Revisiting Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” 43 Years Later
Two couples both going through bitter breakups walk into a recording studio. The rest is history. The turmoil and tension between the members of Fleetwood Mac has been well recorded and palpable ever since the making and release of “Rumours” on Feb. 4, 1977. Their previous 1975 self-titled album, “Fleetwood Mac,” was a commercial success, but the later impact of “Rumours” solidified them into their pop-rock status. The album blends the best parts of pop and most melodically interesting aspect of the soft rock period to create the quintessential 70’s breakup album.
The album is the 11th studio album for the band but only the second to include guitarist and vocalist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks. The couple had their own musical duo, Buckingham Nicks, and released one self-titled record before joining the band after former guitarist Bob Welch’s departure in 1974. Their inclusion into the band was one of many lineups in Fleetwood Mac’s history. Founder and drummer Mick Fleetwood, bassist John McVie, and keyboard player/vocalist Christine McVie being the standards of the band at that point.
Practically every song off the album had the ability to become a single, but four songs, “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” “Don’t Stop,” and “You Make Loving Fun,” were the chosen few. “Go Your Own Way,” written by Buckingham, was chosen as the first release. The only thing better than listening to this song is watching early performances of the song to see the absolute disdain on Stevie Nicks’ face as she watches Buckingham sing it. Nicks’ widely known disgust for the song was partially due to the inclusion of the line “Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do.” In an interview with Rolling Stone in 1997, Nicks said, “Every time those words would come onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him. He knew it.”
“Dreams,” with swinging bass and flashing drums, was one of Nicks’ many replies to Buckingham. Held up by the heavy yet airy lyrics and vocals of one Stevie Nicks, the song shimmers with reminiscence and anger. Buckingham’s guitar whines in objection to Nicks’ words, “Players only love you when they’re playing.” In the original Rolling Stone review of the album, John Swenson said, “‘Dreams’ is a nice but fairly lightweight tune, and her [Nicks’] nasal singing is the only weak vocal on the record.” Quite a passive response to a track that would later be certified gold in the US and become one of the bands most recognizable tunes.
As another instantly recognizable tune, “The Chain” comes in as the heaviest entry on the album. The vocal performances from the trio of Buckingham, Nicks, and Christine McVie are at their best. John McVie’s bass tears through the song halfway through to pick a speed and make it a full-fledged rocker.
The song is the culmination of the devastation in their heartbreaks and the realization that they are forever linked, both to each other and to the band itself.
One song that is not always linked to the album is “Silver Spring.” Written by Nicks, the track was not included in the original release and was only used as the B side of "Go Your Own Way” up until the 2004 remastered album. An album so rooted in the band’s inner strife was bound to have songs that hit too close to the jugular, and this is the one that packed the punch. Nicks painfully sings, “I’ll follow you down ’til the sound of my voice will haunt you/You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.” And haunting you is exactly what her voice does.
The haunting continues onto the final tune of the album, “Gold Dust Woman.” Presenting almost like a follow-up to Nicks’ “Rhiannon” from the band’s previous album, this hits the ear with more of a warning or premonition to the trouble brewing. Based on the band’s now notoriously heavy drug use at the time, the song has less “Rhiannon” dreaminess and is more of a fantastically melodic nightmare. The track itself feels haunted, like Nick’s words might come out of the speakers and suffocate you at the first chance they get. The guitar howling, on the verge of screeching at times, is matched with scarily steady percussion that hits the ears so heavily, they most likely chose it to close the album because there is no way to follow it up.
Critically and commercially, the album was the biggest success the band would see, winning Album of the Year at the 20th Grammy Awards and having every single in the US Top 10. Each track in the album goes back and forth, fighting with each other over who will have the last word. There was love, drugs, fighting, and more drugs present in all 46 minutes of the album’s run time. Even 43 years later, the band doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the theatrical and dramatic. Buckingham’s removal from the band’s most recent tour in 2018 made a lot of noise, particularly after Buckingham made a television appearance where he explained his shock and confusion from the banishment. The act is just another checkpoint in the band’s long career that proves they are all still as stubborn as they were in 1977.