Fleetwood Mac: The Elements Of Rumours
It's one of the most famous albums in the world, and there were wild stories of hedonism and emotional strife behind its recording. These are the elements of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.
By the recording of Rumours, the band were riding high on commercial success but divided by emotional turmoil. On-off lovers Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were famously acrimonious, and Christine McVie was leaving husband John for a lighting designer, after eight years of marriage. Mick Fleetwood tried to glue together the jigsaw pieces, but ended up in bed with Nicks, after wife Jenny was revealed to be having an affair with his best friend.
Although most of the album was recorded in a wooden shack with few windows in Sausalito, California, the group split up their living arrangements, with Christine McVie and Nicks living on the seafront and the men in the hills. They rarely socialised outside of making the record and allegedly took advantage of the hippy-lead drugs culture in Sausalito at the time: 'sleepless nights and extensive use of cocaine marked much of the album's production', it's claimed, helped by an open-ended budget.
Stevie Nicks stated that the Mac prepared their best work in their worst state. Buckingham stated that the tensions between the band members resulted in 'the whole being more than the sum of its parts'. Vocal harmonies were delicately arranged, and Buckingham never lost his knack for making Nicks' lyric-lead songs sound beautiful, although it was bittersweet.
After two months of hedonistic and turbulent music-making, the band felt they had tapes that were ready. Christine McVie and Nicks promptly left the studio to the men to do their post-production. However, a near-tragedy struck when the tapes were used so much in these sessions they wore out. The band's sold-out 1976 tour was cancelled so that they could concentrate on getting the album finished and a specialist expert called in to restore the tapes. All teetered on a knife's edge.
Through a painstaking process involving a vari-speed oscillator (no, we don't know what it is either) the specialist was able to rectify the tapes. The band gave the final polishes to the record which they wanted to have 'no filler', so that each track was a potential single. When they listened to the complete sound they had created, a certain potency crept into the room.
John McVie suggested the title 'rumours' as a reflection that so much of the record's material was written by the band about each other. It was released on 4 February 1977, about a year after the band first started recording. To date, 'Rumours' has sold 40 million copies worldwide and 440 weeks in the UK charts. It may have cost each member of the band personally, but nothing grabs the public more than emotional truth.