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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rumours

Forty years ago you couldn't go anywhere without hearing a song from Fleetwood Mac's album, Rumours, released in 1977. The second album to feature Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who vastly increased the band's popularity, it sold 40 million copies, placing it among the best-selling albums of all times (the math on this is fuzzy). The record produced four singles, all of which made the top ten.

The album also has one of the best behind the scenes stories of any rock record ever made. All of the band members were going through breakups, four of them with other members of the band. John and Christine McVie were divorcing, and Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were ending an eight-year relationship. Mick Fleetwood was also divorcing; later he would have an affair with Nicks.

So many of the songs are about each other. Most pointedly is "Go Your Own Way," Buckingham's blast at Nicks for leaving him. He sings, "Baby if I could I would give you my world, but you won't take it from me," which is putting a lot of pressure on Nicks. He also sings, "packing up, shacking up is all you want to do," which incensed her. But she sang background vocals the song, and they sing it in concert when they are together. If I were her, I would have left the stage when it came up, but she's a trooper, I guess.

"You Make Loving Fun," by Christine McVie, is an upbeat song about love, but it was not about her husband, but another man. Initially she told him it was about her dog, but he later learned the truth.

But beyond that, the album is a delightful selection of pop. One of the strengths of this later version of Fleetwood Mac was that they had three writers and lead singers, each offering a different style. Nicks, of course, with "Dreams" and "Gold Dust Woman," was cementing her legacy as the Welsh witch, twirling in chiffon and top hat. Buckingham writes songs with intricate guitar parts, such as his music-box like "Never Going Back Again," and "Second Hand News." Christine McVie tends to write slow ballads, on Rumours they are "Songbird" and "Oh Daddy," but she also wrote the peppy "Don't Stop," which has become ubiquitous over the years, and was revived in 1992 as Bill Clinton's campaign song.

Out of all these songs, I think my two favorites are "The Chain," which was written by all five members of the band, and "I Don't Want to Know," written by Nicks. "The Chain" has some excellent production and instrumentation, with some great guitar work by Buckingham and drumming by Fleetwood. "I Don't Want to Know" is just a song that makes me feel happy. I like the way Nicks includes the word "honey" in the lyrics, as if it were a girlfriend talking to a boyfriend. Rumours may have surrounded by disharmony, but that song is pure positivity.

Fleetwood Mac has never hit this artistic height since, though they've made some good records. Nicks and Buckingham have done great work as solo artists, and Christine McVie retired for about 15 years (but came back this year for an album and a tour with Buckingham). But it's an all-time classic, a melding of quality pop and critical and commercial success (it won the Grammy for Best Album). It belongs in every rock fan's collection.

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