Addendum: Previously unreleased performance of ‘I Have To Laugh’
In March of 2022, Dutch Greenologist Gert Jan Kuiper tipped me off to two compilations of Fleetwood Mac BBC recordings that were recently posted to YouTube.
The first, posted March 01, 2022 was titled “Fleetwood Mac 1969-1970 Complete Unreleased BBC” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jNEeyqPXGA
Consisting of sixteen titles, a few had in fact not been in wide circulation among collectors and many were new to YouTube (I’ll go into the rarer titles in a separate blog at a later date)
The second had been posted on January 13, 2022 under the title “Fleetwood Mac Unreleased BBC Sessions 1967 – 1971”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=840qhNxZL-M&t=207s
This collection, containing eighteen titles, had only one in common with the previous compilation, a BBC broadcast on which Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer backed Duster Bennett performing ‘Shady Little Baby’.
Justifying the “1971” designation in the title are three tracks from a January 1971 BBC session performed after Green’s departure, with Jeremy Spencer and Danny Kirwan being joined by Christine McVie.
The same eighteen tracks were posted on YouTube again on January 14, 2022 as “Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac: 1967-1971 Unreleased BBC Sessions”, (cleverly adding punctuation and changing the order of the information to distinguish itself from the earlier post) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qbjw0rju0jU&t=2510s
While there has been a deluge of commercial releases starting in 2019 of CDs mixing and matching BBC performances and live recordings (only one of which seems to have attempted to make any improvement in the sound quality of the bootlegs from which there were taken), none has contained anything “new” (meaning anything that was not previously in circulation amongst collectors)
Two previously unreleased live recordings debuted on-line in 2021, (see: https://smilingcorgipress.com/addendum/ and https://smilingcorgipress.com/addendum-fleetwood-mac-teenage-darling/ ) but the two eighteen track compilations listed above contain what I believe to be a BBC performance that was previously not in circulation (that I am aware of) but also not listed in the BBC logs.
I have always been highly skeptical of recordings that I cannot immediately identify, preferring to err on the side of caution, (as we’ll see with some of the songs on the sixteen-track compilation) but there is no doubt that this is a Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac recording; the question is, when it was recorded and why has there been no record of it (that I’m aware of) for over fifty years.
If anyone reading this can shine some light on these questions, I will happily add that information (fully crediting the person who provides it) to this piece
Listed here as ‘Fool That I Used To Be’, it is actually a performance of Otis Rush’s ‘I Have to Laugh’.
Otis Rush: vocal & guitar /
William “Lefty” Bates: guitar / Lafayette Leake: organ /
Jack Myers: bass / Casey Jones: drums /
King Kolax, Sonny Turner & Murray Watson: trumpets /
Monk Higgins: trombone / Abe Locke & Johnny Bond: tenor saxophones
Recorded September 1962
Released as the B-side of Duke single ‘Homework’
Otis Rush – I Have to Laugh – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J5eK42n7qM8
The song was B-side of ‘Homework’, the sole single to be released during Rush’s three-year tenure with Don Robey’s Duke label.
Credited to Rush and D. Clark, the lyrics describe a toxic relationship with sadomasochistic overtones. The arrangement is stacked with horns, a snare drum rolling out a relentless martial beat and a wheezy organ exhaling melancholy and gloom like a vapor. Over this is Rush’s quavering, tortured vocal.
The title was never anthologized on vinyl and was not available on CD until 2013, when it was released on the compilation “I’m Satisfied – The 1956-1962 Cobra, Chess & Duke Sides” on the European Soul Jam label.
When Rush signed on for the 1966 American Folk Blues Festival European tour, the British Vocalion label licensed the 1962 Duke single for release in the U.K. A number of covers of ‘Homework’ soon followed, but to the best of my knowledge, sixty years after the original’s release, Fleetwood Mac’s remains the only released cover of the B-side.
I believe that what attracted Spencer to the number was the sheer melodrama of the lyrics and arrangement. Few performers can pull off this heightened style, singers such as Roy Orbison and Rush’s Duke labelmate Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland (whose, ‘I Pity the Fool’ is actually cited in the lyrics)
To my mind, Spencer viewed the song as an adult version of the overwrought teen-dramas he parodied a few months earlier with ‘I’m So Lonesome and Blue’. His first solo album, recorded almost a year later would give these inclinations full reign.
Jeremy Spencer: vocal & piano /
Peter Green: guitar /
John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums
BBC session, BBC Radio 1 “Top Gear”
Recorded August 27, 1968 –201 Piccadilly Studio 1
Originally broadcast September 01, 1968
First released on: Show-Biz Blues Fleetwood Mac 1968 – 1970 (Castle 2002)
Fleetwood Mac – I Have to Laugh – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdf90Pr5exc
Spencer knew that he could never match the vocal power of these singers and had no intention of trying to.
I believe his tongue was firmly in cheek when he begins the song a capella, singing the first words in a deep bass, Elvis Presley-like voice, before (thankfully) slipping into his normal range.
His simplified piano playing is fitting for the song, but the percussive pounding of the piano in place of the ghost-house organ on the original is small compensation for the substitution of Spencer’s soft voice for Rush’s wracked restraint.
Interestingly, Spencer changes the lines in the third verse to clarify and make more explicit the power games he and woman played.
In the original, Rush sang,
“She used to make me stand at attention
Stand there as she said at ease,
And my friends, would she how, she made me
Fall on my hands and knees”
Spencer changes this to:
“Well, she used to make me stand at attention
Standing, till she said at ease,
And I can’t see how she made me,
Follow on bended knees”
Where the original had little guitar, Green’s playing here is uncharacteristic. I don’t believe he was all that comfortable with the number and what it required.
The arrangement does not allow a lot of room for the guitar; the percussive piano chords, and Spencer’s vocal dominate. Green uses his stinging notes to punctuate and filigree the lyrics where he can. His outro (replacing the wordless falsetto moans on the original) quietly bring the number to conclusion.
The rough sound quality of the newly released version makes comparison that much more difficult as well as our ability to try to identify the source.
Jeremy Spencer: vocal & piano /
Peter Green: guitar /
*John McVie: bass / Mick Fleetwood: drums
Recording date and location unknown
Fleetwood Mac – Fool That I Used To Be (starts at 38:19) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=840qhNxZL-M&t=2428s
Upon first listen, it seems pretty close to the released version, but this performance actually runs a full minute shorter; the first thing most will pick up on is that the “I” from the opening line is missing, and the coda is faded much more quickly (about seven seconds sooner than on the released version).
The key though is the increased tempo at which Spencer takes the vocal that compresses the number. This is most easily heard on the opening verse. On the released version, it lasts fifty seconds. Here, it is over in just thirty-three.
And yet, Green’s fills are the same as best as I can tell.
This holds true for each of the number’s four verses, with the first and fourth being the most compressed, being seventeen and fourteen seconds shorter, respectively.
To my ears, this sounds like a rehearsal, a run through before the tapes were to roll, so it is possible that this was recorded at the same time as the released version.
I know of no “rehearsal takes” from any of their many BBC sessions in circulation, so this would be a first.
Without evidence, it is equally possible that it was recorded at an earlier or later date, and not used, which would explain why it never appeared in any of the BBC session logs.
Could this have been recorded for an earlier BBC session? (the released version is far superior from a performance stand point that I would find it hard to believe that a later performance would deteriorate to such a degree).
It was also rare that the band would record the same song at different BBC sessions (I know of twelve times that this was done).
It is also quite possible that this was not from a BBC session at all; we only assume that it is because the other songs on the collection are from various BBC sessions.
Until more information becomes available, this stands as yet another of the unresolvable mysteries in the Peter Green Fleetwood Mac catalog (of which there are relatively few) of recordings whose origins may never be known.
And yet someone had this recording in their possession for decades and should know what it is and where it came from, so maybe, one day, these questions can be answered.
Until then, I am happy just to have “new” music from the Green era of Fleetwood Mac.
*Mr. Kuiper shared with me that he does not believe that McVie plays on this version at all. I admit that I cannot hear him on the song, but I felt that was due to the poor sound quality.
Thoughts and comments on this aspect are welcome.