'Rumours': How Fleetwood Mac created a masterpiece despite heartbreaking splits and fights

4 February 2022, 11:50

Fleetwood Mac released Rumours in 1977
Fleetwood Mac released Rumours in 1977. Picture: Alamy

By Tom Eames

Fleetwood Mac have one of the most fascinating band histories of all time, with various lineup changes, breakups, and reunions that is still going on to this day.

In 1977, Fleetwood Mac released their latest album Rumours, which went on to become one of the world's best-selling and best-loved LPs of all time.

But at the time, no-one making the band would have thought they could have even have completed the album, let alone create what would turn out to be masterpiece.

Here is the story behind a tumultuous but utterly brilliant album.

  1. Pre-Rumours: Turmoil aplenty

    Fleetwood Mac
    Fleetwood Mac. Picture: Getty

    Before Rumours, Fleetwood Mac had released their 10th, self-titled, album.

    This had been the first album with vocal duo - and couple - Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who had joined original members Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, and his wife Christine McVie, who had joined a few years previously.

    After six months of constant touring, the McVies divorced, ending their eight years of marriage. The couple had stopped talking to each other, and only discussed musical matters at band meetings.

    Buckingham and Nicks were also having an on/off relationship, leading to various fights and arguments. The couple would only stop fighting when they worked on songs together.

    Mick Fleetwood also faced domestic problems of his own, after discovering that his wife Jenny, the mother of his two children, had had an affair with his best friend.

    This also led to the press publishing inaccurate stories about their private lives. Christine McVie was reported to have been in the hospital with a serious illness, while Buckingham and Nicks were named as parents of Fleetwood's daughter Lucy, after being photographed with her.

    The press also wrote claimed there would be a return of original Fleetwood Mac members Peter Green, Danny Kirwan, and Jeremy Spencer for a 10th anniversary tour.

    Despite all this, the band carried on, and didn't have time to deal with their separations before working on the next album.

  2. Recording Rumours: "Trauma"

    Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks
    Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Picture: Getty

    As the band continued recording the album in the studio, their new romantic relationships that formed after various separations started to have a negative effect.

    The group did not meet or socialise working at the Record Plant studios.

    With drugs being readily available in the area they were recording, and with an open budget, the band and the engineers began acting rather self-indulgent to say the least.

    Regular sleepless nights and extensive use of cocaine would get in the way of much of the album's production.

    L-R Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood
    L-R Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood. Picture: Getty

    Record Plant co-owner Chris Stone later said: "The band would come in at 7 at night, have a big feast, party till 1 or 2 in the morning, and then when they were so whacked-out they couldn't do anything, they'd start recording".

    Stevie Nicks has since said that Fleetwood Mac made the best music when they were in the worst moods, while Buckingham said that the tension helped the recording process, leading to "the whole being more than the sum of the parts".

    Christine McVie said: "Trauma, Trau-ma. The sessions were like a cocktail party every night—people everywhere. We ended up staying in these weird hospital rooms ... and of course John and me were not exactly the best of friends."

  3. Track-by-track: What did the songs mean?

    1. 'Second Hand News'

    Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

    About: The romantic breakup of Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. The song was inspired by the redemption Buckingham had in other women after their failed relationship. He sings that while he does not trust his lover and cannot live with her, he cannot live without her either.

    2. 'Dreams'

    Written by: Stevie Nicks

    About: Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham's relationship. The line, "Players only love you when they're playing," was directed at Buckingham. Stevie was not pleased when he wrote 'Go Your Own Way' about her. "It was the fairy and the gnome. I was trying to be all philosophical. And he was just mad," she later told Q.

    3. 'Never Going Back Again'

    Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

    About: Buckingham later said it was written after he had started a rebound relationship with another woman. He described it as a "miniature perception of things, and looks at a desire not to repeat previous mistakes.

    4. 'Don't Stop'

    Written by: Christine McVie

    About: Christine McVie's feelings after her separation from John McVie, after eight years of marriage. She said: "'Don't Stop' was just a feeling. It just seemed to be a pleasant revelation to have that 'yesterday's gone'. It might have, I guess, been directed more toward John, but I'm just definitely not a pessimist."

    5. 'Go Your Own Way'

    Written by: Lindsey Buckingham

    About: Written as a response to his breakup with Stevie Nicks: "I was completely devastated when she took off. And yet I had to make hits for her. I had to do a lot of things for her that I really didn't want to do. And yet I did them. So on one level I was a complete professional in rising above that, but there was a lot of pent-up frustration and anger towards Stevie in me for many years."

    6. 'Songbird'

    Written by: Christine McVie

    About: The self-sacrifice of love. Christine McVie said that she often prefers to write songs from another person's point of view rather than her own: "It doesn't really relate to anybody in particular; it relates to everybody. A lot of people play it at their weddings or at bar mitzvahs or at their dog's funeral. It's universal. It's about you and nobody else. It's about you and everybody else. That's how I like to write songs."

    7. 'The Chain'

    Written by: Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie

    About: Stevie Nicks wrote much of the song's lyrics about her former relationship with Lindsey Buckingham. However, the song was actually a track was used elements of various songs spliced together, making it a rare song written by all five members.

    8. 'You Make Loving Fun'

    Written by: Christine McVie

    About: Inspired by an affair Christine McVie had with the band's lighting director, Curry Grant. "To avoid flare-ups", she told her then-husband John McVie that the song was actually about her dog.

    9. 'I Don't Want to Know'

    Written by: Stevie Nicks

    About: While about the end of a romantic relationship, the song was written long before the breakup of Nicks and Buckingham.

    10. 'Oh Daddy'

    Written by: Christine McVie

    About: Christine McVie wrote this for the band's drummer, Mick Fleetwood. At the time, he was the only father in the band, with two daughters. However, both Lindsey Buckingham's former girlfriend Carol Ann Harris and Stevie Nicks' biographer Zoe Howe have claimed that the song was originally written for the lighting director, who McVie had been dating.

    11. 'Gold Dust Woman'

    Written by: Stevie Nicks

    About: Stevie Nicks confirmed that "gold dust" was a metaphor for cocaine: "Everybody was doing a little bit - you know, we never bought it or anything, it was just around. And I really imagined that it could overtake everything, never thinking a million years that it would overtake me. I must have met a couple of people that I thought did too much coke and I must have been impressed by that. Because I made it into a whole story."