Cocaine, carnage and collapsing mental states are all constraints that by rights should preclude triumphant creativity, but somehow Fleetwood Mac conquered their many and varied daemons with Rumours and made a masterpiece not despite these fraught factors but in spite of them. The album is dripping with all those beleaguering bombardments, but the manic sound alchemically produced from the stymied stew of divorce and drug abuse is the perfect testimony that humans are hardwired for transcendence, and music is the proof.
William Saroyan might have written The Human Comedy in 1943, but Fleetwood Mac gave him a run for his money with a tragic Shakespearean twist on the old tale—the crux of which was a cocaine intake that would require a mule as big as Nelly the elephant after filming the animal version of Super Size Me to cross state lines. While, for the most part, this was the icing on the cake of a living hell, as any good tragedy decrees, even comedy can come from the darkest holes.
Enter the Sausalito studio producers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut, holding up the sober end of the creative spectrum. “During the early part of the sessions in Sausalito, Ken and I hadn’t quite got our foot in just yet, we’d just met everybody,” Dushut recalled. “I knew Stevie and Lindsey quite well, but I didn’t know the rest of them. And Ken conceived of this joke, a certain bag that they were keeping in the control room that we had control over while they were playing, and they asked for it at some point.”
At which point Caillat takes over the story adding: “They were always asking for it! So, everybody is in their iso-booth, and we knew sooner or later somebody was going to say, ‘Can you bring that bag out?’ So, I think we’d been thinking about it for a couple and days, and we decided to set up a duplicate bag.”
The fake flour bag plan was afoot: “We put it on the console, and I remember I rolled the bag up the wrong way purposefully so that when I picked it up, I was actually holding the bottom of the bag. So, I walked out with it in my hand, and I said, ‘Here you guys go,’ and I let my hand go so that the bag would unroll, and everything started falling out. They’re all there strapped in speechless. Then screaming, ‘Ken, Ken, stop, stop, what are you doing!’”
The studio was already a manic place but now a melee of amazement, agony and anger ensued. “Of course, Ken plays the role perfectly and looks more like an oaf, because as they start to yell at him he’s getting more excited, ‘What? What?’ and this stuff is flying all over the place, and they’re panicking, and they’re starting to get genuinely mad,” Dashut comically recalls.
With a slurry of music’s finest wide-eyed talents turning from rabbits in the headlights to rabid beasts, in a paradigm of the hellish studio energy, Dasgut struggled to keep it together. “I think at that point I started roaring with laughter in the control room, I couldn’t hold it any longer, and at that point, they released it was a joke. But I think Fleetwood was actually getting a little upset there for a minute, I remember him being not so pleased.”
“John was ready to dive right over the console,” Caillat finally adds. It is a mark of the talent of the band and the odd twisted chemistry that somehow a masterpiece was borne from this wild mania. I suppose all is well that ends well?