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Dutch single reissue: L–R: Kirwan, Green, McVie, Fleetwood (back), Spencer (front)
|Single by Fleetwood Mac|
|B-side||"Jigsaw Puzzle Blues"|
|Released||22 November 1968|
|Label||Blue Horizon (BH 57-3145)|
|Fleetwood Mac singles chronology|
"Albatross" is a guitar-based instrumental by Fleetwood Mac, released as a single in November 1968, later featuring on the compilation albums The Pious Bird of Good Omen (UK) and English Rose (US). The piece was composed by Peter Green.
Santo & Johnny's "Sleep Walk" (1959) reportedly inspired Peter Green for his 1968 instrumental "Albatross", although the composition also resembles Chuck Berry's 1957 instrumental "Deep Feeling", itself derivative of the 1939 recording "Floyd's Guitar Blues" by Andy Kirk and his 12 Clouds of Joy, featuring guitarist Floyd Smith. In Green's biography [Celmins 1998], an early inspiration for "Albatross" was said to have been "a group of notes from an Eric Clapton solo, played slower."
The composition and its arrangement suggest a relaxing sea setting, with cymbals imitating the sound of waves (Mick Fleetwood played his drum kit using timpani mallets to give a muted sound) and a dreamy solo from Green's guitar. It contains four chords, E, Emaj7 (or G#m/E), A/E, and F#m, played by Green on his Fender Stratocaster into an Orange Matamp OR100. Green had been working on the piece for some time before the addition to the band of 18-year-old guitarist Danny Kirwan. Slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer was not generally inclined to work with Green, who had felt unable to realise the overall effect that he wanted. With Kirwan's input, Green completed the piece and it was recorded just two months after Kirwan joined, without Spencer present. Although he was not a part of the recording sessions, Spencer was shown in video material miming to Green's slide guitar parts. Kirwan's instrumental "Jigsaw Puzzle Blues" was chosen for the B-side in most territories. "Albatross" has been re-released many times as a single in various countries, with many different B-sides.
This composition is one of only a few tracks by the original line-up of Fleetwood Mac that is included on their later "greatest hits" and "best of" compilations. Many of their compilations only focus on hits from the 1970s and 1980s. However, other compositions from that period have gone on to become classic recordings in the hands of other performers – "Black Magic Woman" as recorded by Santana for example. Another example, "Oh Well" has gone on to become a rock standard. "Albatross" is the only Fleetwood Mac composition with the distinction of having inspired a Beatles song, "Sun King" from 1969's Abbey Road.
One of the earliest uses of the tune was on the soundtrack for the Rainer Werner Fassbinder sci-fi virtual reality film World on a Wire (1973). It was featured (along with "Jigsaw Puzzle Blues") in 1979's Rock 'n' Roll High School. It was also used by the BBC as the theme music to a long running travel programme in the 1960s and '70s.
The piece was used as the background music to Marks & Spencer's 2005 advertising campaign. In March of that year, Q magazine placed it at number 37 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. The song was used again by Marks & Spencer in 2019.
Apart from being used in World on a Wire, the track can also be heard in the film Man on Wire about Philippe Petit's 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York's World Trade Center.
The song was a success in several countries and remains Fleetwood Mac's only number-one hit in the UK Singles Chart, spending one week at the top in January 1969.
"Albatross" was re-released in Britain as a double A-sided single with "Need Your Love So Bad" in April 1973. This re-release was part of a CBS Records series entitled "Hall of Fame Hits". As a result of the re-release, "Albatross" enjoyed a second UK chart run, peaking at number 2.
As of 2019, "Albatross" has sold over 900,000 copies in the UK.
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)||19|
|Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)||35|
|Canadian Singles Chart||45|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||1|
|Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)||4|
|UK Singles Chart||1|
|US Billboard Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles||4|
|West Germany (Official German Charts)||19|
|Chart (1973 UK re-release)||Peak|
|UK Singles Chart||2|
|Chart (1989 UK re-release)||Peak|
|UK Singles Chart||96|
- Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 123. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
- Rooksby, Rikky (2004). Fleetwood Mac: The Complete Guide to Their Music. Omnibus Press. p. 17. ISBN 1-844494-27-6.
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