Jeremy Spencer

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Jeremy Spencer
Jeremy Spencer - 2009-06-14.jpg
Performing at the Chicago Blues Festival, 2009
Background information
Birth nameJeremy Cedric Spencer
Born (1948-07-04) 4 July 1948 (age 70)
Hartlepool, County Durham, England
Genres Blues, rock and roll
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano
Years active1967–present
Associated acts Fleetwood Mac, Steetley
Website 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 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.

Fleetwood Mac British-American rock band

Fleetwood Mac are a British-American rock band, formed in London in 1967. They have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the world's best-selling bands. In 1998, select members of Fleetwood Mac were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.

The Family International (TFI) is a cult that started in 1968 in Huntington Beach, California, US. It was originally called Teens for Christ and later gained notoriety as The Children of God (COG). It was later renamed and reorganized as The Family of Love, which was eventually shortened to The Family. It is currently called The Family International.

Contents

Personal life

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]

Hartlepool town in County Durham, England

Hartlepool is a town in County Durham, England. The town lies on the North Sea coast, 7 12 miles (12 km) north of Middlesbrough and 17 miles (27 km) south of Sunderland. The town is governed as part of the Borough of Hartlepool, a unitary authority which also controls outlying villages such as Seaton Carew, Greatham and Elwick.

Slide guitar guitar technique for steelguitars

Slide guitar is a particular technique for playing the guitar that is often used in blues-style music. The technique involves placing an object against the strings while playing to create glissando effects and deep vibratos. It typically involves playing the guitar in the traditional position with the use of a tubular "slide" fitted on one of the guitarist's fingers. The slide may be a metal or glass tube like the neck of a bottle. The term "bottleneck" was historically used to describe this type of playing. The strings are typically plucked while the slide is moved over the strings to change the pitch. The guitar may also be placed on the player's lap and played with a hand-held bar and is then referred to as "lap slide guitar" or "lap steel guitar".

Blues is a music genre and musical form which was originated in the Deep South of the United States around the 1870s by African Americans from roots in African musical traditions, African-American work songs, and spirituals. Blues incorporated spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts, chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads. The blues form, ubiquitous in jazz, rhythm and blues and rock and roll, is characterized by the call-and-response pattern, the blues scale and specific chord progressions, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most common. Blue notes, usually thirds, fifths or sevenths flattened in pitch are also an essential part of the sound. Blues shuffles or walking bass reinforce the trance-like rhythm and form a repetitive effect known as the groove.

Fleetwood Mac

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.

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers English blues band

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers was an English blues rock band, led by singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist John Mayall, OBE. While never producing a radio-friendly hit on their own, the Bluesbreakers' greatest legacy is as an incubator for British rock and blues musicians. Many of the best known bands to come out of Britain in the 1960s and 1970s had members that came through the Bluesbreakers at one time, forming the foundation of British blues music that still appears heavily in classic rock radio. Among those with a tenure in the Bluesbreakers are Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, and John McVie, Mick Taylor, Aynsley Dunbar, and numerous other musicians.

Peter Green (musician) British blues rock guitarist

Peter Green is an English blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist. As a co-founder of Fleetwood Mac, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. Green's songs, such as "Albatross", "Black Magic Woman", "Oh Well", "The Green Manalishi " and "Man of the World", appeared on singles charts, and several have been adapted by a variety of musicians.

Mick Fleetwood British musician

Michael John Kells Fleetwood is a British musician and actor, best known as the drummer, co-founder, and de facto leader of the rock band Fleetwood Mac. Fleetwood, whose surname was merged with that of the group's bassist John "Mac" McVie to form the name of the band, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

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] On Fleetwood Mac, the 1968 debut album, Spencer gives a solo performance on vocal and piano of Robert Johnson's Hellhound on My Trail.

Elmore James American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader

Elmore James was an American blues guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader. He was known as "King of the Slide Guitar" and was noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice. Elmore James was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 as an "Early Influence" inductee.

Dust My Broom single by Robert Johnson

"Dust My Broom" is a blues song originally recorded as "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" by American blues artist Robert Johnson in 1936. It is a solo performance in the Delta blues-style with Johnson's vocal accompanied by his acoustic guitar. As with many of his songs, it is based on earlier blues songs, the earliest of which has been identified as "I Believe I'll Make a Change", recorded by the Sparks brothers as "Pinetop and Lindberg" in 1932. Johnson's guitar work features an early use of a boogie rhythm pattern, which is seen as a major innovation, as well as a repeating triplets figure. "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" was issued before blues records were tracked by recording industry trade publications and, as with most of Johnson's recordings, has not been otherwise identified as a big seller at the time.

Robert Johnson American blues singer and musician

Robert Leroy Johnson was an American blues singer, songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians. Johnson's poorly documented life and death have given rise to much legend. The one most closely associated with his life is that he sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads to achieve musical success. He is now recognized as a master of the blues, particularly as a progenitor of the Delta blues style.

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.

Danny Kirwan British musician

Daniel David Kirwan was a British musician whose greatest success came with his role as guitarist, singer and songwriter with the blues rock band Fleetwood Mac between 1968 and 1972. He released three albums as a solo artist from 1975 to 1979, recorded albums with Otis Spann, Chris Youlden, and Tramp, and worked with his former Fleetwood Mac colleagues Jeremy Spencer and Christine McVie on some of their solo projects.

<i>Mr. Wonderful</i> (Fleetwood Mac album) 1968 studio album by Fleetwood Mac

Mr. Wonderful is the second studio album by British blues rock band Fleetwood Mac, released on 23 August 1968. This all-blues album was broadly similar to their debut album, albeit with some changes to personnel and recording method. The album was recorded live in the studio with miked amplifiers and PA system, rather than plugged into the board. A horn section was introduced; and Christine Perfect of Chicken Shack was featured on keyboards. In the USA, the album was not issued under the name Mr. Wonderful, though around half of the tracks appeared on English Rose.

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".

Man of the World (song) single by Fleetwood Mac

"Man of the World" is a song recorded by Fleetwood Mac in 1969, and composed by vocalist and lead guitarist Peter Green. It first appeared as a Fleetwood Mac single in various countries in 1969, subsequently appearing on the Greatest Hits album in 1971. It later featured on the 1992 boxed set 25 Years – The Chain, and on the 2002 compilation albums The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac and The Best of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. A slightly different version of the song was included on the 1998 compilation The Vaudeville Years.

Oh Well (song) 1969 single by Fleetwood Mac

"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 was later featured on the 1992 boxed set 25 Years – The Chain, on the 2002 compilation album The Best of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac as well as on the 2018 compilation 50 Years - Don't Stop.

<i>Then Play On</i> 1969 studio album by Fleetwood Mac

Then Play On is the third studio album by British blues rock band Fleetwood Mac, released on 19 September 1969. It was the first of their original albums to feature Danny Kirwan and the last with Peter Green. Jeremy Spencer did not feature on the album apart from "a couple of piano things". The album, appearing after the group's sudden success in the pop charts, offered a broader stylistic range than the classic blues of the group's first two albums. The album went on to reach #6 in the UK, subsequently becoming the band's fourth Top 20 hit in a row, as well as their third album to reach the Top 10. The title is taken from the opening line of William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night — "If music be the food of love, play on".

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 "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.

Jeremy Spencer, 18 March 1970 Fleetwood mac jeremy spencer 8.jpg
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. 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. [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

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. [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 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, [10] 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." [11]

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. [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. 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) focussed on music inspired by Ireland and Latin America respectively.

Several of Spencer's children formed a band in England called JYNXT.

Steetley

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

Fleetwood Mac albums featuring Jeremy Spencer

Additional compilations/outtakes collections

Live albums

  • 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

Steetley albums

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References

  1. Rawlings, Terry (2002). Then, now and rare British Beat 1960–1969. Omnibus Press. p. 77. ISBN   0-7119-9094-8.
  2. 1 2 "Jeremy Spencer biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
  3. The Penguin Q&A with Jeremy Spencer, June 1999
  4. 1 2 Fleetwood Mac – "The Vaudeville Years" (booklet notes), 1998
  5. 1 2 "Insight" – BBC Radio Interview with Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Christine McVie, November 1976.
  6. 1 2 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. 1 2 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 20 February 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  11. "The Penguin Q&A Sessions: John McVie Q&A Session, Part 2". The Penguin. January 2006. Retrieved 20 May 2008.
  12. The Penguin Q&A with John McVie , January 2007
  13. BBC4
  14. "About Steetley". Steetley. Retrieved 8 December 2013.

Other reference material