For a number of people of my generation or younger the first exposure to Fleetwood Mac will come from one of two sources. Firstly, Glee did an episode in 2011 where the album Rumours was the central focus and they actually did some decent covers including ‘Don’t Stop’ serving as the closer. The other main source (for those of us in the UK that is) is the use of ‘The Chain’ as the theme music for the BBC’s coverage of Formula 1 racing. Personally, my first exposure was seeing the music video for ‘Everywhere’ on one of those music stations, a rather beautiful take on the Alfred Noyes poem The Highwayman.
Rumours is one of those albums like Michael Jackson’s Thriller or Shania Twain’s Come on Over in that I know a large number of people that will have owned it at some point. Much like how those two were one of “those” albums so was Rumours. Having reportedly sold over 40 million copies around the world it stands to reason that everyone will know someone that purchased this album.
As albums go it is one of those that I forget how much I enjoy it until I start playing it again. I know that I love the song ‘Go Your Own Way’ because it has memories of playing Guitar Hero with my best friend and her (now) husband. For similar reasons I have an attachment to the song ‘One Way or Another’ from Blondie’s Parallel Lines but I’ll talk about that another time.
The odd thing here is that the stories surrounding the production of Rumours is probably as interesting, if not more than the album itself. There is no doubting that this is a classic and influential album… but being the product of broken up relationships, drugs and a decadent recording schedule it had to either be inevitable that this would lead to the album hailed as their best (ironic due to the complete mess the band’s personal lives were at the time) or an utter shock that they would somehow use the pain to make something so timeless.
Then again, so many of the great songs have been the products of heartache and the suspicions that can form before, during and after it. I mean ABBA produced their darkest and, in my opinion best album (The Visitors) since the divorces of the two couples lead to new writing territory. There is a cruelty in musical partners writing for each other since there are times where you can make your ex sing something particularly edged.
Rumours takes a different tactic from The Visitors with the different parties singing their own take on broken relationships whether it be optimism for the future (‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Dreams’), a slightly darker take on things (‘Go Your Own Way’) or about the feeling of loss and blindness that comes about when everything falls apart (‘Gold Dust Woman’).
The most interesting song on the album, however, is ‘The Chain’. Since it is actually cobbled together from a number of songs written by all members of the band which was then spliced together (apparently by-hand through the use of razor blades) and formed this chimeric record which has come to symbolize the fractured nature of the band. An essential listen for anyone looking to start their own band really.