Fleetwood Mac

1977: Warner Bros 3010-2

  1. Second Hand News
  2. Dreams
  3. Never Going Back Again
  4. Don’t Stop
  5. Go Your Own Way
  6. Songbird
  7. The Chain
  8. You Make Loving Fun
  9. I Don’t Want to Know
  10. Oh Daddy
  11. Gold Dust Woman

It’s a quirk of my adult life that I keep this album (metaphorically) in a wooden box, latched and kept on a high shelf, out of sight. Certainly it’s an album that doesn’t deserve to be so withheld and so uncelebrated. I just celebrated it so much in a certain context in the mid-1980s that it’s become a bit too strongly intertwined with my experiences of those times, and as a result enjoying it now requires a certain effort to disconnect the associations.

The album’s legendary, iconic status also complicates listenings. In that, Rumours is, appropriately, like a drug: after the initial period of ecstasy and delight, future encounters demand not just a repeat performance but a repeat of the high the first listenings held. Individual tracks break out and go on little solo tours of their own (how appropriate that metaphor is…), and the album as a whole loses its containing bubble.

Having said all that by way of apology for my own quirks, of course I will chime in with the general consensus that Rumours is a musical landmark. What it marks is another matter. For me I’d say that it’s a brilliant photograph of an explosion: there’s creativity here not just converging but briefly fusing into a whole, yet all of the individual elements are still distinct…I suppose this is the moment where the ingredients jelled and a Fleetwood Mac equivalent of Stonehenge was created. Before this the group was still a soup of disparate elements, and after this the ingredients separated again and moved into different dishes. But what a moment!!!

I’m delighted to discover on revisiting the album (as I said, I tend to keep it on a shelf) that it sounds not simply like a fascinating Fleetwood Mac album but simultaneously like a Greatest Hits of Fleetwood Mac’s members. As someone who tended to respond most vividly to the Buckingham/Nicks material, it’s a treat to come back and hear, for example, Christine McVie’s moving artistry—voice, piano, and songwriting—as an equal and still arresting force.

There is a certain amusement to be had—hilarity, even, if you’re in the mood—from the range of styles this album offers. There’s balladry, twangy pre-rockabilly, darkness, sunshiny pop, and threads of elements from pre-and post-Fleetwood Mac members’ body of work. And it sounds like everyone got some time in the spotlight on this album, so maybe it’s a kind of pinnacle to consider (either from the summit or from the viewpoints around it). In any case, it’s well worth considering. Repeatedly.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note that “The Chain” still astonishes me with its violent and angry passion expressed so brilliantly in the verses’ triple vocal arrangement—there’s no word in English for that paralleling of individual vocal lines that are each stating their rage and/or pain but being combined in wails and snarls into an almost transcendently beautiful tangle. That the lyrics are laying bare the band members’ actual interactive dramas only sharpens its edges; I knew nothing of that when I first heard this track and still was flinching at the savagery of Buckingham’s chorus vocal while wondering at the verses’ vocals’ harmonies being able to sing a major chord as an impending guillotine blade’s fall. (For which I credit Nicks’s voice, upon reconsideration: her vocal line gives the arrangement its sharpest edge.)

In that same vein, almost literally, the chilling closer “Gold Dust Woman” is every bit as razor-edged now, decades after its writing and recording. Dave Stewart has referred to Annie Lennox’s lyrics/delivery on the Eurythmics track “Savage” as being her “at her most bloodcurdling,” and for me that sums up how intense Stevie Nicks’s are on this track. The first time I heard it, probably in the early 1980s, I got chills and more for sure when she sang “rulers make bad lovers,” and that’s still the case. YOWCH, what a track….