Record Machine: Mirage by Fleetwood Mac

Despite the success of the singles “Gypsy” and “Hold Me,” 1982’s Mirage is an under-appreciated Fleetwood Mac album when compared to the massiveness of their previous three. Some of its best songs were never singles, and one song became an electric experience during later reunion tours. For me, Mirage is one of their most enjoyable offerings.

Fleetwood Mac - Mirage

True, Mirage lacks much of the experimental heft that its predecessor, Tusk, had, but what I hear in these twelve songs is a band trying to catch its breath. The 1980s brought professional changes with both Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham pursuing solo careers, and the interpersonal relations within the band continued to be complicated. In that true “I just can’t shake you” way in which she works, my favorite song on the album is Stevie’s “That’s Alright.”

Well, I don’t know why I always trusted
Sometimes I think that I must have
I must have been crazy
Crazy to wait on you, baby

Country-adjacent, the song dates back to the early ’70s Buckingham Nicks days. It has the duo’s easy harmony and some satisfying slide guitar, and I love singing along with it. I appreciate how both she and Christine McVie write about their difficulty with leaving bad relationships.

Each moment is a memory
Time’s so unkind
Every hour filled with an emptiness
I can’t hide

“Wish You Were Here” is another plaintive Christine offering that examines her loneliness after breaking up with Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson. It’s a bit different from the more upbeat sounding “Hold Me,” which deals with similar subject matter. Time is a recurrent theme throughout the album — how it slips away, how it manipulates our memories, and how we struggle to understand it. Perhaps making her yearning even more poignant is that Dennis Wilson would drown the following year.

In Lindsey territory, I love the simplicity of “Oh Diane” (which I didn’t realize until recently that it had been a single), as I’m a sucker for the character-creating implications of specific names being used in songs. However, the sleeper obsession for me is “Eyes of the World,” which I was lucky enough to see them perform in 2004. Their 1982 live version is a more energetic version of the studio recording, but their Live in Boston-era arrangement is absolutely outstanding.

First, there’s the madness of two full drum kits, the extra heft of Stevie’s decades-of-drugs-voice providing harmony, but what I must admit sends me over the edge and into obsessive listening is Lindsey wearing that white shirt. I know, I know — it’s a visual thing for an audio medium, but I don’t care. I can sense it, man. Look at him. Dude can wear a shirt.

Despite its soft rock leanings, Mirage is no less serious of a Fleetwood Mac album, and there is plenty to say about every song. The only song out of the dozen to which I’m indifferent is “Straight Back,” but it’s not a bad song either. Although many of the singles charted well, it seems like this album is one people forget about — as though “Gypsy” and “Hold Me” appeared as Greatest Hits out of nowhere — when compared to the self-titled and Rumours albums. Maybe I’m wrong, but for me, this was the band’s last consistently brilliant hurrah before the tape covering their relationship cracks, reapplied and reapplied over the years, could no longer hold.

Fleetwood Mac - Mirage - Inner sleeveSide One

  • Love in Store
  • Can’t Go Back
  • That’s Alright
  • Book of Love
  • Gypsy
  • Only Over You

Side Two

  • Empire State
  • Straight Back
  • Hold Me
  • Oh Diane
  • Eyes of the World
  • Wish You Were Here

Published by

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.

Leave a Reply