“…I’ve been getting out there with two ex-lovers and we’ve been playing songs which are so specific about each of us, you just wouldn’t know. We’re friends now but we can’t forget what happened between us.” This quote from rock Goddess Stevie Nicks, one of the lead vocalists in Fleetwood Mac, perfectly epitomizes the collective mindset of the band during the album creating process. The quote also demonstrates to the fan that song quality is the bands first and highest priority.
During the making of the album Rumours, Fleetwood Mac struggled as they faced bitter resentment toward each other due to past sexual relationships. This ultimately created conflicting opinions that nearly hampered the progress and the release of this album. Fortunately for both fans and the history of Rock n’ Roll, Fleetwood Mac’s ability to work as a unit despite tensions led to the band producing one of the finest multi-platinum albums of the 70’s.
Through their encumbered album writing process, they managed to harness their emotions and convey a unified concept to the listener. Rumours is the product of three different songwriters who ironically are writing about each other, and trying to send messages through song. Every single detail was pored over and everyone involved in any part of the album tore it apart and rebuilt it in an obsessive manner. The finished product was commendable enough to outsell the Beatles and The Rolling Stones in Europe.
Fleetwood Mac started as a British blues band and had made a name for themselves in Europe. In Rumours there are some subtle blues influences, but mostly Fleetwood Mac draws from pure rock and roll, folk. For instance, the song “Don’t Stop” seems to have a little bit of a Hall and Oates feel, a sound successful in the 70’s. It was not until the band dealt with a bout of bad luck regarding their lineup of guitarists that they fell into a new sound.
First guitarist Peter Green was out of the band after he had a drug induced religious conversion. Jeremy Spencer, the second guitarist left Fleetwood Mac to join a hippie cult. Lastly, they lost guitarist Danny Kirwan after he suffered from a mental breakdown on tour. In spite of these previous setbacks, in 1975 Fleetwood Mac picked up and moved to L.A. where they hired Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, a pair of struggling musicians. With these new additions, the band now had Nicks, Buckingham plus drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, and the talented singer and keyboardist Christine McVie.
During the making of the album the lives of the artists were falling apart. However, the success of the album was life changing. “Go Your Own Way” is one of those well-known rock songs that became a household song, transcending generational gaps. The catchy and driving chorus picks up from the more mellow verse followed by a simple but eloquent guitar solo. Vocal tracks are layered, and the effect of a group of people singing the chorus with harmonies gives it all the more power. The use of harmony is employed in various songs enhancing the emotions percolating from each track.
“The Chain” starts off with just a guitar and Stevie and Lindsey singing, making the listener think it is just a stripped acoustic song. But with the shake of a tambourine everything changes and the chorus comes in with lyrics, “If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again I can still hear you saying we would never break the chain.” This song is the climax of the whole album, the concepts of bitterness and past grievances receding into feelings of optimism and new beginnings. Before the bridge there is an exploding electric guitar solo, which brings the song to end at a completely opposite place from where it started.
The trying recording process began at Record Plant in Sausalito when the original engineer was fired immediately after his fixation on astrology got in the way of the recording process. With the help of production duo Ken Cailat and Richard Dashut, Rumours turbulent sessions began.
The sexual tension between members and excessive supply of drugs fueled the sleepless and exhausting recording process. The band wanted to ensure that each song got the attention it deserved. “Dreams,” the second track on the album, perfectly subscribes to the idea that the songwriters were sending messages through their music. Stevie Nicks uses this song as a passive aggressive stab toward Lindsey after she had walked out on him singing words like, “You say you want your freedom well who am I to keep you down it’s only right that you should play the way you feel it but listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness.” Throughout the song there is a guitar arpeggiating in the background, which gives the whole song a floating vibe. Accompanying the guitar, there is a simple drumbeat with kicks and fills that helps the flow of the song and separates the different sections.
Following “Dreams” is “Never Going Back Again” sung by Lindsey. With deep lyrics and folk style guitar, he cultivates the sentiments of moving on. All who contributed to the album criticized every seemingly minor detail. This delusional search for perfection caused the band to start over multiple times. Eventually, the band finished recording in Sausalito, only to realize that they hated all the work they had done when they listened to it later on. They found a Hollywood Boulevard porno strip mixing room and remodeled the entire album until they finally got it to up to their highly critical standards.
Perfection may be nearly impossible for anyone to reach, but it seems like a fair assessment to state that Fleetwood Mac not only reached perfection with Rumours, they achieved greatness.
Perseverance has nothing on Fleetwood Mac. Not only did they stick with an album that caused them so much frustration, they created brilliant work together. To fully understand the album, it is necessary to know how exhausted it left the band.
“Gold Dust Woman” the final track sung by Stevie Nicks is a mysterious, darker post love track she sings. With Stevie’s edgy voice, she sings lyrics about a woman who shatters “illusions of love.” The track was first recorded in a fully lit studio, but the lighting got in the way of her throwing all of her soul into the song. After multiple failed efforts, she was physically sickened and sat wrapped in a blanket with various cold remedies in the dim light finding it within her to take control and master her vocal track. Fleetwood Mac’s songs about life’s turbulence and heartbreak are relatable and timeless as is Rumours.
After hitting their apex with Rumours, it was hard to duplicate the success they achieved and after six uneven releases the band decided to separate and pursue solo careers. The most successful one being Stevie Nicks. Her unique raspy voice took her far as she released the famous song “Edge of Seventeen,” and molded herself in the image of the commanding female rocker she is and always has been.
Lindsey Buckingham released solo work as well although with not as great success. In 2013 the band is back and touring (without the retired Christine McVie) but with new songs written. Today, Rumours remains one of the most intricate products of heartbreak and progress and is the seventh best selling album of all time, selling over 40 million albums worldwide.
Reviewer: Arielle Gelb
IRC: Bill Pulice & Tom Byrne
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