Q: What’s the story behind the Fleetwood Mac song, “Rhiannon”? It’s such an unusual name. Is it written about a real person?
A: Although Fleetwood Mac (so named after founding members, drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie) originally formed in 1967 under a different lineup, it really wasn’t until the addition of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1975 that the band developed the sound that most of us here in the States are familiar with. Their first album together, with the simple title “Fleetwood Mac” signifying a new start, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Album chart and spawned three hit singles, “Over My Head,” “Say You Love Me,” and “Rhiannon.” In various interviews and sources, Nicks says that she came upon the name Rhiannon in the 1974 novel, “Triad,” by Mary Leader, which she picked up in an airport to read on a flight. Branwen, a character in the book, comes to believe that her body has been taken over by the spirit of her dead cousin, Rhiannon. Nicks thought the name to be beautiful and decided to write a song about a mysterious, woman named Rhiannon. She later learned that Rhiannon is a figure from Welsh mythology. Initially, she was a woman who married King Pwyll and was later falsely accused of killing her infant son. As punishment, she was turned into a horse and forced to carry visitors to the royal court. Her story is told in “The Mabinogion,” a collection of 11 medieval Welsh tales. Nick’s witchy lyrics and penchant for dressing in black gave the false impression that Nicks herself was a practicing witch. She has confessed that the impression hurt her, and she refused to wear black for several years as a result.
Q: I’ve always wondered why Stevie Wonder and Jeff Beck both recorded “Superstition” within a year of each other. Why would two prominent musicians record the same song at the same time?
A: Initially, Stevie Wonder wrote “Superstition” for Jeff Beck to record. Beck’s version of the song appears on his 1973 album, “Beck Bogert & Appice.” Apparently recognizing the song’s potential, Wonder also recorded the song for his 1972 album, “Talking Book.” Due to Motown’s insistence, Wonder released “Superstition” as a single before Beck’s version was released. Wonder’s version quickly became a No. 1 hit. Although the situation caused tension between the two artists, they eventually worked together again on Beck’s 1975 album, “Blow by Blow.”
Q: I’ve heard that the members of the Who were once jailed and the circumstances behind their arrest are the basis of one of their songs. Which song is it, and what is the story behind their bust?
A: The stories of the Who’s indiscriminate destruction of hotel rooms are legendary. One time, following an ill-received concert at the Montreal Forum in 1973, the band members allegedly destroyed their hotel suite. They spent six hours in jail and were required to pay $6,000 in compensation. The incident is not immortalized in a Who song but is instead the basis for John Entwistle’s song, “Cell Number 7,” from his 1975 solo album, “Mad Dog.”