On February 4th, 1977, Fleetwood Mac released Rumours, their eleventh studio album and second release featuring American duo Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Forty years later, it ranks as one of the best selling albums of all time, with over forty-five million copies sold worldwide.
It not only ranks as the band's most successful album, but also garnered their only Grammy win for Album of the Year. The album's legacy has inspired dozens of musicians since its release, an eleven track tell-all of rock and roll's greatest soap opera, harmonized and produced with raw emotion and rhythmic energy.
The album's creation is a memorable narrative of mythic proportions, and is ripe for a segment on "Drunk History" or even a Broadway musical: coming off the success of their "White Album" with hits like "Say You Love Me" and "Rhiannon," the band went to work at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, and during the twelve month production, relationships floundered. Christine and John McVie got divorced, Stevie and Lindsey broke up, and Mick Fleetwood suffered marital woes when he discovered his wife was having an affair with his best friend (Nicks and Fleetwood would eventually have a brief affair as well).
Throughout all the tumultuous drama, the trio of singer-songwriters Buckingham, McVie, and Nicks wrote and recorded some of the most honest and heartbreaking lyrics ever composed. Listening to all forty minutes worth of music, it's easy to hear the catchy melodies at first, but continuous plays reveal the lyrical history and goings-on within the band. From Nick's therapeutic meditations to Buckingham's stinging accusations to McVie's hopeful wishes for a better tomorrow, it's no wonder this album remains as influential now as it did four decades ago.
Upon first obtaining the album when I was thirteen, I loved the catchy songs, but it wasn't until I went through my first breakup that each song spoke to me in a different light--and it's one of the reasons the album manages to reinvent itself to me time and time again, through each new romantic trial and tribulation I endure--and there's been quite a few! To celebrate and recognize it's fortieth anniversary, I've ranked all eleven tracks from worst (which isn't even the right word to use since EVERY track is a gift to the ears) to best (which was a difficult choice between the first and second ranked songs).
And so it begins. Inauguration Day, an eagerly anticipated day filled with hope and promise, has been reduced to apocalyptic despair thanks to a turbulent election year that left many Americans feeling polarized and defeated. Today, Donald Trump will become the forty-fifth president of the United States, and there's nothing we can do about it.
Or is there?
Barely stepping foot in the Oval Office, Trump's choices for his administration have already baffled citizens and politicians alike, such as the recent confirmation hearing of Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos. It doesn't look too promising elsewhere, but with a little luck and a whole lot of lip biting and finger crossing, our country will remain intact through November 2020, just enough time to change things around (unless of course we are treated to a triumphant impeachment trial in the oh-so-near future!). In the meantime, here's a top ten list of songs to help us get through the next four years:
10. "Shake It Out" by Florence + the Machine
Front woman Florence Welch describes this track as a "hangover cure," which makes it a perfect song to relieve the hangover of last year. Welch's vocals over a swelling, gothic organ and pounding drums certainly inspire one to shake the devil off their back, so let us all bury "that horse" (aka 2016) in the ground. As the song goes, "it's always darkest before the dawn..."
With numerous deaths from all genres and eras of the music world, 2016 (or now known as “The Year That Shall Not Be Named”) has been incredibly brutal. It seemed like not a week went by without the passing of someone great. While this year will not be looked back positively by this writer, some of the departed left behind new music, which only reinforces that the art of the artist often lives on long after their physical presence leaves us. Here are five of those artists’ swan songs...
David Bowie, Blackstar (ISO/Columbia)
The year that should not be named didn’t hold back any punches. David Bowie died after a secret battle with cancer on January 11, just two days after his 69th birthday, in which he offered us a gift with his 25th and final studio album, Blackstar. Fans and critics immediately listened for any hidden messages that the Starman may have snuck in, even checking the album’s packaging for meaning. “I know something is very wrong” has taken a brand new meaning as the year continued in, delivering one shock after another. (One shock that still stings was it’s exclusion from the Album of the Year shortlist at the Grammy Awards.)
Patti Smith is one of the most extraordinary icons in music history. In 1975, her debut album Horses introduced the world to an artist of raw talent and hypnotic energy who would serve as a major contributing component to the punk movement in New York City. Not easily placed within a specific genre, her mix of poetry and rock music defined her as an artist among few peers, yet would lay the groundwork for other aspiring musicians to follow.
Having recently performed at the Nobel Prize ceremony in honor of Bob Dylan, it's difficult to imagine that she's turning seventy on December 30th. A Chicago native, Patricia Lee Smith was born during a huge snowstorm on a day which she claims her father had to help a taxi driver navigate the treacherous conditions of Lake Shore Drive while her mother was in labor. To celebrate her seventieth year of life, Smith will be performing at the Riviera Theater with her band and grown children backing her eclectic set list. In honor of her birthday, here's a list of seven (one track per decade, naturally) essential tracks from Smith's extensive discography:
7) "Frederick" (Wave)
Patti's love song that "ignites the light in a single name" for husband Fred "Sonic" Smith. Patti isn't known for writing songs that are romantic in the literal sense, but it's hard to deny her yearning of the late MC5 guitarist on this track, oozing a sense of desperate longing between two lovers living miles apart. This longing would be the reason why she would leave New York City for Detroit, and considering how synonymous Smith is with the NYC punk scene, that love was incredibly strong.
By now, you have heard “Santa Baby” (either Eartha Kitt or Kylie Minogue, or heaven forbid, that version by Madonna) for the 300th time. You may be one of those unfortunate souls who have holiday songs piped in from speakers at the office or during your late-night shift at a chain store. These five songs are a break from listening to another lesser version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” that’s playing on the all-holiday station right now. No one is ever going to come close to Brenda Lee in that department, and I wish artists would stop trying.
Special thanks to fellow CHIRP volunteers Craig Reptile, Bradley, and Jenna for your recommendations.
August Darnell, "Christmas On Riverside Drive" from A Christmas Record (EZ Records, 1981)
This energetic fusion of late-era disco, calypso, and early electronica was originally featured in a compilation titled A Christmas Record, released by New York-based EZ Records in 1981 that featured their most popular acts. (The album’s most famous track is “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses.) The story behind the artist here is another gift in itself, for Darnell’s life could be another blog or a dozen. A native of the Bronx, Darnell paved the way for club culture and its music to reach the mainstream in the US before moving to the UK, fronting numerous bands and having many identities before giving up the lifestyle and settling down.