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(Credit: Fleetwood Mac)

Music

Is it time to accept that Fleetwood Mac album 'Rumours' isn't as great as you remember?

Fleetwood Mac is a band known as much for their in-fighting and sexual mischief as they are the endless classics they’ve released over their long career. Rock and roll’s resident warring dynasty, the tales about Fleetwood Mac are in abundance, and they can be as comical as they can be heartbreaking, such is the nature of one of the biggest bands of all time. 

Undoubtedly, their notoriety and excellence were really founded upon their celebrated 1977 record, Rumours. The period was marked by the fraught interpersonal relationships between the band members, and this only served to instil the album with a pulp that not many records can claim to do, similar in a way to The Beatles’ final opus, Let It Be, but going far beyond that. Rumours was a triumph, and the way in which it defied the odds to become a commercial juggernaut is perhaps the best indicator that classic records can be borne of chaos. 

At the time of recording, the band were as far apart as possible in regards to their personal relationships. The two couples, John and Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, were falling apart spectacularly. Added to this, Mick Fleetwood was worn out by acting as counsellor to both relationships, as well as dealing with an emotionally draining divorce of his own.

Things were far from great for the group, but under legal obligations from their record label, they were forced to dig in and deliver something useful. Typically, the record is brimming with personal songs and barbs aimed at one another, topped off with some of their best-loved anthems. Since its release, the LP has been hailed as one of the definitive albums of the century. Of course, that’s the regular narrative. 

I’d argue that whilst the LP is an undeniably good album, Rumours is a tad overrated. You cannot deny that some of the tracks on the album are stellar, and are rightfully hailed as some of the best material in the band’s extensive back catalogue.

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Arguably ‘Dreams’ is the best song on the album. It’s an introspective, lovelorn piece, bolstered by the hazy instrumentation that conveys the concept of the title clearly. ‘Songbird’, written by Christine McVie, is also an absolute beauty, and there’s no surprise that it remains one of the most eminent tracks in the band’s back catalogue. ‘You Make Loving Fun’ is an underrated cut, boasting a wonderful groove.  

This is where my point becomes controversial. Forgetting the provenance of the songs, and the context of the record, I’d argue that many of the tracks on Rumours thereafter are actually horrifically cheesy and that this pong of mould really overshadows the lyrical and personal content. Yes, they might be catchy, but that doesn’t matter. It’s one of the most confounding albums of all time when you note just how chintzy some of the songs are. It is something that doesn’t seem to match the status the record has long been afforded. 

The album opener ‘Second Hand News’ is painfully pongy and this sets a precedent for much of the rest of the album. I’m sorry to the hardcore Fleetwood Mac fans, but even the likes of ‘Go Your Own Way’, ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘The Chain’ are marred by high levels of fermented lactose that, at points, make you wince so furiously that onlookers will be asking if you were in the middle of an exorcism.

Do not for a second try to convince me that the esteem ‘The Chain’ receives is worthy of the song. It’s about as mentally testing as a classic rock track can get. Despite the bass notes being iconic during the break before the wailing solo comes in, it’s still sonically ridiculous. Even for the time, it was lavish. By this period in pop music development, punk had happened and changed the entire pace of rock and roll, but the band were performing like it was still 1971. Times had changed. 

Aside from this, there are numerous other forgettable moments on the record, including, ‘I Don’t Want To Know’, ‘Never Going Back Again’ and ‘Oh Daddy’. As for ‘Gold Dust Woman’, it starts off so well, before relinquishing any hope of excitement by not really doing anything of note and fading out into nothingness, which is a shame, as the riff has such a gothic atmosphere to it. 

It’s understandable that many people will be calling for my head after releasing this, but before you get the pitchforks out, stop and think ‘maybe he has a point’. We live in the age of revisionism, and I think it’s high time that some of these so-called ‘classic’ albums get paid a visit and are re-inspected, as many of them, not just Rumours, just aren’t that great. 

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