Jeremy Spencer

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This article is about the singer / guitarist. For the drummer of rock band Five Finger Death Punch, see Jeremy Spencer (drummer). For other uses, see Jeremy Spencer (disambiguation).
Jeremy Spencer
Jeremy Spencer - 2009-06-14.jpg
Performing at the Chicago Blues Festival, 2009
Background information
Birth name Jeremy Cedric Spencer
Born (1948-07-04) 4 July 1948 (age 66)
Hartlepool, County Durham, England
Genres Blues, rock and roll
Instruments Slide guitar, guitar, piano, organ, vocals
Years active 1967–present
Associated acts Fleetwood Mac, Steetley
Website www.jeremyspencer.com

Jeremy Cedric Spencer (born 4 July 1948), is a British musician, best known as one of the guitarists in the original line-up of Fleetwood Mac.[1] A member since Fleetwood Mac's inception in July 1967, he remained with the band until his abrupt departure in February 1971, when he joined a religious group called the "Children of God", now known as "The Family International", of which he is still a follower. After a pair of solo albums in the 1970s, he continued to tour as a musician, but did not release another album until 2006. Releasing further solo albums in 2012 and 2014, Spencer has also recorded as part of the folk trio Steetley.

Early life[edit]

Spencer was born in Hartlepool, County Durham, and began taking piano lessons at the age of nine. Switching to guitar in his teens, his speciality became the slide guitar, and he was strongly influenced by the American blues musician Elmore James.[2]

Fleetwood Mac[edit]

In the summer of 1967 Spencer came to the attention of ex-Bluesbreakers guitarist Peter Green, who was looking for another musician to join him in his new Fleetwood Mac project. Green had recruited drummer Mick Fleetwood and temporary bassist Bob Brunning, and wanted a second guitar player to fill out the sound onstage. Spencer was then playing with blues trio The Levi Set, and was already an accomplished slide guitarist and pianist. He fitted in well, and soon after his arrival the band's intended bassist John McVie eventually joined.

This line-up of Fleetwood Mac recorded two albums of traditional blues songs, with Spencer contributing many variations on the Elmore James theme, particularly centred around James' version of "Dust My Broom", plus a few songs of his own. Green became frustrated because Spencer did not seem willing to contribute to Green's songs, whereas Green always played on Spencer's recordings where necessary.[3] Since Spencer's musical contributions to the band were too narrowly focused, Green and Fleetwood brought in a third guitarist, 18 year-old Danny Kirwan, after 1968's Mr. Wonderful. This album featured several of Spencer's Elmore James tunes.

Green and Kirwan found that they worked well together musically, quickly developing the style that provided hits such as "Albatross", "Man of the World" and "Oh Well", none of which featured Spencer. Spencer found himself slightly isolated within the band, and chose to contribute very little to the band's third album Then Play On. It was intended to complement this album with a separate EP of Spencer's work, but this never materialised. In the end, his input amounted to some piano on Green's neo-classical epic "Oh Well Pt. 2".

On stage however, Spencer was an integral part of the band, with a raucous routine of old blues songs which were extremely popular with audiences. Spencer was a gifted mimic,[2] providing excellent impersonations of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Elmore James, John Mayall and whoever else he felt like sending up at the time. He was also often given to occasional suggestive behaviour onstage, particularly at early concerts, which sometimes landed the band in trouble with promoters and venue owners, and got them banned from London's Marquee Club.[4] This wild onstage atmosphere was caught in Spencer's recording "Someone's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite", which was chosen as the B-side to the gentle "Man of the World" single in 1969.

Jeremy Spencer, 18 March 1970

Away from the stage, Spencer was often quiet and withdrawn, and other band members recall him often reading the Bible in his hotel room, strongly at odds with his on-stage persona.[5]

Spencer became the first member of Fleetwood Mac to release a solo album, simply titled Jeremy Spencer, in 1970. This album featured many 1950s parodies and amusing songs but was not a success. It has not yet been officially released on CD.

When Green left Fleetwood Mac in mid-1970, the band were in a state of flux and there was a possibility of not continuing. However, the band held together, and both Spencer and Kirwan worked on new songs, which appeared on the Kiln House album released in the late summer of 1970. For the first time, the defining Elmore James songs were absent on Kiln House, instead this album featured more of Spencer's 1950s parodies, including the Buddy Holly tribute "Buddy's Song". Another song, "One Together", touched on the many different personas that Spencer used onstage.[5]

During a tour of the United States in February 1971 with new keyboardist Christine McVie now having joined the band, Spencer grew disillusioned with his life in Fleetwood Mac, and has mentioned in several interviews an incident when the band were listening to a recording of an old concert. When he heard himself singing, he said, "That sounds horrible. It sounds like shit."[4] According to one account by Mick Fleetwood, Spencer apparently had difficulty recovering from a mescaline trip he had experienced very early on the US tour. Shortly before a journey of the band from San Francisco to Los Angeles, LA experienced a major earthquake. Being in a fragile mental state and filled with strong negative premonitions, Spencer was very apprehensive about having to travel to LA. He unsuccessfully pleaded with Fleetwood to cancel this leg of the tour.[6] Shortly after arriving in LA on the day of a gig the group was scheduled to perform at the Whisky A Go Go, Spencer left the hotel room he shared with Fleetwood to visit a bookshop on Hollywood Boulevard. He did not return, forcing the cancellation of that evening's concert while the band and members of their entourage went searching for him. Some days later, he was found to have joined the religious group the Children of God, and he declared that he no longer wanted to be involved with Fleetwood Mac. Despite appeals from the band's manager, Clifford Davis, to fulfil his obligations to Fleetwood Mac, Spencer could not be persuaded to rejoin the band, and thus they had to struggle on without him, first recalling Peter Green out of retirement as an emergency measure, and later recruiting new guitarist Bob Welch.[6]

Despite many rumours of brainwashing and forced induction into the organisation, Spencer has always maintained that he joined the organisation of his own free will. He had been approached by a young man named Apollos, who engaged Spencer in conversation about God, and invited him to a nearby mission where other members were staying. During the evening, Spencer became convinced that this change of direction was the best course for him to take, and by the time Fleetwood Mac found him, his mind was made up.[7] Despite his continued confidence that he made the right choice, he has said that the manner of his departure from the band was regrettable: "The way I left was wrong and a mistake. I should've told them right away but I was desperate."[8]

After Fleetwood Mac[edit]

Spencer and his then-wife Fiona moved to the USA to settle in with the Children of God, and he soon formed a new band within the organisation and played free concerts around the country. An album was recorded, Jeremy Spencer and the Children, although without any commercial success. Relatively little is known about this period of his life, but he travelled the world recording a considerable amount of music for the purposes of the organisation, and moved to Brazil in 1975 and then to Italy in 1977.[9]

In 1978, a member of the Children of God hired Martin and Steven Machat to represent Spencer and his new band. The Machats then secured them a major record deal with Atlantic Records in New York. In 1978–79, the newly formed Jeremy Spencer Band recorded the album Flee, which had a little commercial success. During the 1980s Spencer lived in the Philippines, before working in India in the 1990s, holding charity concerts. He later lived in Ireland and then Germany, and still works for the Children of God (now called the Family International), mainly as a book illustrator and story writer.[8] He has always continued to play music, often just for his own amusement, but recently he has appeared at various blues and gospel conventions, and in 2006 he released a new album, Precious Little, which was recorded in Norway. The album showed a return to the blues and the slide guitar style that he became famous for whilst he was with Fleetwood Mac.

Spencer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 for his work as part of Fleetwood Mac.

During the 2000s there were rumours of a reunion of the early line-up of Fleetwood Mac, involving Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer. Whilst these two guitarists and vocalists apparently remain unconvinced of the merits of such a project,[10] Danny Kirwan (who first joined the band in 1968 as a third guitarist and vocalist) has remained as silent as ever on the subject. In April 2006, during a question-and-answer session on the Penguin Fleetwood Mac fan website, bassist John McVie said of the reunion idea:

"If we could get Peter and Jeremy to do it, I'd probably, maybe, do it. I know Mick would do it in a flash. Unfortunately, I don't think there's much chance of Danny doing it. Bless his heart."[11]

More recently, Spencer has been in contact with his former Fleetwood Mac bandmates Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, and according to McVie, the three had informal jam sessions with Rick Vito at Fleetwood's home.[12] Spencer also took part in the TV documentary Peter Green: Man of the World,[13] in which he was interviewed together with John McVie and Mick Fleetwood.

In 2012, Spencer released a new album, Bend in the Road, which was recorded at Tempermill Studios in Ferndale, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit). This was followed in 2014 by Coventry Blue.

Spencer occasionally teams up with Detroit area musicians for live performances. Among those are The Boa Constrictors, Brett Lucas (Bettye LaVette), Todd Glass, James Simonson, Pete Berg, Steve Allen, and Kirk Barkel.[citation needed]

Several of Spencer's children formed a band in England called JYNXT. The current band members include Nat, Koa, and Tally Spencer.

Steetley[edit]

During 2012–13, Spencer became involved with Hartlepool-based singer-songwriter Andy Oliver, and they eventually decided to record songs together. They formed a trio named Steetley, along with the Northern Irish musician and actress Janet Bamford, and in December 2013 released their debut album, The Moment She Fell.[14]

Discography[edit]

Fleetwood Mac albums featuring Jeremy Spencer[edit]

Additional compilations/outtakes collections[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • Live At The BBC (Castle 1995 – recorded 1967–71)
  • Shrine '69 (Rykodisc 1999 – recorded 25 January 1969)
  • The Blues Collection (Castle, 1989 or 1992)
  • Live at the Boston Tea Party, vols 1–3 (recorded 5–7 February 1970. Comprehensively released 1998 by Snapper Records, having previously been repackaged and bootlegged several times)
  • Jumping at Shadows: The Blues Years (released 2002)

Jeremy Spencer solo albums[edit]

Steetley albums[edit]

  • The Moment She Fell (2013)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rawlings, Terry (2002). Then, now and rare British Beat 1960-1969. Omnibus Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-7119-9094-8. 
  2. ^ a b "Jeremy Spencer biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  3. ^ The Penguin Q&A with Jeremy Spencer, June 1999
  4. ^ a b Fleetwood Mac – "The Vaudeville Years" (booklet notes), 1998
  5. ^ a b "Insight" – BBC Radio Interview with Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Christine McVie, November 1976.
  6. ^ a b Mick Fleetwood (1990). Fleetwood–My Life and Adventures with Fleetwood Mac. Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd. ISBN 0-283-06126-X. 
  7. ^ Jeremy Spencer interviewed by Steve Clark, NME magazine, 5 October 1974.
  8. ^ a b Jeremy Spencer interviewed by Martin Celmins, Classic Rock magazine, March 2006.
  9. ^ Atlantic Records Publicity Biography – The Jeremy Spencer Band, 1979
  10. ^ Wasserzieher, Bill (October 2006). "The Return of Jeremy Spencer". Blues Revue. Archived from the original on 2008-02-20. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  11. ^ "The Penguin Q&A Sessions: John McVie Q&A Session, Part 2". The Penguin. January 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  12. ^ The Penguin Q&A with John McVie, January 2007
  13. ^ BBC4
  14. ^ "About Steetley". Steetley. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 

Other reference material[edit]

External links[edit]