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Retro Rewind: “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac | Photo by | The Wright State Guardian

Fleetwood Mac has had a string of hit singles throughout the years, many written by band members Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, and Christine McVie.

These include “Rhiannon,” “Tusk,” “Landslide” and “Gypsy.” There is no doubt, however, that their most famous work is the acclaimed 1977 album “Rumours.”

Released on February 4 on that year, the record spawned four singles: “Go Your Own Way,” “Don’t Stop,” “Dreams” and “You Make Loving Fun.” Many of these songs, including “Go Your Own Way” and “The Chain,” have permeated pop culture, showing up in television shows, movies and classic rock radio stations everywhere.

How did the tension in the band contribute to the recording process of “Rumours?” What did critics think of the album when it was released? What do the band members think of it? Those are all questions we will answer in today’s Retro Rewind!

The band

Fleetwood Mac was formed in London in 1967 by drummer Mick Fleetwood and guitarists Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer.

They are one of the best-selling bands of all time with more than 120 million records sold.

Over time, the lineup has changed drastically, with their most well-known lineup consisting of singer and keyboardist Christine McVie, bassist John McVie, guitarist and singer Buckingham, singer Nicks, and Fleetwood.

Together, the band has recorded and released a total of 17 albums, with their most recent release being “Say You Will” in 2003. Fleetwood Mac was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and also received the Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music that year.

The tracklist

Opening the album is the track “Second Hand News,” a track with heavy-hitting percussion and multi-layered electric guitar.

Following that is “Dreams,” a Nicks composition, which contains a minimalist bass guitar riff. Buckingham’s “Never Going Back” comes next, a simplistic acoustic guitar tune.

Then, “Don’t Stop” starts with a chugging drum beat and keyboard intro. “Go Your Own Way,” a track written by Buckingham, is a biting criticism of Nicks following the end of their relationship. Meanwhile, Christine McVie’s “Songbird” is much slower and mellower in tone.

The second side of the record begins with one of Fleetwood Mac’s most iconic creations, “The Chain.” Simplistic beats course through the song as John McVie’s bassline speeds the track up during its final section.

“You Make Loving Fun,” a song by Christine McVie which was inspired by her boyfriend at the time, features a strong clavinet part. “I Don’t Want to Know,” another song from the perspective of a crumbling relationship, comes after that, while “Oh Daddy” takes it time. The album ends on “Gold Dust Woman,” a jazz-inspired song, which talks about Nicks’ addiction to cocaine.

A Nicks song from her perspective of the breakup, “Silver Springs,” was intended to appear on “Rumours.” However, it did not make the cut due to its longer duration, slower tempo and other factors. The song became a B-side to “Go Your Own Way, “ and a remastered version later appeared on the album’s deluxe edition in 2004.

The production

While this album was created, each of the band members was going through their own personal struggles. Multiple relationships were coming to an end, including the marriage of the McVies and the on-again, off-again relationship between Buckingham and Nicks.

Meanwhile, Fleetwood was going through a divorce at the time after discovering an affair between his wife and his best friend. Despite these setbacks, recording of “Rumours” lasted between February and August 1976 at the Record Plant in Sausalito, Calif. and various other studios in the state.

This studio time became rather expensive for Fleetwood Mac due to their long, cocaine-fueled recording sessions. One of the owners of the Record Plant, Chris Stone, stated in 1997 that “the band would come in at seven at night, have a big feast, party till one or two in the morning, and then when they were so whacked-out they couldn’t do anything, they’d start recording.”

Nicks has proposed that Fleetwood Mac made their best music when in that condition. Buckingham, meanwhile, has mentioned that the tensions between band members led to “the whole being more than the sum of the parts.”

The album was originally supposed to be released in September 1976. However, this date was delayed due to damaged tape from the Sausalito recording sessions .

Fleetwood has called “Rumours” “the most important album we ever made” since crafting the record allowed each of the members to channel their frustrations. This allowed the band to stay together and record more music.

What critics (and audiences) thought about the album

When Fleetwood Mac released “Rumours” in 1977, the album received mostly positive reviews. In a review for the magazine The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave “Rumours” an “A” grade and mentioned that it was “more consistent and more eccentric” than the band’s previous album, additionally writing that the album “jumps right out of the speakers at you.”

John Rockwell, writing for the New York Times, stated in his review that the album was “a delightful disk, and one hopes the public thinks so, too.” Meanwhile, Robert Hilburn was less enthused about the record, mentioning in his review for the Los Angeles Times that it was “frustratingly uneven.”

Modern reviews for the album have also been positive. Patrick McKay wrote in a review for Stylus magazine, “What distinguishes ‘Rumours’—what makes it art—is the contradiction between its cheerful surface and its anguished heart. Here is a radio-friendly record about anger, recrimination, and loss.”

Stephen Thomas Erlewine for AllMusic explained that “each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why ‘Rumours’ touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”

Taylor Pendleton, an English major at Sinclair Community College and fan of the album, agrees with the praise. “‘Rumours’ is so powerful and versatile and emotional,” she said.

“‘Rumours’ is detailed and conveys playful, innocent love (‘You Make Loving Fun’ and ‘I Don’t Want to Know’), then the album illustrates falling out (arguably reaching its climax at ‘The Chain’) and heartache before digressing and meeting an eventual conclusion. Release. Freedom (‘Go Your Own Way’). Stevie Nicks’ sweet mezzo-soprano voice possesses a slight grit. It’s an experience, a thunderous ride, within itself.”

“Rumours” won Album of the Year at the 1978 Grammy Awards. VH1, in 2001, ranked the album at #16 on its list of the 100 best albums, and USA Today placed it at #23 on their list of the top 40 albums. The 2013 reissue received a rare score of 10 out of 10 from Pitchfork’s Jessica Hopper.

What I think about the album

Listening to this album front to back was an interesting experience because many of the record’s songs are heard on the radio countless times. Each of the album’s singles has made its mark on popular culture, but hearing them in the context of the album along with the less popular tracks (for example, “I Don’t Want to Know,” “Songbird” or “Oh Daddy”) helps to bring out the album’s themes of love, heartbreak and frustration.

Every track fits together like a puzzle piece to engineer a cohesive record showcasing Fleetwood Mac’s talents, both as individuals and as a group.

The band coasts past their frustrations and tension to create this incredible collection of songs. Each is wonderful on its own, but together, they make a truly magical final product.

Maxwell Patton

Wright Life Reporter

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