Before Fleetwood Mac – The First Live Performance of Rhiannon

Buckingham Nicks First Live Performance of The Hit Song Rhiannon

Before joining Fleetwood Mac in December 1974, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had their own group Buckingham Nicks.

Buckingham Nicks released an album in September 1973 to little acclaim and scant radio airplay.

By autumn 1974 the duo was at work writing new songs. One song would go on to become a huge hit for the band they would soon join.

Nicks was at an airport and bought a book to read for a long flight called The Triad by Mary Leader. Its main character is a woman named Branwen who is possessed by another woman named Rhiannon. Nicks was enchanted and inspired by the book especially the name Rhiannon.

Nicks said, “I just thought the name was so pretty that I wanted to write something about a girl named Rhiannon. I wrote it about three months before I joined Fleetwood Mac, in about 1974. And then to find out that Rhiannon was a real mythical character!”

Nicks learned a few years later, “That after I’ve written the song, that in fact Rhiannon was the goddess of steeds, maker of birds. Her three birds sang music, and when something was happening in war you would see Rhiannon come riding in on a horse.

This is all in the Welsh translation of The Mabinogion, their book of mythology. When she came you’d kind of black out, then wake up and the danger would be gone, and you’d see the three birds flying off and you’d hear this little song. So there was, in fact, a song of Rhiannon. I had no idea about any of this.”

Supposedly it took Stevie Nicks about ten minutes to write Rhiannon.

Buckingham Nicks performed the song soon after Nicks penned it. As Nicks introduced the song to audiences, she said, “This is a song about an old Welsh witch.”

Let’s listen to the first live performance of Rhiannon from a 1974 Buckingham-Nicks concert in Alabama.

A Hit For Fleetwood Mac

Buckingham Nicks producer Keith Olsen played a sample of the pair’s work for drummer Mick Fleetwood. Guitarist Bob Welch had resigned from Fleetwood Mac and Fleetwood needed a replacement. Fleetwood was impressed by what Olsen played for him. Initially Fleetwood only wanted Buckingham to join the band.

But Lindsey Buckingham insisted it had to be a package deal that included Stevie Nicks. Fleetwood acquiesced.

The eponymous 1975 album Fleetwood Mac features Nicks’s song Rhiannon which hit number 11 on the Billboard charts in 1976.

It’s interesting to see the differences in how the song was polished and presented with Fleetwood Mac. The huge improvements are self-evident in a vastly superior band. Drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie and keyboardist / vocalist Christine McVie add immeasurably to Buckingham’s fabulous guitar work and Nick’s performance.

This is a live performance from 1975 in Largo, MD., about two months after the Fleetwood Mac LP was released.

The lyrics:

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night and
Wouldn’t you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight and
Who will be her lover?

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?

She is like a cat in the dark and then
She is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark and when
The sky is starless

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?
Will you ever win?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

She rings like a bell through the night and
Wouldn’t you love to love her?
She rules her life like a bird in flight and
Who will be her lover?

All your life you’ve never seen
A woman taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?
Will you ever win?

Rhiannon
Rhiannon
Rhiannon

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Taken by
Taken by the sky

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

Dreams unwind
Love’s a state of mind

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