Rumours is Fleetwood Mac’s 11th studio album. Most people find this astonishing, perhaps thinking it’s just their second after Fleetwood Mac, which came out in 1975. In fact, the band formed in 1968 (the name comes from the rhythm section – Mick Fleetwood and John McVie) and began life as a straight ahead British blues band in the John Mayall tradition. Some early songs from that incarnation – “Oh Well” and “Albatross” (No. 1 in the UK) – are well worth a listen for fans of the genre.
Fast forward to the mid-seventies. Fleetwood Mac had relocated to Southern California and were looking for a new guitar player to replace Bob Welch. After hearing the track “Frozen Love” being recorded at the Sound City Studios by Buckingham and Nicks, Mick Fleetwood asked Lindsay Buckingham to join the band. Buckingham replied that he and Stevie were a package, and so Fleetwood Mac became five: Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. For a first-person account of how this happened check out Dave Grohl’s fantastic documentary, Sound City.
The first LP from the new Fleetwood Mac was a great success. It sold over four million copies and has one of my favourite Fleetwood Mac songs of all time, Christine McVie’s “Over My Head.” But the original release of Rumours took the band’s success to an entirely different level. It has sold more than 40 million copies and was pretty much No. 1 world-wide in 1977. In fact it stayed at No. 1 on the US album charts for more than 30 weeks.
The 2013 reissue (the subject of this review) has been re-mastered and contains significant additional material. The original 11 song LP has been augmented by the strong B-side “Silver Springs.” Disc 2 contains the Live 1977 Rumours World Tour and the third disc has 16 out-takes from the recording sessions. The main album holds up extremely well. The song writing remains fantastic. The story behind Rumours is now well known – the McVies were in the middle of a divorce, Buckingham and Nicks were breaking up and Mick Fleetwood’s wife was having an affair with his best friend. The resulting conflict and emotional turmoil led to some of their best efforts – Christine McVie’s “You Make Loving Fun” about her new love, Lindsay Buckingham’s classic “Go Your Own Way” (‘Loving you/ isn’t the right thing to do’) and Stevie Nick’s response in “Dreams” (‘Now here you go again/you want your freedom’) still resonate today.
The playing is equally superb and the sound quality, fantastic for the time, still sounds great today. Favourite tracks for me are “Go Your Own Way” and Nick’s “Gold Dust Woman.” If you want to see Stevie Nicks at her best check out “Stevie Nicks rare 1981 solo Gold Dust Woman” on YouTube. It’s an eight minute version recorded at the Roxy with Bob Welch and friends (great cowbell by Mick Fleetwood) that shows how this group could rock.
The additional material is only mildly entertaining. It is very interesting however to see how some songs have developed from their early and acoustic versions on the third disc.
I was a graduate student in Southern California when Rumours came out in 1977. The gossip around campus was that one of my profs was travelling in the same crowd as Stevie Nicks, which, needless to say, heightened our interest in Fleetwood Mac. I’ve seen them perform several times, including the Rumours tour. Their next LP, Tusk, was a big disappointment for me (the USC marching band played a prominent role) and represented the end of an era. I’m still a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac, though – both eras!
By Phil Wood, Dean of Students