HAVE YOU EVER WANTED to hear a couple of musicians breaking up in music form? Because that is exactly what this album is. The eleventh album by Fleetwood Mac and, considered by many to be, their most successful release to date, Rumours was produced on the back of Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks’ relationship hitting a low point and Christine & John McVie getting divorced, ending 8 years of marriage. Mick Fleetwood was also facing domestic problems after finding out that his wife had had an affair with his best friend. What with the internal strife coupling with the pressures of rising stardom and everything that comes with that, it’s any wonder how the band remained together. Even during the recording process the band took hedonism to a whole new level. Drugs, alcohol and day long parties were a common feature whilst Rumours was taking shape. The whole experience was almost a way of distracting themselves from the fact that their lives were in such disarray.
But Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham have both since stated that the best music that the band ever produced was as a result of the turmoil that carried on throughout this period of their careers. It’s hard to disagree with them when the music they created is this brilliant. Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham each wrote songs on this album, (the only exception being “The Chain” where every band member gets a credit) and you can hear each voice clearly on their individual songs. Nicks takes a stance of wanting to move on with her life, Buckingham has a much more cynical tone, usually addressing the woman leaving him, and McVie takes each song as a chance to be introspective and has the feeling of self analysis.
Rather than simply having a voyeuristic pleasure, however, the music on this album represents a band that is performing at the top of its game. From the driving “Second Hand News” to the final, ethereal, Country-style “Gold Dust Woman”, the listener is brought through the gamut of emotions that can only be drawn from a time of great emotional distress. It’s telling that the most well known songs of Fleetwood Mac’s discography are contained on this album. Each individual song stands as an achievement by the band as they each bring something different to the album, but each track gels so well together that the complete album feels like an experience.
That being said the true height of the album is, arguably, “The Chain”. Occurring halfway through the album (or at the beginning of Side Two) it brings together the moody and downtempo music of Nicks whilst also working up to a driving bass line and rocking guitar ending that is so indicative of Lyndsey Buckingham’s work. Being formed of different parts of each artist’s scrapped individual side-projects (hence the multiple credits) it is almost a microcosm of the album entire. Within this single song we hear longing, haunting lyrics and angry guitars and it’s hard not to imagine the musicians fighting over “the chain” holding them all together. The lyrics, whilst not overly complex, contain so much confusion and strife the listener is left feeling raw after hearing it. Statements like “damn your love, damn your lies” and “I can still hear you saying you would never break the chain” strip the musicians completely bare for all to see. Removed from pretence or flowery lyrics about how love never ends, this song is a searing blast of red-faced anger that any person who has been through a break up knows by heart.
Rumours is a monumental achievement in rock history but its brilliance is how subtle it can be. On first listening to the album you will be struck by its apparent simplicity. But scratch below the initial surface of the music and you discover layers of emotion that many albums can only convey in their entirety. Rumours is able to convey these complex emotions on each individual track. Whether in terms of conveying an intended message to the listener, creating acoustic gold or achieving amazing production values, this album hits on all aspects of what makes an album great.
With so many albums that discuss relationships disintegrating being produced by angry teenagers, it’s brilliant to have such an amazing album that has been created by adults who, having been through the worst emotions possible, have crafted such a brilliant achievement in music history. This album has topped many music enthusiasts “Best Of” lists since its release in 1977. It has lasted for many years and will last for many more.