Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

2009-03-13 16:27

February, 1992, just after Matric. I was moving into my first commune, in the perenial hippieville of Observatory, Cape Town. A vegetarian navy chef who roomed there too put Rumours on the turntable one Saturday as I was moving my two bags into the bedroom next to the lounge and spreading a sheet over the sixth-hand foam matress on the floor. Rumours kept on playing every night for as long as I lived in the house - about two months - on constant rotation. I adopted a small black stray kitten with a star on her forehead.

I can't remember whose LP it was, who owned the turntable, or the stray kitten's name (she just vanished one day - perhaps she wanted a change of tune). This was long before the Internet hit South Africa. Long before every day was recorded in status updates and galleries on Facebook. The world wide web was only a rumour and nobody in the house owned a computer.

At night I was playing flute in an R&B band in Mitchell's Plain in a house with a pigeon coop in the back, and between that and my day job, I was getting no sleep. My stupid relationship with my first real boyfriend - who was also in the band - was not going smoothly at all.

Coincidentally, Rumours is all about breakups, or painful new beginnings taking place between the members of the band.

Some albums are classic because of the way they influence what's to come - and in a sense, the way rumours around Rumours helped drive sales has become the cornerstone of the way many musicians are marketed today (howzit Britney!) But before anyone told me the stories, this album just quietly earned its own place in my collection. It was a folk-flavoured, blue-grassy, elegantly sober rock 'n roll album mainly about betrayal. Songs like "Dreams" and "The Chain" provide the kind of comfort you get from being understood, not fixed. Drug recovery songs like '"Gold Dust Woman" canoodle with sing-along discoesque anthem "Don't Stop" (thinking about tomorrow - later to become Clinton's campaign song - the Yes We Can! of that time). "Songbird" is a peace-making celebration of virtuosity to make you smile. Sure there are cheese moments. But all in all, the amazing vocal and songwriting talents gel in the production by band members together with producers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut, who the band would stick with for many albums to come.

So I would hate to be one of the many critics that panned Rumours for being "too commercial" in 1977, when it was released - Fleetwood Mac's lucky 13th album. It was less bluesy and rock-oriented than the also-classics to which their fans were accustomed, and change always pisses certain types off. But since then, california-pop accessibility has proved it a pop classic, with hooks that went in deep and never came out. Its simple, moody, energetic vibe makes it the kind of album you return to over the years, as if you were re-reading a favourite book...
And sometimes when you're just innocently sitting at work, watching your least favourite celebrity sex tape of all time, it just pops up.

Yes, I'm talking about the "Joost" sex tape. Rumours just happens to be the album playing while the Joost guy and the girl do lines and mess around with a bit of tedious chit-chat. In this context, Rumours lyrics - rather than seeming like impassioned pleas and letters to lovers about dreams - sounded like cynical warnings to both "Joost" and anyone stupid enough to trust him. Either the girl in the video had oddly decent taste in music, or she had a healthy sense of irony?

Who cares, really. I've now listened to it four times in a row in an attempt to reclaim the images that come to mind when I listen to it, and Rumours still offers irrefutable proof that all the best songs are sad. And the best thing about the Joost Sex Video scandal for me was that I was reminded to listen to this again. Now if the image of that woman's ass in a thong would just go away, already…

Rumours truth & trivia
Singer/guitarist Christine McVee wrote "You Make Loving Fun" about her affair with the group's lighting director.
The gorgeous Stevie Nicks (vocals) and Lindsey Buckingham (guitar, vocals) separated shortly before the band began work on Rumours, as did Christine and John McVie.
Critics' opinions don't count for much: The album won the Album of the Year Grammy Award in '78, and sold over 30 million copies by the last time anyone checked in 2007.
The album went to No. 1 on the Billboard Chart, knocking ABBA out of the top spot, and knocked out by Barry Manilow.
In the crystal ball held by Mick Fleetwood on the cover the distorted image in it is not that of him and Stevie Nicks as you would expect. It is actually a distorted image of him and John McVie, according to a post on allexperts.com.

You know an album's a classic when it defines a time in your life, and when you still remember exactly what it was about for you then. Rumours is one of those albums for me - as it was for the band that made it.

What to read next: Kalahari

CatherineO 2009/03/16 10:44
When I was a student in 1996, I met this incredibly goodlooking guy on campus. He was THAT guy... The perfect hair, perfect smile, dressed to kill and so sexy it hurt my eyes just looking at him. We had a brief fling. He used to play Rumours on an old hi-fi in my flat and feed me red wine. I fell in love with Fleetwood Mac and learned the hard way the "players only love you when they're playing". Thirteen years later I still think of him everytime I listen to it.
Pikanien 2009/03/16 11:08
Fleetwood Mac is considered ancient for my generation, but I have discovered "The Dance" - the live performance cd and am loving it. Oh, Catherine - I had to learn that the hard way as well. :-)
edi p 2009/03/17 07:04
in the late seventies & early eighties, i used to play in a rock band & we used to admire "rabbitt" - fleetwood mac "rumours" was THE album to listen to while laying on scatter cushions & hugging your chickie, drinking pina coladas & smaffing on a joint... ahhh memories
CW 2009/03/17 07:35
The true test of whether an album is a classic is whether its designation of classic spans generations. I'm one of the vintage who was a student when Rumours came out in 1977 and it remains a treasured part of my collection. (The original vinyl since upgraded to CD!) It is interesting to hear from people who first encountered rumours in the '90s and gratifying to learn that its appeal has endured across generations
Derek 2009/03/17 07:45
This album launched in my matric year and is still played on my record player. The memories off youth are in each song for me
Kenny B 2009/03/17 08:31
Aaaah this album. Just seeing the cover reminds me of those glorious, care-free days of the early eighties. I had survived two years of National Service and life was good. This album brings back vivid memories of driving to "The Sunnyside" on Friday afternoons for what was always the best meeting place in JHB back then. Songs from this album would set the mood for partying, and the slower cuts for the late night/early morning slow drive home.
Keith 2009/03/17 09:38
Yup,lots of happy memories when I bought the album in 77,850 Norton Commando,and all of Europe at my feet.Music was music in those days not this rubbish that passes these days.Music played by real people on real instruments,were did it all go wrong ?
Jan Carstens 2009/03/17 13:13
personally I consider it a masterpiece. Lindsay Buckingham was the kickstart the band needed to avoid them from just becoming another forgotten band. The dance and Tango in the night DVD's are exeptional. Love them to bits.
Warren 2009/03/17 18:34
This is my alltime fav album ever. That was to me when the "muse" became real in music. It set the tone for so much of what I choose to listen to today. The memories came flooding back that i had to grab a bottle of cheap tassies and there i was back to my 20ties. Thanx for the reminder.
Bilbo 2009/03/17 20:26
I have been fan of Fleetwood Mac since the eighties with Tango in the Night (great album). Also have Greatest Hits and Behind the Mask. Have also downloaded most of Rumours. Chain is classic as well as Sarah, there are heaps though. What's with the two balls hanging between the dudes legs on the cover???
Deric Slabberts 2009/03/17 21:43
I too am a very big FM fan. I have been collecting their albums for the last 11 years or so, and Rumours came out in the year I was born :-) They are touring again in the US, and I seriously contemplated going over just to watch a concert. I really hope that they will tour SA. Thanks for the "out-of-the-blue article" also. I know what I am listening to when I go to sleep tonight... :-)
Poacher 2009/03/17 23:09
Still have the original album on vinyl, imported nogal. Today at 52, I still listen to the CD, on MP3!
green manalishi 2009/03/18 00:26
the year i came to sa,s dan,d summer,eagles,brill era,my friend alan pinched my albums & played them @ cloud nine.further back mr clapton plus plenty of other greats came out of mac.
Linda 2009/03/26 17:37
It was the first LP I bought.Memories: Magical just looking at the cover and listening to the songs all the time (at UCT Med school then.)
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