Behind the Song: Fleetwood Mac, “Hypnotized”

Many people are only familiar with the Stevie Nicks-Lindsey Buckingham era Fleetwood Mac. Which makes sense, since this classic lineup sold millions and millions of albums, and was on the front page of major magazines because of the band members’ infidelity, drug use, and constant drama, which hasn’t ended yet even though the members are now in their 70s. But die-hard fans are familiar with several incarnations of the band that made great records in the late ‘60s England while Nicks and Buckingham were still California teenagers.

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From 1971 to 1974, the once blues-based Fleetwood Mac featured the more modern and poppy writing, singing and guitar playing of a movie producer’s son from Hollywood named Bob Welch. Welch wrote over a dozen songs during this Mac era, one of which was “Hypnotized,” which has become a rock classic.

“Hypnotized” was a song about the possibility of a visit from alien life from the album Mystery to Me. The song features an ethereal guitar part by then-lead guitarist Bob Weston, with a great sound that wasn’t easy to achieve in those days with the limited effects options guitar players had. With an intro propelled by 14 seconds of triplets on Mick Fleetwood’s kick drum, the song was instantly recognizable, and there was plenty of time to turn up the radio before Welch’s vocal began.

Welch answered FM aficionados’ questions about the song on the fan-based website,, in 1999 and 2003.       

“What I remember about the Mystery to Me sessions is almost everything, so let me be selective. It was a cold winter, and we used the Rolling Stones’ mobile unit to record. I had to re-write all of my songs, because, for instance, ‘Hypnotized’ was intended to be sung by Dave Walker, who was ‘let go’ (there really is no nice way to say it) because, although he was a great singer, we (belatedly) realized that he just stylistically didn’t fit FM.”

“Those two guys in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker had just reported on a major UFO encounter, and it was all over the TV for a while. Part of that went into ‘Hypnotized.’  Mick copied my Maestro Rhythm Machine part for ‘Hypno’ almost exactly … Mick’s sense of tempo, in this day before drum machines, was almost perfect … ‘Hypnotized’ was primarily inspired by [Carlos] Castaneda’s books, the Hickson Pascagoula UFO sighting, some stories told to me by friends, and some personal experiences.”

“A guy that I used to work with from Winston-Salem [NC] told me the story of he and some friends riding dirt bikes 20 miles or so out in the woods when they came upon a strange ‘crater’ in the ground with smooth sides like melted glass. It was a ‘pond’ in the sense that there was some rainwater in it I guess. There were no access roads or caterpillar tracks so it wasn’t a construction site … They all immediately got the feeling they should get out of there. Maybe it was a meteor impact? I just liked the imagery for the song.”

The band’s blues roots aren’t completely ignored here; take a close listen to the “mmm-mmm” harmony part sung by Welch and Christine McVie, and note the minor-scale notes that would have easily been at home as a guitar riff on any Chicago blues album. Welch said that “Hypnotized” was the FM song he was most fond of. “My favorite song that I wrote from the old days is ‘Hypnotized.’ It had the ‘magic.’”

After leaving Fleetwood Mac, Welch went on to have a couple big radio hits as a solo artist, “Sentimental Lady” and “Ebony Eyes.” He later befriended an aspiring band called Guns ‘n’ Roses in L.A. before he moved to Nashville, where he took his own life in 2012.

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