Record Machine: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac

I’ve heard all the jokes about this album — that it was issued to every suburban household in the late ’70s, that used record bins are full of them, that only your uncool parents enjoy these songs — but Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is an oft-purchased classic for a reason. It connects. For all its tendency to be overplayed during certain points after its release, the personalities and musicianship contained within the album make me happy every time I hear it.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

As the second album to include Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Rumours has the band fully hitting their creative stride. Some would argue that Fleetwood Mac reached their peak in 1977, but I’d suggest that those people properly listen to 1979’s Tusk again. (We’ll talk about Tusk in a future column, I promise.)

I have three copies of this album, not counting the CD. One came, yes, from someone who was getting rid of their vinyl collection, one was already my dad’s, and the third was the version released in Mexico. The song titles are in Spanish, and it’s a cardboard sleeve with no liner notes, but otherwise, it is the same.

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (spanish back cover)

I’ve talked about Christine McVie’s “Songbird,” the closer for Side One, as part of of my All-Time Favorite Songs, but she has another excellent, mournful track nestled near the end of Side Two, “Oh Daddy:”

Oh Daddy,
You soothe me with your smile,
You’re letting me know
You’re the best thing in my life

Written for Mick Fleetwood and his personal troubles at the time, while also alluding the troubles afflicting the band (divorce, affairs, drug problems, etc.), it’s a quiet moment before the exorcism that is Stevie Nicks’ “Gold Dust Woman.”

However, the true highlights for me are Lindsey showing off his finger-picking guitar style (without it veering too much into wanky guitar-solo territory, like “I’m So Afraid”) and he and Stevie’s Everly Brothers-inspired harmonies. “I Don’t Want to Know” is one of my favorite songs on the album, hand-claps and all:

Finally baby
The truth has been told
Now you tell me that I’m crazy
That’s nothing that I didn’t know
Trying to survive
You say you love me, but you don’t know
You got me rocking and a-reeling

When I first began listening to Fleetwood Mac, I was around 14 or 15. My dad didn’t play their music a lot, although he owned plenty, so my main exposure came from their 1997 reunion for The Dance. At first, I was annoyed by that concert constantly being on MTV, VH1 and PBS, not to mention the radio, but their omnipresence wormed its way into my brain. Then came the bassline two-thirds of the way through “The Chain,” and I thought, Yes.

(It’s around the 3:00 mark, if you’re skipping ahead. I suggest listening from start to finish, of course.)

The only song that gives all band members a songwriting credit, it’s moody and cathartic and perfect. If I had the song on in the car, I would often shush passengers so we could hear it. From what I remember reading about the album’s story, “The Chain” was written because bassist John McVie had been playing around with that riff and it didn’t have a home. They constructed the song around it. And they say bass players get no love…

Speaking of The Dance and “Gold Dust Woman,” I’d like to close with Stevie’s 1997 performance. It might be my favorite moment in that whole set. Sing it, Stevie.

Pick up the pieces and go home.

Side One

Second Hand News
Dreams
Never Going Back Again
Don’t Stop
Go Your Own Way
Songbird

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours liner notes (photos)

Side Two

The Chain
You Make Loving Fun
I Don’t Want to Know
Oh Daddy
Gold Dust Woman

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours liner notes (lyrics)

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

5 thoughts on “Record Machine: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac”

  1. I realized that I love this album but didn’t know what all of these songs were from. Music from the 70s reminds me of being a kid and falling asleep in the car (I wasn’t born until 81, but my parents’ musical tastes were a decade earlier). Anyway, I realized that I love this album, I just realized I’d been listening to it in bits and pieces my whole life. I am fixing this right now.

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