Saturday, June 06, 2009

I Heard A Rumour

Up to Number 2 on my 100 Favorite CD list, it's one of the first tapes I ever bought-

Number 2: Fleetwood Mac - Rumours (1977)

It's not an understatement to say I practically worship this album. The first Fleetwood Mac tape I got was Mirage (1982) and I liked it enough that I felt like a little more Mac leading me to picking up Rumours at the local Payless. My adventure with this album started with it being a great bunch of songs and my crush on Stevie Nicks. As time went on, I learned more about the story behind the album - the relationships of the band members to each other, the art of the production, the piles of cocaine they consumed and the first album to have four Top 10 singles. While I love the multitude of factoids and stories that go with Rumours, what makes it my second favorite all time album is that it just sounds good.

When I bought the tape, this song was placed on the second side and not the start so it threw me when we hit the CD era. Lindsey Buckingham had a slight Country twang that fit his California rocker image well. This type of a song, a fast stiff beat with alternately driving and jangly guitars anchoring his nervously urgent singing would become a hallmark for Buckingham's style. While every song on this album became a hit of some type on the radio, this one always draws a sly smile for the line "Won't you lay me down in the tall grass and let me do my stuff."

I think this was Fleetwood Mac's only #1 hit. There's a lot to read into with the back story of Nicks leaving Buckingham, there's a sense of poetic resignation to the tune. I always liked how the part about a "Heartbeat drives you mad" is echoed by Mick Fleetwood's heart beat like percussion. The band does a great job of keeping it soft while still giving a pulse to the groove. Along with the elemental lyrics, Stevie Nicks created a song that was memorable and interesting without being too literal.

Easily the funnest song on the album, even if it probably isn't written from a positive place. Buckingham is finger pickin' good on this track, taking the acoustic guitar and setting it to his famed herky jerky beat. This song often pops in my mind if there is somewhere I don't want to go back to. Though my strongest memory is bebopping to this song in a supermarket while shopping with my wife about ten years ago.

Christine McVie's optimistic blues rock romp has become a standard of sorts, particularly after it was used as Bill Clinton's theme song for his initial Presidency. "Don't Stop" is one of those definitive feel good songs, I live how tight the rhythm section of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie is on this track. Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham's vocals get entangled in a way where I have a hard time distinguishing who is singing when. The song is such a classic that Fleetwood Mac still plays it without Christine McVie, who left the band a few years back. To think this all started with Christine McVie hooking up with the band's lighting guy...

One of the first songs I ever truly loved, "Go Your Own Way" is a blast of high flying harmony vocals, lurching rhythms and some fired up guitar soloing. A bitter kiss off from Buckingham, no doubt directed towards his ex Ms. Nicks, "Way" packs some fury in it's few minutes on. Up there with Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty" for 70's Cali rock traveling songs (highlighted by their back to back usage in the jogging segment of Forrest Gump), I was facinated with Buckingham's unique guitar style. Lindsey Buckingham's biggest hit, when I saw the Mac live the first time in '87 it still held the set closer position in the set list though he had left the band (Billy Burnette sang it).

Christine McVie alone at a piano is a beautiful, soothing thing. Being from the Bay Area, I liked the fact that this was recorded in Berkeley. Maybe as close as this album gets to sentimentality, "Songbird" provides a moment of peace and grace to close out side one.

Side two kicks off with "The Chain", a dark song that starts with a chanted style verse as Nicks and Buckingham play off each other leading into a brief bass solo and then a racing guitar frenzy finish. The first time I heard this was on the HBO special for the Mirage tour, where Buckingham and Nicks really dig into the verses almost like actors. It was the show opener and created a lot of drama with the two almost sparring vocally and Nicks unleashing her sexy witchy woman mystique. That tour seems to be the only time this arrangement was used, as the album arrangement keeps the group singing fairly tight without too many jabs at each other.

Though arguably the least famous of Fleetwood Mac's three singer / songwriters from this period, Christine McVie had written the most chart hits. McVie's bouncy ode to rediscovering the thrill of love rides on a supple beat from the famed rhythm section. For me, my favorite part is those incredible background vocals. Once those "Ahhh Ahhh" backgrounds kick in I'm hooked, it's airy brilliance supports McVie's lead vocal perfectly. It's a weird thing to get into, I love the backgrounds on this song.

This was the tune that led off side one on the tape I had! I always thought this song was slight, nothing great nothing bad kind of category. It seems Nicks really wanted "Silver Springs" but was told there wasn't room on the record or something to that effect. "Silver Springs" was relegated to a B side on a single, still years later Nicks still had faith in the song. She tried to claim it for a Greatest Hits comp of her solo stuff in the early 90's but Mick Fleetwood denied it to her, keeping it for a Fleetwood Mac box set instead. That set was the first time I heard "Springs" and I thought it was killer. When the Rumours lineup reunited in '97, "Silver Springs" was resurrected again and became a highlight of their first show which featured Nicks staring down Buckingham on stage while belting out in the final moments. Now it's one of their best known songs!

A song for Mick Fleetwood, this is probably the most pleasantly dated piece on the record. The slow downbeat groove sets the mood and contains one of my favorite John McVie bass parts. He's all over this bad boy like a monster.

Despite the lyrics allusions to groupies and drugs, the imagery in my mind was of a nomadic weathered faced woman walking through the desert with a spoon in her hand. And so goes my mind! When my wife and saw them on The Dance tour, during this song Nicks let out a huge wail and physically shook that drew a big pop from the audience. Though it wasn't one of the singles from Rumours, this ranks as high in recognize ability to most people as those hits. For me, the best Stevie Nicks number on the album. I dig the hypnotic rhythms and spooky sense of drama.

Fleetwood Mac is one of my all time favorite bands so it makes sense they would have an all time favorite record of mine. Rumours is a convergence of talent, inspiration and maybe even fate leading to a fantastic record from start to finish.

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