Our constant

1977,  The Fleetwood Mac album ‘Rumours’ went to No. 1 on the US album chart. It went on to win a grammy in 1978 and later sell over 45 million copies.

a fleetwood

Fleetwood Mac was formed in 1967 in London when Peter Green; (the guitarist who replaced Eric Clapton in the British blues band John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers) asked Mick Fleetwood to come in as drummer. The band took on many changes over the coming years as Fleetwood and John McVie combined talents with other musicians. It wasn’t until 1969 that Christine Perfect who was married to bassist John McVie made her first appearance with the band as Christine McVie. Together the existing band members went through some legal turmoil with their name and struggled to find their core. Changes were constant and Fleetwood began scouting a guitar replacement for the band. While Fleetwood was in Van Nuys, California someone played him a track titled ‘Frozen Love’ from a band called ‘Buckingham Nicks’.  Fleetwood liked it and was introduced to the guitarist from the band Lindsey Buckingham. Coincidentally on the day he was hearing the track at Sound City Studios, Buckingham was there recording some demos. Fleetwood soon asked him to join. Buckingham agreed on the condition that his musical partner and girlfriend also become part of the band; Fleetwood agreed. Buckingham and Nicks joined the band on New Year’s Eve 1974.

a buck

In 1975 the new line up released the eponymous album ‘Fleetwood Mac’, which proved to be a breakthrough for the band and became a huge hit reaching No. 1 in the US and selling over 5 million copies. It included hits  ‘Over My Head’ and ‘Say You Love Me’ by Christine and ‘Rhiannon’ and Landslide’ for Stevie.

Personal happiness was short lived as the success of the band brought the end of John and Christine McVie’s marriage as well as Buckingham and Nicks’ long term relationship. Even Fleetwood was in the midst of divorce proceedings from his wife Jenny. The pressure put on them all to release a successful follow up album, combined with their new found wealth led to creative and personal tensions, that were fuelled by high consumptions of drugs and alcohol.

The album the band members released in 1977 was Rumours which laid bare the emotional turmoil experienced in their lives at the time. In February 1976 recording convened at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California. The set up in Sausalito included a number of small recording rooms in a large, windowless wooden building. Most band members complained about the studio and wanted to record at their homes, but Fleetwood did not allow any moves. Christine and Stevie decided to live in two condominiums near the city’s harbour, while the male contingent stayed at the studio’s lodge in the adjacent hills. Recording was done on the highest quality microphones available and it was said that the room lacked ambience because of its ‘very dead speakers’ and large amounts of soundproofing.

Stevie Nicks talks about the making of Rumours:

As the studio sessions progressed, the band members new intimate relationships that formed after various separations started to have a negative effect on Fleetwood Mac. Subsequently the musicians did not meet or socialize after daily work at the Record Plant, and at the time the hippie movement still affected Sausalito’s culture and drugs were easily available. Open ended budgets enabled the band and the engineers to become self indulgent. It has been said that sleepless nights and the extensive use of cocaine marked much of the album’s production. In a 1997 interview one of the Record Plant’s owners Chris Stone said that Fleetwood Mac brought “excess at its most excessive” by taking over the studio for long and extremely expensive sessions; he stated “The band would come in at 7 at night, have a big feast, party till 1 or 2 in the morning, and then when they were so whacked out they couldn’t do anything, they’d start recording.”

Stevie Nicks has suggested that Fleetwood Mac created the best music when in the worst shape, while according to Buckingham the tensions between band members informed the recording process and led to “the whole being more than the sum of the parts”. The couple’s work became ‘bittersweet’ after their final split, although Buckingham still had a skill for taking Nicks’ tracks and ‘making them beautiful’. 

a rumours back side

Fleetwood Mac’s main writers Buckingham, Christine McVie and Nicks worked individually on specific songs, but sometimes shared lyrics with each other. ‘The Chain’ is the only track that all members including Fleetwood and John McVie collaborated on. All songs on ‘Rumours’ concern personal, often troubled relationships. According to Christine the fact that the lyrics were focusing on various separations only became apparent to the band in hindsight. ‘You Make Loving Fun’ is about her boyfriend, Fleetwood Macs lighting director after she split from John. Nicks ‘Dreams’ details a breakup and has a hopeful message, while Buckingham’s similar effort in ‘Go Your Own Way’ is more pessimistic. After a short fling with a New England woman, he was inspired to write ‘Never Going Back Again’.

Stevie wrote ‘Gold Dust Woman’ and was inspired by Los Angeles and the hardships encountered while struggling with the rock lifestyle. She became addicted to cocaine and the lyrics address her belief in “keeping going”. 
‘Oh Daddy’ Christine McVie wrote about Fleetwood and his wife Jenny who had just got back together. The band’s nickname for Fleetwood was “The Big Daddy”. McVie commented that the writing is slightly sarcastic and focuses on the drummer’s direction for Fleetwood Mac, which ultimately always turned out to be right.

Mick Fleetwood has called Rumours “the most important album we ever made”, because its success allowed the group to continue recording for years to come. 

In reality Rumours is still playing strong and can hold its own on any playlist with any generation. So happy to be a part of The Chain.

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