It’s the chain that keeps us together, the – er – thinking about tomorrow that doesn’t stop, and though we’ve been down one time, been down two times, we keep on going back there. Almost four decades on and ‘Rumours’, this paragon of West Coast FM dream-pop, still exerts a pull, both on the sort of young, hip band that raided the Mac oeuvre for last year’s ‘Just Tell Me That You Want Me’ compilation and you, you the punter who hared out and bought the deluxe 35th anniversary reissue.
So naturally you’ll be familiar with the album, but I’m going to take a flier and hope you might not know these 20 facts. Not completely anyway.
1. Let’s start with the numbers. To date(-ish), the Mac’s unit-shifting megabeast has gone 11 times platinum in the UK, and a frankly excessive 20 times platinum in the States. Its accumulated global sales have now zoomed past 40-bleedin’-million copies.
2. It totted up 31 weeks (not all at once – they’re not Bryan Adams) at No.1 in the US album charts. In the UK, it managed one. A paltry one. Take a long hard look at yourselves.
3. The singles did the business too. Not so much over here, where ‘Go Your Own Way’, ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Dreams’ reached #38, 32 and 24 respectively, but certainly in the States where all three and ‘You Make Loving Fun’ went top three, and ‘Dreams’ broke through the million barrier at No.1.
4. A beautiful, peerlessly accessible record, ‘Rumours’ was of course mired in strife. You’ll know all about Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks falling apart in acrimony and Christine McVie leaving husband John for a lighting director while Mick Fleetwood picked up the pieces (which mainly involved jumping in bed with Nicks). But Fleetwood was also splitting with his wife Jenny Boyd, the sister of Pattie – subject of The Beatles’ ‘Something’ and later Derek And The Dominos’ ‘Layla’ as Eric Clapton wooed her away from husband George Harrison. The 70s, eh?
5. Opening track ‘Second Hand News’ – which finds Buckingham damaged after the shenanigans with Nicks and in no mood to commit elsewhere – was an attempt to emulate the rickety, funky rhythm of the Bee Gees’ ‘Jive Talkin”, released a couple of years earlier, itself inspired by the Gibbs’ car trundling over a bridge in Miami.
6. The balls proudly hanging between Fleetwood’s legs on the cover were already a staple of his stage get-up and were in fact toilet chains half-inched from a club the ‘Mac played in their formative years.
7. ‘I Don’t Want To Know’ had originally been worked up by Buckingham Nicks, the duo made up of, well, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks before they parachuted in to save Fleetwood Mac from bluesy obscurity in the mid 70s.
8. Cyndi Lauper recorded a version of ‘You Make Loving Fun’ in 1977, as a soundalike for radio when the original version proved too expensive for stations to swallow.
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9. Stevie Nicks wasn’t wild about ‘Go Your Own Way”s lyrical content. You know, “shacking up is all you wanna do” and all that. She thought it was “angry, nasty and extremely disrespectful”. Language she normally reserves for Nicki Minaj.
10. Mick Fleetwood took all the splits and affairs terribly seriously, referring to the mayhem as an “emotional hiccup” and a “classic intergalactic mess”.
11. In a towering display of respect for the integrity of the finished album, Warner Bros initially released the cassette version with opener ‘Second Hand News’ swapping places with middle-of-side-two track ‘I Don’t Want To Know’.
12. ‘The Chain’ was the theme tune for the BBC’s Grand Prix coverage, which began in earnest in 1978. Oh, you knew that already. When the BBC won back the rights to Formula One in 2009 after more than a decade without, popular opinion saw the theme reinstated. You knew that too. OK, following its reinstatement in 2009 the track reached No.94 in the chart. There.
13. The album’s original, working title was ‘Yesterday’s Gone’, pilfered from ‘Don’t Stop”s chorus.
14. On closing track ‘Gold Dust Woman’ Buckingham plays a Dobro. You can see one of these ornate resonator guitars on the cover of Dire Straits’ ‘Brothers In Arms’.
15. Co-producer Ken Caillat describes Buckingham during the ‘Rumours’ sessions as “a nervous Nellie… He’d come in in the morning, always rubbing his hands together. He kept a big tape box full of pot, and he was always rolling a joint.”
16. Here’s one that a few current artists could take to heart: ‘Rumours’ was designed as a “no filler” product, where every track could hold its own as a single.
17. Christine McVie’s ‘Songbird’ – later covered by Eva Cassidy – was recorded away from the studio at the University of California’s Zellerbach Auditorium, giving it its distinctive, soft distance.
18. In the UK, ‘Rumours’ gave up the No.1 spot to ‘The Album’ by ABBA, another band not entirely unfamiliar with slightly uncomfortable internal tension.
19. A year of painstaking recording – including heaps of overdubs, with few songs featuring instruments recorded aside one another – saw the release pushed back from its original date of September 1976 and an entire sold-out tour canned.
20. Christine McVie wrote ‘Oh Daddy’ about Fleetwood, the daddy of the band. The seemingly backhanded compliment that “everything you do is just alright” is supposed to acknowledge he was always right. Apart from taking that BRITs gig, presumably.