Stories surrounding the creation of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours are ten-a-penny. It’s hardly surprising, I suppose.
After all, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that if you stick a married couple in one of the most famous bands on the planet you’re going to end up with a few juicy stories. Imagine that instead of being brothers, Noel and Liam Gallagher were married to one another. Makes the blood run cold doesn’t it?
Then, when you add to that the fact that Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, another stellar pairing within the group’s make-up were also in the midst of splitting, all the while, the band’s leader, Mick Fleetwood was also going through a divorce you have a seriously potent cocktail of confrontation. Oh, and why not throw in the pounds of cocaine the ensemble were snorting during their studio sessions for good measure and suddenly, things get a little bit hectic.
Yes, Fleetwood Mac were always on the cusp of imploding, either screwing one another or screwing one another over. Perhaps that’s what has made Rumours such an enduring record.
It was written and produced at a time when the relationships between its members were on particularly thin ice, and the album fizzes with pent-up energy as a result.
In this article, we take a look at the 7 deadly sins of the making of Rumours
The time Christine McVie had an affair with the sound engineer
The McVie’s relationship was famously fraught. In the early days, things must have seemed idyllic. But according to Christine McVie, the good times only lasted around three years. Then things started growing sour. Finding John McVie’s drunkenness intolerable, she started an affair with Fleetwood Mac’s sound engineer Martin Birch.
About her husband, Christine McVie said: “We literally didn’t talk, other than to say, ‘What key is this song in?’ We were as cold as ice to each other because John found it easier that way.” The affair, one of many for Christine McVie, made band interactions intensely awkward. It’s amazing they finished the album at all when you think about it.
When Mick Fleetwood became the band counsellor
The relentless touring of the previous year forced the members of Fleetwood Mac together at a time when the cracks in their relationships were beginning to grow. Buckingham and Nicks’ relationship was a fireball of resentment and hatred, whilst the McVies were in the middle of divorce proceedings.
Poor old Mick Fleetwood was forced to take on the role of guidance counsellor as well as a bandleader. Christine McVie recalled how: “Everybody was pretty weirded out. But somehow Mick was there, the figurehead – ‘We must carry on, let’s be mature about this, sort it out.'”
When the band became dependant on cocaine
With the extensive tour that followed the release of Rumours, drug use became a part of the band’s daily lives, but in truth, it had begun during the recording. For Stevie Nicks, cocaine was the drug of choice.
Still, one can’t help thinking that keeping great mounds of it in a velvet bag might have been a little excessive: “At that time, everybody around me was doing it… Drug-taking was methodical when we got to LA. It was, ‘Here, try this.’ Everybody was so willing to give you stuff and tell you you’d like it. ‘Gold Dust Woman’ was about how we all love the ritual of it, the little bottle, the diamond-studded spoons, the fabulous velvet bags. For me, it fitted right into the incense and candles and that stuff. And I really imagined that it could overtake everything, never thinking in a million years that it would overtake me.”
When Bob Weston had an affair with Mick Fleetwood’s wife:
Following Danny Kerwin’s exit from the band, Bob Weston came in as his replacement. When Fleetwood first met Weston, he described the guitarist as a “charming and funny” man. But unfortunately, his wife, Jenny, was equally charmed.
After becoming close friends, the pair began an affair behind Fleetwood’s back. But whilst the band were on tour, the spark between Weston and Jenny became abundantly clear. Fleetwood confronted his wife about the situation, and she confessed that she was falling in love with Weston. As a result, he was fired from the group. He later said that his relationship with Jenny was: “the most expensive affair I’ve ever had in my life. Cost me a career, that did.”
When John Mcvie had revenge sex with groupies:
After his wife started another affair, this time with the band’s lighting director Curry Grant, John McVie decided to have a bit of fun of his own. He started hooking up with groupies at the band’s house to get back at Christine, but this only heightened tensions between the couple.
Mick Fleetwood would later describe the house as feeling more like a “bordello” than a home, with its “blacked-out rooms, thick shag carpets, deprivation tanks, and a very liberal sprinkling of assorted drugs.”
The time John McVie tried to kill Lindsey Buckingham
The recording sessions for Rumours were incredibly tense. The lack of communication between the band’s crumbling couples led to Nicks and Buckingham using their songs as thinly veiled criticisms of one another. However, nobody had the guts to leave the band, so they stuck it out. In Stevie Nicks words, each of them was “too proud and way too stubborn to walk away from it. I wasn’t going to leave. Lindsey wasn’t going to leave. What would we have done – sat around in LA and tried to start new bands?”
For Nicks, it was a difficult time but bearable. For Lindsey Buckingham and John McVie however, spending time with one another was torture. They found no solace in each other’s company and ended up butting heads on multiple occasions. During one notable recording session, McVie threw a glass bottle of Vodka at Buckingham’s head, screaming at him all the while.
When they spent 11 months recording the album
These various backstabbings all made working on the album very difficult. One can only imagine the amount of death-staring that went on between the perspex panel of the live room. And those eleven months weren’t made any easier by the band’s recording equipment to produce the album.
Whilst finalising a track, which would later become known as ‘Jaws’, the reel to reel chewed up a portion of its tape, rendering the song useless. The band then had to re-record everything they’d done from scratch. The delay meant that Fleetwood Mac had to finish mixing Rumours in a dubbing studio on Hollywood Boulevard and even had to cancel a number of their tour dates.
By the time the album was released in 1977, any remnant of romance between the band’s members had been entirely destroyed by the group themselves.