2020 ALBUM DRAFT- ROUND 2 – PICK 7- DAVE: A SOUND DAY SELECTS- FLEETWOOD MAC- RUMOURS

Rumours (Expanded Edition)(3CD)

2020 Album Draft- Round 2- Pick 7- A Sound Day Selects- Fleetwood Mac- Rumours.

You can find Dave’s music blog at -https://soundday.wordpress.com/

Fleetwood Mac weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel with their landmark 1977 album Rumours . Even the album cover looked reminiscent of ones they’d done before. Only perhaps a little slicker. Sexier. Like the music inside. They simply took what they did well before and did it a little better, under trying (to say the least) circumstances, and created perhaps the ultimate California rock/pop album of the era.

What was once a decidedly British blues band had morphed into a SoCal pop outfit and this one was the second with the “classic” lineup… the Fleetwood Mac people think of when we think of Fleetwood Mac. Of course Mick Fleetwood was still there behind the kit, and long-time couple John and Christine McVie still were too. But Bob Welch was gone, Peter Green long gone and Los Angeleninos Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had convinced the band to move to the land of palm trees and move their sound likewise. While they’d had success in the UK in the ’60s with songs like “Albatross”, North America generally first came to know them through their self-titled ’75 album which gave us the hits “Over My Head” and “Rhiannon.” By Bicentennial Day, July 4.1976, they played before over 30 000 in Tampa. Then they set about making a record that would draw even more fans.

They settled in to a studio in L.A. to begin under conditions which were legendary for both excess and drama.

here to begin? Well, for starters, Christine had begun an affair with the lighting guy for their tours, and husband John wasn’t chuffed. They were divorcing and would only speak to each other about the music…and nothing else. Long-time couple Stevie and Lindsey were on the rocks, thanks to factors like Lindsey’s jealousy and Stevie’s… alluring… nature around men. Don Henley of the Eagles particularly, who was said to be ga-ga for her and prone to sending her things like stereos and bouquets back stage. Oh yes, of course The Eagles – the other huge SoCal band of the day – often played concerts with Fleetwood Mac and had adjacent dressing rooms back then! And big Mick was quite unhappy in his marriage to Jenny … the sister of Patti Boyd, the “Layla” gal. (You just know things are going to get wild when there’s a chance for Patti Boyd to enter a roomful of musicians!) So he found comfort in Stevie’s arms. To make things smoother in the studio, they did what any rich Californians would do in the ’70s… snorted pounds of cocaine and drank champagne like water. Christine remembers “the sessions were like a cocktail party every night.” The studio owner says “the band would come in at 7 at night, have a big feast, party till 1 or 2 , then when they were so whacked out they couldn’t do anything, they’d start.”

It’s an amazing testament to human resiliency and artistic drive that they got anything done at all, let alone something of lasting greatness. Talk about making lemonade from a bag of lemons!

Mostly they wrote on their own, and the distinctive personalities shone through. Lindsey in particular seemed bitter; every song of his was a lyrical porcupine of quills aimed at Stevie. She in particular hated “Go Your Own Way” which she found ​“extremely disrespectful”. He also was said to have quashed another song, “Silver Spring” from the album, due to length. That happened to be written by Nicks and said to be not only her favorite one but one which she gave her mother part writing credits for. (The song has appeard on some re-issues on CD or digitally.) She seemed to give as good as she got with “Dreams” and “I Don’t Want to Know” and hauntingly self- aware with the brilliant “Gold Dust Woman” with the presumably self-referencing “take your silver spoon and dig your grave.” Christine, the other principal writer, seemed a bit more upbeat, if reflective with tunes like “You Make Loving Fun” and “Songbird.”

What could have become a nasty dirge somehow came out sounding fresh and happy thanks to the great music. Each listen… and we’ve all had plenty it seems… reveals something new. Mick’s drumming is steady and actually dazzling in its understated flair from start to finish, and Lindsey proves himself a virtuoso on guitars both electric and acoustic while the McVie’s come through more than adequately on their basses (John) and keyboards (Christine.) As familiar as they are, it’s easy to overlook how outstanding his acoustic picking is on “Never Going Back Again” or the electric solos on “Don’t Stop”. Even Christine’s work on the organ on songs like “Don’t Stop” is stellar if often unnoticed. Add in spotless, shining California production and the sound shines like a Malibu sun.

Of course, Rumours was a mega-hit. It’s double-diamond status (20X platinum or beyond) in both the States and Canada, and with over 40 million copies sold, it’s in a virtual tie for the seventh best-seller of all-time worldwide. It owned the American charts for a good chunk of the era when disco was otherwise king, being at #1 for an astounding 31 weeks. And while it launched four massive singles “ “Dreams”, “You Make Loving Fun”, “Go Your Own Way” and “Don’t Stop” ( the song that launced a presidential campaign), nearly every other song quickly became a radio staple as well. Turn on an oldies or classic rock station today and you have a fair chance of hearing “Second Hand News”, “The Chain,” “Never Going Back Again” or “Gold Dust Woman” along with the conventional hits. No wonder Rolling Stone consider it the 25th greatest album ever made and the BBC call it “near perfect.” And no wonder it influenced a new generation of musicians. Lorde says it was a big part of her childhood soundtrack and “a perfect record” for example.

It’s an album with a deceptively cheery, simple sound that’s tailor-made for driving around on a hot summer’s day with the windows down and the wind blowing through your hair or a late-night campfire singalong… who doesn’t know the lyrics, or at least a reasonable facsimile of them by now? Or just as equally well for curling up on a sofa licking your wounds after a nasty breakup. Like Stylus said of it, “what makes it art is the contradiction between its cheerful surface and its anguished heart.”

For me, it’s been a constant since my brother gave me a copy (along with Hotel California at the same time, appropriately enough) for my birthday over 40 years back. Rare have been the times in my life when I haven’t had a copy somewhere nearby, and enjoyed listening to it. While some of the hits of the ’70s that have been “adopted”as classics by radio have grown stale to my ears, Rumours has never grown moldy in its familiarity.

Most of the band have moved on and seem in happier places since the late-’70s, but they’ve never topped the music they made. Rumours provides a lesson in perseverance. If they could make this masterpiece when they were at each other’s throats and at low points in their personal lives, why can’t I make something good in times that aren’t great. And that – the idea of making the best of a bad situation – is a message worthy of taking to heart in this weird year, is it not?

So, it might not be my actual second-favorite record ever. But as an album that’s been so much a part of my life, and so many other’s, for decades and still sounds highly enjoyable, it’s certainly worthy of my tip of the hat.

21 responses to “2020 ALBUM DRAFT- ROUND 2 – PICK 7- DAVE: A SOUND DAY SELECTS- FLEETWOOD MAC- RUMOURS

  1. Not that they didn’t have other hit albums- but that was a career altering album. They were guaranteed full arenas whenever they felt like touring due to this one album. A big album when albums were really selling. The POP album of the 70’s? Not many groups have three songwriters of this high quality- and all three were at the top of their game on Rumours. With all that was going on it is amazing they were able to stay together as long as they did.

    • Yep – it really was one of the defining sounds of the decade, and deservedly. As you suggest, three really talented writers and singers gave them an edge on much of the competition

  2. One of the great albums. Come to think of it…it’s a wonder it hasn’t been taken by now. I was 10 when this was released and it became part of my DNA.
    Second Hand News and Never Going Back Again are my gotos on this album…Although I’ve heard Go Your Own Way so many times…I always listen to it again when it is played. No bad songs on the album.
    Great choice and write up Dave.

  3. I find the dynamics of any band to be interesting whenever there’s tension, and this has to be as extreme an example as there is. It’s one thing when there’s some drama, but how do they keep it together when they’re actually writing songs about it for the world to hear? The cynical answer would be that they knew it was going to be a big album and could see $ signs. Still, can’t be easy. I guess that’s where the excesses come in.

    • Yeah, even if they looked at it as just their job, it would be extremely tough to deal with. I mean, honestly, Lindsey comes across as a jerk in almost every story written but man – his girlfriend’s fooling around with the drummer AND seemingly trying to reel in the star of the equally big band they’re on the road with at the same time. Would be tough to stay sane for any guy if he had to keep seeing her every day.

    • It is a good song, I only first heard it a few songs. Ultimately, it probably came down to Lindsey’s pettiness but , to be devil’s advocate the limitations of an LP back then probably did require something be edited out.

  4. A fantastic and insightful write-up Dave. “Rumours” is one of my all-time favorite albums. It’s outstanding, and every one of its songs could have been a hit single. I’d considered choosing it as one of my draft picks, but you did a better job writing about it than I could have.

    • Well thank you! But don’t sell yourself short… it would be great to see your take on it too! (Hmm future idea – 10 writers, same album?) It really is a good one. It surprises me, but happily, that “hit” radio plays so many album cuts off it. Really speaks to the quality and popularity.

  5. I was shocked to hear my sister say she hated Fleetwood Mac only days ago when she would’ve been a teen when this album came out. I was dumbfounded and speechless, honestly because in my mind I couldn’t understand someone my age or older not loving this album in particular. She’s entitled to her opinion no matter how wrong I think it is. I love Silver Springs and it’s omission is the only flaw, I think, to an otherwise impeccable album. I never tire of this album even after over four decades of listeningto it. The music is timeless and just brilliant because of the circumstances it was created under. I don’t believe they had the foresight to know they just needed to complete the job for the obvious paycheck. The emotions are too raw and real. Of course I say this as The Chain is the soundtrack to this sentence so maybe I’m naive in making that claim. Great post, Dave. Never knew about Mrs. Fleetwood’s connection to Patty.

    • thank you, my dear 🙂 It really is a classic album and one of the finest examples of the concept of great art coming from terrible times. It wasn’t my brother’s usual “cup of tea” musically either, but I know he liked it and seems to me he said to me something along the lines of “you like music, you need these two in your collection” when he gave me that one & Hotel California.

  6. Dave, I enjoyed reading this for the “drama diagram” as much as for anything else. lol. Excellent write-up on this album, which is stitched into the fabric of American culture.

    • Perhaps so…Welch was American after all. Yep, previous album had a number of good songs & 1 arguably great one in ‘Rhiannon’ but they found their sweet spot on this one.

  7. Yep, this one needed to be picked. I bet you felt the write up could have gone on for many more paragraphs, too! Good job hitting the high points. I’m mostly partial to the Buckingham songs, but really, there’s a song for every mood and emotion on there, imo.

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