Before diving in to this review, we’ll admit that Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is an album that exists outside the realm of critique. Over the last 30+ years, the music world has collectively spoken to the fact that this timeless work is one to which no single voice, critic or review can do justice. The merits of the album need not be debated, so we won’t try to do so here.
The 1977 release catapulted the band into rock immortality. Rarely do we come across a group that is exhibits such a stylistic diversity within and between albums, which is more than anything a function of four decades of song-writing and a shape-shifting membership. It’s no secret that Rumours was recorded during a collective tumultuous time in each of the band members’ lives. The beauty of the
album is that it combines five collective experiences into universal themes that resonate with both new and veteran listeners. This is an album that people grew up to – an album that has a unique ability to define moments, days, years of peoples’ lives. It comes together as a collection of highs and lows and love and regret and forms a masterpiece that has taken eras, generations and airwaves by storm.
Fleetwood Mac’s songwriting is primarily the work of Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie. Most of the band’s tracks were written individually, and this is clear throughout Rumours given the strong contrast between the tone and lyrics of the songs McVie and Nicks lead. The second song on the album is “Dreams”, likely Stevie Nicks’ most celebrated track. There’s a reason that you couldn’t
be a social setting in 1977 without hearing this song. The song is a reminder of how unbearably sexy Stevie Nicks’ voice once was and its ability to reach through our chests, grab us by the hearts and tug, metaphorically speaking. Nicks sings “like a heartbeat, drives you mad / In the stillness of remembering what you had / And what you lost / … you know what you lost”. Haunting, yes, but a feeling of which
most of us have been on one side or the other. “Don’t Stop” is a feel-good song if we’ve ever heard one. Christine McVie sings, “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”. McVie reminds that despite the emotional currents we face in our lives and we hear on the album, better times are ahead. We can’t argue with the woman.
The band then transitions into one of its most celebrated tracks, “Go Your Own Way”. A heart-sick, angry, but confident Buckingham laments, “If I could, maybe I’d give you my world / How can I, when you won’t take it from me?” The most striking element of the song is the truth behind the lyrics – Buckingham wrote the lyrics about his relationship with Nicks. Hearing the two sing the track together is really a unique thing. The opening riff and harmonies on “The Chain” are, in our view, the most haunting part of the album. Before the lyrics even begin, there’s an eerie feeling that this song will be powerful. The track feels like a representation of the band itself – despite broken relationships and internal struggles, the band will always exist outside of the context of both. Lucky for us this has so far been the case.
Next, in an enormous shift of the tide, Christine McVie crafts “You Make Loving Fun”, an upbeat tune, just to bring us back down to earth with the haunting “Oh Daddy”. The track relays a sense of helplessness and inadequacy. McVie sings, “Why are you right when I’m so wrong / I’m so weak but you’re so strong / Everything you do is just alright / And I can’t walk away from you, baby, If I tried.” There are competing theories as to whether “Daddy” is a reference to a father-figure, the band itself, Mick Fleetwood or John McVie. But clear is the sense betrayal, inner-turmoil and an inability to escape a relationship.
Fleetwood Mac in and of itself was a movement. The band has an enduring way of making music that has the power to explain moments and experiences in our lives that are otherwise inexplicable. The emotional chaos experienced by its members throughout the writing of each track produced an extraordinary album filled intimacy, desperation and longing for a sense of belonging. The heartache and joys that accompany the lyrics are all too familiar to even the most casual of listeners. Each time we arrive at the last track, it’s hard to believe that a journey like that has come to a close.