In The Style Of John McVie

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

We were looking forward to getting off the beaten path of electric guitars and what better way to do it than talk about one of the most famous bassists in rock history. Famous mainly for how good he is and how well he has done with his band, but also because his nickname, derived from his surname, together with the band’s drummer’s surname, Mick Fleetwood, would form the magic words Fleetwood Mac, the name of one of the groups who sold the most millions of records throughout history.

The formation of the band is a funny story and more striking is the fact that its leader and founder, Peter Green, called the band Fleetwood Mac because he wanted to praise his favorite drummer and bassman so that they would quit their different projects, none other than the Bluesbreakers
of John Mayall in McVie’s case, and joined his new project. In Mick Fleetwood’s case, the gave the ‘green’ light right away but it was a little harder for McVie to leave a band that was rolling right along, led by Mayall, until he finally joined Green...but it seems that time has made it quite clear that he made the right choice.  

In Fleetwood Mac’s early years, which we can’t help but recommend from Guitars Exchange (please if you are fans of British blues from the 60s and haven’t heard these records, you have your homework to do) we can see photos of McVie with probably the two most famous bass models in the world: the Fender Jazz Bass, and the Fender Precision Bass. We can see him use randomly one or the other throughout the first years of his career when his music was mainly blues fed.  

It would be in the mid 70s when the rudder of the band took a sharp turn towards a more pop sound, when he decided to include mainly Alembic basses to his work, they were hand crafted with a very stylish design. One of the first models was the Alembic Series I which he used on almost all the tracks on Rumours, a fundamental cultural piece in the 70s that sold more than 40 million copies to date. We can imagine that Mayall, after seeing such success, stopped blaming him for leaving the band years before, if he ever did blame him for that.

To mention some other bass as well, he’s been seen onstage with Lakland
and Rick Turner basses. As far as amps, we can see him in photos from the 60s using a Fender head, and further on, for many years, we saw head and cabinets from the Ampeg brand, although his choice nowadays are Orange amps. In the 60s and 70s they were already using different models from that brand and today we can find McVie himself declaring praise for the sound he gets from their heads and he’s even signed an endorsement contract with them.

John McVie is such a low-profile guy, never better said, who got over the band’s transformations, all kinds of addictions, inbred divorces within the group, and even colon cancer, to be able to take the stage once again and start to play those simple lines that seem easy but those who have played them know that it’s just the opposite. Follow his type of philosophy: less is more.

Find you own way to the sound of John McVie