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.