Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours had to be dealt with now. It came to my mind on last week’s friday after a conversation with Tomi and then I listened to it five times during three days.
The album is thirteenth on the list of most sold albums in the world and it was the only one in the lead positions I had no conception of. I found out that during the recording process Fleetwood Mac consisted of five members (3 men + 2 women) whose relationships with each other had been quite a mess.
The band was formed by drummer Mick Fleetwood and two couples: Lindsey Buckingham (guitar and vocals) + Stevie Nicks (vocals) and John McVie (bass) + Christine McVie (keyboards, vocals). When the band was starting the recording sessions the two couples broke up and Fleetwood found out that he’s wife had a relationship with his best friend.
The band then moved to the studio in Sausalito, California, where they plunged into a very excessive rock’n’roll-lifestyle, mostly because of cocaine. One of the owners of the studio the band used has said that The band would come in at 7 a night, have a big feast, party till 1 or 2 in the morning, and then when they were so whacked-out they couldn’t do anything, they’d start recording”.
The opening track Second Hand News offers almost countryish sounds. There’s a lot of backing vocals and the overall sound is mostly acoustic, but this is not the most traditional country rock. ”One thing I think you should know / I ain’t gonna miss you when you go”. That’s not the way they sing in songs normally! There’s an overdriven guitar popping in somewhere, but it’s only doing some fills. The meaning of ”second hand news” doesn’t need any explanations in this case, I think.
The second track, Dreams, has a different sound than it’s predecessor right from the beginning: like Second Hand News had been kind of a ”prologue”. This one is interpret by the song’s writer Stevie Nicks. There’s not a lot of instruments in the instrumentation as the rhythm section dominates with electric piano and electric guitar play small things. The whole song, but especially the chorus, has some bittersweetness: somebody is using someone just as a tool to achieve his/her personal goals.
Nicks’ singing is pretty. This has an interesting text as a whole. There was just the first few lines of the first verse and the whole chorus that got stuck in my mind during the first listens. The band sings beautifully in layers once again and the song ends in a sweet chord.
”Like a heartbeat drives you mad…
In the stillness of remembering what you had…
And what you lost…
And what you had…
And what you lost
Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Say… Women… they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean… you’ll know”
A fingerpicking guitar played by Lindsey Buckingham is what keeps Never Going Back Again going. Now when I listened to the album for the first time in a landscape of an early spring this song sounded just like it’s soundtrack. Fits perfectly the mood of cycling in the glow of a setting sun.
The lyrics are about the supposition that when a relationship breaks down and you go down, it just happens once. ”Been down one time / Been down two times / I’m never going back again”. This one has a plain arrangement topped by a nifty layer of acoustic guitars and backing vocals. The whole package lasts for only 2 minutes and 14 seconds.
Don’t Stop starts immediately with a different mood than the previous three songs. There’s something very 80s-like in this one although the album was indeed released in 1977. The composition and lyrics were written by keyboardist Christine McVie and the song is sang by McVie herself and Lindsey Buckingham.
The song goes on lighter than the previous ones with the theme ”no matter what happens you have to keep your head up and keep on going, because you can’t get yesterday back”. There’s the first proper electric guitar solo and the sound landscape is more electric also. The lyrics are based on the divorce of C. McVie and the basist J.McVie after an 8-year marriage.
During the first listens there was one song above all others: Go Your Own Way. After a little research I found out that it was released as the lead single of the album in January 1977. It’s a rocking song written and sang by L. Buckingham.
As a simple but perfectly working effect is one note that can be heard in the chorus (”you can go your own way / go your own wa-ay”) that is sang just a semitone lower than it would presumably go. The song is build around it’s chorus and the verses are played in a lower profile.
Behind the song are once again complex relationships and those in between Buckingham and Stevie Nicks in particular. There’s a great guitar solo to end the song played with a sound that’s 70s at it’s best. The outro sounds like it could be streched forver when played live.
Songbird, a piano ballad created by Christine McVie ends the LP’s A-side. McVie’s playing touch is soft and the singing is very pretty. The power of the singers in this band is great and it’s used style-conciously. McVie has said that the song is ”about nobody and everybody in the form of a little prayer”.
”And I wish you all the love in the world,
But most of all, I wish it from myself.
And the songbirds keep singing,
Like they know the score,
And I love you, I love you, I love you,
Like never before, like never before. ”
The Chain starts like a roots song and it takes a little while for the song to get on going. This one was created in the studio with the whole band taking part. During the last third there’s an acceleration of tempo that was created on the basis of a bass pattern by John McVie. During the 70s these kinds of band things were done differently than these days: you can create a great story and a whole set of different kinds of sections in just 4 and a half minutes.
The multiple backing vocals multiple the message of the chorus, like both sides of the couple were yelling the same thing.
And if you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain.
You Make Loving Fun is just like Bee Gees and disco music although the proper disco culture was just about to rise in the end of the decade. The instrumentation is led by Clavinet-keyboard played by the song’s main architect C. McVie. There’s an interesting melody in the chorus. In this song the guitar stays in a supporting part as the other instruments carry the song. ”I never did believe in miracles, / but I’ve a feeling it’s time to try”.
I Don’t Want to Know takes us back closer to the 70s soft rock. I haven’t got a grip of this song yet as the surrounding pieces are so strong. There’s the trademark layer of vocals right from the start here as well. The composition by Stevie Nicks remains somehow a little neutral and it nods occasionally even towards country rock. The handclaps heard are interestingly paced and the electric guitars come and play some fills occasionally.
The second-to-last song of the album is it’s best ballad Oh Daddy. There’s a great organ sound in the intro and the dramatic piano bass strikes in on the verse. Christine McVie sings for the other McVie in the band although she told him during the recording that the song was about her dog…
There’s a feel in this song that I don’t have word to describe. In the line ”I’m so weak but you’re so strong” the band ”rushes” like the narrator. There’s fills from different instruments again: electric guitar and even castanets, they sound exciting.
The organ mentioned in the intro keep on going for the whole song, McVie sings like she’s wounded. There’s has to be air in the arrangement, because the thin organ sound doesn’t fall short. At the end there’s another organ coming in, a proper Hammond. The song is capsulized in the line ”And I can’t walk away from you, baby if I tried”. The text is dramatic.
You know you make me cry,
How can you love me,
I don’t understand why.
If I can make you see,
If there’s been a fool around,
It’s got to be me.
You soothe me with your smile,
You’re letting me know,
You’re the best thing in my life.
If I can make you see,
If there’s been a fool around,
It’s got to be me.
Why are you right when I’m so wrong,
I’m so weak but you’re so strong,
Everything you do is just alright,
And I can’t walk away from you, baby
If I tried. ”
The album is ended by Gold Dust Woman with a slightly lighter mood. ”Rock on, gold dust woman / take your silver spoon and dig your grave”. It has all the things that worked on the album: electric piano, guitars, great singing and a melody that’s flavoured from above and below with nice backing vocal melodies. Stevie Nicks works here as the interpretor and songwriter.
The feel is one of an album-ender. The song could have ended with more jamming because the band could play it nicely. But maybe this kind of a long fade-out fits the album better.
From the first measures it can be heard that the album was made with high quality. The way most of the songs were based on the relationships of the bandmembers gives a certain feel of bittersweetness to surround the whole album: like every member’s personal diary of the mid-70s was produced as an album. This dawned to even Fleetwood Mac’s members only when years passed by.
I can’t remember if I have ever experienced the same kind of speechless feeling when an album ends. Rumours did it after all the first five listening sessions. Especially from Go Your Own Way onwards I had a very strong feeling of a saturday night in the life of someone who’s left alone but who wants to be with that special someone.