Listening To Rumours
Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:25 February 2019
No matter how awful your worst relationship breakup was, two things are likely.
One: it was less public than the three Fleetwood Mac un-pairings that inspired Rumours.
Two: you probably haven’t sold 45 million copies of a record detailing the emotional trauma.
It was without doubt one of the most riveting soap operas in rock. Having broken into North American (radio) airspace with their tenth studio album in 1975, Fleetwood Mac—once a respected, modestly successful British blues outfit—were now in the process of going mega just as their individual relationships were going to hell.
Bassist and co-founder John McVie was divorcing Christine McVie (née Perfect). Mick Fleetwood’s marriage was done. The band’s other long-term couple, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, had joined the band in late 1974 but were now going their own ways. Except they weren’t were they? Because Fleetwood Mac needed to follow-up a #1 album.
That successor was Rumours, an aptly titled and superbly crafted album that invited the whole world to revel in the band’s personal anguish. Relationship breakdown never sounded so good. It’s as if the discipline of writing and recording provided a structure to contain the emotional tempest swirling in and around the players. Tension, passion, anger and optimism all ended up in the grooves.
Writing for the liner notes of the 2013 re-issue, Stevie Nicks commented on the contrast between the two singles, her ‘Dreams’ and Buckingham’s ‘Go Your Own Way’. She observed that they were ‘saying the exact same thing’, but ‘because I’m the chiffony chick who believes in fairies and angels, and Lindsey is a hardcore guy, it comes out differently. Lindsey is saying go ahead and date other men and go live your crappy life, and [I’m] singing about the rain washing you clean’.
Having three songwriters provides an abundance of musical riches on Rumours. From the driving anger of the opening ‘Second Hand News’ (Buckingham) through Christine McVie’s upbeat and optimistic ‘Don’t Stop’ to the sorrowful reflection of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Gold Dust Woman’ that closes the LP, Rumours scarcely falters in either quality or catchiness. No wonder it was a number one album around the world. Indeed, navigating the timeless oceans of human intimacy, it is reasonable to expect Rumours will continue to sell as long as people fall in and out of love, providing comfort and catharsis to new generations of listeners.
Talking of the 2013 re-issue, it’s a very nice job and worth grabbing if you lost track of your original copy in the early nineties after a particularly painful breakup. There is also, naturally, a deluxe package with two CDs of demos, a terrific live disc and even a half-hour film. And the vinyl of course.
To finish on a suitably salacious note, the cover photo features Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks, who embarked upon a clandestine affair during the sessions. Nicks is dressed as her witchy ‘Rhiannon’ character, while Mick’s accessories are lavatory chains acquired (unofficially!) during the early years of the band.
© Bruce Jenkins 2019