Anonymous said: Buckingham McVie has been out for a full day and you’ve been MIA with a think piece! Could you please share your thoughts on In My World? I’m very interested to know what you think about it.
Here you go:
This is what it sounds like when things fall apart. This is the moment of realization, the wistful, liminal moment between doubt and acceptance. This is the sound of nostalgia, the sound of growing older and growing apart. This is the sound of understanding that not everything can always stay how it used to be.
“In My World” marks a strong return of the older and more contemplative Lindsey Buckingham that has emerged in recent years. He’s less bitter, more introspective. There’s a sense that Buckingham has begun to play archaeologist of his own life, digging into his past, trying to understand what it says about his present, and it’s clearly at play here.
Though it’s an odd choice to introduce a “duets” album with such a solo-leaning first single, three out of four other Fleetwood Mac members leave distinguishable marks on the track. The McVies are used delicately: a tickle on the keys from Christine here and there, noticeable only if you listen closely, John’s bassline pointed and spare. There’s no embellishment for the sake of embellishment; they play only what’s needed, but continuously push the song forward with a feeling of underlying anxiety. Mick Fleetwood’s chugging drums take what could be a soft and tender acoustic tune and give it a bite — with all anguish there is an underlying feeling of resentment.
Maybe we’re lost without the cost of who we used to be.
Joan Didion once wrote that we are all best advised to keep on nodding terms with who we used to be. Some, it seems, are more adept at that than others. Some become lost in the spectacle of the now when they lose touch of the unassuming then. At some point, the road splits, and the further two people drift down their respective paths, the more difficult it will be to coexist in the same sphere. Maybe, then, it’s best for both people to finally admit the need to retreat into their own individual worlds, though that’s not without reluctance.
It may seem obvious to interpret some of the song as a pointed message at Stevie Nicks, but it wouldn’t be obvious if the two didn’t make it so, well, obvious. After more than 40 years of creating public dialogues, of communicating with each other through song, this is to be expected. The elephant in the room is being addressed right away: Buckingham McVie is essentially Fleetwood Mac, just without Nicks, and what do they have to say for that?
It’s been 14 years — to the day — since Fleetwood Mac’s last full length album. These past 14 years have been a game of will-they-or-won’t-they record a follow-up, with the verdict riding on Nicks’s agreement. For 14 years, save for a four song EP in 2013, Nicks has gone back and forth in the press, one day confirming her involvement, the next denying it, until a March 2017 interview with Rolling Stone seemed to make the most definitive statement:
I don’t think we’ll do another record. If the music business were different, I might feel different. I don’t think there’s any reason to spend a year and an amazing amount of money on a record that, even if it has great things, isn’t going to sell. What we do is go on the road, do a ton of shows and make lots of money. We have a lot of fun. Making a record isn’t all that much fun.
In my world, everybody stays, nobody wishes for words they couldn’t say.
You can’t have one foot in the door and one foot out. You’re in the band or you’re not. Buckingham gave the ultimatum to Christine McVie when she left the band in 1998. It wouldn’t be out of the question to assume he gave a similar one to Nicks, though that’s not to say that finding the words to do so was easy.
Even the grandest of disagreements can’t erase their 50 years of shared history. Buckingham’s animosity is laced with sadness. There’s a sense of longing, almost, that he could still fix things, that things could be the same as they were all those years ago, that it didn’t have to come to this. But people grow up and grow apart and things change and no matter how much we try or wish or dream about our own fantasy worlds, we have to move on, have to admit that we will never be the same as we were.
Sonically, “In My World” recalls the sound of Tango in the Night, from the usage of the “oohs” and “ahhs” prevalent on “Big Love,” to the glossy production, almost as if to give the darkness a sheen. Out of pain comes something of beauty. It’s sparse, though, full of space between the drums and simple guitar melody. That almost empty feeling would make sense in a solo composition — I can only envision it getting a quietly powerful acoustic performance similar to “Shut Us Down” — but as Fleetwood Mac-lite, it feels unfinished. Its incompleteness is most tellingly and painfully noticeable in the absence of the lush three part harmonies that have become synonymous with the classic Mac lineup. Perhaps this is deliberate: as much as it’s a song about letting go, there is still space; it’s still open to the possibility of another voice filling that empty spot.
At the end of the day, though, that feels like nothing more than wishful thinking, the lingering reluctance to let go and move on in a song about letting go and moving on. This is what it sounds like when things fall apart and you realize that, for your own sake, you cannot keep trying to put them back together.
I know what you’re thinking: Are you high right now? Did you fall down and smack your little head on the pavement? In what way are a 29-year-old Canadian rapper and 66-year-old guitar god anything alike?
There may be many singer-songwriter boys (John Mayer quickly comes to mind) who easily garner a Lindsey Buckingham comparison. We’ve thought of all of those before. But whenDrake’s cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” leaked last week, the internet exploded with comments about how oddly fitting it was. How cool! Who would have thought that a rappercould have so much in common with a classic rock artist?
Me. I thought it. I thought it awhile ago, actually. While his take on “These Days” works, Drake is no Jackson Browne. He may be soft, but he’s certainly edgier and moodier than that. All it takes is a listen to “Hotline Bling” and some deep thoughts to realize that the lyrics sound more in the vein of “Tusk” than “Rosie”. Because Drake is not rap’s Jackson Browne. Drake is rap’s Lindsey Buckingham.
Drake is not your typical rapper. He has a lot of feelings, he’s a sensitive guy, and he’s not afraid to emote in his lyrics. Because his lyrics tend to focus on relationships, rather than the prototypical struggles like street life, poverty, drugs, and violence, he’s been criticized as soft. But the rapper has pushed the envelope for the genre. He’s much more concerned with creating a unique sound than with fitting into some stereotype, and it works. He has awards, platinum records, and won-over critics to prove it.
Lindsey Buckingham is not your typical rock star. He is also a sensitive guy. His lyrics are also full of feels. They’re more reflective on failed relationships (let’s be real — a failed relationship) than they are boastful about sex, drugs, and rock and roll. He’s too hard to be a singer-songwriter like Jackson Browne, but he’s too soft to be a rock star like Robert Plant. He may get a little too on-the-nose on rare occasions (hello “Big Love” sex grunts, hello “Come”), but he’s never going to ask you to squeeze his lemon.
No, Lindsey Buckingham would much rather demonstrate his artistry and interest in pushing Fleetwood Mac to different levels. He’d much rather throw out passive aggressive lyrics that are part of one giant cyclical dialogue about his relationship with Stevie Nicks. It works. He’s the frontman for a legendary band and has accolades, top singles, and awards to prove it.
Soft boy of rap, meet soft boy of rock and roll.
The comparison really begins in 2013, when Drake released his highly anticipated third album, Nothing Was The Same. His sophomore album Take Care had been a huge hit, selling well over 2 million copies and producing eight charting singles. Drake had a choice: he could make Take Care 2, or he could push himself to evolve his minimalist, slow jam aesthetic. Sound familiar?
Buckingham faced a similar choice when producing Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk — also their third album (from the Buckingham Nicks incarnation of the band, that is), also the follow-up to a mega hit sophomore album. Make Rumours 2 or push the band to grow their art? We all know how that went down.
Drake’s “Tuscan Leather” draws out the similarities between the two. In a sense, it’s his “The Ledge”. It’s the first track on his new album, and an unconventional one, at that: six minutes with no hook, no chorus, nothing.
Though Fleetwood Mac opened Tusk with the deceptively Rumours-esque “Over & Over”, they quickly followed it with the shockingly off-brand “The Ledge”. It’s two minutes of noise, no real hook, aggressive whispers and shouts. It sounds like the combination of three or four different tapes layered on top of each other and then run over by a truck. “Hi, we’re Fleetwood Mac, and this is what we’re going to be doing now,” it seems to scream, with middle fingers raised to any radio or studio exec.
Drake knew what they knew. Drake did the same thing:
Comin’ off the last record, I’m gettin’ 20 million off the record
Just to off these records, n—a that’s a record
I’m livin’ like I’m out here on my last adventure
Past the present when you have to mention
This is nothin’ for the radio, but they’ll still play it though
Cause it’s that new Drizzy Drake, that’s just the way it go
Heavy airplay all day with no chorus
Acknowledge the past success, then say “fuck you” and drop an unconventional songbecause you can. Because you’re Drake or you’re Fleetwood Mac and you’re huge stars, and at that point, the radio would probably play a six minute cut of you reading the phone book.“On a mission tryna shift the culture,” Drake sings. Which is basically what Lindsey Buckingham was trying to do with Fleetwood Mac and Tusk: “I was really interested in exploring a farther left side of my music palate at that time but avoiding getting painted into a corner by the business side of things. […] I was trying to pave some new territory for us, but another way of looking at it is that I was causing trouble.”
“Tuscan Leather”, like many of Drake’s songs, is more self-reflective and confessional than Lindsey Buckingham’s work. However, we learn more about the similarities between the two, personality-wise:
Cause you don’t really wanna hear me vent more
Hot temper, scary outcome
[…] Born a perfectionist, guess that makes me a bit obsessive
Both of the men have rage issues, and they’re the first to own up to most of them. Drake’s in a never-ending feud with Meek Mill; he’s gotten into fist fights with artists like Diddy. Buckingham’s past temper problems have ranged from allegedly choking his co-producer tothat time he threw a guitar at Stevie Nicks. Like Drake, he’s a noted perfectionist, particularly when recording, often holing up in studios for years at a time, obsessed with capturing the exact right sound. The only difference between the two is that Drake is more willing to be honest and admit his faults in his lyrics, whereas Buckingham comes clean in interviews, sometimes years later.
But more substantial than their similar personalities is how they both explore similar themes in their work. Most often, they ruminate on jealousy and resentment that comes with love, particularly failed relationships. It comes out in the form of insecurities, boasts, and passive-aggressive insults towards their exes in song.
They love women — they worship them, they would do anything for them — but if you leave them, there’s a different story to be told. Buckingham has become gentler and more introspective in his work in recent years, but the relationship between the two men play out best when you compare Drake’s recent work to Buckingham’s lyrics from around the same age; his songs on Rumours and Tusk are prime examples.
“Connect” is Drake’s “Go Your Own Way”. Both are about a toxic relationship, one that the man wishes to pursue, despite rejection from the woman:
Isn’t it amazing how you talk all this shit and we still lack communication
How beautiful our kids would be, girl, I don’t need convincing
How every conversation starts with “this time will be different”
Drake just described Buckingham Nicks circa 1976, or even now, really — the two are still dealing with forty-plus years of communication issues. Over all these years, their lyrics have held all of the things they wanted to say to each other — they talk all this shit — without actually saying it to the other person. They’re public airings of grievances. Then again, their relationship has never been anything short of tumultuous, so much on-again/off-again — that you can imagine each of those ‘70s re-couplings starting with a shared thought of “maybe this time it will be different.”
Drake is unafraid of professing his love and desire to have something real and deep with his ex. He talks about having children with her, whereas Buckingham professes in “Go Your Own Way” that he’d give Nicks the world. But because their exes don’t want a part of it, they both feel the need to lash out. Drake pouts “she just wanna run around the city and make memories that she can barely remember […] she just wanna run over my feelings like she drinking and driving in an 18-wheeler,” while Buckingham sneers “packing up, shacking up’s all you wanna do.”
At the end of the day though, both men still desperately want to hold onto the relationship, despite the fact that it might be doomed:
In “Shot For Me”, Drake demonstrates his Buckingham-like ability to flit back and forth between being sensitive and being egotistical. It pulls in elements of “Second Hand News” and “I Know I’m Not Wrong”, from regret and guilt, to vengeful boasting.
Like “Second Hand News”, Drake can see his ex has moved on. But both men pull the arrogant, self-important card — you may think you have moved on, but you haven’t. You know I am the better lover, and when this rebound goes sour, you’ll come right back to me:
At the same time, both men feel the complicated twinge of genuine remorse for the pain they’re putting their exes through. Buckingham has spoken at length of the difficulty of dealing with a breakup when you have to see that person every single day, particularly when you’re producing songs that person is writing about you. Part of you doesn’t want to make it beautiful, part of you wants to be professional and do the best thing for the band, and another part of you has to learn to compartmentalize those feelings to get through it all. That makes moving on pretty hard.
Nicks has said many times that Buckingham partly blames joining Fleetwood Mac for the end of their relationship — had they not joined, they probably would have gotten married and had a family. On “I Know I’m Not Wrong”, he tries to deal with these feelings by pushing the guilt off his conscience and onto his ex — why are you upset when this is what you wanted, right? Both men regret that after everything they’ve been through with their ex, especially now that they have made it, that they’ve achieved the dreams they once dreamed together, they have everything but the relationship they had at the beginning:
The similarities between the two artists are at their peak in Drake’s “Marvins Room” and “Hotline Bling”. Both are accusatory and pompous, in the vein of Buckingham’s “Tusk”. The former sounds like a drunk call Buckingham easily could have made to Stevie Nicks circa 1978, bashing Don Henley — “I’m just saying, you could do better. Tell me, have you heard that lately? I’m just saying you could do better, and I’ll stop hating only if you make me.”
If you look at these Buckingham-penned lyrics, they too could be a drunk dial, one that fits right in with “Tusk” just as easily as they could fit somewhere in “Marvins Room” or even “Hotline Bling”.
Why don’t you ask him if he’s going to stay? Why don’t you ask him if he’s going away? Why don’t you tell me what’s going on? Why don’t you tell me who’s on the phone? Why don’t you ask him what’s going on? Why don’t you ask him who’s the latest on his throne?
Aside from being similar in attitude to “Tusk”, “Hotline Bling” is a song that, if you look more closely at the lyrics, sounds like something that could have been written by Buckingham as another scornful track on Rumours. If cell phones were around in 1977, that is. It takes elements of “Go Your Own Way” — “You used to call me on my cell phone, late night when you need my love” was 2015’s “Packing up, shacking up’s all you wanna do” — and expands on them.
The Buckingham Nicks split was messy and filled with jealousy on both ends — Nicks’s rebound with Don Henley was far from on the down-low. Maybe Buckingham looked at acts like Henley delivering lavish gifts to her at band breakfasts as out of character for her. Maybe he felt like Drake — ever since they broke up, particularly since they became huge stars, she’s been acting differently, and he feels left out.
If you need further convincing that “Hotline Bling” is actually pretty classic Fleetwood Mac, watch this video that came out of the explosion of memes in the wake of its release:
Meme culture fascinates me, and this twist on the genre is just as thought-provoking to me as it is funny. It makes it kind of look like a legitimate possibility, right? You can imagine how the sexual tension, anger, and passive aggression would play out if they covered it in real life — even if it was Nicks leading the song and flipping the roles.
When everyone from Sufjan Stevens to Jimmy Fallon as Bob Dylan to Bryan Cranstonjumped on the trend and served up their own covers, Fleetwood Mac seriously missed a big opportunity. People love unexpected covers. People especially love old people covering young people music.
New talent will always be mirroring the greats. That’s just the way that it works. Drake’s been influenced by Kanye West, Jay-Z, and his mentor Lil Wayne — and that makes sense. But what if we stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, he listened to Tusk at some point and thought “Hm, I think I could do that”?
So if we could maybe please get a Drake – Fleetwood Mac cover or a Fleetwood Mac – Drake cover or maybe some sort of collaboration soon, that’d be great, thanks. Until then, I guess I’ll just watch Hotline Wonders on repeat.
My parents thought I was joking when I told them I was going to road trip to Virginia to see Fleetwood Mac — again — with Krissy and Cathy. We were joking at first. But then we entertained the idea. What if we did it? we asked ourselves. What do we have to lose? How many more chances in our lives are we going to get?
Krissy’s mom called us foolish to our faces. She shook her head. “They should write you girls thank you notes for coming to see them so many times.”
“Mommy,” Krissy explained sweetly, trying to make her understand. “They’re pushing 70. They’re our favorites. They kind of lived a life of debauchery,” she added with a laugh. “We only have so much time!”
She was right. We were both lucky and unlucky in that sense. Lucky enough to still see our heroes perform, unlucky enough to know that we were there at the tail end of things, that we had missed so many years.
So you do it. And this is how it works.
You go to New Jersey on a rainy Saturday morning. You drive an hour just to go to a record store, spend hours digging through bins and laughing and trying to decide which ones are needs and which ones are wants. You drink one margarita on an empty stomach and when you stand up, the room spins and you tell everyone how happy you are to be doing this because this is the first time you’ve ever truly been foolish. You stand at a park overlooking the Hudson River and view the Manhattan skyline with the fog hanging low. You’re sobering up and the next morning suddenly seems very close and very real. You drift off in the backseat on the way home. You’ve heard “The Chain” three times already today. You dream about tomorrow.
The next day you wake up early. You shower, pack your bags. The car’s “check tire” light comes on less than five minutes into your trip and you stop at a gas station and hope for the best, let the attendants give you the a-okay, and you’re off. It happens again more times than you can count, gives you unexpected pit stops and by the end, everyone knows about car tires and air pressure.
You ride shotgun as Krissy drives. “Is it wrong to listen to the band you’re going to see on your way to go see them?” she asks. Cathy shrugs and you both say “fuck what you’re supposed to do” and hit play on a playlist that’s 150 songs deep. That should be enough to fill the next five hours and 350 miles.
Five hours stretches to seven. You pass signs for Silver Spring, Maryland and you all know it’s silly, but still feel a flutter of excitement as you drive by the town that inspired a song that touches your soul so deeply.
You hear the iconic opening notes to “The Chain” again and get butterflies. You’re thinking about that night, you’re hoping you get up to the stage like last time. Hoping it will all be worth it. In the next several hours, you hear it again and again and again. By the seventh time the guitar riff begins, the entire car erupts into a fit of giggles.
Nothing goes as planned. The last mile to the venue takes nearly half an hour to creep through in the bumper to bumper traffic. Panicking, you give in and park the car in a McDonalds parking lot with several other concert goers, pray it doesn’t get towed, and start walking in your platform boots. You have twenty minutes. You run from entrance to entrance, trying to find will call. You finally find your spot on the floor. “You drove all the way from New York? We’ll take care of you. It will be worth it,” you’re told.
And it is. Because thirty minutes later you’re standing at the foot of the stage and “The Chain” is playing and you’re not giggling, but screaming, shouting excitedly “We did it! I can’t believe we did it!” as you jump up and down. Drunk Southern moms tell you excitedly how they flashed Lindsey Buckingham, how much you remind them of themselves when they were your age. They ask you if you can see okay, overwhelmingly sweet, and gladly swap spots to put you closer to Stevie and Christine (and, honestly, so they can be closer to Lindsey…).
You laugh and sing along and hold each other’s hands when your idol starts “Sisters of the Moon.” You did it. The sisters of the moon did it. Later, Stevie Nicks tells you to believe in yourself and follow your dreams and they surround you with hugs as you begin to tear up, inspired. It’s all right in front of Stevie. Inches away. You wonder if she sees how much those words affect people, how supportive three young girls can be of each other. You think how lucky you are to have found such good friends, to have experienced this together.
You are supposed to sleep on the car ride home. You all have to be at work in less than 10 hours, and there are at least seven to drive. But you’re a ball of energy. You tossed animal crackers on stage with Daughters of the Moon — a mad, but ambitious and clever idea — and it worked and you find out that she has been informed they were from you and you sit in stunned silence, every so often uttering “oh my god, we really did it.”
You get back to New Jersey two hours before you have to be in your Soho office, and you haven’t slept or eaten at all, but it was worth it. It was all worth it. Weekends like this are rare. Friends like this, even rarer.
You are supposed to be young and adventurous and foolish when you’re in your twenties. You’ll clean the mess up after. Typically, people your age party all night, get drunk, lose belongings in clubs and go home with strangers and get tattoos they’ll regret in the morning. Your preferred method of foolish is seeing a band you love, a group of people old enough to be your parents, for the sixth time in six months. You prefer to make memories. You can go out and party any time.
Krissy’s right. For certain things, things that you love, you only have so many chances. You have to take every one you can get. You won’t regret it.
This post originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.
Concert photo gallery here. Additional images and video here. Follow my 2014-2015 Fleetwood Mac groupie adventures here.
I wanted to write something eloquent and concise for everyone to sum up what is likely to be my final Fleetwood Mac concert of this tour. This isn’t quite either, but I’m still trying to gather my thoughts and it’s the best I can do.
A lot of people have been asking me how I’ve done it. How have I gone to so many shows (5!), and how have I gotten to the third row once, and to the front twice. A lot of is adopting a carpe diem attitude and credit card bills. A lot of it is accepting nosebleed seats, because just being in the same room is enough. A lot of it is luck — my Washington D.C. show and this past show in Newark were because my dear friends (Noel and Krissy) had extra tickets. Luck of knowing people who know how to get to the front. Luck of getting there yourself.
A lot of it is confidence, which I have never really have an abundance of, but I’ve found lately that I’ve been faking it much better. What can I say? I learned from Stevie: “When we walk into the room, we have to walk in with a big attitude. Which does not mean a snotty conceited attitude. But it means like we have to float in like goddesses, because that is how we want to be treated.”
When I blew past security last night with Krissy and Cathy, that’s exactly what I did. We had tickets in two different sections on the side, but we walked right down to the floor without looking back. I won’t go into detail on how we got to the front, because there is enough controversy surrounding this practice or “policy” as there is. What I will say is this: We got taken up to the front because we had confidence. We knew we belonged up there.
As far as the concert review goes, I really can’t delve deeply into it. I can’t be as objective as I wish I could be, because, frankly, it was overwhelming. I can say that, musically, two weeks ago at Madison Square Garden was better, though not much more so. Newark wasn’t bad, it was just different. Lindsey hammed it up more last night; “Gold Dust Woman,” though still a mind blowing experience, was not nearly as intense. “Tusk” dragged a little.
The hardest part of writing about last night is trying to explain how it was the most emotionally raw I have ever seen Fleetwood Mac, have ever seen any performers so close, actually. How it felt several times like unintentionally intruding on private moments. How it felt like I should apologize for invading their privacy, close the door, and creep away. And it’s hard to describe to anyone who wasn’t there or who hasn’t experienced a similar event.
Towards the beginning, something felt a little off. From my vantage point, it seemed like Stevie’s exuberance was a little phoned in, like their energy levels were dipping, but I brushed it off. I was at concerts in the fall that fell on the second or third day in a string of dates, concerts where the dynamic between Lindsey and Stevie was cold and distant, where it was too easy to tell they were mad. “They’re just tired,” I thought.
But during the acoustic set, things changed — fast. First, Stevie choked up during the introduction to “Landslide,” which was dedicated to Matthew Anderson, someone named Andrea (?), and Robin. Cause for emotion: check. But I remembered being there for her previous introduction to her late best friend and godson, and it just wasn’t the same. At the end, Krissy, who was nearer to her than I, leaned across the crowd and shouted: “She was crying. Did you see? She was crying.”
The tears continued into “Never Going Back Again.” By then I could see. They aren’t as clear in my low-res iPhone video, but you can hear it in her voice. The struggle to make it through. When it was over, she wiped her eyes and shook her head, her hair covering her face. She stood with her head down, turned away from the crowd, in front of Mick’s drum set as techs brought out the mini drum kit and everyone moved around her. No one consoled her, and she didn’t budge until the lights came up and “Over My Head” began.
The rest of the show went on with little pause for concern. Until the encores. Buckingham Nicks walked out hand in hand, the grip a little tighter than usual, as if one were clinging to the other for support. Suddenly, Lindsey pulled Stevie into a slow dance, which she quickly refuted. Things were definitely different, confusing, even.
“Silver Springs” was intense, to say the least. As it picked up, again, tears glistened on Stevie’s face as she buckled down and wailed into the microphone. Cathy and I literally held onto each other.
After the five of them rose from their bows, she gave Lindsey a knowing look, as if to say “I can’t.” He nodded understandably, and as soon as the applause died down, instead of her ritual “Christine has been gone for 16 years, thank you for bringing back our girl,” final speech, she — and everyone but Mick — bolted off stage.
As if the show wasn’t emotional enough, two girls approached me separately and told me they recognized me from here. They complimented my photos, thanked me for writing Daughters of the Moon, and told me how much it meant to them. This has never happened to me before. I may or may not have cried. (Hint: I definitely did.)
I’ll never say I’m never going back again for this leg, but if this is it for the On With The Show tour, I went out, not with a fizzle, but a bang.
It’s been 38 years since Fleetwood Mac’s iconic album Rumours was released. It was a runaway success, both critically and commercially. A few quick stats: it was the number one album for 31 weeks. It remains the tenth best-selling album worldwide. It has secured spots on so many greatest albums of all time lists that it would be impossible to recount them all here.
Most importantly, 38 years later, it’s still relevant. At number 157 on the iTunes top albums chart alone, Rumours ranks ahead of contemporary best-sellers like Beyonce and Taylor Swift.
What more could I possibly add to the conversation that hasn’t already been written? The volume of articles, essays, think pieces, interviews, and memoirs about the album over the past 38 years could fill a library. Really, what could I add?
I won’t wax philosophical about the sonic elements. I won’t gush my deepest appreciation for the songwriting. I won’t bore you with the overused “musical soap opera” analogies or talk about the drugs. That’s all been said — many times.
What I will leave you to think about is the feeling, the way music can capture you, the way it finds a spot in your soul and stays there. Sometimes it’s a forceful grab, but not always. Sometimes it’s a slow pull, a quiet seduction. Rumours has found a place in so many souls because it manages to do both.
Music does not stay relevant for 38 years, does not resonate with multiple generations, or fail to tire and bore you, simply because it sounds good. Of course, sound matters. Sound is important, but it goes deeper than that.
It’s how the music makes you feel. It’s how certain music articulates what is inside you in a way you aren’t capable of doing yourself; it’s how you are able to identify with the emotion behind the sound. Bill Clinton didn’t choose “Don’t Stop” as a presidential campaign song because it sounded good; he chose it because it invokes a feeling of confidence and hopefulness that is difficult to shake.
A great deal of the staying power of Rumours is in its sound, of course, but it is also in the human touches. It’s in the way tears burn in your eyes whenever you hear “Songbird,” the way anxiety and desperation claw at your insides during “The Chain.” Rumours still matters because after all these years, “Gold Dust Woman” still gives us chills and “Go Your Own Way” still sends a shock of both self pride and resentment through our nervous systems.
That is why we still listen to Rumours. Because Rumours is not just generic pop rock; it’s personal. Because Rumours captured the rare lightning strike of great sound and raw emotion. Because when we listen to Rumours, we don’t just listen to it. We feel it.
Forty years ago today, the face of rock and roll changed. They didn’t know it. We didn’t know it. But in one fell swoop, one phone call, history was made.
New Year’s Eve, 1974. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks join Fleetwood Mac. Up until then, they were a couple of California kids trying to make it as a musical duo (not to mention as a couple) with middling success. They had a critically acclaimed, but poorly selling, debut album in the can and promptly dropped by Polydor; its follow-up being scrapped together on spec studio time and high hopes. They were poor, tired, overworked.
They were talented – oh, were they talented. Nicks’s lyrics were poetic and introspective. Her voice so versatile, it could range from raspy to silky, powerful cries to childlike whispers, low to high all within the same song. Buckingham’s guitar playing – he is a self-taught guitarist with a finger picking technique unique to rock and roll – nearly knock a listener out. After all, it only took his solo in Buckingham Nicks’s “Frozen Love” to convince Mick Fleetwood that he was the next guitarist for Fleetwood Mac.
And they were hard working. The couple took a leap of faith, left their band Fritz, which had opened for legends like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, and moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles to pursue a shared dream. Together they wrote and recorded into the early, pre-dawn hours. By day, Nicks worked multiple jobs to pay the rent; Buckingham continued to hone their music. And yet. They had little to show for it.
Did they know? Did they know, truly, what the future held? Nicks frequently speaks of having premonitions, visions of the rock star she would become, but in her heart of hearts, as she waited tables and cleaned homes and found herself up against a six month make-it-or-go-back-to-school ultimatum, did she know?
Did she truly think that the two would become rock legends, not only together, but separately as well? Did Buckingham know, as he fiddled with his guitar, finger picking a new riff, that he would soon play an integral role in one of the best selling bands of all time?
What happened that New Year’s Eve, when Mick Fleetwood called and offered Buckingham a spot in the band? By 1974, Fleetwood Mac certainly was not the astronomical success that they were to become, but they had put out several prominent records with impressive former members like Peter Green and Bob Welch. What do you say when you pick up the phone and Mick Fleetwood is on the other end, offering you a job without so much as an audition?
Even more pressing is the issue of how the band pursued a guitarist and ended up gaining another singer. Nicks and Buckingham would come to form the tenth lineup of the band; Buckingham was their sixth guitarist. Had they taken just Buckingham, as intended, how would they have fared? What would have become of Nicks? What if, when Buckingham said “You’ve gotta take my girlfriend, too,” they said “Eh, no thanks.”? What if he turned down the offer outright? Would Buckingham Nicks II have been a success? Would the young couple have stayed together?
There are so many what ifs that it seems remarkable, serendipitous even, how the events played out. We can think about the sister lives of everyone involved, the could have beens and might have beens, the alternate routes that their lives could have taken that never were traveled. The parallel universes are endless enough to make our brains fuzzy, overwhelmed with the possibilities. We know which path was taken, how they fared on their journey, and the alternate reality makes no difference now. What matters is that it all started with Fleetwood Mac.
The majority will point to Rumours as the definitive Fleetwood Mac album (at least from this lineup), and how can they not? It was, after all, a runaway success: the number one album for 31 weeks, the tenth best-selling album worldwide, Rolling Stone’s 26th greatest album of all time, among many more accolades.
But it is important to acknowledge the pivotal role Fleetwood Mac, their first album together, played in establishing the band’s new identity. The addition was beneficial for both parties: Fleetwood Mac gained a duo with a pure American sound; Buckingham Nicks gained a British blues perspective and an indomitable rhythm section.
The new album together met the expectations associated with re-establishing themselves and then some. Each of the three unique songwriters – Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, and Stevie Nicks – has at least one iconic track on Fleetwood Mac, a cut that identifies who they are as people and as artists so intrinsically that it’s borderline astonishing that they all run together so naturally.
Mystical, metaphoric “Rhiannon” would come to represent Stevie Nicks not only in terms of songwriting, but also as a woman, while “Landslide” will forever cement Nicks as sensitive and vulnerable, yet resilient. The blistering “I’m So Afraid” is pure Lindsey Buckingham: brooding, intricate, complicated. Dialogues with Nicks, a common theme throughout his now decades-long career, had already begun with “Monday Morning.” And “Over My Head” is the literal, grounding complimentary piece from Christine McVie – exactly what she does best, rooting her lofty California counterparts with clear, simple pop writing.
And then there are those vocals. It’s clear that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’s voices were meant to sing together. They fold together so seamlessly; where does one end and the other begin? They warmly embrace each other, even when the people controlling them are at odds.
The addition of Christine McVie to harmonies was not like filling a missing piece, as is the case in many bands who bring in new talent. The sum is greater than the parts, yes, but the parts alone are pretty damn terrific.
Rather, it was a beautiful addition. The house Buckingham and Nicks built was already gorgeous; McVie’s voice was the deep, luscious pool in the backyard. To hear the three of them sing three part harmonies together on “Say You Love Me” or “World Turning” is bliss. It’s chemistry that you hear, plain and simple, authentic and raw – something that can’t be faked.
So what does it all mean? They may be celebrating their 40th anniversary with the 13th best-selling tour of 2014 (worldwide), but right now, Fleetwood Mac is at a crossroads, artistically.
The year saw the return of Christine McVie after a 16 year absence, but plans for a new (maybe final) album remain vague, though speculative explanations range from the troubling concern that they are currently without a label to supposed resistance on Nicks’s end to an over-eagerness to capitalize on quick cash by extending touring.
As we approach 2015 and commemorate 40 years of music, both the triumphs and tribulations, brought forth by these five artists, let’s remember their origins and the potential for the future.
Happy Anniversary, you crazy kids. Go show the world that your magic is still there.