Guitarist Jeremy Spencer was one of the original members of Fleetwood Mac, bringing a style heavily influenced by Elmore James that complemented the fretwork by the band’s other guitarists Peter Green and, later, Danny Kirwan. Spencer’s recorded contributions to Fleetwood Mac albums included their self-titled debut, Mr. Wonderful, Kiln House, and various compilations from that period. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 for his role in Fleetwood Mac.
While on tour in Los Angeles with Fleetwood Mac in 1971, Spencer disappeared before a gig, and several days later it was discovered that he had joined the religious group Children of God. Since then, he has remained devoted to this organization, which is now known as The Family International.
Spencer had planned to tour the United States for the first time in 43 years, in support of a new album Coventry Blue, but had to cancel at the last minute reportedly because of illness. This interview was for a preview article for the scheduled show in Santa Barbara on 2/16/14; although the show and tour was canceled, we believe that the interview is still of interest. It was conducted by email, with answers received on 2/6/14.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming show in Santa Barbara?
Jeremy Spencer: I won’t fully know myself until I get to rehearsing with the musicians, but I think it will be a rather enjoyable mixed bag! I will be performing with Evie Sands and her band, and the collective nature of the musicians (including a female bass player) should prove to be interesting – sending a somewhat different signal to members of the audience who could be expecting Fleetwood Mac reruns!
JM: Can you tell us a bit about your current Kickstarter campaign?
JS: I am and have always been uncomfortable with ‘sell yourself’ marketing methods. Even back in the Fleetwood Mac days, that side of things was left to the management! But it is working, and I am happy to see so many people supportive.
JS: I have heard a lot of overblown theories about the reasons for this, ranging from it being political, psychological, post-war social or even sexual climate and frustrations etc.! Speaking from my own experience, when I first heard Elmore James, it grabbed my emotions and my emotions were pretty down at the time.
JM: In Fleetwood Mac, you shared guitar duties with Peter Green and, later, Danny Kirwan. In your opinion, what did each of you bring to the band’s music that was unique?
JS: Peter brought the deep, dark and brooding, Danny the plaintive boyishness; and me? – I suppose it was the ribald and raucous!
JM: What were some highlights for you from the first Fleetwood Mac tour of the US, in 1968?
JS: Can’t really think of any. It was an interesting education, though, to land in the US hippie climate of the time; a situation foreign to us relatively sheltered British boys.
JS: Because I felt that I had little to contribute. Pete asked me if I had any new stuff for the album. I said no, only 50’s rock and roll and other stuff which wouldn’t have fit in with the direction he and Danny were going.
JM: Do you have any regrets about the way you left Fleetwood Mac?
JS: The way in which I did it, yes. The fact that I did it, no.
JM: Any thoughts that you’re willing to share on the directions that Fleetwood Mac went in after you left?
JS: They floundered for about four years after I left, and seeing that made me sad. I prayed for their success, and I believe God blessed them with it. When I heard their first album with Buckingham and Nicks, I knew that they had hit on music well-written, catchy and tastefully played. It’s a shame, however, that the media focused and still seems to focus more on their internal complications and dramas.
JS: I just now looked him up on the internet as I am not familiar with him or his music. His face seems familiar, and seeing his history and where he has travelled in his youth, it is quite possible that he acquired one of my guitars along the way that I had to leave behind due to travel restrictions!
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
JS: In today’s overstressed climate of ‘be original, non-derivative, find your own voice etc.’, don’t be afraid to unabashedly copy from an artist who inspires you. If you look back at all the guitar ‘greats’ from B. B. King, Jimi Hendrix to SRV, you will see that they never failed to credit their mentors. It seems to me that only sub-standard, insecure players boast ‘originality’ in their formative years.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your music career or otherwise?
JS: I want to set whatever ‘record’ straight, by saying don’t believe everything put out by the press, internet or shovelled out from the media!
[note from JM: There have been numerous allegations of child sexual abuse brought against Children of God / The Family International, including some specifically regarding Jeremy Spencer. While such allegations are obviously very serious, and sexual abuse should never be tolerated, to my knowledge Spencer has not been formally prosecuted for any such offenses. It was decided that this interview would focus on Spencer's career in music.]
JM: Where are you responding from?
JS: Outside Dublin, Ireland – my home of choice.