For as much success as Fleetwood Mac found around the world after adding Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to their lineup in the mid-1970s, it’s often forgotten by casual fans that the group actually began in the previous decade, scoring three major back-to-back hits in the U.K.: the chart-topping “Albatross,” followed by “Man of the World” and “Oh Well (Parts 1 and 2),” both of which hit No. 2.
Of that trio of tracks, however, the one that’s continued to remain a steadfast staple of the band’s live repertoire over the many decades of their career – and, as a result of their frequent shifts in membership, one that’s been sung by a variety of different vocalists over the years – is “Oh Well.”
Written and originally sung by the band’s lead guitarist, Peter Green, “Oh Well” can be found these days on Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 album Then Play On, but it was originally released as a standalone single. And as noted earlier, that single was a two-parter of sorts: Side A featured Pt. 1 along with the first minute of Pt. 2 to fade out the track, with the song picking up again on Side B.
For the most part, it’s only Pt. 1 of “Oh Well” that the band tends to play in concert, but that’s generally plenty enough to get the old-school fans in the crowd on their feet and cheering for all they’re worth. That said, Green – ever the contrarian – always preferred the other part of the song.
"The best bit was Part 2 on the other side of the record," Green told Mojo in 1996. "You miss the best bit, the Spanish guitar break. The first side was what we played on stage. I didn't think it would be a hit and I used to hate playing that one because we played the part that wasn't as good. I wanted a bit of moody guitar playing. They wanted the bit that was easy to do, that everyone knew."
Over the course of Fleetwood Mac’s ridiculously long existence, “Oh Well” has continued to find its way into their sets, and we’ve culled together four such versions throughout this article for your listening enjoyment. As you may have noticed, they all tend to more or less follow the format established by Green...not that there’s anything wrong with that.