Classics Revisited: Fleetwood Mac - ‘Rumours’

Driven by equal parts angelic guitar chords, heartbreak and cocaine, the story of emotional turbulence which provides its backdrop, is just one layer in the intricacies of Rumours appeal, and one which has undeniably stood the test of time, as Roisin Hickey reveals.

Everyone has a favourite album. The album that you can listen on repeat again and again and without fail it will always sound like the first time you came across it. For me it was Rumours. I came across Fleetwood Mac when I was seventeen. I was in my car, driving down some country roads, and my friend put Sara on (admittedly this isn’t part of Rumours - but the song did spark my interest in the band). To vocalist Stevie Nicks, Sara was a very personal song, and the character ‘Sara’ is interpreted as her alter-ego and muse. I think at the time I really resonated with this. The mystical, celestial nature of Nicks’ vocals is what truly drew me into the sound of Fleetwood Mac. We then proceeded to listen to Rumours. Mick Fleetwood had said it was “The most important album we ever made.” In wholehearted agreement, Rumours has been one of the most influential albums in my life.

Fleetwood Mac are a British-American Rock band formed in the late 60’s by Mick Fleetwood (Drummer), the late Peter Green (Guitarist), Jeremy Spencer (Guitarist) who was the predecessor of John McVie (Bassist). However, the band as we now know it comprises of further additions including the folk-rock duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, as well as Christine McVie as keyboardist, and Mick Fleetwood remaining on drums. Rumours was the second album the newly formed band released in 1977, following the more sparsely decorated and post-punk leaning Tusk.

The album acts as a type of lover’s confessional, raising a platform for the members to wear their hearts on their sleeves.

The success of Rumours has lent itself well to Fleetwood Mac, remaining an ever-present influence throughout the following decades, and is arguably one of the best-selling albums of all time. The album itself was birthed out of an incredibly turbulent time in the Fleetwood Mac world, and the making of Rumours could easily draw parallels with a soap opera. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, previously long-term lovers, had split (inspiring two of the songs on the album Dreams and Go Your Own Way), while Christine and John McVie also began divorce proceedings.

To top everything off, Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks began an affair. This storm of emotion bore the raw emotional lyrics that define Rumours as an album. It acts as a type of lover’s confessional, raising a platform for the members to wear their hearts on their sleeves. There is a very chaotic energy created, with the personal lives of the musicians being involved in the album, combined with a black velvet bag of cocaine under the mixing desk made available during the recording sessions for each member to take their hit.

The title was suggested by John McVie as everyone had been talking and rumouring about the other members in the band. The depression and personal turmoil the band had suffered transcended into something incredibly powerful. Buckingham says “Well, the album is bright and it’s clean and it’s sunny. But everything underneath is so dark and murky. What was going on between us created a resonance that goes beyond the music itself.” In the most miraculous way, the band seems to function despite the dysfunctional circumstances they wrote and made music about.

Rumours begins with Second Hand News, possibly rooted in irony, given the ‘she said-he said’ environment. Written by Buckingham and opening with the lyrics “I know there’s nothin’ to say, someone has taken my place,” this seems to set a precedent for the entire album. The song seeks inspiration from his failed relationship with Nicks, yet the upbeat folk styling seems to completely contradict the whole premise of the song. This is followed by quite possibly the most famous song produced by Fleetwood, especially since recently gauging some attention from younger audience on TikTok, with Dreams.

Dreams is the embodiment of a letter you write yourself and burn after a devastating break-up.

Written and performed by Nicks, Dreams is the embodiment of a letter you write yourself and burn after a devastating break-up. Stevie’s mystical charm is so apparent in the song; an ethereal sort of cleanse from feelings of upset as she sings “when the rain washes clean you know”. As a type of counterargument, Buckingham produces Go Your Own Way. Go Your Own Way and Dreams are twins, in the sense they are both cathartic songs for the individuals who wrote them, yet enter at different angles. Buckingham comes across as a more dismissive suggesting for Nicks to go and live her life and giving us a nonchalant ‘I don’t give a toss’ kind of attitude dousing insane guitar riffs and a drum and guitar-fueled melody.

Songbird follows and acts as the sorbet you have after a meal to cleanse your pallet. Songbird is a beautiful ballad sung by Christine McVie. Lyrically, it offers a stark difference previous tracks, with the soothing lyrics of, “and I feel that when I’m with you, it’s alright, I know it alright” creating an almost celestial vision. Another power ballad in Fleetwood Mac’s arsenal, hailing from Rumours, is The Chain. That the “chain keeps us together” seems to be fitting for a group that seemed to be falling apart at the seams. The key feature of the song is that all five members contribute to the song, with the bridge brimming with powerful bass lines that are so distinctive of the 70’s.

You Make Loving Fun, sung by Christine McVie, lifts the mood with a big serotonin booster. It’s pure groove, funk and soul. “Sweet wonderful you, you make me happy with the things you do” reflects inspiration in Christine moving on from her former husband (and also band member) John McVie, to find a new man who makes her truly happy. Silver Springs is the last song on the Super Deluxe album, and is sung and written by Stevie Nicks. Stevie drew inspiration for the name when Lindsey and her had been driving and past a town called ‘Silver Springs’ she simply thought it was a really nice phrase.

The song is the last of Stevie’s ‘self-care’ letters to herself after her breakup with Lindsey. Lyrics such as “Time cast a spell on you, but you won’t forget me” are haunting, seeing that, although Lindsey was doing fine and had moved on, he would never forget her. Stevie is literally putting a curse on her former partner and later singing “I follow you down until the sound of my voice will haunt you.” The song is very multi-dimensional, starting off in a peaceful, humble way and gradually building up intensity towards the end of the song.

The members of Fleetwood Mac act as martyrs in a somewhat toxic way. In the background, the excessive amount of cocaine seemed to dull the immediate effects of the pain and suffering. Yet, their work translated into incredible music, still so heavily influential in the music scene today.

Written by: Roisin Hickey

Edited by: Louise Dugan

Article image courtesy of Fleetwood Mac via Facebook.