35 Years of Rumours: A Retrospective on Fleetwood Mac's iconic album

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

I’m fourteen years old and I have two albums sitting on my bedroom floor. It’s winter, maybe late February. There’s a heavy snow falling, enough snow to send most fourteen year olds outside to do stupid things like attach themselves to car bumpers so they can slide down the slick streets.  Not me. I’ve opted to stay in and study. Not schoolwork. I was never the kind to study for school on a Friday night. I’m studying music.

On my right side is Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same, an album I’d been listening to non-stop since Christmas. On my left is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, an album I’ve yet to put on my turntable. It was a gift from my grandfather, who knew someone who knew someone at a record label who gave it to him to “give to that granddaughter of yours that likes music.”  That’s me.

I’m into rock and roll. I’m into deep lyrics about stairways to heaven and hobbits. I’m into noisy guitars and the high pitched wails of Robert Plant. I’m not into whatever this Fleetwood Mac group is selling me.  That’s for people who like pop music. Not for rockers like me.

But something compels me to give it a try. What can it hurt? No one is around. None of my friends will know that I’m sitting here listening to what is ostensibly a top 40 album while I’m supposed to be rocking the hell out.

So I drop the album on the turntable. Lower the needle. I get through the first side unscathed, hardly taken in by the pop sensibilities and jangly beats. I’m about to give up and turn back to Jimmy Page and my air guitar when I decide to flip the album and keep trying. “The Chain” starts up.

I’m mesmerized.

There’s something about the song that reveals all the layers beneath the surface of what I thought was just another radio friendly album by a band I’d never admit to liking.  I listen to “The Chain” three more times before going back to the first side. I start the album over and listen with a better understanding of what I’m actually listening to.

I think about all those articles about Fleetwood Mac in Creem magazine and all those other rock rags I read. I dig through stacks of saved magazines and look for pieces on the band. I want to know their history. I want to know their lives.

After five listens of Rumours, it seems I do know their lives. They are lives of complications, of heartbreak and pessimism but of love and optimism. So many complex feelings, so many things that at fourteen I’m struggling to understand yet so many feelings that are vaguely familiar, having seen adults in my own life go through breakups and reconciliations.

And my god, that bass line on ‘The Chain.” Even beyond the words, those precious few notes speak to me of a  certain darkness. The last minute and fifteen seconds of the song encompass everything the members of Fleetwood Mac were trying to tell me about life and love and loss and misery.

Trust no one. Everything is a lie.

The stories unfolding in front of me while listening to Rumours are far removed from hobbits and heaven. There’s a level of profundity that’s a startling revelation to a fourteen year old.  Music nowhere near the simplistic pop I thought I would find on the album? Another revelation. Rumours is  just a different version of rock and roll, I think.  A more complex, intricate and even intimate version.

It wasn’t until many years later that I fully understood the process behind the making of Rumours and everything that led up to it. The breakups, the drugs, the romantic entanglements and estrangements, they all served a purpose in creating what is truly one of the greatest albums ever made.

35 years later (it’s really 36 years, but it’s their anniversary so we’ll let them call it 35) with the stories all public knowledge, the background of Rumours only adds to the mystique of the album and the band.

The just released 35th anniversary reissue contains three discs encompassing the original album, twelve unreleased tracks and B-sides, acoustics, demos and instrumentals. Very few albums in history are worth this kind of attention 35 years after their inception.  If such lavish attention all these years later keeps Rumours alive, so be it. Let every generation discover and ingest what I took in at fourteen, with the benefit of having the whole story at hand.

Does an album that’s already had a celebratory reissue deserve another one? When that album is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the answer – my personal one – is yes.

By Michele Catalano, Contributor / Forbes / Saturday, February 2, 2013

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