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“As a percussion player, I approach my own work in a very emotional, personal way, and so I have to rely on one thing: the essence of feel," says drummer Mick Fleetwood, who since 1967 has provided the steady, deep groove for the superstar band that bears his surname. "I didn’t always understand what it was, and I used to be insecure about that, but now I truly know that I feel most comfortable when I’m emotionally involved."
To fully connect with the music he's playing, Fleetwood stresses the importance of listening, of taking the time to hear what a song needs – and, more importantly, what it doesn't. It's a quality that he says his friend and constant rhythm section partner, bassist John McVie (the "Mac" of Fleetwood Mac), shares. “We both have that," he says. "Through the years, I believe I’ve honed it down to an accidental skill."
Although he's become one of the most celebrated drummers on the planet (in 1998 he was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame) in one of the world's top-selling bands (Fleetwood's Mac's 1977 album Rumours has moved a staggering 40 million copies), Fleetwood calls himself "a frustrated harmonic musician, except I don’t play a harmonic instrument as such – the piano, a guitar. Because of that, I have a huge interest in the people that I play with and the songs that they have written."
As for his own playing and his role in the creative process of making songs come to life, Fleetwood claims that it's a bit of a mystery. "I don’t think about what I’m going to play until I feel a personal and emotional dynamic," he says. "I’m told that what I do as a percussion player is all sort of back-to-front, where the fills are usually not in the obvious places, and it’s because I don’t really know what I’m doing. I just do it spontaneously."
Before Fleetwood Mac evolved into a Grammy Award-winning, stadium-filling behemoth, Fleetwood cut his teeth in a variety of mid-'60s British blues bands (including a brief stint in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, which also, at one time, counted McVie as a member). He recalls those early years as being crucial in the development of his highly nuanced style.
"Growing up playing blues, it's is all about listening and doing something that is ostensibly very simple," Fleetwood says. "But it involves great attention to dynamics. The breeding ground for me was just that, and it was a perfect match for me because I’m not ‘Joe Slicko/ Mr Paradiddle.’ I’m not horribly technically profound. I know people have said, ‘Well, that’s not true,’ but I really am happy doing something simple and getting a lot out of it.
"I was a guy who knew, through listening to blues music, when to not play – and I became an expert at it.”
On the following pages, Mick Fleetwood lists what he considers to be his 11 greatest recordings of all time, performances that he treasures for reasons both musical and personal. It's a fascinating, career-spanning mix of big hits and cult favorites, and they all share one not insignificant element: the unmistakable Fleetwood "grease."