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Classic Albums: “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac

October 15, 2015

The perfect album is a truly rare thing. There are a number of qualities that are needed to achieve this feat. It needs to have a flawless track list, where there is not a single song you’d be willing to skip. It needs to flow flawlessly in a way that makes it impossible not to listen to it from start to finish. And it needs to have” listen-ability” no matter what mood you’re in and no matter how many times you’ve already listened to it.

To me, when I hear the phrase “the perfect album”, one obvious choice comes to mind; Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. Released in 1977, it marked the band’s eleventh album and became a massive success. It featured four top ten singles with “Go Your Own Way”, “Dreams”, “Don’t Stop”, and “You Make Loving Fun”. It won the 1978 Grammy for Best Album of the Year. It was ranked 25th on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest albums of all time. And with 40 million copies sold, it’s one of the bestselling albums ever.

“Rumours is the perfect album because it had this really great combination of lyrics and … well-thought-out musical components. It’s the perfect ride for the perfect time.”

That quote comes from Ken Caillat who wrote a book called Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album. His statement would have you believe that everything lined up perfectly and it was a fate that this album would become a success. I would disagree with that conclusion. In fact, it seems to me that this album had a lot of things going against it. For one, Fleetwood Mac was one hell of a dysfunctional band around this time. They’d certainly found success before they started recording Rumours. There was certainly plenty of drug use, which wasn’t unheard of for bands of that era, but you couple that with the partner-swapping within the band and there could have been a real disaster. Despite the inner conflicts, or maybe because of it, the band’s song writing was the best it had ever been and they were all on the same page creatively.

Besides any struggles that way have been happening within the band, the album was also being released into a music era that it seemingly has no business belonging to. The punk music scene was taking off with Sex Pistols and The Clash releasing some very influential albums that same year. By contrast, Rumours, with its warm, breezy, easy-going melodies, seems like it would have been laughed out of that scene. Instead it connected with people in a massive way and became a record that was embraced for many years to come.

Still to this day, Rumours is recognized as a masterpiece work. It’s not just championed by those who had first listened to the record, but has become a hit with younger generations as well. Kids have fallen in love with it after hearing their parents listen to it. Finally, boomers could point to a record and tell their kids, “Look! I had good taste in music when I was young!”

Best Track on the Album

As with any perfect album picking a favourite is no easy task, but let’s settle on “Go Your Own Way”. To this day, this song seems to be used as an anthem for house parties that are just getting their second wind. You could pick this song as the album’s best based solely on its musical merits. Lindsey Buckingham, the song’s MVP, fills the air with guitar playing that feels both frustrated and cathartic. The vocals deliver their own powerful punches and the lyrics help to make this one of the best “We’re done” songs of all time. The thing that makes this track so perfect for the album is that it sums up what the band had to go through to make Rumours. We’ve heard many songs about the heartbreak of being fed-up at where a relationship has gone and just wants it to end. “Go Your Own Way” differs from others in that this is one member of the band spilling their guts to a fellow bandmate. Buckingham is addressing his crumbling relationship with Stevie Nicks and we’re just eavesdropping. It’s extremely personal and you just can’t help but be enthralled with the whole thing.

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