Record Of The Week # 29

October 8, 2017

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

In prospecting around for classic albums then you mustn’t be a snob about things and so I picked this. Anna recently returned home from her voluntary shopkeeper stint at the local Red Cross brandishing the vinyl. It was a crisp nearly unblemished copy that made the speakers jump and made me recall how much we all love the songs.

If you type ‘rumours’ into your Search field on the Internet then think of all the things it might return? In fact mine came back with “Rumours (album) – Wikipedia’. I think we’re talking gigantic here. In fact 40m copies sold. It probably was in some ways the peak of popular Rock music. I heard someone postulate that there is no new Rock music today. Frankly judging by the touring and popularity of 1970’s acts then this is credible.

I’m still surprised that Brits Mick Fleetwood (drums) and the John McVie (bass), who gave the band its name, had such a Blues past. McVie plucked the strings for John Mayall and Howlin’ Wolf. Fleetwood, the only famous musician born in Cornwall that I know, hit the skins for John Mayall before forming Fleetwood Mac and their various incarnations including guitarists Jeremy Spencer, Peter Green, Danny Kirwin and Bob Welch. The third, long time member, Christine McVie cut her teeth with Stan Webb of Chicken Shack fame as Miss Perfect. However, their fortunes went stellar after hiring Americans Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to bring their respective vocal, guitar and song writing skills. The rest as they say is….

The folk lore goes that the album was recorded in a febrile and toxic climate of broken relationships, substance misuse and hate but heaven help me it certainly is a fine piece of music.

“Second Hand News”, a Buckingham composition. Recorded in LA gives the track that West Coast, bouncy, sunshine, feel good vibe driven at a pace. “Dreams” arrives with a thundering bass line and Nicks, who wrote this, shimmers a saccharine sweet vocal whilst Buckingham fills and Fleetwood keeps an immaculate yet insistent beat. It is the melody that haunts.

“Don’t Stop” surprisingly made its way onto Bill Clinton’s albeit successful 1992 Presidential campaign. You can vote how you like but it always remains a mystery to me why artists put their music irrevocably at a point in time with an association that they never intended and have no subsequent control of. However, Christine’s composition is a song of redemption and optimism:

                                                                                “Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow

Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here

It’ll be, better than before

Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone”

If you had any doubts that McVie and Fleetwood were making up the numbers and fortuitously counting their enormous wad behind the tent then think again.  With a remorseless muscular energy they drove this album into every 1978 disco and party’s front room.

Side Two starts with one of the Classic Rock tracks of all time: after Buckingham’s plucked steel guitar introduction we get the harmonies. “The Chain” then receives the turbo kick in the back with that bass and drum before Buckingham owns the space again. The song builds to fill the room and then we sweep away pretence at pretty melodies and McVie thumps a mean rhythm, Fleetwood makes his usual brutal statement and Buckingham lights up the song with his guitar.

“You Make Loving Fun’ was about Christine’s, now newly divorced from John, affair with the band’s lighting director. To keep the peace, although the ex’s didn’t talk socially, she told McVie it was about a dog. (If he’s this stupid then you can see why they split up).

The band finish with “Gold Dust Woman”, a Nicks composition and vocal. Classic Nicks mystic and illusionary words spin a web of layered atmosphere whilst Buckingham embellishes proceedings on acoustic and electric guitar. All this belies the fact that apparently this was eventually recorded at 4 am in the morning.

Eventually we got to see the band on their enormous 2014 world tour at Leeds Arena. It was the original line up and it was pitch and word perfect. Buckingham came across as a strange example of human life and Nicks as a bit of a bag lady with her attire and scarves but the legacy is undeniable and its place toward the top of the stack is well earned.

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