Performing at the Chicago Blues Festival, 2009
|Birth name||Jeremy Cedric Spencer|
|Born||4 July 1948|
Hartlepool, County Durham, England
|Genres||Blues, rock and roll|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano|
|Associated acts||Fleetwood Mac, Steetley|
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. 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 cult called the "Children of God", now known as "The Family International", with which he is still affiliated. 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, 2014 and 2016, Spencer has also recorded as part of the folk trio Steetley.
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.
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 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. On Fleetwood Mac, the 1968 debut album, Spencer gives a solo performance on vocal and piano of Robert Johnson's Hellhound on My Trail.
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, 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. This wild onstage atmosphere was caught in Spencer's recording "Somebody'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.
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.
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. In December 2015, the album was 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.
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." 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. 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.
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. 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."
After Fleetwood Mac
Spencer and his then-wife Fiona moved to the US to settle with the Children of God. 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 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 organization. He moved to Brazil in 1975 and then to Italy in 1977.
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. He has continued to play music, often for his own amusement or in small settings, but also has appeared more often at various blues and gospel conventions. In 2006 he released the album Precious Little, recorded in Norway. The album showed a return to the blues and the slide guitar style that he became famous for while he was with Fleetwood Mac.
Spencer was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 for his past work as a member 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 remained unconvinced of the merits of such a project, Danny Kirwan, who joined the band in 1968 as a third guitarist and vocalist and was fired in 1972, remained silent on the subject. Kirwan died in 2018. 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."
In 2007 Spencer was 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. Spencer also took part in the TV documentary Peter Green: Man of the World, 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. The vinyl, CD and download featured different track listings This was followed in 2014 by Coventry Blue.
Since then Spencer has concentrated on instrumental work. Homebrewed Blues (2016) showcased his slide guitar playing while Treading Softly (2018) and Latina Nights (2019) focused on music inspired by Ireland and Latin America respectively.
Several of Spencer's children formed a band in England called JYNXT.
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.
Fleetwood Mac albums featuring Jeremy Spencer
- Fleetwood Mac (Blue Horizon 1968)
- Mr. Wonderful (Blue Horizon 1968)
- English Rose (Epic 1969—US only)
- The Pious Bird of Good Omen (Blue Horizon 1969—UK only)
- Then Play On (Reprise 1969)
- Fleetwood Mac In Chicago/Blues Jam In Chicago vols 1 & 2 (Blue Horizon 1969)
- Kiln House (Reprise 1970)
Additional compilations/outtakes collections
- The Original Fleetwood Mac (CBS 1971 – outtakes recorded 1967–68)
- Greatest Hits (CBS 1971 – compilation)
- The Best of Fleetwood Mac (Reprise c1971 – Germany only but featuring rare songs)
- The Hits of Fleetwood Mac (Columbia 1990 – compilation)
- Original Fleetwood Mac: The Blues Years (3-CD set, Castle 1990)
- 25 Years – The Chain [4-CD box set] (Warner 1992)
- Like It This Way (Elite – compilation)
- The Vaudeville Years of Fleetwood Mac 1968 to 1970 [2-CD Box set] (Receiver 1998)
- Show-Biz Blues 1968 to 1970 [2-CD Box set] (Receiver 2001 – Companion to "Vaudeville Years")
- The Complete Blue Horizon Sessions 1967–1969 [Box set] (Columbia UK, 1999)
- The Best of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac (Columbia 2002 – compilation)
- Madison Blues [3 disc box-set] (Shakedown 2003 – recorded 1970–71)
- Green Shadows (Union Square Music 2003 – compilation)
- Black Magic Woman (Epic 2004 – compilation)
- The Essential Fleetwood Mac (Sony BMG 2007 – 2CD compilation)
- 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
- Jeremy Spencer (Reprise, 1970)
- Jeremy Spencer and the Children (CBS, 1972)
- Flee (Atlantic, 1979)
- In Concert – India 1998 (PolyGram India, 1999)
- Precious Little (Bluestown, 2006)
- Bend in the Road (Propelz, 2012)
- Coventry Blue (Propelz, 2014)
- Homebrewed Blues (Sibylline Media, 2016)
- Treading Softly (Sibylline Media, 2018)
- Latina Nights (2019)
- The Moment She Fell (2013)
- Rawlings, Terry (2002). Then, now and rare British Beat 1960–1969. Omnibus Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-7119-9094-8.
- "Jeremy Spencer biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
- The Penguin Q&A with Jeremy Spencer, June 1999 Archived 30 July 2018 at the Wayback Machine
- Fleetwood Mac – "The Vaudeville Years" (booklet notes), 1998
- "Insight" – BBC Radio Interview with Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Christine McVie, November 1976.
- Mick Fleetwood (1990). Fleetwood–My Life and Adventures with Fleetwood Mac. Sidgwick & Jackson Ltd. ISBN 0-283-06126-X.
- Jeremy Spencer interviewed by Steve Clark, NME magazine, 5 October 1974.
- Jeremy Spencer interviewed by Martin Celmins, Classic Rock magazine, March 2006.
- Atlantic Records Publicity Biography – The Jeremy Spencer Band, 1979
- Wasserzieher, Bill (October 2006). "The Return of Jeremy Spencer". Blues Revue. Archived from the original on 20 February 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
- "The Penguin Q&A Sessions: John McVie Q&A Session, Part 2". The Penguin. January 2006. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
- The Penguin Q&A with John McVie, January 2007
- "About Steetley". Steetley. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
Other reference material
- Classic Rock Magazine Article by Martin Celmins
- NME magazine interview (by Steve Clark), 5 October 1974
- Official website
- Jeremy Spencer discography at MusicBrainz
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – Fleetwood Mac inducted 1998
- Jeremy Spencer Former Record Label – Blind Pig Records
- Jeremy Spencer Former Record Label – Bluestown Records
- JYNXT – Band formed by three of Spencer's children
- on 's channelYouTube
- Jeremy Spencer biography on xFamily.org
- Fleetwood Mac official website