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by Kyle Sanders
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).
One of two songs from this album that you won't find anywhere in Mac's live set list, this slow, dreary, McVie-penned track was written for Mick Fleetwood, who was the only one in the band with children at the time.
Even Stevie Nicks isn't a big fan of this song--and she wrote the damn track! The other cut from this album that you'll never hear in a set list, "I Don't Know Want to Know" was considered a throwaway track written prior to Buckingham and Nicks joining the band. It was only added after Nicks' more personal, far superior song "Silver Springs" proved too lengthy to fit on the album--a missed opportunity that would triumphantly reemerge twenty years later on their live The Dance album.
A bright and shiny spot on an album filled with moodier songs, this McVie-penned tune would prove to be a top ten hit and an inspiring campaign song for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in the early nineties.
The opening track sets the mood for the entire album, with the first line sung as "I know there's nothing to say/Someone has taken my place..." The dynamic harmonies between Buckingham and Nicks really sell this song--you can hear the hurt bleeding out of their vocals in lines like "Been down so long, I've been tossed around enough/Oh won't you just let me go down and do my stuff?"
The only song where all five members share a songwriting credit, this song has become the band's synonymous motto: "The chain will keep us together." Uniting the band as a force of nature, this tune has been opening every set list of their live shows since its debut in 1977.
Nicks' supposed "ode to cocaine," Nicks once admitted that she wrote the song as a "symbolic look at somebody going through a bad relationship, doing a lot of drugs, and trying to make it." If that's the case, this haunting track closes out the album on a very dark note of uncertainty--yet it's one of Nicks' most enduring songs.
The closest to "seventies disco-funk" Fleetwood Mac has ever come close to producing, Christine really lets loose on the electric piano as she belts out her joy over an affair during her post-marriage breakup. Fun little trivia: McVie originally explained this song was written about her dog, to avoid flare-ups with ex-husband John (he eventually found out its true origin).
One of the last songs recorded for the album, this song finds Buckingham in the midst of a rebound relationship after calling it quits with Nicks, learning from his mistakes with the desire to never repeat them. A pure, simple, beautiful song.
The only track featuring McVie as solo vocalist, this quiet ballad is absolutely perfect. A song about the meaning of love and the sacrifices we make for those we love, it's often the final encore of Fleetwood Mac's live shows.
Ultimately a clap-back to song number one on this list, "Dreams" is Nicks' response to her breakup with Buckingham, at once calling him out without slut-shaming him, finding redemption through the heartache, and understanding life will go on and love will return not just for her, but for all brokenhearted souls in general. The only song of Fleetwood Mac's catalog to reach number one on the Billboard charts, it was originally written in a studio space that once belonged to Sly Stone of Sly and the Family Stone.
The greatest breakup song in rock history, the ultimate kiss-off. With just the opening lines "Loving you, isn't the right thing to do/But how can I ever change things that I feel?" you know that exact feeling of falling for someone who isn't meant for you but you can't help it either way. From there, the messy relationship stumbles out of control and next thing you know, you're off with your butt-hurt feelings and saying sayonara to the jerk who broke your heart. While Nicks might have taken the high road with her feelings in song number two on this list, Buckingham doesn't hold back, spouting out the famous line "Packin' up, shackin' up is all you wanna do." A pessimistic outlook on a breakup, the soaring guitar solo and harmonious backing vocals make this the best song on the album, and perhaps the band's greatest song ever.
After forty years of airplay, reissues, and monumental success in stores and on the road, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours is one of the greatest albums in rock and roll history. It's an album well worth its acclaim and accolades, and is an essential addition to any record collection. But if you're one not to find its charms worthy of listening to, well my friend, "you can go your own way..."
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