A Love Letter to Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours'
Today, Fleetwood Mac's iconic album Rumours turns 40 years old. While the record is two decades my senior, I, like many millions of adoring fans across the world, still feel an unwavering affection towards one of the most successful records of all time (it's surpassed the 45 million sales mark - hot damn). A quick Wikipedia search tells me that Rumours is soft rock/pop rock/pop, but I think it's much more than that; 13 masterfully crafted tracks rife with personal turmoil, astonishingly constructed on the band's exacerbating state of disarray. It is, as the title suggests, a kind of collaborative diary lifting the lid on their individual and shared dilemmas.
Following their success with the eponymous Fleetwood Mac in 1975, (the record which birthed my namesake song, Rhiannon) the band, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood on the drummers, keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie, John McVie bringing the bass, and voice of an angel Stevie Nicks, wanted to expand on their extensive exposure and produce something big. Like, huge. Legendary in fact. It should've been a breeze, but they'll be the first to admit keeping the peace in a band consisting of two couples was nigh on impossible, and when Nicks split with her high school sweetheart Buckingham, the McVie's were in the midst of a divorce and Fleetwood's marriage was also on the rocks, from which an affair with Nicks blossomed. There was also a shit ton of cocaine involved, the perfect remedy for hostility.
And yet, despite the breakups and affairs and pressure from the press and bubbling turbulence, the Mac still blessed us with such shoulder-bobbing funky rhythms as I Don't Want to Know, and harmonies perfect for a singalong round a campfire such as Second Hand News. The layered triad of vocals - Nicks, Buckingham and McVie - was unique for its time, when the voice of most bands relied on a single lead vocalist.
But beneath the jangly strings and chirpy voices are lyrics riddled with the kind of painful intimacy Morrissey could only dream of. In the 2009 documentary Fleetwood Mac: Don't Stop, Nicks admits the line "packing up, shacking up's all you wanna do" in Go Your Own Way was a scathingly bitter jib from Buckingham that particularly struck a nerve. The sheer audacity shown by Christine McVie in writing You Make Loving Fun, which is literally about her lust for the band's lighting director she'd embarked on an affair with, is breathtaking. And if you don't shed a little tear to Songbird then you're emotional ineptitude turns my stomach.
Rumours is just as inspirational today as it was upon release 40 years ago, and it's influence on pop culture is indisputable. Their follow up albums (experimental odyssey Tusk, somewhat middle of the road Mirage and the sublime Tango in the Night) were drafted from much more mature material which reflected an improvement in the band's collective sanity, but could never match Rumours's master stroke. So thanks, each and every Mac member, for screwing around and emotionally draining one another - music wouldn't be the same without you.