I was incredibly fortunate this week to revisit a classic album that I’ve loved for years. ‘Rumours’ is perhaps Fleetwood Mac’s best known album, and there are a hundred good reasons why – in fact, it’s one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
Written on the backbone of huge commercial success and toxic inner-band relationships, including a divorce, you wouldn’t expect at first glance this to be a particularly coherent or musically pleasing album. You definitely wouldn’t expect it to be packed with hit after hit after hit.
‘Rumours’ as a whole is not, on the surface, melancholy. It has pulsing rhythms and sweet harmonies, and bright clean guitars. The melodies are upbeat and the band is tight. And yet, when you delve into the lyrical content, you can see the struggle.
Won’t you lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff?
The album opens with ‘Second Hand News’, instantly sing-a-long, but fuelled by a frustration that is palpable, begging for release from control and restraint, pushing forward with foot-tapping guitar.
‘Dreams’ follows, with Stevie Nicks’ hauntingly beautiful vocals.
Now here you go again, you say you want your freedom. Well who am I to keep you down?
Her warning lyrics of a lover leaving the best thing he ever had are coupled with deep, resonating base and whispering harmony. There is an acceptance in this song of heartbreak that is recognisable.
‘Never Going Back Again’ is relatively country-based, with some neat picking – there is definitely a country / folky influence to the album – and a sparse feeling, both lyrically and musically. No drums here. Just the guitar and Lindsey Buckingham’s strains.
Everyone who’s anyone knows ‘Don’t Stop’, marketed as the most optimistic song on the album, but it always hits a rather upsetting note with me. I don’t know if it’s just how I read it, but the jangly drums and clean electric guitar always seems to cover up what is, essentially, a forced acceptance that the memories of a happier time are going to have to be replaced.
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.
The album just strings hits one after the other – the openly pleading ‘Go Your Own Way’ and the much-covered ‘Songbird’, which admits to a love that is not yet gone, and ‘The Chain’, which is maybe the most recognisable bassline of any song I’ve ever heard.
The album definitely gets more optimistic from there. The slightly jazzier ‘You Make Loving Fun’ has some delightful twangs in it that evoke old dive bars.
I never did believe in the ways of magic, but I’m beginning to wonder why…
‘I Don’t Want To Know’ is probably the weakest song here for me. It still captures the great musicality of the band, but it feels like it is lost in between the previous song and ‘Oh Daddy’, a slower track that focuses on Nicks’ vocals rather than any pomp and circumstance.
The album comes to a close with ‘Gold Dust Woman’, which crescendos into one of the loveliest sections of harmonies I’ve maybe ever heard, again highlighted by the sheer amount of cleverly placed silence in the background, and ‘Silver Springs’, a bitter ballad that rounds the angst and ache up.
And did you say she was pretty?
And did you say that she loves you?
Baby, I don’t wanna know.
Is this album for you?
If you’re already a fan of 70s music, I would absolutely say so. I would always recommend this album, particularly due to the impressive vocals and the sheer emotional expression. If you hate depressing music, but like songs with passion, I’d definitely go for this. And it’s a classic! What have you got to lose?