Before Gwen Stefani and Tony Kanal had all eyes and ears glued to the dramatics of No Doubt, Fleetwood Mac, whose emotional legend is just as intriguing as their music, reigned supreme.
Life as Fleetwood Mac during the era of Rumours, their second album, was that of a soap opera. Order didn’t exist and fidelity was feeble. Mick Fleetwood, the drummer of the band, split from his wife after she stepped into bed with his best friend. Front woman, Stevie Nicks and guitarist, Lindsey Buckingham put an end to their stormy on and off again relationship. John McVie (bassist) and Christine McVie (keyboardist/singer/song writer) divorced after eight years of matrimony. Stevie and Mick even indulged in a brief but sweet affair–much to Lindsey Buckingham’s chagrin, of course. And shall we mention the nasty cocaine vice of the ’70s? The drug was rampant in the rock n’ roll community. Everyone did it. Everyone had a habit, and Fleetwood Mac’s was heavy.
Yet somehow, amid this blender of chaos, addiction, broken hearts and pain, a diamond emerged unscathed.
“We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became. It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt.”-Mick Fleetwood, My Life and Adventures in Fleetwood Mac
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Rumours and its melodic marriage of betrayal meets happily ever after meets angst, we’re dancing down memory lane, drenched in black chiffon, a la Stevie Nicks, to dissect and drool over our top five favorite cuts from this timeless classic.
5. “Gold Dust Woman”
Did she make you cry
Make you break down
Shatter your illusions of love
And is it over now do you know how
Pick up the pieces and go home.
After listening to the mystic laced lyrics of “Gold Dust Woman,” it isn’t hard to believe Stevie wrote this with her head ribboned in a scarf to tap into the richest depths of her emotions and senses. Mission accomplished. Her words read so intimate and entrancing, like a tale of a magical siren slipping in and out of someone’s life and choosing to seduce when she wants.
Christine McVie wasn’t sure what the song was about. “Stevie’s words can be pretty obscure… at best,” she said. “Sometimes I didn’t know what she was singing about, but in her mind those words made complete sense and I often used to wonder what on earth she was talking about. But then, you didn’t care because the words just sounded so good.”
Lindsey Buckingham believed his name was behind the broken heart of the track. “This song is very dark and somewhat acrimonious. I’m guessing that the acrimony was directed at me at the time.”
However, there was never a real gold dust woman, only a colorless dust which influenced the title behind the track.
“You know what, Courtney?” Stevie said to Courtney Love in an interview with Spin Magazine. “I don’t really know what ‘Gold Dust Woman’ is about. I know there was cocaine there and that I fancied it gold dust, somehow. I’m going to have to go back to my journals and see if I can pull something out about ‘Gold Dust Woman.’ Because I don’t really know. It’s weird that I’m not quite sure. It can’t be all about cocaine.”
Fleetwood Fact:Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles in order to score a record deal. Their dreams came to fruition but fell apart as their label completely dropped the album. So Stevie and Lindsey asserted their artistry by purchasing their own studio time. Thus, the first and only Buckingham Nicks album was born. It melded the flowery poetic songwriting of Stevie and Lindsey’s finger picking guitar style. Fate intervened when Mick Fleetwood, whose band Fleetwood Mac was at a stand still and looking to replace their seventh guitarist in seven years. Mick admired their record, “Frozen Love, ” and felt Lindsey would do well as their next ax man. But Lindsey would join only on one condition, it was either him and his girlfriend, Stevie, or nothing. Lucky for everyone, Mick agreed and never looked back.
Lindsey and Stevie reminisced on this moment in their lives while interviewing in Stuttgart, Germany in 2013.
Stevie: Tell it.
Lindsey: Let’s see. Yes, it’s true. It’s absolutely true. Mick had heard a song of ours, and their guitarist left and I got a phone call. I did not – I’d only met Mick once, very briefly. And he said, “Lindsey, it’s Mick Fleetwood.” “Hi, Mick.” Hmm. “Lindsey, would you like to join Fleetwood Mac?” And of course, what did I say? What did I say? I said, “If you’re going to take me, you gotta take my girlfriend too!” And that, Stevie. Baby. That is loooove.
Stevie: Can I just add, in Stuttgart, to that little story since you do like to throw that in, that for five years previous to that I washed your jeans, sewed moons and stars on them, fringed them, ironed your t-shirts…
Lindsey: This is a new, um…
Stevie: …made the house beautiful, cooked dinner, cleaned the house, was a waitress AND a cleaning lady and ALSO loved you.
Lindsey: That’s right.
Stevie: So it wasn’t just a one-sided deal.
Lindsey: Did I say it was?
Stevie: No, but it kind of comes across like that. We’re letting you into the seriousness of this whole thing. I don’t think that…
Lindsey: So all this time…
Stevie: …they really wanna come in here.
Lindsey: So all this time that’s I’ve been saying ‘that’s love, baby’ you’ve been going, ‘hmph.’
Stevie: Kinda *laughs*.
Lindsey: I can’t win! Geez. I did, I loved you with all my heart, didn’t I?
Stevie: I know.
Lindsey: Didn’t I?
Stevie: Yes, you did.
Lindsey: And you loved me too.
Stevie: And I did. And that’s why we went together into Fleetwood Mac.
Lindsey: That’s right.
4. “Never Going Back Again”
I remember riding my bike up and down my block as my father blared “Never Going Back Again” from the garage. It always made the day prettier. With its finger plucking sweet melodies and optimistic vocals, it felt like vitamin C when it hit. The sun seemed to shine brighter. Monarchs and hummingbirds zipped down from the sky and fluttered into flower beds. Everything became perfect in that moment, when life and Lindsey’s voice and guitar intersected.
Then I grew up…
And realized “Never Going Back Again” is a giant f*!k you to Lindsey’s relationship relapse hook-up with Stevie. Suddenly, the song went from rainbows and daisies to an ashamed yet determined cry on the drive home from a regretful night. The song does redeem its optimism in its chorus, as Lindsey sings, “Been down one time
Been down two times/I’m never going back again.”
Fleetwood Fact: While recording Rumours, Christine McVie (keyboardist/singer) created the song “You Make Loving Fun.” But with lyrics like, “Sweet wonderful you/You make me happy with the things you do/Oh, can it be so, This feeling follows me wherever I go,” it was only natural for her ex husband John McVie (bassist) to wonder who those words were meant for. Christine sold him a story by saying the song was inspired by her dog. It was only after a great span of time passed that she admitted the lyrics were written during an affair she had at the end of their marriage.
3. “The Chain”
Listen to the wind blow
Watch the sun rise
Run in the shadows
Damn your love
Damn your lies
Gripping, shadowy and turbulent, “The Chain” stands as both Fleetwood Mac’s sentiments towards one another–per the time–and a promise to stomach the carnage of their love and carry on. It’s the only song on the record written by all five members, which made for a sonically perfect storm. The band sings and plays on the dichotomy of the lyrics until Lindsey cuts through with a voice full of grit and emotion on the chorus. And of course, watching Stevie and Lindsey face one another as their words leave their lips makes for damn good tension. Last but not least, Lindsey’s guitar solo. If you aren’t lost by the time he strums into overdrive, you’ve missed the significant points of lead up that make this song iconic.
“We write about each other, we have continually written about each other, and we’ll probably keep writing about each other until we’re dead. That’s what we have always been to each other. Together, we have been through great success, great misunderstandings, a great musical connection.”-Stevie Nicks on her musical relationship with Lindsey Buckingham.
Fleetwood Fact: For their first Rolling Stone cover, rock photographer, Annie Leibovitz, thought it would be a cheeky and controversial idea to pose all of Fleetwood Mac’s members in bed with one another–you know, since they often dipped their pens in company ink. “The intention was a spoof on the rumors about our private lives, and yet, symbolically, the picture showed us exactly as we were – all married to each other,” Mick Fleetwood told Play On.
With Stevie and Lindsey high off of post break-up animosity, they opted for different formations.
Stevie: “When Annie said she wanted us to lie down together on a big bed, it was like, ‘Hmm, hope you have a backup idea.’ But she said, ‘No, you’re going to look great, this will be fun, have a glass of champagne.'”
Buckingham: “For Stevie and me, the wounds and animosities were still very fresh. So the idea for the photo wasn’t all that funny.”
Which eventually led to Stevie pumping the brakes of Leibovitz’s initial idea.
Stevie: “I said, ‘OK, but I can’t be in bed next to Lindsey.’ So I curl up next to Mick for the next three hours while Annie is suspended over us on a platform. And Christine really didn’t want to be next to John, because they were just divorced.”
So, the formation switched–with Mick and Stevie cuddled up opposite of Lindsey and Christine while John lounged alone with a Playboy in hand.
Little did they know, the shoot they so desperately fought against would tie frayed ends and birthed new bonds. Both, for Stevie. “Afterwards, Lindsey and I got to talking about how amazing it was that not so long ago I was a waitress and he didn’t have a job, and now we were on the cover of Rolling Stone with this huge record. And we lay there for about two hours talking and making out. Finally, Annie had to tell us to leave, because she had rented the room for only so long.”
Mick Fleetwood also fell under her spell during the shoot and states the event made clear they’d “definitely known each other in previous lives.” But romantic interaction didn’t occur between the two until a year later. And when it did, it became one for the books. With whimsical and romantic trips to Hawaii and New Zealand, their brief affair was so potent, its imprint is remains. “We just love each other in the true sense of the word, which transcends passion,” Mick says of his band mate. “I will take my love for her as a person to my grave, because Stevie Nicks is the kind of woman who inspires that devotion. I have no regrets and neither does she, but we do giggle together sometimes and wonder what might have transpired if we’d given that passion the space and time to blossom into something more.”
But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness like a heartbeat…drives you mad, in the stillness of remembering what you had…and what you lost…and what you had.
Stevie’s answer to Lindsey’s musical jabs sounds like a serene walk in the clouds. Its mellow tempo is a huge contrast to the rest of the album. In fact, Christine deemed it “boring” while the remaining members of the band battled with leaving it off the album. Thank goodness they didn’t. “Dreams” is regarded as one of the band’s best and is their only number one U.S. hit. Its a song that tells a tale of love gone sour as one can do nothing but watch what they’ve once created with someone unravel. There’s a hint of devil may care and confidence in Stevie’s tone as she sings, “Say… women… they will come and they will go…when the rain washes you clean… you’ll know.” It’s almost as if–within the ten minutes it took her to write “Dreams”–she knew no other relationship in both her and Lindsey’s life would ever measure up to their bond.
After Stevie Nicks released her solo effort, Belladonna, she gifted Lindsey Buckingham with an autographed copy. He responded the only way he knew how: by leaving the record on the floor of the studio for two weeks, unopened.
1. “Go Your Own Way”
Isn’t the right thing to do
How can I ever change things that I feel?
If I could
Baby I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won’t take it from me?
In all of its anger and intensity, “Go Your Own Way” is nothing more than an intimate plea to salvage crumbs of a deteriorating love. It’s honest, raw and so damn beautiful–with a tempo that inserts Lindsey’s anxiety in your ears. Word for word, it plays out the emotions of one that knows a person isn’t good for them, but stays, leaves, and comes back because love works beyond anything the brain can comprehend. It was quite the departure from Stevie’s songbird take of their end and even spurred a few arguments–surprise!–between Fleetwood Mac’s notorious couple after Lindsey refused to remove a lyric.
Tell me why
Everything turned around
Shacking up’s all you wanna do
“Now, I want you to know – that line about ‘shacking up’?” Stevie said. “I never shacked up with anybody when I was with him! People will hear the song and think that! I was the one who broke up with him.” So what went wrong? “All he wanted to do was fall asleep with that guitar.”
It’s the ultimate break-up song and the most satisfying revenge, as Lindsey sings the line to this day, gazing at Stevie with a smirk on his face.
“There’s a subtext of love between us, and it would be hard to deny that much of what we’ve accomplished had something to do with trying to prove something to each other,” Lindsey told Men’s Journal regarding Stevie.”Maybe that’s fucked up, but this is someone I’ve known since I was 16, and I think on some weird level we’re still trying to work some things out. There will never be romance there, but there are other kinds of love to be had.”
Fast forward 40 years later and Fleetwood Mac are still touring and creating together. And believe it or not, Rumours was just one hump in their road of longevity. After its success, there was even more drama, rehab check-ins, member departures, member returns, solo efforts, new relationships which fell at the feet of the old and many more. Nevertheless, what makes this band incredible is their willingness to approach their times of ugliness. They reflect on them with humility and diplomacy. They don’t claim to be perfect, and if they did at one point, they own up to their folly later. Because Fleetwood Mac understands pride is a killer, and this, despite all they’ve done to one another, could’ve placed the final nail in their creation’s coffin. That’s the beauty of Rumours and their saga. Out of all their relationships, new and old, Fleetwood Mac is the one they’ve been the most committed to, for better or worse. Their connection in music is true love.