Gah… Having this album in my top ten is difficult. Difficult because it’s already so iconic that in talking about it, I’ll just be adding my single voice to a sea of hundreds of people before me. Oh well. I can do something a little different, after all, these articles are as much about ME as about the music so I’ll talk about me, me, me and why I picked it.
Fleetwood Mac. A very interesting band, as half were American, half were English and half were married to the other half. Rumours, famously, was written and recorded just as Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham; and Christine and Johnny McVie, were in the process of all getting divorces. End result, a breakup album that hits you less like a wrecking ball and more like a small asteroid.
To a lot of people Rumours is a West Coast album, that being where it was conceived and eventually delivered. Not so for me; in my mind, Rumours is less West Coast and more… Westcountry. As in, Dorset and Somerset (Devon and Cornwall less so), land of dairy and scrumpy drinking and blackbirds being up in wurzel tree. Although I would like to point out that a wurzel is sort of like a beetroot so doesn’t grow trees.
I imagine this begs the question, why?? Well, I come from a navy family, meaning that I’ve lived in both Plymouth, in Devon, and Portsmouth, in Hampshire, those being where the two main navy bases are located. Whichever one we lived in, we’d invariably end up going and visiting the other; particularly from Portsmouth to Plymouth simply because Devon and Cornwall are quite nice places to have lived in and we missed them. There isn’t a direct motorway along the south coast, instead there’s a trickle of A-roads through the cider-swigging heartlands, through farms and old villages.
In the previous article I talked (possibly too much) about how places and music can get linked in one’s mind based on events and where the music was first listened to. So you can probably guess that I first listened to Rumours on the car journey through the Dorset countryside.
There’s another reason for me thinking of Dorset when I think of Fleetwood Mac; during their eighties phase, they released a music video for their song “Everywhere” (a favourite of mine) which was a dramatisation of the poem “The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes. Tragic stuff if ever you read it; and the music video feels like it fully belongs in Hardy country (sorry literature students for my mangling of times and styles. I haven’t a clue what I’m doing.)
So, together, that video and the circumstances of me listening to Rumours are linked to Dorset. But sonically it works as well. The opening number, “Second Hand News,” is quite a strummy acousticcy almost folky affair, and “Never Going Back Again” is also quite folky and fingerpicky.
Stevie Nicks comes in and starts sprinkling her fairy dust around with “Dreams,” quite an ethereal tune suffused with slide guitar. Chrissie McVie’s barnstorming hit “Don’t Stop” barely needs mentioning as well. Third hit “Go Your Own Way” is one of my favourite tracks on the album – it’s a little tricky to realise, but Lindsay Buckingham is actually a top-rate singer and he absolutely belts out this tune.
It’s only more recently though that I realised “Rumours” was a top ten album of mine, mainly because I’d realised that its strongest points were in its tenderer moments. “Songbird” is essentially Chrissie sitting on her own with her piano and just playing a song, and singing it beautifully. Now, I’ll be honest, I think a whole album of music like that is too much, but I think if you drop it in the middle of an album with a variety of songs on it works very well. The composition of an album is very important, I think.
Then, on the other hand, we have “The Chain,” more commonly known as, “The Formula One Theme.” I would say that Lindsay Buckingham is a very good fingerpicking guitarist but very lazy when it comes to playing lead – there are only about two notes in the solo in “The Chain”. Very effective though. The guitar comes rushing at you out of nowhere.
“You Make Loving Fun” settles into a nice groove. It’s a fairly laid-back track, probably a sister track to “Dreams.” It’s one of the more ethereal songs on the album. “I Don’t Wanna Know,” with its acoustic power-chord riff, has a movement to it, like “Go Your Own Way”. It’s over almost before you realise. “Oh Daddy”, the penultimate track, is very low and downtempo. In a lot of ways the second half echoes the first, which gives the album cohesion.
The closing song (I LOVE a good closer!) is “Gold Dust Woman,” sung by Stevie Nicks at four in the morning with a scarf wrapped around her face, in a disarmingly child-like way, mostly about cocaine. It’s fairly safe to say that the band were fairly fucked-up when they made this album. As such, “Gold Dust Woman” is an especially drifty-fairyish song, with lots of sitar-like guitar chords.
So… yeah. To me, “Rumours” is a very very good album, mainly loaded with nostalgia. It feels almost otherworldly. Or othertimely. Is that a word? I expect not. But listening to it somehow feels like going home (in fact for a lot of the time I’ve had it I could only listen to it at home, as Fleetwood Mac managed to copy-protect their music files meaning they destroy themselves when moved between computers. Cunning.) And it’s an excellent piece of work so it definitely gets a place in my top ten.
Videos. This is a remix of “Go Your Own Way,” engineered so that you can hear Buckingham’s singing more clearly. As I said, he absolutely belts it out with as much heartbreak as a human heart can manage. Do excuse the feedback at the start and Stevie’s speech halfway through.