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Quintessential Album Series :: Rumours :: Fleetwood Mac

fleetwood-mac-rumoursA Little History:

Rumours is the eleventh studio album by Fleetwood Mac. The album was largely recorded in California during 1976, and was produced by the band with Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut.

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Rumours was released on February 4, 1977 by Warner Bros. Records. The record peaked at the top of both the United States Billboard chart and the United Kingdom Albums Chart. The songs Go Your Own Way, Don’t Stop, Dreams, and You Make Loving Fun were released as singles.

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Rumours is Fleetwood Mac’s most successful release; along with winning the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1978, the record has sold over 45 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. Rumours has received diamond certifications in several countries, including the US, Canada and Australia.

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The band wanted to expand on the commercial success of the 1975 record Fleetwood Mac, but struggled with relationship breakups before recording started. The Rumours studio sessions were marked by hedonistic behavior and interpersonal strife between Fleetwood Mac members; these experiences shaped the album’s lyrics.

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Influenced by pop music, the record’s tracks were recorded using a combination of acoustic and electric instruments. The mixing process delayed the completion of Rumours, but was finished by the end of 1976. Following the album’s release in 1977, Fleetwood Mac undertook worldwide promotional tours.

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In July 1975, Fleetwood Mac’s eponymous tenth album was released to great commercial success, reaching #1 in 1976. The record’s biggest hit single, Rhiannon, gave the band extensive radio exposure. At the time, Fleetwood Mac’s line-up consisted of guitarist and vocalist Lindsey Buckingham, drummer Mick Fleetwood, keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie, bassist John McVie, and vocalist Stevie Nicks.

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After six months of non-stop touring, the McVies divorced, ending nearly eight years of marriage. The couple stopped talking to each other socially and discussed only musical matters. Buckingham and Nicks—who had joined the band before 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, after guitarist Bob Welch had left—were having an on/off relationship that led them to fight often. The duo’s arguments stopped only when they worked on songs together.

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Fleetwood faced domestic problems of his own after discovering that his wife Jenny, mother of his two children, had had an affair with his best friend.

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Despite a string of false reports and rumors, the band did not change its line-up, although its members had no time to come to terms with the separations before recording for a new album began. Fleetwood has noted the “tremendous emotional sacrifices” made by everyone just to attend studio work.

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In early 1976, Fleetwood Mac crafted some new tracks in Florida. Founding members Fleetwood and John McVie chose to dispense with the services of their previous producer, Keith Olsen, because he favored a lower emphasis on the rhythm section. The duo formed a company called Seedy Management to represent the band’s interests.

During recording at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, the working title of the album was Yesterday’s Gone.

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The set-up in Sausalito included a number of small recording rooms in a large, windowless wooden building. Most band members complained about the studio and wanted to record at their homes, but Fleetwood did not allow any moves. Christine McVie and Nicks decided to live in two condominiums near the city’s harbor, while the male contingent stayed at the studio’s lodge in the adjacent hills. Recording occurred in a six-by-nine-meter room which included a 3M 24-track tape machine, a range of high-quality microphones, and an API mixing console with 550A equalizers; the latter were used to control frequency differences or a track’s timbre. Although Caillat was impressed with the set-up, he felt that the room lacked ambiance because of its “very dead speakers” and large amounts of sound proofing.

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As the studio sessions progressed, the band members’ new intimate relationships that formed after various separations started to have a negative effect on Fleetwood Mac. The musicians did not meet or socialize after their daily work at the Record Plant. At the time, the hippie movement still affected Sausalito’s culture and drugs were readily available. Open-ended budgets enabled the band and the engineers to become self-indulgent; sleepless nights and the extensive use of cocaine marked much of the album’s production.

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Chris Stone, one of the Record Plant’s owners, indicated in 1997 that Fleetwood Mac brought “excess at its most excessive” by taking over the studio for long and extremely expensive sessions; he stated, “The band would come in at 7 at night, have a big feast, party till 1 or 2 in the morning, and then when they were so whacked-out they couldn’t do anything, they’d start recording“.

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Stevie Nicks has suggested that Fleetwood Mac created the best music when in the worst shape, while, according to Lindsay Buckingham, the tensions between band members informed the recording process and led to “the whole being more than the sum of the parts“.

Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie in 1975

Fleetwood Mac’s main writers—Buckingham, Christine McVie and Nicks—worked individually on specific songs, but sometimes shared lyrics with each other. The Chain is the only track that all members, including Fleetwood and John McVie, collaborated on.

10 All songs on Rumours concern personal, often troubled, relationships.According to Christine McVie, the fact that the lyricists were extensively focusing on the various separations became apparent to the band only with hindsight. You Make Loving Fun is about her boyfriend, Fleetwood Mac’s lighting director, after she split from John. Nicks’ Dreams details a breakup and has a hopeful message, while Buckingham’s similar effort in Go Your Own Way is more pessimistic. After a short fling with a New England woman, he was inspired to write Never Going Back Again, a song about the illusion of thinking that sadness will never occur again once feeling content with life. The lines “Been down one time/Been down two times” are in reference to the lyricist’s efforts when persuading the woman to give him a chance.

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Don’t Stop, written by Christine McVie, is a song about optimism. She noted that Buckingham helped her craft the verses because their personal sensibilities overlapped. McVie’s next track, Songbird, features more introspective lyrics about “nobody and everybody” in the form of “a little prayer“.

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Oh Daddy, the last McVie song on the album, was written about Fleetwood and his wife Jenny Boyd, who had just got back together. The band’s nickname for Fleetwood was “The Big Daddy“. McVie commented that the writing is slightly sarcastic and focuses on the drummer’s direction for Fleetwood Mac, which always turned out to be right. Nicks provided the final lines “And I can’t walk away from you, baby/If I tried“.

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Stevie Nicks own song, Gold Dust Woman, is inspired by Los Angeles and the hardship encountered in such a metropolis. After struggling with the rock lifestyle, Nicks became addicted to cocaine and the lyrics address her belief in “keeping going“.

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 What Makes This “Quintessential” to me?

Without a doubt, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album is the most remembered album from my childhood. This is really saying something, as my house was always filled with music. My music obsession came from my Mom, and trips to the record store was a regular adventure for our family, one that was always looked forward to.

For years it seemed like Rumours was playing on our stereo. I have vivid memories of my Mom making dinner or baking homemade bread, listening and singing-a-long to this album. Or of her sharing a pot of coffee and conversations with her friends from the neighborhood while Rumours was playing in the background.

Second Hand News is the song I remember her singing to most. I can see her now standing in the kitchen trying out one of her recipes from the cooking classes she was taking at the local college, this album spinning and turned up high. I can hear her voice in my head singing to the song. And me, trying to learn all the words and singing very quietly along. I remember wondering what the “stuff” they wanted to do in the tall grass exactly was.

She seemed to listen to it all that time, and in my memory recall it seems to have been one of her favorites. Maybe she would not remember it the same way, and perhaps because it is an album I loved, I recall it differently, remembering it playing more than any other.

The album has evolved along with me, has followed me through my life, and has continued to be one of my all-time favorite albums. The songs have resonated with me through break-ups and make-ups, through falling in love and out of love, and through trying to figure out who I am.

For a year in 1998 I played the Rumours album at 3pm in the afternoon at my job. I had this little radio/cassette player/digital clock that I would play it from. After awhile, my co-workers started to “tune in” and ask me to turn it up. It became Fleetwood o’clock around the office, and I could soon start to tell whose favorite songs were whose, as certain people started to linger around my desk during certain tracks.

Rolling Stone France 2My Top 5 Favorite Songs:

1. Gold Dust Woman

“Well, did she make you cry,
Make you break down,
Shatter your illusions of love?
And now tell me is it over now?
Do you know how to pick up the pieces,
and go home.”

Gold Dust Woman became my favorite on the album around my twenties, and has remained so through the years. It is my go-to Fleetwood Mac song for whenever I am feeling emotionally raw or need that kind of electrical current boost that only music gives to me. I love singing this song, as well.

2. Dreams

“Thunder only happens when it’s raining,
players only love you when they’re playing.”

One of those ultimate break-up, I am so better without you, jaded kind of songs, one of quite a few on what is pretty much an ultimate break-up album.. Something about it though, even in the bitter lyrics like “players only love you when they’re playing“ (see above), is so beautiful, beautiful in a way that cannot help but gift some kind of hope. There is that feeling of freedom that often comes trailing along just behind the heartbreak of love’s ending, and sometimes it is hard to see, that gift – but it is there.

3. The Chain

“And if you don’t love me now,
you will never love me again.”

Bitter and full of pain and vitirol and all those things that are the emotional part and parcel of a break-up are made of. I have turned this song on and up and scream-sung-a-long to it while trying to get through the worst of break-ups, whether they were initiated by me, or the other person. That’s the thing, no matter whose idea it is, the pain and sadness and anger still hit.

4. Songbird

And the songbirds are singing,
like they know the score,
and I love you,
I love you,
I love you,
like never before.”

One of my all-time favorite love songs. It hits in a very bittersweet way to me now as it reminds me of a past love, but as there are sweet memories among the sad and bitter. The song also reminds me of my daughter, Veronica, who I used to sing it to, in the middle of the night to soothe her back to sleep when she was a baby.

5. Second Hand News

One thing I think you should know,
I ain’t gonna miss you when you go.”

This song reminds me of my Mom, and my childhood, and the late Seventies. As a young girl I thought it such a happy song, but listening as an adult, there is so much bitterness and jaded regret embedded in the lyrics. It is definitely more of a break-up, then a make-up song.

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6 thoughts on “Quintessential Albums :: Fleetwood Mac :: Rumours

  1. The magic of this album to me has always been the strange optimism that some of these songs had in spite of the darkness that surrounded the group at the time. Sometimes in love you have to find the end before there can be a new beginning, It seems in songwriting the same rules apply.
    Another great post.

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    1. Yes, I agree. Even in the most bitter songs there is this feeling of hope in them, and optimism, yes, I agree. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Do you have a favorite song from the album?

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      1. It would have to be “Never Going Back Again” Lindsey Buckingham at his best. And its the one promise I’ve been making all my life and yet somehow I always ending up right where I started 😉

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