Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – Round 57 – Graham’s Choice

1977 was my lucky dip year for this download round’s theme. After exhausting and exhaustingly turning boxes of records and cd’s upside down looking for all the albums I thought were from 1977, I finally discovered that I only owned one from that year. Luckily for everyone, it was one worth listening to.

For a good part of my adolescence I parked Fleetwood Mac with the Beatles and the Beach Boys in the dullest parts of the Radio 2 playlists which played in the kitchen and the car. I reckon ‘Albatross’ must have got played at least twice a day during the Jimmy Young and Terry Wogan era’s at the helm.

I never thought of the band much until the end of the 90’s when I started to read about the history and mythology behind the band and particularly, the making of this album. By then tracks like ‘Go your own way’ and ‘Don’t Stop’ had started entering my subconscious. Finally buying and listening to the album was a revelation.

I think I used the word “craft” a lot when I introduced this on the night. There is just something about the way the vocals and instrumentation on this album are so perfectly put together, without sounding as if they have been slaved over, that makes it work so well. The subtle use of drums and percussion when you might not expect it, crashing guitars one minute to haunting and sparse the next.

The vocals drift from soaring sing-along’s to intimate stories of the complex relationships (and even if you don’t listen to the album you should read up on those) members of the band were involved in. The fact that some of those relationships are then openly exposed on the album makes it even crazier that something so well ‘crafted’ (there it is again) could be produced. Sex and drugs can sometimes produce a rock’n’roll masterpiece, and I would venture that this is one.

Strangely, I have never felt the need to go back any further with the band, settling with their next album, ‘Tusk’, as the end of the journey. ‘Tusk’ has moments of masterpiece but too many moments of madness/self indulgence that point to abuse of substances and disintegration of some of the creative madness that inspired ‘Rumours’.

Oh and just in case readers thinks I’m letting my current situation influence album selections around complex romantic themes, its a good time to recite my daily mantra, “I f*****g hate Coldplay!”

Rob listened: I’m forced to reflect that of the four albums played this evening, the only one I didn’t know well was this, the 14th best selling album in UK history, and 6th in the US. Having finally heard ‘Rumours’ through for the first time, i’m pretty happy with that situation. I’ve warmed to the pre-punk 1970s a huge amount over the last couple of years, and Devon Record Club has been a huge influence in that regard. I watched the Fleetwood Mac documentary on BBC Four recently, and found it fascinating. I was ready to be converted but ‘Rumours’ just didn’t do it for me at all. Some great tunes, and vocal hooks particularly, but it’s just too smooth for my rough palate. There’s no edge for me to get a grip of and those hooks just don’t stick in me.  Perhaps it deserves a closer listening. I’m sure it does. But i’m not sure that’s something i’ll bother with.

Tom Listened: For me, Fleetwood Mac belong in the same company as Madness, The Cure and Abba – capable of producing unimpeachable pop music, seemingly at will but, somewhat bafflingly, never quite managing to sustain their brilliance over the course of an entire album. All that cocaine must have blurred their judgment…after all Tusk has more than enough incredible songs on it to be a brilliant single album but whoever thought Sisters Of The Moon or That’s Alright With Me were a good idea? Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!

Anyway, Rumours was always my least favourite of the big three – for me it lacks Tusk’s wonky personality (I’ve always been drawn to wonky personalities, hence the company I keep at record club) and the eponymous album has Rhiannon on it, so that’s always going to be better! But Rumours does have a clutch of all time classic songs, mainly the singles and whilst the rest of the album is a little too smooth and fluffy for my tastes it isn’t hard to see why this is such a behemoth in the rock ‘n’ roll canon. It was good to hear it (crackles and all) again.

Nick listened: There’s a literal list of albums on my phone – mostly recent stuff – to look out for and buy if the chance arises. There’s a theoretical list in my head – much, much longer – of other stuff that I’m interest in or feel I should own but never got round to. This was at the top of the latter list for years. I must’ve picked copies up a hundred times in record shops but never got to the till. It infuriated my wife. After Graham played it, I bought it. For £5. It’s great. I already knew 80% of it. The other 20% might be less great but it doesn’t really matter. These songs feel like platonic essences.

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