Fleetwood Mac have remained one of music’s most fascinating groups for decades.
The personalities of the various members, the behind the scenes dramas and love stories and the incredible music the band consistently produced have never ceased to captivate audiences. However, it is the band’s 1977 release, Rumours, that is mainly responsible for Fleetwood Mac becoming something of a mystical pop culture name.
The band’s previous album, their second self-titled effort, featured new members Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. Released in 1975, Fleetwood Mac brought the band the most success any of its members had enjoyed thus far. For Mick Fleetwood, John and Christine McVie and Buckingham and Nicks, the pressure was on to deliver a worthy follow up. Tensions between Buckingham and Nicks, the McVies and Fleetwood and his wife, however, put into question the band’s ability, or willingness, to deliver.
As the band set out to record Rumours, originally to be titled Yesterday’s Dreams, the McVies divorced after eight years of marriage, and Buckingham and Nicks continued to battle. The recording sessions were marred by excess at its most excessive, with the members abusing drugs and spending countless unproductive hours in the studio. However, the members practiced an arduous and forced civility, and the turmoil encouraged Fleetwood Mac’s greatest album into creation.
Before and during the creation of Rumours, Fleetwood Mac came to be referred to as “rock’s greatest soap opera,” and Rumours became the soundtrack to the drama. With most members contributing music and lyrics, the songs took on the form of an inner dialogue that was fascinating to watch unfold. Buckingham’s piece “Go Your Own Way” stands out most and has become an anthem for bitter ex-lovers. The more tender “Never Going Back Again,” “Dreams” and “The Chain” (although all still somewhat bitter) provide contrast. Christine McVie’s “You Make Loving Fun,” a song about finding a new lover, fills out an album that explores the wide range of emotions of overwrought lovers.
What unifies the album is the band’s signature instrumentation and vocal harmonies that have become the band’s stamp on rock. On Rumours, Fleetwood Mac fully developed a light, almost floating, yet driven sound. The harmonies create a surrounding effect that envelops the listener, most especially in “The Chain.” The dialogue of the lyrics comes alive in the harmonies in dramatic fashion.
Simply finishing an album for a band experiencing such inner feuding would have been quite a feat. Rumours, however, is evidence of a band that took their craft and vision seriously enough to not give up on it. The album likely would have sold well simply for the drama behind it. It’s impeccable production and intimate sounds and lyrics, however, have made it more than a great commercial album, and it has become a classic album saturated with love and love-lost songs in their purest form.
* Zachary Wolk, MXDWN