Oh Well (song)
Cover of the French release:
(back row, L-R) McVie, Kirwan, Green
(front row L-R) Spencer, Fleetwood
|Single by Fleetwood Mac|
|from the album Then Play On|
|A-side||"Oh Well, Part 1"|
|B-side||"Oh Well, Part 2"|
|Released||26 September 1969|
|Length||3:22 (Part 1 single)|
2:22 (Part 1)
5:39 (Part 2)
8:56 (Then Play On version)
|Fleetwood Mac singles chronology|
Cover of the Spanish release:
McVie, Kirwan, Green, Spencer, Fleetwood
"Oh Well" is a song first recorded by Fleetwood Mac in 1969, composed by vocalist and lead guitarist Peter Green. It first appeared as a Fleetwood Mac single in various countries in 1969 and subsequently appeared on revised versions of that year's Then Play On album and the Greatest Hits album in 1971. It later featured on the 1992 boxed set 25 Years – The Chain, and on the 2002 compilation album The Best of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. A live version of the song was included on the 1998 compilation The Vaudeville Years.
"Oh Well" was composed in two parts, "Part 1" being a fast electric blues song with vocals (lasting 2:19), "Part 2" being an entirely different instrumental piece with a classical influence (lasting 5:39). The original 1969 single features the first minute of "Part 2" as a fade-out coda to the A-side and then "Part 2" begins again on the B-side. Later releases varied in length. At concerts, only the first part was played, and live versions of the song have been released on many Fleetwood Mac live albums throughout their career such as Live and Live at the BBC, as well on the B-sides of singles. After Green's departure, the song was sung by various other members, including Bob Welch, Dave Walker, Lindsey Buckingham, Billy Burnette and Mike Campbell.
The first part of the song features a fast blues guitar riff played by Green, joined subsequently by Danny Kirwan and bassist John McVie, before a musical silence, punctuated only by Mick Fleetwood's cowbell percussion. Green sings a brief verse with no musical accompaniment, before the riff begins again and Kirwan takes a solo. Another silence precedes a second verse, and a replay of the riff. Where the second part follows, there is a brief pause before Green's sombre, Spanish-style acoustic guitar and low electric guitar, leading to further instrumental passages of recorder, cello and piano, the latter played by Jeremy Spencer. This was Spencer's only contribution to the song, as he was absent from the recording of "Part 1", and Green played all the other instruments heard during "Part 2". During live performances with the original lineup, Spencer frequently played supplemental percussion during the song, often maracas.
Peter Green revealed in a 1994 interview that he wrote "Oh Well Part 2" first, intending to release the song as the A-side. Inspired by some Spanish guitar playing he heard on the radio, he purchased a Ramirez Spanish guitar specifically for "Oh Well Part 2". Soon after, he wrote "Part 1" as a throwaway riff for the B-side. "Part 1" ended up on the A side against Green's wishes, and became a worldwide hit.
"Oh Well, Part 1" has been viewed by some critics as one of the early crossovers between blues rock and heavy metal, along with songs by others such as Led Zeppelin. Although recorded on a multitrack recorder, the song is not available in true stereo.
After the single was released, US versions of the Then Play On album were updated to include the song. The album edit of "Oh Well" simply joined the two sides of the single as one track, entitled "Oh Well" (lasting 8:56), so that "Part 2"'s beginning is heard twice. This was repeated on the worldwide original CD release. A 1972 US reissue of the single featured just the electric "Part 1" without the coda. Other reissues of the song, including the Greatest Hits album and the 2013 Deluxe Then Play On, generally feature the original single releases of Part 1 (with coda) and Part 2 as two separate tracks.
The single's peak position in the UK Charts was No. 2 for two weeks in November 1969, spending a total of 16 weeks on the chart. In the Dutch Top 40, it peaked at No. 1, staying in the chart for 11 weeks. It also reached the top 5 in Ireland, Norway, New Zealand and France, and the top 10 in Germany and Switzerland.
"Oh Well" was a minor hit in the USA, where it reached #55, thus becoming Fleetwood Mac's first single to reach the Hot 100, as well as their only pre-Buckingham/Nicks song to earn this distinction. The song still received some airplay on many FM rock stations and its reputation has grown in the years since its release. It has been also re-released in many countries as a 'Golden Oldies' single.
Cover versions and other uses
"Oh Well" has been covered on record by many other artists and groups, including Billy Gibbons, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Monks of Doom, Gordon Giltrap, Joe Jackson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, The Rockets, Big Country, Tribe of Gypsies, Ratt, Tourniquet, McCoy, John Parr, Oh Well and Haim. The song was also played live by Jimmy Page & the Black Crowes and released on their 2000 album Live at the Greek. Australian singer-songwriter Rick Springfield performed a version of the song in July 2013 for The A.V. Club's A.V. Undercover series. Also, this song has been covered by former Fleetwood Mac member Bob Welch on his 2003 His Fleetwood Mac Years & Beyond album. Eels included a cover of the song on the bonus-disc edition of their 2014 album The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, and it is also found on the 2012 album Fifteen by Colin James.
An excerpt from the song can be heard in the Doctor Who story Spearhead from Space. This was filmed around the same time the single was in the charts, and transmitted in January 1970. The song was omitted from later video releases of the story, but finally reintroduced on the DVD release in 2011.
The opening guitar riff in the 1979 AC/DC song "Beating Around the Bush" has been referred to by journalist Phil Sutcliffe as being "almost a tribute ...a reflection, I hesitate to say a copy" of Oh Well.
- Oh Well Part 1
- Peter Green – vocals, electric guitar, dobro
- Danny Kirwan – electric guitar
- John McVie – bass guitar
- Mick Fleetwood – drums, cowbell, congas, maracas, claves
- Oh Well Part 2
- Peter Green – classical guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, cello, timpani, clash cymbals
- Jeremy Spencer – piano
- Additional Personnel
- Sandra Elsdon – recorder
- Netherlands – Reprise RS27000, No. 1
- UK – Reprise RS27000, No. 2
- France – Reprise RV20231, No. 2
- Norway – Reprise RS27000, No. 3
- Ireland – Reprise RS27000, No. 5
- New Zealand – Reprise RO.27000, No. 5
- Germany – Reprise RA27000, No. 7
- Australia – Reprise 0883, No. 17 (Go-Set chart)
- USA – Reprise 0883, No. 55
- Also issued in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico (as "Ah Bueno"), Portugal, Spain (as "Muy Bien"), South Africa and Venezuela (as "Oh Bien") on Reprise Records; Greece on Warner Bros. Records and Malaysia on Jaguare Records.
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- "His Fleetwood Mac Years & Beyond". Retrieved 2017-06-25.
- "ACDC - Highway To Hell. A Classic Album Under Review (Part 6 of 8)". YouTube. 2013-02-15. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
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