passing of an icon of my youth, but I quickly started humming through all the hit singles she wrote. As long as I’ve been listening to the radio, Christine’s songs have been part of my world. She was a steady creative presence for the Mac, while Stevie Nicks was cold falling apart and Lindsey Buckingham was leaving the band. Christine continued to craft top hits like “Hold Me” and “Little Lies” deep into the ’80s.

Most everything I know about Christine McVie I know from her songs. That’s the way I’ll remember her. But I’ve a feeling it’s time to savor some of her most successful singles.

“Over My Head”

from the 1975 album Fleetwood Mac
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #20

Christine’s tunes always feature a killer groove. I can imagine the band jamming on the main groove of this mid-tempo exploration for hours while the pills kicked in. There’s a resignation in the lyric that resonates with me now, that eluded me as a teenager. And my wife will attest that my mood is, in fact, like a circus wheel. Here’s Christine rocking the Hohner Combo Pianet with the Mac on Midnight Special in 1976.

“Say You Love Me”

from the 1975 album Fleetwood Mac
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #11

Have mercy, baby! When I read that young Christine Perfect was inspired to embrace rock and blues styles by Fats Domino sheet music, I thought of this tune. The groovy interplay of her two hands feels like a riff on the driving rock piano style of the ’50s. Our girl is seriously conflicted in this lyric, though. Expectation gives way to entreaty as she repeats “say that you love me.” Lindsey is clutch in this live clip from ’77.

“You Make Loving Fun”

from the 1977 album Rumours
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #9

Sweet wonderful you, indeed. This is a gorgeous lead vocal. While it is rumoured that the lyrics refer to an alleged affair, cut a girl some slack, it was with Cary Grant! Excuse me? Oh. I’m being told the affair was with lighting director Curry Grant. In any case, another super-groove, courtesy of Mick and John, with Stevie scraping some epic guiro. Totally digging the bottle of chardonnay sitting on her keyboard in this ’77 clip.

“Don’t Stop”

from the 1977 album Rumours
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #3

My gawd, can someone please put this song in a capsule and shoot it into space, like into a black hole or some shit? Sorry Ms. Perfect, it’s not your fault. You wrote a nice song and pop culture ran over it with a Pepsi truck. A great example of art morphing into commerce and losing its impact. In spite of its over-exposure, the song still has that piano rock groove. And Christine crushes a nice little solo break beginning around 3:15 of this live version.

“Songbird”

from the 1977 album Rumours
US Billboard Rock Digital Songs: #9 (2022 solo release)

Ah yes, the romance and warmth of which she spoke. This tender vocal is a signature moment in Christine’s career. “Songbird” was never released as a single by the Mac, but this wonderfully orchestrated version is featured on her recent Songbird – A Solo Collection. My sister thinks this take is a little schmaltzy and I don’t disagree, but I like the animation they created to accompany it.

“Think About Me”

from the 1979 album Tusk
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #20

Christine never rocked particularly hard, but this one was a bit heavier. The lyric finds her once again in a mood of resigned neglect. Can some lover please show this fine woman some lovingkindness? Reviews characterized it as “bouncy,” but it’s more of her great feel for a piano groove. Tusk was a head-scratcher to me when it came out as the follow-up to Rumours in 1979, but now this self-indulgent 2-disc collection is one of my favorites.

“Hold Me” (with Robbie Patton)

from the 1982 album Mirage
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #4

This video was ubiquitous on MTV when we finally got cable. And FM light-rock stations could not play it enough. The song was a huge hit, but frankly producer Lindsey Buckingham got a bit too clever for my taste. It’s catchy, but lacks the tasty groove of Christine’s best work. And she’s still being neglected, for Christ’s sake.

“Got a Hold on Me” (with Todd Sharp)

from her 1984 solo album Christine McVie
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #10

Producer Russ Titelman (Steve Winwood, Ricki Lee Jones) conjured a little more of Christine’s groovy magic, with the help of Steve Ferrone on drums doing his best Mick Fleetwood impersonation. While the lover in this lyric seems more attentive, the title suggests that she’s still not quite at ease. Steve Winwood and Lindsey helped out on this solo effort, and she had a top 10 hit. Nice!

“Little Lies”  (with Eddy Quintella)

from the 1987 album Tango in the Night
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #4
No more broken heartsWe’re better off apartLet’s give it a try
Tell me lies

Poor Christine. I just want her to be happy; she’s such a sweet girl. At least she had the cold comfort of pop stardom to salve the wounds and disappointment of romance. The familiar groove is there on this one with Mick and John, but Lindsey’s production is pure ’80s, with sounds reminiscent of other songs, such as Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer.” The label was quite keen to spotlight each of the vocalists on singles.

“Everywhere”

from the 1987 album Tango in the Night
US Billboard Hot 100 peak: #14

Paul Simon had released Graceland in 1986 to huge success, and this track turned up with a similar polyrhythmic feel. It’s a standout on a record that was a big hit, despite the band being held together with gaffer’s tape and baling wire at that point. Christine has found love again in the lyric, but sounds like she wants to cram all the good stuff in quickly before her heart is inevitably broken again. Sigh.

Christine was sexy, but not a sex symbol. She was beautiful and capable and relied upon talent and inspiration for her success. I read that her mother was a psychic and medium, and Christine brought that sense of mystery and the ethereal into her work. She stopped touring with Fleetwood Mac in 1998 after the death of her father, and didn’t return to the band and to touring until 2014. I’m grateful that she had a long career and a short illness. Godspeed, Songbird. For you, there’ll be no more crying. It’s all right.

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