By Wynona Latham
Rumours may be 34 years old but in a year filled with successful “bad breakup” songs, this soft-rock classic could be more relevant today than ever before. Never descending into complete hysteria, Rumours may just be the healing balm for listeners against the teen-angst-filled pop landscape.
My first encounter with Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours was via my parents. In my pre-pubescent-ness I labelled it “old people” music.
About a year ago, I encountered Rumours again, in the unlikely form of Glee. In an episode titled Rumours, the TV-show did musical adaptions of various songs from the album. Suddenly, “old people” music became completely irresistible and relatable. I wasn’t the only one affected – thanks to the episode, sale of the original album increased in May 2011 and there could also be a Fleetwood tour in 2013.
Released in 1977, Rumours was the second studio album of Anglo-America band Fleetwood Mac. Upon its release, the album exploded onto the music scene becoming one of the highest selling albums of all time and a staple of late 70’s radio stations
. The songs (with the exception of The Chain) were all written separately by Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks or Lindsey Buckingham. McVie, Nicks and Buckingham also provided the lead vocals for the album.
This album was created when the band was imploding. One of the founding members, John McVie was struggling with alcoholism which had resulted in his wife and co-band member Christine McVie leaving him. Band members Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham broke up during this time and founding member Mick Fleetwood divorced his wife. The result was huge tension within the band which was further inflamed by the drug abuse (particularly cocaine) prevalent within the band.
All of this could have amounted to a catastrophe of an album but what the band produced is akin to ‘a thousand angels kissing (you) sweetly on the forehead’ according to Daryl Easkea
. It is clean, sonically unblemished (thanks to producers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut) and filled with dreamlike imagery.
Rumours was also the first pop-rock album to exploit the a new audience: Middle America. This band produced Adult-orientated rock (AOR) that was light enough for a yuppie culture that was more ‘mature’ and discerning in their tastes.
This audience responded well to the soft-rock style best shown with songs Dreams and Go Your Own Way. Written and sung by Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham respectively, these songs are about the end of Nick’s and Buckingham’s relationship.
Go Your Own Way is far more confrontational, with Buckingham acerbically stating that ‘You can go your own way; Go your own way; You can call it another lonely day’ this shows his lack of empathy towards her feelings by sarcastically commenting on her lonliness.
In Dreams, the tone is far more reflective, with Nicks worrying that she could be standing in the way of her man’s future’ ‘you say; You want your freedom; Well who am I to keep you down?. Nick’s Dreams was the most successful single on the album and with its playful imagery and Nick’s wistful (sometimes nasal) voice, its easy to see why. At one point the generation gap caught up to me with the line ‘players only love you when they’re playing’ which apparently was meant to imply musicians but what I took to mean womanizer.
Dreams and Go Your Own Way show off a common style within the album ‘ jubilant music with great hooks but with self-investigating, melancholic lyrics. Nick’s and Buckingham’s song writing is exemplary. Their songs are far more memorable than McVie’s. Buckingham’s songs are bluesy and powerful in their simplicity while Nick’s songs are poetic and whimsical. It seems fitting that the album cover would depict them sombre but still connected.
There were exceptions to this “common style” with songs like Don’t Stop and Songbird. Don’t Stop combined the already prevalent happy music with actual happy lyrics. Songbird, which is a great pop ballad, seems out of place on this rock album. I would go so far as to say it is too light for light rock.
Never Going Back Again and The Chain are the standout pieces in terms of style. They both exhibit Fleetwood’s Blues background with Never Going Back Again’s picking-style acoustic guitar and The Chain?s wailing chorus. Both songs are irrepressibly catchy and perfectly balanced in terms of length, speed and sound.
The album is a mixture of heavy and light, rock and pop, despair and hope that mix together into what can be best described as a life soundtrack? whatever the place, whenever the time, Rumours could console your breakup or remind you about how amazing a relationship is. It’s aged well and retained its individuality. It knows that nothing is more universal than a bad breakup.