Day 63 (Throwback Thursday): Fleetwood Mac — Rumours

Fleetwood Mac is a huge musical blind spot for me (I know), and I’ve never intentionally listened to any of their albums in full before today. I knew I’d have to correct that the course of these 100 days, but I didn’t expect it to take until Thanksgiving. It’s fitting, though, because Rumours is the perfect soundtrack to spending the day stuck inside with your extended family: because despite its friendly and fun surface, many of its songs are masterworks of passive aggression, occasionally boiling over into full-on vindictive rage directed at those the band’s songwriters were closest to.

The story behind Rumours’ creation is already the stuff of legend. Imagine getting cucked by someone else in your own band and having to do backing vocals on songs they wrote that more or less tell you to fuck off and “listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness.” Everyone else in the band was also divorcing or cheating with someone else in or adjacent to the band and doing a lot of cocaine.

While less talented bands would’ve burnt out or imploded when subjected to that much strife, Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, and the McVies managed to use that pressure to make a diamond. It’s remarkable that they found time to take a break from feuding with each other to contribute some monolithic tracks to the classic rock canon. I mean, I have no idea how many times I’ve heard “Don’t Stop” on the radio or on dad playlists at barbeques without realizing it’s a Fleetwood Mac song. It’s just such a quintessentially 70’s rock song that I would’ve never guessed the woman responsible for its jaunty keyboard part wrote it about the challenge of staying in a band with your ex-husband.

As someone who’s probably taken this specific corner of the music world for granted, I can’t help but walk away from Rumours with a much greater appreciation with how artfully and entertainingly Fleetwood Mac could write lyrics and arrange songs. The way the bridge of “The Chain” breaks down and builds back up to an energetic, fervent guitar solo is honestly kind of badass, and songs like “You Make Loving Fun” are of such quality that I can’t help but learn to tolerate the otherwise kinda-cheesy keyboard sounds that Christine McVie relies on.

You can’t discuss Rumours without giving some special due to Stevie Nicks, though. In addition to allegedly writing the timeless “Dreams” in about ten minutes, her vocal work often served as a microcosm for the mood around the band. “Gold Dust Woman,” a pretty damn vengeful tale, is a perfect example. Nicks starts off sweetly enough, but you can practically hear the venom spewing from her mouth as it ratchets up to her primal howls. Coupled with the song’s lyrical themes of spite and jealousy, it’s the sound of a soul that wants to tear everything and everyone down, even if it doesn’t quite know how.

I won’t waste any more words describing an album everyone already loves, but I can say that finally listening to it was a revelation for me. The past 63 days have reiterated the idea that popular music is usually liked and capable of withstanding the test of time because it’s Actually Good. I’m already looking forward to the chance to listen to the rest of Fleetwood Mac’s catalogue to determine whether the (perhaps self-inflicted) trauma that informed Rumours represented a uniquely transcendent moment or only served to hold Fleetwood Mac back from even greater heights.

This is Day 63 in my 100 albums in 100 days series, where I review a new album or EP I haven’t heard in full before every day through December 31st. Check out yesterday’s post or see the full archives for more.

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