"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.

“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.

Written by peter green.

I cant help about the shape Im in
I cant sing, I aint pretty and my legs are thin
But dont ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me to

Oh well

Now, when I talked to God I knew hed understand
He said, stick by my side and Ill be your guiding hand
But dont ask me what I think of you
I might not give the answer that you want me to

Oh well

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.

“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 WelchDave WalkerLindsey Buckingham,[1] Billy Burnette and Mike Campbell.[2]

 

Composition[edit]

Peter Green wrote what would be part 2 of “Oh Well” on a Ramirez Spanish guitar, which he purchased after hearing the instrument on the radio.[3] “Part 1”, which Green dismissed as a “throwaway riff”, was intended to appear on the flip side of Part 2.[4]

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.[5] Where the second part follows, there is a brief pause before Green’s sombre, Spanish-style acoustic guitar and low electric guitar,[5] leading to further instrumental passages of recordercello 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.[6]

Release[edit]

Instead of including “Oh Well” in the UK track listing of Then Play On, the label decided to designate it as the band’s next single. This came as a surprise to the song’s writer, Peter Green, who expected Kirwan’s “When You Say” to fulfill that role instead.[7] Hesitant to release “Oh Well Part 1” as a single, Green lobbied to make “Part 2” the A-side instead, but to no avail.[3] Fleetwood and McVie bet Green eight pounds apiece that “Oh Well” would flop, but the single instead went on to chart in several territories.[8]

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, feature the original single releases of Part 1 (with coda) and Part 2 as two separate tracks.

Chart performance[edit]

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.[9] In the Dutch Top 40, it peaked at No. 1 and spent a total of 11 weeks in the top 40.[10] It also reached the top 5 in Ireland, Norway, New Zealand and France, and the top 10 in Germany and Switzerland.[11]

“Oh Well” was a minor hit in the United States, where it reached #55, 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 received some airplay on some FM rock stations[12] and its reputation has grown in the years since its release.[5]

The single was also issued in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico (as “Ah Bueno”), Portugal and Spain (as “Muy Bien”), and South Africa and Venezuela (as “Oh Bien”) on Reprise Records. Other countries included Greece on Warner Bros. Records and Malaysia on Jaguare Records.

Legacy[edit]

“Oh Well, Part 1” has been viewed by some music critics as one of the early crossovers between blues rock and heavy metal, along with songs by others such as Led Zeppelin.[5] John Paul Jones drew inspiration from “Oh Well, Part 1” when composing the riff to “Black Dog“. John Brackett, a former professor from the University of Utah, notes that both songs employ “call and response vocals and a syncopated ascending chromatic motif that finishes with a long sustained note”.[13]

Personnel[edit]

Oh Well Part 1
Oh Well Part 2
Additional Personnel

Charts[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1969–70)Peak
position
Australia[14]17
Austria[15]6
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[16]3
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[17]5
Canada (RPM)[18]54
France2
Germany[19]5
Ireland[20]5
Netherlands[21]1
Norway[22]3
Switzerland[23]6
UK[24]2
US Billboard Hot 100[25]55

Cover versions and other uses[edit]

“Oh Well” has been covered on record by many other artists and groups, including Billy GibbonsTom Petty and the HeartbreakersKenny Wayne ShepherdMonks of DoomGordon GiltrapJoe JacksonThe RocketsBig CountryTribe of GypsiesRattTourniquetMcCoyJohn ParrOh WellHaim, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and Darrell Mansfield. 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.[26] 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.

Former Fleetwood Mac member Bob Welch on his 2003 His Fleetwood Mac Years & Beyond album.[27] To outline the sections, Welch played his guitars along to the original recording so his cover would “closely match the original, but not be exact copies”. After the guitars were tracked, Welch gradually muted the original recording as he filled out the song with samples and MIDI. Over the course of a couple weeks, Welch had amassed between 64 and 96 individual tracks. For the master mix, he whittled it down to 32 tracks because he found it too difficult to monitor all of the parts he recorded.[28]

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 beginning of the song from Live in Boston by Fleetwood Mac can be heard in the second season of the television show Fargo. Part 2 was also sampled by the KLF for their Chill Out album.

 

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