Whilst Rumours, the highly acclaimed album by Fleetwood Mac, was recorded in 1976 in California and released in February 1977, it remains a listenable, relatable album for many music lovers worldwide. In 1978, Rumours won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year, attained number one in the United States Album charts and stayed there for thirty-one weeks. It has sold over forty-five million copies worldwide. The album continues to gather admiring and devoted fans today.
When the album was being created, popular, successful bands of a similar genre included the Eagles, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. Given the quality of the competition, Fleetwood Mac’s success with Rumours was a remarkable achievement. The release of this album led to the recognition of the band as a worldwide phenomenon, captivating audiences of all ages and nationalities.
On listening to the quality and diversity of its tracks, it is easy to hear why Rumours enticed audiences. Instead of shying away from exposure and demonstration of emotions, the band ruthlessly tackled them in their words and sounds, making the existence and treatment of their crumbling relationships the main theme of the album.
Where did the name of the album come from you may ask? The band were the subject of inaccurate media stories at the time which saw them wrongly and unfairly portrayed. This, coupled with the band members gossiping about each other and fighting among themselves, led to guitarist John McVie suggesting they entitle the album Rumours. The tracks within this album exposed to fans all they needed to know about the relationships’ status within the band. A love triangle, extramarital affair and a couple divorcing, what could go wrong? Paradoxically, the album was in fact produced by the band in an effort to stay together professionally after numerous relationship disputes almost led to them breaking up. The band members had a unique mystery about them, yet their music did not. They chose to showcase their personal issues throughout the music and lyrics of this album, at a time when they were feeling not only emotional but possibly also vengeful towards one another.
At the time Rumours was being compiled, band membership consisted of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Christine McVie, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. This was a different line-up from the original all male band members when Fleetwood Mac was established in 1967. The original members had delivered successful tracks such as “Albatross”. Following the departure of several male guitarists between 1970 and 1974, the three members of the band, who would later be instrumental in making Rumours the huge success it is, were recruited. In 1970 Christine McVie joined the band providing it with a talented female singer/songwriter and keyboard player. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac in late 1974. Buckingham provided the band with strong vocals, excellent music/lyric writing ability and some of the most iconic guitar riffs ever played. Nicks brought to the table her lyric writing skills, raspy vocals and intriguing, good looks. Buckingham and Nicks had previously been part of a duo and so their harmonies were already well honed and their complimentary talents in music/lyric writing were well rehearsed. The music of Rumours is evidently very different from that of the early band which had naturally been influenced by the pop culture of an earlier time. Buckingham and Nicks gave the band a more pop rock sound. Christine McVie enhanced that sound with her soulful voice. Her track “Songbird” is recognised as having an almost operatic quality.
Whilst the success of Rumours is largely attributable to the talents of McVie, Buckingham and Nicks, the effects of a culture within the band of alcohol, illegal substances and relationship stress also had an impact during the recording of the album. The result was and remains an album that can entice the listener with a sweet melody and a gentle guitar riff, but also suddenly shock with a powerful guitar solo or lyrics transporting its audience back to the drug prevalent seventies.
The music in Rumours is emotional, impactful on the soul and almost empowering. It starts peacefully with Buckingham’s rendition of “Second-hand News” and Nick’s singing of “Dreams”. The beat then accelerates for “Don’t Stop”, a song used to bring hope and positivity to the electorate during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential Campaign. It then slows down when Buckingham, McVie and Nicks sing “The Chain” in a loud, angry and fierce manner. With such passion invested into the lyrics, understanding and empathy with the band members’ hurt and anger is readily attained. A band which can create a whole album bearing a strong, poetic and powerful message is rare. On this basis alone, Rumours is justifiably hailed as one of the best albums of all time.
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