Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours has sold over 15 million copies and spent 130 weeks on the U.S. Billboard album charts. You couldn’t escape the album back in 1978 even if you tried.
It was a commercial juggernaut built upon lovers breaking up, exhaustive recording sessions at the Record Plant, and the standard rock and roll hedonism with emotional accompaniment; an archetype of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. This was something I hated with a passion.
For a very long time Fleetwood Mac, along with the dreaded Eagles, embodied that entire decadent cocaine California music world that punk opposed and if one of their songs came on the radio I would come near to tearing the dial off as I changed it. I bought into what I thought was the nihilistic vision of truth a group like the Sex Pistols offered, while missing the same impulse in the glossy sound of Fleetwood Mac.
After Bill Clinton used “Don’t Stop” in his 1992 campaign I felt even more justified in dismissing Rumours as merely another massively popular piece of musical fluff to have come from the fantasy wonderland of L.A. with all of the individuality of a thistle weed – a pretty flower easily blown apart by the wind so more of its less-appealing characteristic prickles could be spread. There is actually a lot of truth in that statement and it’s a major reason for the albums classic appeal, hence this DVD release.
The sharp taste of heartbreak is all over the album and I could only get it after going through my own share. By the time the mid-90s rolled around I was ready to discover the greatness I had rebelled against.
I began to appreciate Lindsey Buckingham’s production style first. Then I read what Greil Marcus wrote about “Go Your Own Way” included in Ranters & Crowd Pleasers:
“Go Your Own Way” was rough, harsh, hard to follow. From its opening notes it was a maelstrom, excitement, and nothing else. It was an assault, a hammering, the singer moaning and threatening, pleading and damning; it didn’t let up for a second.
Coming two thirds of the way through the performance, the requisite instrumental break should have provided a rest; instead it raised the stakes. When Lindsey Buckingham dropped his words for a guitar solo – a shattered, severed solo almost drowning in a dozen more overdubbed guitar parts, the off-beat rhythm chasing his lead, then overtaking him, then seeming to wait for him to catch up, which he never quite did – the song began all over again. Ten years later, I flinch every time it comes on the radio, knowing what’s coming, knowing that no matter how completely I can predict what’s going to happen, I won’t be able to catch up: the instrumental passage supersedes not only the singing that precedes it, but the ability of memory to enclose it.
This led me to actually take the time to really listen to “Go Your Own Way” and when I took that step it was like getting my face punched.
The “shattered, severed solo” that Marcus mentioned became a symbol to me of Buckingham’s desperate and certain knowledge of the end of his romantic relationship with Stevie Nicks. “Go Your Own Way” is a perfect representation of selfish love versus selfless love. They might have been the very definition of rock and roll hedonists (a story is told about the reaction the record’s engineers received when they faked dropping a bag of cocaine on the studio floor – it wasn’t a nice one), but even hedonists have feelings. I bought a used copy of the record and I discovered that the rest of the album held up. I even tracked down the 45 of “Go Your Own Way” just so I could also have “Silver Springs.”
The story of why “Silver Springs” got left off the album is here. Every member of the band is interviewed. The most interesting moments concern the crafting of the songs and the soundboard bits where the songs are broken down into their component parts.
There is some archival concert footage included and there is a nice touch when they recreate how Christine McVie recorded “Songbird” alone, but why are only portions of the tunes included? Do the producers of these Classic Albums DVDs think we lack the patience to sit through an entire song? That said; the glimpse into the windowless Record Plant as it was during the Seventies is probably worth the price of the DVD. It was a dark place and the members of Fleetwood Mac were in an even darker place emotionally while recording Rumours and the DVD brings it all to light.
You can also find Classic Albums DVDs by The Grateful Dead, The Band, and Paul Simon among many others.