Music is fairly unique among the arts because, as well as being one of the most abstract, it is also incredibly malleable. While the novelist might rewrite a passage, scrap an entire chapter or rejig a plotline, they are restrained by the linearity of her art form, the sense that events are happening in succession. A pop song, on the other hand, happens all at once. It doesn’t drip-feed but drenches us with emotion.
It’s possible to argue that a musician’s ability to connect with their audience relies on their ability to capture and distil a coherent sonic mood. It’s surely for this reason that so many artists immediately recognised the benefits of the overdubbing technique. It allowed groups like Fleetwood Mac to build that sonic mood gradually – to deliver an initial take and then use it as a skeleton track, reimagining its potential layer by layer. It’s a common technique that allows artists much more creative control, and judging from this first take of 1977’s ‘Go Your Own Way’, it was something of a godsend.
Written by Lindsey Buckingham as a message to Stevie Nicks, ‘Go Your Own Way’ from Fleetwood Mac’s classic album Rumours, describes the pair’s breakup in fairly unambiguous terms. “Packing up, shacking up is all you want to do,” Buckingham sings at one point, a line that Nicks urged him to edit, arguing that she’d never slept with anyone else while they were dating. It was certainly a message within a song,” Nicks told Q Magazine in 2009. And not a very nice one at that.”
The pair got to know each other while performing with the pre-Fleetwood mac band, Fritz. However, by the time they were asked to join the Mac, their relationship was already on the rocks. “We were breaking up when Fleetwood Mac asked us to join,” Nicks told Billboard. “We moved down from San Francisco to L.A. in 1972, and made Buckingham Nicks in 1973, and were having problems all through that.”
You can hear the resentment in Buckingham’s quivering initial vocal track. According to Mick Fleetwood, the guitarist didn’t have a solid idea of what the song would be when they first started recording. Thankfully, the more work the band put in, the more it revealed itself. “‘Go Your Own Way’s’ rhythm was a tom-tom structure that Lindsey demoed by hitting Kleenex boxes or something,” Fleetwood told Q. “I never quite got to grips with what he wanted, so the end result was my mutated interpretation. It became a major part of the song, a completely back-to-front approach that came, I’m ashamed to say, from capitalising on my own ineptness.”
You can check out the first take of ‘Go Your Own Way’ below if you haven’t already.