Rumors by Fleetwood Mac
Former members John Mayall, a guitarist, Peter Green also a guitarist, Mick Fleetwood a drummer, bassist John McVie and slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer began Fleetwood Mac in 1967. Fleetwood Mac became immediately successful with its debut album and the hit single “Albatross” (1968) during the British blues era. The group subsequently achieved more moderate success despite experiencing multiple changes in personnel, including Green’s departure and McVie’s girlfriend, keyboard-vocalist-songwriter Christine McVie’s introduction. A relocation to the United States in 1974 and the introduction of singer-songwriters Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham (also a guitarist) mixed the band with a pop versatility that resulted in Fleetwood Mac (1975) and Rumors (1977), which were million dollar-selling albums. The first album to be released by Fleetwood Mac was Mr. Wonderful (1968), then 7936 South Rhodes (1968), followed by English Rose (1969), Then Play On (1969), Look on Yonder Wall (1969), Kiln House (1970), the first album to introduce Christine McVie, Future Games (1971), Bare Trees (1972), Penguin (1973), Mystery to Me (1973), Heroes Are Hard to Find (1974), Fleetwood Mac (1975), which was the first album to showcase Nicks and Buckingham, Rumors (1977), and lastly Tusk (1979).
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Fleetwood Mac had a delicate and unpredictable musical dynamic. The virtuoso, bluesy guitar work of Buckingham was intense and clean, while bassist John McVie’s veteran melody and drummer Mick Fleetwood alternated between a thunderous backbone and a quiet overtone. Christine McVie, a prominent member of the band, took a more influential role within the group. With a formal music education, Christie McVie was the only one in the band. While Mick Fleetwood and John McVie both played the blues growing up and had acute improvisation skills.
One of Fleetwood Mac’s most influential albums was Rumours, which was released on February 4, 1977. Rumors changed the entire music course; driven by massive budgets, long nights, and huge amounts of cocaine. In 1976, Rumours were recorded at The Record Plant in Sausalito, California, for over a year. Infidelity, awkward silences, and well, gossip, were prominent in the Rumors recording sessions. The group had just completed a six-month tour promoting their self-titled album, which was wildly successful. This was their first tour with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. There was, of course, an underlying tension due to the addition of new members, but their on-again and off-again relationships and constant conflict just exacerbated that.
Christine McVie and John McVie filed for divorce shortly after returning home from the tour after eight years of marriage. The McVies favored silent treatment unlike Buckingham and Nicks. They refused to talk outside the studio and only communicated when it regarded the music. Even drummer Mick Fleetwood struggled with the issues of his relationship. He learned just before recording Rumours, that his wife had an affair with his best friend. But, for the sake of the music, they overcame everything else despite the pain, hurt and disappointment that all parties felt.
The documentary starts off with “You Make Loving Fun,” “Dreams,” “Second Hand News,” “Go Your Own Way,” “Gold Dust Woman,” “Never Going Back Again,” “Don’t Stop,” “Songbird,” “Oh Daddy,” “I Don’t Want to Know,” and lastly “The Chain.”
“Songbird” was recorded live in the Zellerbach Auditorium of UC Berkeley. Music producer Ken Caillat, preferred to capture the feel of a live performance, so he booked the theater for the evening. He also set the mood by putting a spotlight on the nine-foot Steinway, Christine McVie played and had a dozen roses on the piano as well. The session lasted until seven o’clock in the morning because McVie had to do it in a single take.
“Don’t Stop” is a song written by Christine McVie and sung by guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie. As a note of post-divorce frustration, Christine McVie’s bluesy swing “Don’t Stop” was aimed at ex John, while her soulful song ”You Make Love Fun” was to pay homage to her new boyfriend, who was the Fleetwood Mac lighting designer.
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Stevie Nicks wrote “Dreams” when one day she went to Sly’s Stone Room took her electric keyboard, journals, art, crocheting, and just sat down and wrote it. She didn’t feel nervous when she presented it to the band because she knew it would be a success and she was right. Although when Stevie Nicks asked for help from Lindsey, he did not want to help her in the beginning. He said it was bittersweet as he was her musical soul mate and was able to understand where she wanted the song to go. “Dreams” features pessimistic lyrics like “Players only love you when they’re playing” with an adamant drum pattern. While “Dreams” hopeful and saw the breakup but everything would be okay, unlike “Go Your Own Way” which was not hopeful that they would be okay.
“Gold Dust Girl” was about cocaine. Though “Gold Dust Woman” was also a symbolic look at someone going through a bad relationship, doing a lot of drugs and just trying to make it through, trying to get to the next thing. Stevie Nicks said in an interview with Rolling Stone that, “Gold Dust Woman was about drugs a little bit, it’s about you realizing you’re moving on. You know, I guess it was surprising to me, the whole life of rock’ n’ roll, it was really hard and it was so much work that you knew it was so intense every day.”
“Silver Springs” was a track that was completed but never released because of the fact that vinyl had only 24 minutes per side. Stevie Nicks wrote “Silver Springs” about Buckingham. Nicks made the song because she saw the Silver Springs sign while she and Buckingham were traveling in Maryland. She liked the name, and that place its self sounded beautiful. “You might be my silver springs” was essentially a symbolic line meaning what you might have been to me. It was a very long song, and when it comes to shortening her tracks, Nicks is very touchy. So it didn’t make the cut, which had disappointed Nicks.
Sound was a huge part of why it took the album a year to make. Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar had to be restrung almost every 20 minutes during “Never Going Back Again”. Stories of Fleetwood Mac’s search of sonic perfection are legendary. Ken Caillat paid extra attention to the acoustic guitar sound of Buckingham when recording the sensitive “Never Going Back Again,” which resulted in an uncommon technique of recording. The project took a whole day, exhausting several studio techs.
Rumors was Fleetwood Mac’s most significant album ever made because it enabled the band to last for years after it. Without them knowing it, the members wrote songs about each other. They sang about their relationships with one another. Three breakups— Buckingham and Nicks; the McVies; and Fleetwood and his wife, and copious drug use influenced the year-long creation of the album. Yet the band succeeded in creating a rock masterpiece amid this chaos, because they channeled their internal divisions for artistic inspiration. Of course, all this drama was tremendously compelling and remains an important part of the identity of Fleetwood Mac still today.
- “Fleetwood Mac: Rumours” Hefferman, David (director) Classic Albums 21, December 2006.
- Greene, Andy “Broken Chain: A History of Fleetwood Mac Firings and Departures” Rolling Stone 10, April 2018
- Keens, Oliver “The Story Behind Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’” Time Out 21, January 2013 https://www.timeout.com/london/music/the-truth-behind-the-rumours
- Ollivier, Debra (Contributor) “Fleetwood Mac: Producer Ken Caillat on ‘Making Rumours’” Huffpost 10, May 2012 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ken-caillat-fleetwood-mac-making-rumours_b_1489201?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAF0YNCj3Yh2FFddXJvL9hnyLNua2YnR3unS7XQRXvRmaM7ZJ3G1hTt-pGI4FfKMtA-8pN5a7nNDHHRwr860RvBvkxIHMfxY7VIqQLQw2s9STIpd2hu0oGboISNu6NhytgRach-3HRtn5rf1Skp9_ehY3mHlOJCpPaj3zlBJUBkiX
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