Back with Second Hand News: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours

Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977)
Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977)

By Oliver Hancock
Oxford Student
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I remember reading an issue of Rolling Stone a few years ago about the ‘100 Greatest Albums of All Time’, and thinking about how these countdowns might differ in different magazines – NME’s top 10 will almost certainly not be the same as Kerrang’s.

Getting down to the top 10, all the usual candidates I would expect in modern music magazines were there (The Beatles, Stones, Dylan etc.), but the number 4 on the list was an album I’d never really heard of: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I wondered how an album considered canonical by one of the world’s biggest music magazines could have passed me by; why all the ‘Top 100…’ articles I’d read in British magazines could have ignored Rumours in the top bracket. The album itself was popular and critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic, unsurprising given the Anglo-American core of the band, and yet an avid reader of British music magazines in the 21st-century might never consider Fleetwood Mac’s seminal LP in the same bracket as many of the well-trodden ‘classic’ albums.

This has the chance to change with the impending re-release of Rumours, more than 25 years after its original release. Whether milking a cash-cow or hoping to disseminate their work to a new, younger audience, there is a sense that such an album is coming at the right time. The musicianship of the songs forms an interesting juxtaposition to the works of many of today’s new breed of guitar bands (From The Vaccines to Palma Violets), and, despite the recordings having inevitably aged, the songs themselves remain just as potent as they did in the 1970s.

When looking back upon the process of its recording, it is hard to fathom that such cohesive, well-written pop songs coincided with a time when the relationships in the band were falling apart; songs like the Nicks-penned ‘Dreams’ and Buckingham’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ even seem a direct discourse, the ‘unfurled back and forth’ Buckingham would later recall in ‘Eyes of the World’. Yet in such a capable group of musicians and songwriters, the talent will always out, and a real ear for melody and intelligently crafted lyrics interact in such a way that can seldom be accidental.

Despite a deceptive amount of experimentation, there is always a sense, simply, that each addition works; the driving rhythm of ‘Second Hand News’, made by McVie hitting his drum stool, the explosive coda of ‘The Chain’, the only song written by all five bandmates, and the now iconic ‘Go Your Own Way’, a song that was nearly scrapped as a single for having ‘no real beat’. Each song knows what it is doing and does it well- every addition stands alone as much as forms part of the album’s overall dynamic.

One could argue that such a mode of song-writing has been lost in recent guitar bands, and the next generation of NME bands could do worse than get themselves a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s best LP. The creative harmonic interchange in songs like ‘Second Hand News’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ shows that a use of familiar modular chords can still avoid sounding dull and derivative (something that bands like Tribes and The Vaccines have yet to learn). There can be many discussions about what makes a classic album, but for sheer song-writing talent, Rumours deserves its place amongst the greats.

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is out on reissue from 29th January published by Rhino Records.

Will It Ever Be Cool To Like Fleetwood Mac?

Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac are back and bigger than ever, but is it finally time guitar fans dropped their pretensions and embraced one of the greatest “uncool” acts of the 1970s?

By David Hayter
Guitar Planet Magazine
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Rampaging commercial success will not earn an artist the acceptance of the wider rock fraternity. Music fans can be more than a little sniffy. The second a band breaks through the glass ceiling and becomes a pop culture staple, eyebrows arch and skepticism takes hold. It’s a bizarre phenomenon but one that every music fan can recognize. There is no magic formula to earn credibility and kudos. Every critic in the land can fall in line and exalt an artist’s latest work, but it won’t stop the second-guessing and it won’t make you cool.

Fleetwood Mac represent the ultimate contradiction. When they ditched the trappings of blues-rock and embraced folk-pop they became the biggest band in the world. The critics adore Rumours and the public grabbed copies in their millions — but the Mac were never cool. Indulgent, genteel, and contrived, to their adversaries Fleetwood Mac were regressive and safe when music was at its madcap revolutionary best. Lindsey Buckingham was never on trend as far as guitarists were concerned — he chose to askew his considerable technical talents in favour of chart friendly sheen.

Fleetwood Mac’s guilty pleasure status has only grown with age. Chatting with young rock fans at Sonisphere Festival 2010 about the best live bands they’d seen in the last year, it was amusing to witness a fan try and couch his enjoyment at seeing Fleetwood Mac live. After a minute of mumbling hedges (“Well they’re not my kind of thing,” “Of course I didn’t expect to enjoy it”) he meekly came to the conclusion, in hushed tones, that “you know, when they played “The Chain” and really got going, they’re pretty good…if you like that sort of thing.”

It was truly astounding, not the length this one rock fan went to hide his clear admiration for the Mac, but the fact that he had to hide it in the first place. This was a Festival that featured prominent performances by the likes of Europe and Motley Crue, and the gent in question was wearing a Whitesnake tee! Surely if hair metal has been redeemed to the point where hardened rock fans will proudly don the garb of their poodle haired icons, it should be socially acceptable to admit that “you know, Fleetwood Mac are kind of alright.”

Perhaps the time is now. Fleetwood Mac have reformed with more fanfare than either their 2004 or 2009 sojourns and Rumours has been reissued to ravenous reviews. Even Pitchfork, the hipster bible which historically avoids dolling out top marks to even the most highly regarded middle of the road releases (see The Joshua Tree), took the plunge and gave Rumours a perfect 10. The fans are certainly excited, selling out a mammoth arena tour and forcing the band to add two extra dates in London. It’s self-evident: Fleetwood Mac are still relevant.

But if the band has always been this beloved, it begs the question…

Why Were Fleetwood Mac So Uncool In The First Place?

Victims of circumstance: the injection of pop songsmiths Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in 1975 happened to coincide with one of the most revolutionary periods in pop music history. New genres and new sounds were being invented on a monthly basis and if the 70s could be distilled down into one succinct musical motto it would read: never look back.

David Bowie encapsulated this sense of experimentation as he ditched twee mod-pop, rushed through psychedelic isolation, mastered glam, went crazy on cocaine and released two Krautrock masterpieces in the space of seven short years.

Consider the breadth of innovation in the years when Fleetwood Mac released their best work – look at how dramatically music was evolving with each passing year:

1975 (Fleetwood Mac): Blood On The Tracks (Bob Dylan), Psychical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin), Blow By Blow (Jeff Beck), Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd), Born To Run (Bruce Springsteen), A Night At The Opera (Queen), Horses (Patti Smith), Another Green World (Brian Eno), Captain Fantastic… (Elton John), Neu ’75 (Neu!), Mothership Connection (Parliament), Ted Nugent (Ted Nugent)

1977 (Rumours): Marquee Moon (Television), Never Mind The Bollocks (The Sex Pistols), Low & Heroes (David Bowie), Animals (Pink Floyd), The Clash (The Clash), Exodus (Bob Marley), My Aim Is True (Elvis Costello), Bat Out Of Hell (Meatloaf), Trans-Europe Express (Kraftwerk), Rocket To Russia (The Ramones), Pink Flag (Wire), Talking Heads 77 (Talking Heads), The Idiot (Iggy Pop), The Heart Of The Congos (The Congos), Saturday Night Fever (The Beegees)

1979 (Tusk): London Calling (The Clash), Unknown Pleasures (Joy Division), Highway To Hell (AC/DC), The Wall (Pink Floyd), Entertainment (Gang Of Four), Off The Wall (Michael Jackson), Specials (The Specials), Metal Box (PIL), Singles Going Steady (The Buzzocks), Y (The Pop Group), Three Imaginary Boys (The Cure), 20 Jazz Funk Greats (Throbbing Gristle)

In four years the music world went from the height of excess back to its barest punk bones and came out the other side with a desire to rip it up and start again. By comparison the latter-day Fleetwood Mac feel cosy. When the rock world was living life on the edge, they occupied the middle ground, recreating the easy life aesthetic of the Californian pop maestros (albeit with the help of a boat load of cocaine).

But it’s 2013! Kraftwerk and The Clash are classic rock, and all that progression is ancient history…it’s time to ask the immortal question:

Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac

Is It Okay To Like Fleetwood Mac?

Revisiting the three classic albums of the Nicks/Buckingham era with fresh ears is next to impossible. The bizzarest aspect of listening to Fleetwood Mac, Rumours and Tusk is how unnervingly familiar the first two records sound. The hits are unavoidable of course, “Dreams” remains seductive and “Go Your Own Way” is an eternal toe tapper, but the albums (particularly Rumours) have been absorbed so thoroughly into the popular consciousness that every hook, harmony and sly riff is already buried in the deepest recesses of your mind.

Listening to Rumours is simply the trigger device. A signal is unleashed; a little microchip goes off in the back of your brain instantly alerting you to the Mac’s entire oeuvre. The sound of this album (which was already steeped in pop culture familiarity) has gone on to inform three further generations of radio rock and pristine pop.

This certainly doesn’t help “Don’t Stop”, or “Second Hand News” (with its nauseating bow-bow-bow adlibs), sound exhilarating in 2013. The thrill of discovery is rendered null and void by decades of pre-conditioning, but thankfully the highly touted tension remains in tact.

To the unconverted the endless discussion of the fraught Nicks/Buckingham relationship adds little depth to the music. Hearing “Go Your Own Way” on the radio is like sitting in on an episode of a soap opera that you’re not remotely invested in. Rumours brings the outsider up to speed in an instant as heart-breaking scorn, revengeful lyrics, and biting personal critiques are stacked curtly atop one another. It’s a bruising emotional affair. Neither party manages to land the knock out punch and both Buckingham and Nicks emerge the worse for wear.

Tusk, the much-derided flop of a follow up to Rumours, holds the most excitement for the intrigued newcomer. It’s still entirely off its rocker and thankfully it hasn’t been watered down by years of radio play. Tusk retains the capacity to astonish and had it been a commercial success, it would have been a daring triumph of weird progressive pop. Buckingham’s million pound pet project holds some of the band’s most austere ballads (“Never Make Me Cry”) and delicately crafted gems (“Storms”), but also their barmiest inventions and loosest playing.

Tusk is full of detours; mad country marches, explorations of new wave, and strange predictions of what pop might (and ultimately would) sound like in the next decade. It’s Fleetwood Mac’s cocaine record. It lurches from moments of despair and paranoid lethargy into explosive bursts of unfettered energy. Where Rumours sounded effortless, Tusk sounds on edge; it could careen off the rails at any point (and arguably does, repeatedly). If “Strawberry Fields Forever” nailed the mind altering allure of LSD then “Tusk” captures the skittish, near psychopathic, blend of paranoia and frustration that only cocaine and heartache can induce. Hardly easy listening.

Ultimately, Tusk represents a chance for the modern guitar rock fan to hear those mellifluous harmonies and slick riffs in a new context. Allowing a younger audience to understand the band’s brilliance without being burdened by the sheer familiarity of Rumours.

Will Fleetwood Mac ever be as cool or as socially acceptable as Jimi Hendrix? Probably not (just look at them), but in 2013 it’s time rock fans dropped their pretentions, fell in love with the precision-engineered arrangements of Rumours and embraced the insanity of Tusk.

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ still flying 36 years later

Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977)
Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977)

By Ed Turner
Augusta Chronicle
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Forty million people weren’t wrong. Rumours, one of the greatest-selling albums in the history of music, has just been reissued in a “35th Anniversary edition” that includes all sorts of bonus goodies for Fleetwood Mac fans.

Of course, when the majority of the band was going through breakups and divorces during the year it took to record Rumours, it was either going to result in lameness or greatness. Can you imagine singing songs about your ex with your ex while your personal life is in such turmoil?

That’s exactly what the band was experiencing throughout the recording of Rumours.

But somehow, the band persevered and crafted an album that will be enjoyed (as the Moody Blues once wrote) by our “childrens’ children children.” It undoubtedly already is.

It’s a marvelous three-disc set that features the original album, a slew of outtakes and demos, and a dozen in-concert songs from the Mac.

Some of the live material was recorded in Columbia in 1977, so there’s a good chance some of you just might have enjoyed those firsthand at the Carolina Coliseum. What an unforgettable evening that was!

It’s interesting to note that the superb Stevie Nicks’ number Silver Springs has been added to the original album, where it belongs. When Rumours was first issued (actually 36 years ago) Silver Springs was relegated to the B-side of Go Your Own Way because of vinyl space limitations.

It’s difficult to fathom that the two ladies in the Mac were much older at the time than most everyone thought. Christine McVie, then a youthful 34, had already been in the band for almost seven years when Lindsey Buckingham and Nicks joined.

Even more surprising to many is that Nicks, who was a waitress when she entered the Fleetwood fold, was already 28. Yes, she looked way younger than that!

The demos and outtakes are fun to listen to for many reasons. For example, Nicks’ demo of The Chain is sparse and actually quite uneventful. But Buckingham’s stellar arranging skills took a very simple song and made it into an extremely powerful piece of work.

Never Going Back Again was originally called Brushes simply because Buckingham didn’t want Nicks to hear the final lyrics until late in the recording process. A working version of the song and a lovely instrumental version are included in this edition.

I found it extremely amusing that the working title of Nicks’ haunting Dreams was Spinners, simply because it reminded the band of a song by the soul group The Spinners that the band had heard. It’s not unusual for musicians to write or drastically change lyrics late in the recording process.

McVie’s You Make Loving Fun, Oh Daddy and the mega-hit Don’t Stop prove just how much the band today misses her “warm ways” in the studio and on the road.

Her stunning rendition of Songbird was said to have brought her former husband, bassist John McVie, to tears when he heard it for the first time.

This new edition does have some problems. The remastering of the album is a little too heavy on the bass and the packaging is a wee-bit flimsy. Not only that, the live disc contains only 12 songs, so it makes no sense that they left off other material performed during that spectacular tour of the United States.

If you want to know more about this classic album, I strongly suggest that you check out producer Ken Caillat’s captivating book Making Rumours that came out last year. It is a spellbinding read as it documents in detail the crazy, drug-fueled sessions from someone who was present during the entire process.

Yes, the Ken Caillat who produced Rumours is the father of Colbie Caillat, a Grammy Award winner just like her dad! She’s best-known for her hits Bubbly and Lucky and her fine long-player debut Coco.

Fleetwood Mac is currently rehearsing for a world tour that begins in April. The band, now down to just four members since Christine McVie retired more than a decade ago, will play at Atlanta’s Philip’s Arena on June 10.

In the meanwhile, longtime Mac fans can once again savor an album that will certainly never go out of favor. As Buckingham later wrote in his solo hit Go Insane “the Rumours were flying,” and 36 years later, they still are.

The band kicks off a 34-city U.S. tour April 3, with a stop in Atlanta on June 10.

4 reasons to love Fleetwood Mac’s reissued ‘Rumours’ 3-CD set

Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977)
Fleetwood Mac Rumours (1977)

By Ken Paulsen
Staten Island Advance
Friday, February 15, 2013 12:45 PM

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of one of the biggest pop smashes of all time, Fleetwood Mac has reissued Rumours in a 3-CD set. Here’s why it’s so easy to recommend.

1) The original album is a pop masterpiece, from Lindsey Buckingham’s breezy opening guitar strumming at the start of “Second Hand News,” to the haunting vocals of Stevie Nicks’ “Gold Dust Woman.” In between are songs that still get radio airplay every day because of their timeless appeal: “Go Your Own Way,” “You Make Loving Fun,” “Dreams” (the band’s only No. 1 single) and “Don’t Stop.” Deeper cuts like Christine McVie’s “Songbird” and Buckingham’s “Never Going Back Again” would be signature songs for most acts. On Rumours, they are the powerful tracks that keep you from ever reaching for the “next song” button on your iPod or CD player.

2) The bonus track “Silver Springs” is now the 12th song on Rumours, and it fits in seamlessly — where it should have been placed in 1977. Nicks wrote the song to her former lover Buckingham, but band leader Mick Fleetwood knocked it off the album, leaving Nicks devastated. The official reason was that there wasn’t enough room on the album, but the potent lyrics had to be a factor: “I’ll follow you down ‘til the sound of my voice will haunt you / You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you.”  Can you blame Buckingham if he was freaked out by them?

3) The second CD features 12 previously unreleased live recordings from the band’s 1977 concert tour and it provides a snapshot at the peak of its success.  Most tracks hew closely to the album versions; among the notable exceptions are “World Turning” and “Rhiannon,” both from 1975’s “Fleetwood Mac,” and “The Chain,” the one Rumours track with songwriting credits ascribed to the entire band. On the concert version of “The Chain,” John McVie’s signature bass line gives way to an extended, frenzied Buckingham solo. With the band singing the chorus in harmony, it’s a song that could have been prolonged even further.

4) The third CD provides the biggest treat for fans who thought they had explored all of  Rumours. Its 16 songs provide a peek at the evolution of the album’s gems. For example, on a slower, stripped-down “Dreams: Take 2,” Nicks’ ethereal vocals blend magically with gentle accompaniment by McVie’s organ. The final version is surely more polished and radio friendly, but “Take 2” is worth revisiting. The CD also shows where some smart decisions were made: “Never Going Back Again” was originally recorded as a Buckingham-Nicks duet. But Buckingham’s sentiments — no doubt inspired by his ex-lover — are best expressed alone here. An instrumental version is also included, and once again you appreciate Buckingham’s touch: The listener can be grateful that he recognized how the melody only needed seven lines of lyrics; the tune sounds naked without them. In addition, “early takes” of tracks such as “Songbird” and “Gold Dust Woman” show that McVie and Nicks, respectively, had it right all along.

The three-CD version, released by Rhino records, retails for about $20. A deluxe edition is available, featuring an additional CD of outtakes from the Rumours recording sessions, the 1977 documentary “Rosebud Film” and the entire album on 140-gram vinyl. Both versions (minus the vinyl, of course) are also available in digital formats.

The band is embarking on a tour of U.S. and Europe starting this spring, including a stop at Madison Square Garden in April.

Fleetwood Mac Rumours (Rhino)

By Frank Valish
Under the Radar
Thursday, Feb 14, 2013

Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours has sold over 40 million albums to date. To this day, Rumours is inextricable from the story of its creation, a process that took over the band members’ lives at the exact time four of its members were severing romantic ties and a fifth was dealing with a breakup of his own.

This three-disc expanded reissue, featuring the remastered album with sparkling original B-side “Silver Springs,” a disc of early takes, and a concert from 1977, does the original album, and its story, justice. The original work may be difficult to listen to with fresh ears, but the disc of additional studio recordings has to it a nice fly-on-the-wall feel, and previously unreleased cuts such as “Keep Me There” and “Planets of the Universe” nicely augment the album proper. Say what you will about Rumours, but it sure was interesting. (www.fleetwoodmac.com)

Author rating: 9/10

Fleetwood Mac’s winner

By Jed Gottlieb
Guestlisted with Jed Gottlieb
Boston Herald
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Good to see so many Guestlisted readers are devoted to the Mac. They’re kind of the ultimate band: pop with amazing rock guitar solos, or rock with amazing pop hooks, and baby boomers and hipsters both adore them (as they should).

Here are a few of my favorite suggestions from last week’s Rumours giveaway (it was hard even to find a few comments to single out, they were all so awesome).

From Beth:

“Go Your Own Way” is THE quintessential Fleetwood Mac song because it is an allegory of the band’s struggles within their own relationships. You can feel their passion, anger, resentment, love, lust, jealousy and pain when you hear that song — it just fires you up! That said, “Songbird” and “As Long as You Follow” are my favorites — I walked down the aisle at my wedding to a pianist playing “Songbird.” It’s ethereal and romantic. How do I pick just one? Impossible task!

From Pinky:

When I was 9, my uncle bought my brother and I Walkmans. Problem was we didn’t own any tapes, so we rummaged around in his car and found The Bangles (my brother) and “Tango in the Night” (me). I listened to that tape until I wore it out. No exaggeration, my grasp on how life worked was from that tape.  Of course, there were more mind explosions to come once I dug around and found “Rumours.” But really, among the gob-stopping glory of “Silver Springs” and “Go Your Own Way” et al, the song that cuts to the bone has to be “Beautiful Child.” I mean what the devil is she singing about? It’s sexy, it’s haunting, it’s pretty, it’s a little pervy. You don’t know the scenario, but man, you KNOW those feelings…Your eyes say yes/ But you don’t say yes…I wait for you to say, just go. It’s the most miserable lullaby ever written. Glorious.

But Mike wins this one:

“Tusk” the weirdest song single ever? Kinda reminds me of the Stones when they released “we love you.” There’s no hook, it’s powered by an unwavering tribal drum beat and a freakin’ marching band blasts its way through the last part of the song. And don’t even bother trying to figure out what it’s about. If nothing else, it represents a radical change from the bands pop music hit singles mode which may have turned some fans off but I loved. Possibly their best moment in the studio!”

Listening post: Fleetwood Mac Rumours

By Jeff Miers
The Buffalo News
Friday, February 8, 2013

Pop

Fleetwood Mac, Rumours: Deluxe Anniversary Edition (Warner Bros., three discs). It’s certainly not news that Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is a pop masterpiece, a high-water mark in the annals of ’70s California-based rock and pop. Very few self-respecting record collectors or rock historians would consider their collection complete without it. We all know the story of its creation – how the songs reflected the romantic turmoil within the band, as various relationships crumbled, principally the very torrid one between singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist/songwriter Lindsey Buckingham. What we may not know is what a fantastic live ensemble this particular lineup of Fleetwood Mac was. This new anniversary edition gives us a beautifully remastered version of the original album, with the inclusion of the revered outtake “Silver Springs” tacked on, and a whole disc’s worth of alternate versions and outtakes, too. But the grand prize is the full live concert from the 1977 Rumours world tour, which takes up a full disc. This is the holy grail for Mac fans, and makes the anniversary edition a must-have. 4 stars

Fleetwood Mac Rumours

10/10 – BEST NEW REISSUE

Fleetwood Mac Rumours
Rhino / Warner Bros.; 1977/2013
By Jessica Hopper
Pitchfork
Friday, February 8, 2013

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours would never be just an album. Upon its release in 1977, it became the fastest-selling LP of all time, moving 800,000 copies per week at its height, and its success made Fleetwood Mac a cultural phenomenon. The million-dollar record that took a year and untold grams to complete became a totem of 1970s excess, rock’n’roll at its most gloriously indulgent. It was also a bellwether of glimmering Californian possibility, the permissiveness and entitlement of the 70s done up in heavy harmonies. By the time it was made, the personal freedoms endowed by the social upheaval of the 60s had unspooled into unfettered hedonism. As such, it plays like a reaping: a finely polished post-hippie fallout, unaware that the twilight hour of the free love era was fixing and there would be no going back. In 1976, there was no knowledge of AIDS, Reagan had just left the governor’s manse, and people still thought of cocaine as non-addictive and strictly recreational. Rumours is a product of that moment and it serves as a yardstick by which we measure just how 70s the 70s were.

And then there’s the album’s influence. Though it was seen as punk’s very inverse, Rumours has enjoyed a long trickle-down of influence starting from the alt-rock-era embrace via Billy Corgan and Courtney Love to the harmonies and choogling of Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the earthier end of Beach House. Rumours set a template for pop with a gleaming surface that has something complicated, desperate, and dark resonating underneath.

Setting aside the weight of history, listening to Rumours is an easy pleasure. Records with singles that never go away tend to evoke nostalgia for the time when the music soundtracked your life; in this case, you could’ve never owned a copy of it and still know almost every song. When you make an album this big, your craft is, by default, accessibility. But this wasn’t generic pabulum. It was personal. Anyone could find a piece of themselves within these songs of love and loss.

Two years prior to recording Rumours, though, Fleetwood Mac was approximately nowhere. In order to re-establish the group’s flagging stateside reputation, in early 1974 Fleetwood Mac’s drummer and band patriarch, Mick Fleetwood, keyboardist/singer Christine McVie, and her husband, bassist John McVie, moved from England to Los Angeles. The quartet was then helmed by their fifth and least-dazzling guitarist, the American Bob Welch. Not long after the band’s British faction had relocated, Welch quit the band. Around the same time Mick Fleetwood was introduced to the work of local duo, Buckingham Nicks, who’d just been dropped by Polydor. The drummer was enchanted by Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar work and Nicks’ complete package, and when Welch quit, he offered them a spot in the band outright.

The group, essentially a new band under an old name, quickly cut 1975’s self-titled Fleetwood Mac, an assemblage of Christine McVie’s songs and tracks Buckingham and Nicks had intended for their second album, including the eventual smash “Rhiannon.” It was a huge seller in its own right and they were now a priority act given considerable resources. But by the time they booked two months at Record Plant in Sausalito to record the follow-up, the band’s personal bonds were frayed, there was serious resentment and constant drama. Nicks had just broken up with Buckingham after six years of domestic and creative partnership. Fleetwood’s wife was divorcing him, and the McVies were separated and no longer speaking.

While Fleetwood Mac was a bit of a mash-up of existing work, Lindsey Buckingham effectively commandeered the band for Rumours, giving their sound a radio-ready facelift. He redirected John McVie and Fleetwood’s playing from blues past towards the pop now. Fleetwood Mac wanted hits and gave the wheel to Buckingham, a deft craftsman with a vision for what the album had to become.

He opens the record with the libidinous “Second Hand News,” inspired by the redemption Buckingham was finding in new women, post-Stevie. It was the album’s first single and also perhaps the most euphoric ode to rebound chicks ever written. Buckingham’s “bow-bow-bow-doot-doo-diddley-doot” is corny, but it works along with the percussion track (Buckingham played the seat of an office chair after Fleetwood was unable to properly replicate a beat a la the Bee Gees’ “Jive Talkin’”). Like “Second Hand News,” Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” is upbeat but totally fuck-you. He croons “shackin’ up is all you wanna do,”—accusing an ex-lover of being a wanton slut on a song where his ex-lover harmonizes on the hook. Save for “Never Going Back Again,” (a vintage Buckingham Nicks composition brought in to replace Stevie’s too-long “Silver Springs”) Buckingham’s songs are turnabout as fairplay with lithe guitar glissando on top.

“Second Hand News” is followed by a twist-of-the-knife Stevie-showpiece, “Dreams,” a gauzy ballad about what she’d had and what she’d lost with Buckingham. It was written during one of the days where Nicks wasn’t needed for tracking. She wrote the song in a few minutes, recorded it onto a cassette, and returned to the studio and demanded the band listen to it. It was a simple ballad that would be finessed into the album’s jewel; the quiet vamp laced with laconic Leslie-speaker vibrato and spooky warmth allow Nicks to draw an exquisite sketch of loneliness. “Dreams” would become Fleetwood Mac’s only #1 hit.

Though Fleetwood Mac was always the sum of its parts, Nicks was something special both in terms of the band and in rock history. She helped establish a feminine vernacular that was (still) in league with the cock rock of the 70s but didn’t present as a diametric vulnerability; it was not innocent. While Janis Joplin and Grace Slick had been rock’s most iconic heroines at the tail-end of the 60s, they were very much trying to keep up with boys in their world; Nicks was creating a new space. And Fleetwood Mac was still very much an anomaly, unique in being a rock band fronted by two women who were writing their own material, with Nicks presenting as the girliest bad girl rock’n’roll had seen since Ronnie Spector. She took the stage baring a tambourine festooned with lengths of lavender ribbon; people said she was a witch.

Like her male rock’n’roll peers, Nicks sang songs about the intractable power of a woman (her first hit, “Rhiannon”) and used women as a metaphor (“Gold Dust Woman”), but her approach was different. At the time of Rumours’ release, she maintained that the latter song was about groupies who would scowl at her and Christine but light up when the guys appeared. She later confessed that it was about cocaine getting the best of her. In 1976, coke was the mise of the scene—to admit you were growing weary would have been gauche. Nicks’ husky voice made it sound like she’d lived and her lyrics—of pathos, independence, and getting played—certainly backed it up. She seemed like a real woman—easy to identify with, but with mystery and a natural glamour worth aspiring to.

It’s almost easy to miss Christine McVie for all of Nicks’ mystique. McVie had been in the band for years, but never at the helm. Her songs “You Make Lovin’ Fun” and “Don’t Stop” are pure pep. “Songbird” starts as a plaintive ode of fealty and how total her devotion—until the sad tell of “And I wish you all the love in the world/ But most of all I wish it from myself,” (an especially heart-wrenching line given that McVie’s not quite ex-husband was dragging a rebound model chick to the sessions and Christine was sneaking around with a member of the crew). She didn’t hate her husband, she adored him, she wished it could work but after years of being in the Mac together, she knew better. Throughout, McVie’s songwriting is pure and direct, irrepressibly sweet. “Oh Daddy,” a song she wrote about Mick Fleetwood’s pending divorce is melancholy but ultimately maintains its dignity. McVie, with typical British reserve, confessed she preferred to leave the bleakness and poesy to her dear friend Stevie.

As much feminine energy as Rumours wields, the album’s magic is in its balance: male and female, British blues versus American rock’n’roll, lightness and dark, love and disgust, sorrow and elation, ballads and anthems, McVie’s sweetness against Nicks’ grit. They were a democratic band where each player raised the stakes of the whole. The addition of Buckingham and Nicks and McVie’s new prominence kicked John McVie’s bass playing loose from its blues mooring and forced him towards simpler, more buoyant pop. Fleetwood’s playing itself is just godhead, with effortless little fills, light but thunderous, and his placement impeccable throughout. The ominous, insistent kick on the first half on “The Chain”, for example, colors the song as much as the quiver of disgust in Buckingham’s voice when he spits “never.”

In the liner notes to the deluxe Rumours 4xCD/DVD/LP box set, Buckingham describes the album-making process as “organic.” Rumours is anything but, and that is part of its genius—it’s so flawless it feels far from nature. It is more like a peak human feat of Olympic-level studio craft. It was made better by its myopia and brutal circumstances: the wounded pride of a recently dumped Buckingham, the new hit of “Rhiannon”, goading Nicks to fight for inclusion of her own songs, Christine McVie attempting to salve her heart with “Songbird.” That Fleetwood Mac had become the biggest record Warner Bros. had ever released while the band was making Rumours allowed for an impossibly long tether for them to dick around and correct the next album until it was immaculate.

Given the standalone nature of Rumours, it’s difficult to argue that any other part of the box set is necessary. The live recordings of the Rumours tour are fine, lively even (perhaps owing to Fleetwood rationing a Heineken cap of coke to each band member to power performances). Only a handful of tracks on the two discs of the sessions outtakes lend any greater understanding of the process behind it. One is “Dreams (Take 2)”, which is just Nicks voice, some burbling organ, and rough rhythm guitar gives an appreciation of her fundamental talent as well as Buckingham’s ability to transform it; it makes the case for how much they needed each other. Another is “Second Hand News (Early Take),” which features Buckingham mumbling lyrics so as not to incense Nicks. The alternate mixes and takes (more phaser! Less Dobro! Take 22!), by the time you make it to disc four, just underscore the fact that Rumours did not hatch as a pristine whole. One does not need three variously funky articulations of Christine’s burning “Keep Me There” to comprehend this.

Nevertheless, it is difficult not to buy into the mythology of Rumours both as an album and pop culture artifact: a flawless record pulled from the wreckage of real lives. As one of classic rock’s foundational albums, it holds up better than any other commercial smash of that ilk (Hotel California, certainly). We can now use it as a kind of nostalgic benchmark—that they don’t make groups like that anymore, that there is no rock band so palatable that it could be the best-selling album in the U.S. for 31 weeks. Things work differently now. Examined from that angle, Rumours was not exactly a game changer, it was merely perfect.

Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (Expanded Edition)

Rumours Expanded Edition (2013)
Rumours Expanded Edition (2013)

By John Bergstrom
PopMatters
Friday, February 8, 2013

It seems fitting in a way that a big reason for the existence of this “Expanded Edition” of Rumours is also a big reason why the original album had such magical appeal. That is, the always-dynamic, often turbulent relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.

In 2012, Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac’s namesake rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie held sessions to record tracks for a new album. Nicks, meanwhile, was on an extended solo tour in support of her latest solo album. According to Buckingham, when Nicks returned she was none too interested in contributing to a new Fleetwood Mac album. She was, however, keen on reviving Buckingham Nicks, the name under which the two singer-songwriters had recorded before fate brought them to Fleetwood Mac. Nicks claimed she had a “long lost” song she wanted to do for a long-awaited CD issue of Buckingham Nicks (1973). Buckingham claimed it was a Fleetwood Mac song all along.

Oh, these rock ‘n’ roll kids …

Thing was, Fleetwood Mac were set to do a tour in 2013. In lieu of a new album to promote, Warner Brothers decided on a “35th Anniversary” re-issue of Rumours. Rumours was originally released in February 1977. You do the math.

Oh, these rock ‘n’ roll record companies …

The story of Rumours has been told many, many times. It has been told, through its songs, to anyone who has listened to the album. As far as the album itself, well, if you cannot recognize Rumours as one of the most complete, satisfying, musically-accomplished, memorable, hummable, which is to say, best, albums of the rock’n’roll era, you need to figure out what it is that is holding you back. If you are one of those people who believe it’s “too soft,” “too clean,” “too SoCal” … you need to get over yourself. Because, musically, what you have here is one of the most powerful rhythm sections in all of rock, meshing with a prodigiously-talented guitarist and arranger, in service of some impeccable songwriting and some unwieldy sex appeal.

Oh, Rumours

If there is any “new” perspective to be gleaned, maybe it’s a bit of old perspective. As with all such massive cultural achievements, it’s nearly impossible now to imagine Rumours in its original context. The juggernaut that Fleetwood Mac became after its release now seems inevitable, so much so that you imagine Fleetwood Mac the juggernaut creating the album in the first place. But, of course, that was not the case. Rumours was, basically, a “difficult second album”. The band had had unexpectedly huge success with their first Buckingham-Nicks-assisted album, Fleetwood Mac (1975), but that success had come gradually, eventually reaching a peak at the top of the charts. Who knew if the band could sustain it? Not Warner Brothers, who were putting the pressure on for a follow-up. Not the band themselves, who were, well, you know the story …

Really, then, you might want to go back and marvel at the supreme level of confidence these songs project. It’s there in every drum crash on “Dreams”, every three-part vocal on “The Chain”, every twinkle of Buckingham’s guitar on “Never Going Back Again”. Yes, the band consisted of all experienced professionals. But they were also at a crucial career point, in complete personal and emotional turmoil, and having cocaine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Go back and stand in amazement at how Rumours reaps all the possible benefits of that scenario without suffering any of the potential pitfalls. Every song is an open-and-shut case, a tightly-sealed, end-of-story work of pop-rock perfection.

Which means items like discs of live material and outtakes are superfluous at best. Then there is this matter. Rumours was in 2004 reissued in remastered form and with a disc of outtakes. This package should have satisfied those fans who were curious about the band’s creative process and wanted to hear some works-in-progress. There is really no justification for this 2013-model, three-disc “Expanded Edition”, other than a financial one. Buckingham has said that, while the band had to approve the tracklist, he could have done without the release.

It’s easy to agree, and that is why this package does not get the perfect score the original album deserves. Disc One reprises the 2004 remastering, the audio quality of which is always a subjective issue. To these ears, though, it sounds fine. Disc Two tosses in some live performances from the Rumours tour. They show that, despite the multiple overdubbing and laboring over the studio versions, the band could replicate them and play them well. “Dreams” and “Rhiannon” are too fast. The cocaine, maybe? A perfectly enjoyable but hardly essential listen.

Disc Three has a bunch of outtakes that were not used for the 2004 release. That means they are outtakes that were not deemed fit for an outtakes album. They are mostly rough, and reveal little except that the coda from “The Chain” came from an unused Christine McVie song. A couple tracks are worth hearing more than once, due to the inherent appeal and strength of Nicks’ voice. An early “Dreams” take is minimal and almost ghostly. An early “The Chain” has nothing more than a few lyrics in common with the album version. An acoustic Nicks ballad, it finds her emoting more than on the finished product, in the process revealing why hardly a warm-blooded male in the Western Hemisphere could have resisted her.

The three-disc package is priced reasonably, surely targeting old fans who will, psychologically at least, get a kick out of buying “new Fleetwood Mac” product. Meanwhile, many other Fleetwood Mac albums languish in the CD dark ages, and a new Fleetwood Mac album sits in the studio, in need of some female vocals.

Oh, Fleetwood Mac …

Rating: 7/10

John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of “first good female rocker” was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.

‘We were never too stoned to play’ Fleetwood Mac: the comeback interview

By Will Hodgkinson
The Times (UK)
Thursday, February 7 2013

The Mac are back, with live shows, songs and a re-release. Will Hodgkinson meets Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie

It is 36 years since Rumours, the soft-rock masterpiece by Fleetwood Mac, became the soundtrack to separation. Songs such as Go Your Own Way, The Chain and You Make Loving Fun articulated the new rules of relationships for the baby boom generation, capturing the reality of affairs, tensions, betrayals and break-ups and selling more than 40 million copies in the process. For much of the 1980s, arguing over who got the copy of Rumours was as much a part of divorce as lawyer’s fees and pretending to like each other in front of the kids.

Rumours hit a nerve because it came from a place of truth. Fleetwood Mac’s keyboardist Christine McVie was divorcing its bassist John McVie. The singer Stevie Nicks was splitting with her childhood sweetheart, the band’s guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. Stuck somewhere in the middle was the drummer Mick Fleetwood, who was recently divorced from his wife. Everyone dealt with the situation in the only way rock stars in the 1970s knew how: by taking huge amounts of cocaine.

It should have ended there, but as Fleetwood says, “Rumours is the thing that would not go away.” While the album has just gone back into the Top Three, four of the band members are putting aside the pain of the past and, in one of the biggest break up and make up stories of all time, getting ready to go out on the road again for a world tour. Only Christine McVie, who left the band in 1998, is staying away. She’s been leading a reclusive, distinctly non-rock’n’roll life in a Kent farmhouse ever since, having no involvement with Fleetwood Mac and never giving interviews — until now.

“We were very hedonistic,” says McVie, recalling the band’s reputation for excess in the fond manner of someone remembering high jinks at school. “But it was always fun because we never got into heroin or anything like that. If you got too high you had a drink, and if you got too drunk you had another line of coke. We did that every night until three or four in the morning. It was different back then. Once you made it you were completely nurtured in this little world.”

Why did she leave the band? “After I took my 95,000th flight something snapped. I became terrified of flying and I couldn’t face living out of a suitcase any more.”

So it comes as a further surprise to hear that, two days after our interview, she’s flying to Fleetwood’s house in Maui, Hawaii, before traveling to Los Angeles to meet the rest of the band as they rehearse for a world tour.

“No, no, no,” says Mick Fleetwood, the band’s genial, pony-tailed giant of a drummer, when I ask him if McVie will actually return to complete Rumour’s two-warring-couples dynamic that, in Buckingham’s words, “brought out the voyeur in everyone.” “We love her, we miss her, but no. She’s left. Still, she’s a huge part of our story and I certainly hope that when we tour in September and October she makes one little excursion to a gig.”

The fact that Rumours continues to fascinate is not simply down to the quality of the music, although the clean-cut sonic perfection and lyrical seduction of songs such as The Chain and Don’t Stop is too tasty to resist. It’s also because this is a story yet to be completed. And what a story it is.

The Fleetwood Mac of Rumours began in 1974, when, having been hugely successful figures in the late Sixties British blues boom, the band were in trouble. Founder Peter Green, briefly mooted as the greatest guitarist of his generation, developed schizophrenia and left in 1970 after saying he wanted to give all the band’s money to charity. The following year the Mac’s second guitarist Jeremy Spencer popped out before a gig in Los Angeles to buy a magazine and never came back. His band members later discovered he had joined the Children Of God cult. There was even a fake Fleetwood Mac out on the road, put together by the band’s manager. Fleetwood suggested to the McVies that they take a drastic step to cure their ills: move to California.

“We had been successful and now we weren’t,” Fleetwood says. “Nothing was happening. But Peter Green had an incredibly generous principle, which was that you could bring new people into the band and allow them to be themselves rather than tell them what to do. That saved Fleetwood Mac.”

Fleetwood was in the Laurel Canyon Country Store in the Hollywood Hills, doing his weekly shopping, when he bumped into an LA scenester he vaguely knew. “This guy had a job hustling people to work in a studio called Sound City, so I put the groceries in the back of my beat-up old Cadillac and drove down there with him. The producer Keith Olsen played me two tracks from an album he had recorded by a duo called Buckingham Nicks, just to demonstrate the [studio’s recording quality]. Next day I called Keith and said: ‘You know that tape you played?’ ”

Buckingham was a broodingly handsome, intensely creative guitarist and songwriter from Palo Alto, California. Nicks, his girlfriend since high school, was a strikingly beautiful singer with a gypsy glamour and a drawled, girlish vocal style. Together they captured a very Californian take on the hippy dream: narcissistic, slightly cosmic, but sophisticated. The album, Buckingham Nicks, bombed, making Fleetwood’s offer of joining Fleetwood Mac at a wage of £300 a week particularly appealing for Nicks, who was supporting the couple by working as a waitress and cleaner.

“Lindsey didn’t actually want to join,” Fleetwood says. “He was on his own creative quest with Buckingham Nicks, he’s never been commercially minded, and while Stevie has always been a great band member Lindsey struggles with it. She convinced him that they should dump what they were doing and put all their ideas into Fleetwood Mac, that it was a way to make a bit of money, and if they didn’t like it they could always leave. I didn’t know that at the time.”

“Mick was wise,” Christine McVie says. “He told me that if I didn’t like Stevie we wouldn’t get them in the band because he knew that having two women that didn’t get along would be a nightmare. We all met at Mick’s flat, and Stevie and I were so completely different from each other that we got along fine. I was intimidated by the quality of the songs on Buckingham Nicks. It made me get my skates on.”

What followed was not just huge success, but the beginning of the most compelling soap opera in the history of pop. The new line-up had a major hit with Fleetwood Mac in 1975, but by the following year, when Fleetwood Mac went into the studio to record what would become Rumours, the couples in the band were in trouble. Nicks addressed her situation in the reflective, affectionate Dreams, which suggests that Buckingham will come back to her when loneliness hits. Buckingham responded with the dismissive Go Your Own Way, the inference being that Nicks should suit action to the title.

“The atmosphere in the studio was … charged,” says Fleetwood, an understatement that speaks volumes. “Here were people who loved each other but couldn’t be together, and it translated into a mutant form of fear and loathing. It was awkward, because you don’t normally spend time with someone at the beginning of a break-up. Recording the album was like divorced parents trying to do the right thing for their children, and our child was Fleetwood Mac. We put in a heroic effort to keep it together.”

“All of these great songs were coming out of a very trying period and none of us wanted to ruin that,” adds Christine McVie, who wrote You Make Loving Fun, Songbird and Don’t Stop at the height of the turmoil. “John and I would create an icy silence that everyone was aware of, Stevie and Lindsey would be screaming at each other on the other side of the room. Even when the nightmarish hell of the two couples was at its absolute worst we knew we were capturing what we were all thinking about. It’s why the truth of the emotions on Rumours jumps out of the grooves.”

Then there was the cocaine. “I didn’t even know what cocaine was until I went to Los Angeles,” says Fleetwood who, according to other band members, made up for lost time with astonishing enthusiasm. “Yes, we were wild and crazy, but we worked incredibly hard, which is always the case with the bands that have survived. We were never too stoned to play.”

Fleetwood Mac survived in spite of all the things — success, excess, money, broken romances, affairs — usually guaranteed to pull a band apart. Fleetwood puts it down to the fact that they made their biggest album without a manager. “A manager would have taken one look at Stevie and said: ‘What are you doing with these guys?’ You’re the star.”

Now the band has recorded eight new Buckingham songs — there are suggestions of an album release for 2014 — and are gearing up for their world tour. This is in spite of Buckingham still being reticent about giving up his solo career for the band, almost 40 years after Nicks first convinced him to do it. “When I spoke to Lindsey about getting the band together last year he said: ‘Don’t give me that Mick push, that guilt thing you do,’ ” Fleetwood says. “Stevie was off on her never-ending solo tour and I was coming to terms with the fact that it might be time to let go. Then Lindsey called up. Now concerts are selling out, people are excited and something is happening. We’d better get our shit together.”

It doesn’t take a relationships expert to work out that some issues remain unresolved. In 2009 Nicks told an interviewer from MTV “that electric crazy attraction between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks never dies, never will die, never will go away”. Whether Buckingham, now married with three children, agrees with her is debatable, but the emotional high point of a Fleetwood Mac concert is when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham walk to the front of the stage with hands clasped together. So what if they disappear into separate limousines afterwards? The drama and intrigue behind those perfectly formed songs of love and heartbreak on Rumours is far from over. Perhaps it never will be.

Fleetwood Mac play Dublin, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow in September and October. Presale tickets for the gig at the O2 Arena, London, go on sale today through ticketmaster.co.uk