Fleetwood Mac are a band who found themselves in the unique position whereby their chief songwriters each had a muse, tormentor and collaborator all rolled into one within the same studio. Far from precluding productivity, this mixed-up milieu of emotional mayhem spawned some of the greatest pop-rock songs that the world has ever heard.
In 1975, Buckingham and Nicks joined the group, and the band signified a rebirth by on their 11th album by self-titling their first album as the eponymous five-piece (now including Buckingham and Nicks). Buoyed by the success of that record, they returned to the studio in 1977, only this time the touring had taken a hefty toll.
When it came to recording Rumours in 1977, the band were well and truly docked in tempestuous bays. It would have seemed like a comedic parody of a rock band in the studio if it wasn’t sadly tinged with the hue of tragedy.
John and Christine McVie were in the midst of a mutually self-destructive divorce and took to the secluded Sausalito studio in a sort of comatose stupor, the symptoms of which pertained to denying each other’s existence unless it involved simple uncommunicative utterances, like ‘what key are you in John?’. Buckingham and Nicks had previously been so close that they seemed to exist as a single entity. So much so that their break-up was like splitting an atom along with the volatile reaction that ensues. Meanwhile, poor old sticksmith Mick Fleetwood was trying to hold this fragile band of despairing brethren together, whilst also coming to terms with the fact that his wife had left him for his best friend.
However, from that hellfire came some gilded pieces of pop perfection that proves a short cut to creative prosperity is a very messy break-up. Although it has to be said that not all the songs they penned about one another are documents of love and hates tug-of-war, some are uprooted from far more stable soil. As Lindsay Buckingham once said himself, the beauty of a lot of Fleetwood Mac songs was that they were infused with the visceral edge of the soap opera surrounding them.
Here, we’re taking a look at ten of the best and the stories behind them (and yes, of course, it’s Rumours heavy).
The 10 best Fleetwood Mac songs written about each other:
10. ‘Silver Springs’
The Rumours period proved to be so much of a purple patch for songs about love and hate that some tracks were forced off the album by logistics alone. Back in the day was that a standard album was limited to around 45 minutes of audio. That was simply all you could fit on a standard 12 inches worth of vinyl, thus unless the record label was willing to foot the sizable bill of a double-album, thus ‘Silver Springs’ tragically ended up on the cutting room floor. As the album’s co-producer Richard Dashut once said, “The best song that never made it to a record album”.
The song itself is yet another silver lining to the sad Nick / Buckingham break-up. “I’ll follow you down till the sound of my voice will haunt you.” In 2009, she told Rolling Stone: “It was me realising that Lindsey was going to haunt me for the rest of my life, and he has.”
9. ‘What Makes You Think You’re the One?’
It’s fair to say that this song is yelled by Buckingham more so than conventionally sung, which lends a particularly caustic edge to the line, “What makes you think I’m the one who will love you forever? Everything you do has been done and it won’t last forever.”
It’s a fairly blunt way to tell your ex, who is usually standing within ten metres of you at all times, that she’s about as indispensable to you as a sneeze.
With a fiery lyric and a soaring riff, he makes it pretty clear that he won’t be a shoulder to cry on, namely because he couldn’t give a shit anymore, which is betrayed as a paradox by his raging delivery.
8. ‘Oh Daddy’
In a brief reprieve from the slew of break-up beefs, backstabbing’s and let’s be friends again odes, we can focus on a simple stirring song that stands as a eulogy to the band’s sticksmith and guiding hand in the storm, Mick Fleetwood.
Amidst the whirlwind turmoil of Rumours, Mick was a steadying influence and the very fact that despite everything this record exists is a testimony, not just to the strength of the five musicians in question, the defiant belligerence of art or the power of the album itself, but seemingly the wild yet nevertheless good-hearted glue of the groups guiding ‘Daddy’, Mick Fleetwood.
Christine McVie wrote the song during her divorce John, about the calming influence of Mick. It says a lot about the band, at that period, that the self-professed out of control partier was the group’s steady head.
The lingering love between Buckingham and Nicks exists only in sit-coms. The tricky thing for Nicks was that she knew her and Buckingham had a creative spark that could take her songs to the next level.
‘Angel’ seems to encapsulate that and plays on the fact that the creative spark and the flame they still shelter for each other, were one and the same.
The sweet song is summed up in a verse that tells the story of working with an old flame, that secretly still burns, “I still look up when you walk in the room / I’ve the same wide eyes, now they tell the story / I try not to reach out / when you turn ’round and you say hello / And we both pretend, no great pretender.”
6. ‘Say Goodbye’
‘Say Goodbye’ appeared on the 2003 record Say You Will, the final piece in the band’s discography to date. Usually, these car-crash cash-ins are a waste of everybody’s time, but with Fleetwood Mac, there’s simply too much talent and adeptness at handling tricky situations that triumph ensued, particularly with this Buckingham guitar masterpiece.
It is a track that Buckingham was hoping to complete a long time before it was ever put to an album, and in that time, it matured, mellowed and became more measured.
By this stage, he was married and had three kids and it was finally time to croon out the adage ‘we can still be friends’ but this time with sincerity. The twisted backstory to this song imbues it a bittersweet gut-punch of emotion.
5. ‘Man of The World’
Mick Fleetwood has made it clear that without Peter Green, there would be no Fleetwood Mac. The blues-rock guitar virtuoso is one of the most mythologised men in rock ‘n’ roll, but the short truth of the story is that he was one of the greatest guitarists of all time who struggled with the hedonism of the scene.
Green wrote this song about how he achieved everything he wanted to with a set of his good old pals, but despite loving his bandmates and all the good times he was having, he still felt incomplete.
By his usual blistering 12-bar standards the song is tender and mellowed, and his rare spaced-out strumming lends it a heart-wrenching sincerity. Despite the melancholy overture, the song is still equal parts an ode to his friends and good times.
4. ‘Go Your Own Way’
If Buckingham was a bit more willing to excuse the French, this track might well have been called “fuck right off”. It is a full hammer-blow heartfelt fury, and it has only one target, the target being the woman who lends fantastic backing vocals to the bullet with her name on it.
“Packing up/Shacking up is all you want to do” is the line that sliced Nicks the cleanest with its tinge of domesticity, but let’s face it, hardly any of the couplets are glowing.
The song itself lives and breathes and the firecracker rage behind it. Somehow the craft of the band gilded this ‘fist-shaped hole in the wall’ of a song into a piece of playlist gold.
Although ostensibly about a father and daughter, Nicks has often said in interviews that this song has overtones of her feelings toward Buckingham. Nicks had penned this track pre-Fleetwood Mac, a time when the couple had each other and very little else. Buckingham took a payday touring with Don Everly and prior to departing he dropped Nicks off to spend three months on her own in the “snow-covered hills” of Aspen.
The resulting piece of music is a thing of introspective beauty that captures something deeply spiritual. The star tackles independence and the isolated feeling of those early mid-twenty years, with profound poetry and a poignant melody to boot.
“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing ’cause I’ve built my life around you / But time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I’m getting older too,” is a simply gorgeous lyric.
2. ‘The Chain’
‘The Chain’ represents a celebratory touchstone for the band on a personal level and as an audience, we get to bask in the orgiastic glow. Fittingly, this track is credited to all five members as songwriters and it stands as an embodiment of unity. Despite everything we have been through “you will never break the chain.”
Despite the prodigious individual talent within the band, when its eponymous five-piece come together some sort of magical alchemy is crafted within the mayhem and this song perfectly crystalises it.
Without Buckingham’s guitar work, John McVie’s iconic bassline would not find a home, the harmonies and so on…and so on… They wrote this one together, about each other, and it all comes together in a trademark piece of demented perfection.
‘Dreams’ is the perfect tableau for Fleetwood Mac’s existence. Picture if you will, the moment the three-part vocals had to be recorded: in a silent, darkened, studio room stood Stevie, Christine and Lindsey huddled inches apart around the same microphone and pouring their heartaches into it, no doubt in that very moment the heartache was being added to – frankly, it’s hard to imagine a performance under any more emotional duress.
And yet, it is that very vulnerability combined with the cathartic so-screw-it liberation of great rock music that lends ‘Dreams’ its vibrant and emotive immediacy.
‘Dreams’ is perhaps too catchy and too easily sung-along to be considered the peak of heart-breaking music; in fact, it is even played at weddings by less lyrically scrupulous DJ’s. However, the story behind it is one that doesn’t get much more tragic this side of Orpheus.
Written by Nicks (on Sly Stones piano) on a particularly bleak and lonely sounding evening, she knew she had written a gem. She was also aware that the barebones song she had written could only be elevated by the same man she painstakingly wrote it about.
Likewise, Buckingham could be under no illusions that the song itself was about him. The result encapsulates everything that was happening — all the wrung-out heartache, the comic silver-lining of tragedy – and in its own mad way, it is a total expression of love.