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Enter Another World Through Fleetwood Mac’s “Hypnotized”

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Recently, as I was enjoying a Frappuccino at Starbucks, a haunting song began blaring from the store's P.A. system.  Instantly I was sucked into its foot-tapping beat, laid-back vibe, and mysterious lyrics. Other than thinking that Starbucks was perhaps engaging in subliminal advertising (one of the lyrics talks about "two friends having coffee together"), I knew I had to discover the song's identity: "Hypnotized" by — to my surprise — Fleetwood Mac.

The song derives from the 1973 album, Mystery to Me, recorded after members Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer left the group. Guitarist Bob Welch (also known for his ’70s ballad, "Sentimental Lady") and singer/keyboardist Christine McVie greatly influenced the sound of the band, which was gradually shifting from a blues-roots rock sound to a middle-of-the-road, soft rock feel. Welch left the band after Mystery to Me and the rest of the band relocated to Los Angeles to restart their flagging career. But "Hypnotized" represents some of Fleetwood Mac's greatest work.

According to Wikipedia's entry on the tune, Welch wrote the mystical lyrics while staying at the Benifold Mansion in Hampshire, England. Before Fleetwood Mac purchased the home, the previous owners of the mansion during the 1960s were part of a monastic order. Welch and the band recorded Mystery to Me in the mansion, which he believed "rather spooky and strange even in summertime," presumably due to its history. The album peaked at number 67 on the Billboard charts, but "Hypnotized" found a home on adult contemporary stations.

Fleetwood's drumming first draws in the listener, with John McVie's bass entwining each beat. Welch's jazz-like riffs add to the song's tone, which sounds like the perfect accompaniment for a late night drive. Then the creepy lyrics kick in, which start out innocently enough; two friends are enjoying coffee, "when something flies by their window." Welch refuses to explain this strange presence, leaving it to the listener to conjure their own images: "because there’s no explaining what your imagination/Can make you see and feel."  By the time the chorus kicks in, Welch's voice is accented by background vocals, stressing the words "seems like a dream/Got me hypnotized." 

The mystery deepens when Welch sings of North Carolina and "a strange, strange pond" and "a forest without a road." To add to the song's slightly disturbing aura, he adds that in Mexico, there is a place "where a man can fly over mountains and hills/And he don’t need an airplane or some kind of engine/And he never will." As the gentle guitar lines and steady drum beat swirl in the background, Welch finally discourages the listener from trying to make sense of any of these scenes: "Now you know it’s a meaningless question/To ask if those stories are right/’Cause what matters most is the feeling/You get when you’re hypnotized." As the song fades out, one gets the sense of leaving some kind of strange world and reentering everyday life.

"Hypnotized" represents a single at its best — one that can transport the listener into another world through creative wordplay and ear-catching guitar and drums. Welch's vocal performance, while low-key, only enhances the song’s otherworldly feeling. It may have only been a modest hit, but "Hypnotized" remains a hidden treasure that grabs the listener and will not let go.

While "Hypnotized" is the standout, Mystery to Me also contains some catchy ’70s rock that represents the band's change from its blues origins. While not available as a download, the CD can still be purchased, and is worth seeking out.

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About Kit O'Toole

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    An absolutely stunning, and very underrated song.

    -Glen

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    He had a lot of great ones during Mac’s pre-Rumours period. “Future Games” is another you should check out Kit.

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    i really have to do something about the lack of pre-Rumours Fleetwood Mac in my collection. i hear the tunes and think “gees, this is pretty great”…then never do anything about it. and this is another one of those tunes.

    thanks kit (though i sort of wish you hadn’t mentioned Bob Welch…’cus now i have “Ebony Eyes” floating around in my head….)

  • Josh Hathaway

    Okay, this is my #1 absolute favorite Fleetwood Mac song EVER. I knew FM had a pre-Buckingham/Nicks history when I started DJing at a Classic Rock station in Muscle Shoals but I didn’t know the entire back story. One night this song comes up on my program list and I flipped out for it. I started digging through the history and learned of the Welch stint with the band. I love the lead guitar line and the arrangement. So glad to see this one getting some chat. I can virtually guarantee I’ll get around to this one day for VCV. Well done.

  • c mancuso

    It really is a very underrated song. Clearly, it does what all good songs are supposed to do, let your imagination wonder and grab you and hold your attention. Musically, the instrumentation just feeds the lyrics perfectly. Great tune. Bare Trees is another FM cd worth checking out.

  • http://www.kitotoole.com Kit O’Toole

    Thanks for commenting, everyone! It is an awesome song, and doesn’t sound like your “typical” Fleetwood Mac tune. I was just instantly sucked into it! And Glen, I will check out “Future Games.”

  • Mark Gilmore

    The man “who can fly over mountains and hills” is the sorcerer Don Juan (see books by Carlos Castaneda).

  • JANK

    Along with Future Games, check out the STUNNING Woman Of A 1000 Years. WOW, very haunting.

  • Jean Harlow

    I do not like FW Mac…after the Girls came to the band, this song goes down in one of the best in R&R…just to die for..love it …thank you it took some finding sad everyone out there does n ot realize it is out there…..Jean Harlow

  • randy andy

    Mark appears to be correct, though only Mr. Welch knows for sure. For me, the song opens a doorway just a crack, through which a setting sun reveals a stunning mosaic tile floor on our side. Entreating as it is, Bob’s masterpiece merely hints that there is something, something indeed, on the other side of that door. Some of us were lucky enough to hear this song in quadrophonic, as the song was released in the early 70’s when that technology appeared.

  • ksanfan

    Have you ever listened to this album over and over high on the same medicine that allows you to fly over mountains and hills without an engine. A lot of Mystery to Me is based on peyote. I agree with you all that Hypnotized is the best song from one of the best bands ever. I doubt much of Bob Welch’s songs will get played on the FM tour this year.