Fleetwood Mac are a band synonymous with in-fighting and sexual mischievousness, so much so, that the mere mention of the band often raises eyebrows as well as heartbeats. It’s a synergy that was largely founded in their 1977 LP Rumours and the catastrophes that surrounded but never permeated it The album is not only a commercial success unlike any other (45 million copies sold and growing every year) but a masterpiece born out of chaos.
At the time of recording the band couldn’t have been further apart in their personal relationships. The two couples of the group, John and Christine McVie as well as Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, were both crumbling before their very eyes while Mick Fleetwood was also going through a divorce.
Things at Camp Fleetwood were far from good but they still needed to deliver a record for their label. They complied and delivered one of the definitive albums of the entire century.
This holistic heartbreak coupled with the group’s insatiable appetite for cocaine meant that the recording process would go down in history as one of the most dysfunctional in rock and roll folklore. It makes the parallel tone of the record feel all the more amazing as the group wrap the dark truth in a sun-shining sonic duvet, protecting it from the world.
It is a record that is chock full of personal songs, barbed attacks at fellow bandmembers, and anthemic sing-your-heart-out belters. Below we rank the songs of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours from worst to best,
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours ranked from worst to best:
11. ‘I Don’t Want To Know’
A blast from the past as this country-rock anthem’s birthplace can be charted to Nicks’ early career. Written in 1974, before the singer joined the band, it was a track that Nicks didn’t want to be included on Rumours, but the band insisted. Perhaps they picked up on the song’s acceptance of wandering eyes or perhaps it was Nicks’ belting vocal that convinced them.
The song was originally set to be bumped for ‘Silver Springs’ but Mick Fleetwood decided otherwise. Nicks told the BBC in 1991: “Before I started to get upset about ‘Silver Springs,’ I said, ‘What other song?’ And he said, ‘A song called I Don’t Want To Know.’ And I said, ‘But I don’t want that song on this record.’ And he said, ‘Well, then don’t sing it.’And then I started to scream bloody murder and probably said every horribly mean thing that you could possibly say to another human being, and walked back in the studio completely flipped out. I said, ‘Well, I’m not gonna sing ‘I Don’t Want To Know.’ I am one-fifth of this band.’ And they said, ”You can either (a) take a hike or (b) you better go out there and sing ‘I Don’t Want To Know’ or you’re only gonna have two songs on the record.’ And so, basically, with a gun to my head, I went out and sang ‘I Don’t Want To Know.'”
10. ‘Never Going Back Again’
Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham’s songwriting is so widely applauded that it often overshadows his wonderful ability with the guitar. Here, Buckingham not only gets to do his best work, offering a technicality and musical prowess often overlooked but gets to go back in time as he works his way up and down the fretboard in a tribute to yesteryear.
The song was apparently inspired by a woman Buckingham had met on the road, shortly after breaking up with Nicks. Recording assistant Cris Morris revealed the song took a long time to record: “It was Lindsey’s pet project, just two guitar tracks but he did it over and over again. In the end, his vocal didn’t quite match the guitar tracks so we had to slow them down a little.”
9. ‘Oh Daddy’
This one is certainly from this side of the pond. Christine McVie does some of her best work as she offers up a deeply emotional cut in ‘Oh Daddy’. Dark and unfiltered the track eventually brightens into an Americana anthem.
It’s the kind of song that could be heard across the collective airwaves of the seventies, Charming, golden and infused with America’s finest, it’s a dream but not quite the ultimate Fleetwood anthem. The “Daddy” in question is suggested as being Mick Fleetwood, as he became instrumental in ensuring the band remained together. Rumours co-producer Richard Dashut told Q: “Defenses were wearing thin and they were quick to open up their feelings. Instead of going to friends to talk it out, their feelings were vented through their music: the album was about the only thing they had left.”
8. ‘Second Hand News’
The opening notes of one of the best selling albums ever will always last long in the memories of its audience. Rumours is no different as ‘Second Hand News’ and Buckingham’s chugging guitar set the pace for the album ahead.
It’s another shining example of a jaunty and joy-filled tune hiding the personal loss of another heartening relationship. It’s the kind of song that Fleetwood Mac created in their sleep and it slides under the radar as one of the record’s better anthems. Originally titled ‘Strummer’, Buckingham was inspired by the Bee Gees recent hit ‘Jive Talkin’ and completely changed the arrangement to be more upbeat.
A simply gorgeous track is next up from Christine McVie as she delicately sings about her love for another. The awkward moment of comes when you remember that she was singing this about a man other than her recently divorced husband, who just so happens to be playing bass across from you.
McVie avoids being too sloppy, and instead, nails the juxtaposing feeling of the loneliness of love. It’s another moment on which we get to see behind the curtain of Fleetwood Mac. It not only provides McVie with one of the most crystalline moments on the entire album, as she speaks of the sacrifice of true love but also united the group. The songwriter often notes this song as the track that kept the entire band together.
6. ‘You Make Loving Fun’
Another McVie triumph sees the funky notes of ‘You Make Loving Fun’ take the next spot. An unstoppably infectious groove is only trumped by Buckingham’s expert use of the guitar. It’s a mark of the band’s undying best quality—their converging talents go together with sumptuous ease. The track represents some of McVie’s finest work, which, considering she assumed her songwriting days were over, is quite some feat. “I thought I was drying up,” McVie told Q. “I was practically panicking because every time I sat down at a piano, nothing came out. Then, one day in Sausalito, I just sat down and wrote in the studio, and the four-and-a-half songs of mine on the album are a result of that.”
Songs like this are what Rumours is all about. Though not the most famous song on the LP, far from it, in fact, the song is still a robust, romantic and altogether rhythmic encounter that can transport you from your stereo to a brand new plain.
5. ‘The Chain’
A patchwork song built out of several different pieces from different members of the band, the track remains one of the most unifying moments on the album. Moving effortlessly across the seventies spectrum the group show their mettle on this one and announce themselves as patrons of music in every form.
“‘The Chain’ basically came out of a jam,” recalled Mick Fleetwood of the song’s composition. “That song was put together as distinct from someone literally sitting down and writing a song. It was very much collectively a band composition. The riff is John McVie’s contribution – a major contribution. Because that bassline is still being played on British TV in the car-racing series to this day. The Grand Prix thing. But it was really something that just came out of us playing in the studio. Originally we had no words to it. And it really only became a song when Stevie wrote some. She walked in one day and said, ‘I’ve written some words that might be good for that thing you were doing in the studio the other day.’ So it was put together.”
4. ‘Gold Dust Woman’
There’s no doubt that Stevie Nicks and the rest of Fleetwood Mac soon became monster cocaine snorters. The group wrote most of the acclaimed album Rumours while snorting huge amounts of the drug. At this stage, before her snorting ended up burning a huge hole in her nose, Nicks was still enraptured by the possibilities the song offered.
‘Gold Dust Woman’, which featured on the aforementioned record, sees Nicks describe the suit of armour the drug provided her. The potential cocaine offered her as a songwriter seemed huge for NIcks, and this perception would almost end up costing her her life. Mick Fleetwood distinctly remembers the image of Nicks writing the song, “hunched over in a chair, alternately choosing from her supply of tissues, a Vicks inhaler, a box of lozenges for her sore throat and a bottle of mineral water.”
Producer Cris Morris explained how the song was a perfect reflection of the band: “Recording ‘Gold Dust Woman’ was one of the great moments because Stevie was very passionate about getting that vocal right. It seemed like it was directed straight at Lindsey and she was letting it all out. She worked right through the night on it, and finally did it after loads of takes. The wailing, the animal sounds and the breaking glass were all added later. Five or six months into it, once John had got his parts down, Lindsey spent weeks in the studio adding guitar parts, and that’s what really gave the album its texture.”
While not a direct attack on his character, this track was squarely pointed at Nicks’ former boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham and written in response to Buckingham’s own single ‘Go Your Own Way’. A Nicks composition sees a simple rhythm from Fleetwood and McVie is flecked with Buckingham’s smooth guitar. It’s another testament to the group’s professionalism that Buckingham was so happy to take this song to another level.
All of that adds extra weight to Nicks’ lyrics, hinting that the grass may not always be greener on the other side for Buckingham. “Thunder only happens when it’s raining / Players only love you when they’re playing” It is the very lifeblood on which this album propels itself to the top.
Nicks recalled of the track to Q in 2009: “I remember the night I wrote ‘Dreams.’ I walked in and handed a cassette of the song to Lindsey. It was a rough take, just me singing solo and playing piano. Even though he was mad with me at the time, Lindsey played it and then looked up at me and smiled. What was going on between us was sad. We were couples who couldn’t make it through. But, as musicians, we still respected each other — and we got some brilliant songs out of it.”
2. ‘Don’t Stop’
One of the most uplifting numbers on the record, Christine McVie turns the idea of moving on and getting on with your life (assumingly after a divorce?) into an undeniable toe-tapper. For a while, John McVie didn’t [pick up the references to their relationship within the song: “I never put that together. I’ve been playing it for years and it wasn’t until somebody told me, ‘Chris wrote that about you.’ Oh really?”
Built on Fleetwood’s driving percussion and McVie’s bar-pleasing piano the track is a kaleidoscopic view of the future we can all get behind. It’s also one of those songs that quietly confirms just how brilliant Fleetwood Mac are as a band.
1. ‘Go Your Own Way’
Okay, okay. You can all groan all at once. Of course, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours’ best song is the Lindsey Buckingham penned arrow with Stevie Nicks’ name on. Nicks said of the track in 2009: “It was certainly a message within a song. And not a very nice one at that.”
Speaking later about the song, nicks reflected on the track: “‘Dreams’ and ‘Go Your Own Way’ are what I call the ‘twin songs.’ They’re the same song written by two people about the same relationship.” While Fleetwood’s drumming is impeccable and the song’s subject matter is honest and raw, it is Lindsey Buckingham’s incredible vocal that takes this song over the edge.
Nick was apparently very hurt by the song’s claim “Packing up/Shacking up is all you want to do” but even that couldn’t stop her from belting out the backing vocals on this American rock radio gold. It’s hard to ignore the power of this track and when you hear it in the context of the album, it quickly anoints itself as the ruler of Rumours.
Though ‘Go Your Own Way’ is an undeniable bop, one could make an argument for any of the album’s songs reaching the top of the pile — that’s a testament to the sheer quality of Rumours.