FLEET­WOOD MAC

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSICREVIEWS - TONY CLAY­TON-LEA

Ru­mours Warn­ers It started amidst di­vorce pro­ceed­ings, re­la­tion­ship trau­mas and co­caine abuse, and ended with a stu­dio en­gi­neer hid­ing be­neath the mix­ing desk be­cause “it was the safest place in the stu­dio to go”. Yet here we are, 36 years later, with an­other ex­panded edi­tion (three discs) of one of the best-sell­ing al­bums of all time. And so, along­side the orig­i­nal al­bum (which, lest we for­get, is 1970s pop/rock gold), is one disc of live tracks (taken from the 1977 Ru­mours World tour) and one disc of bits and bobs (out­takes, de­mos, etc). Un­less you’re a Mac fa­natic, the ex­tras are merely in­ter­est­ing. The “Lux­ury” edi­tion in­cludes a rarely seen mini-doc­u­men­tary that is very much of its day. Stick, per­haps, to the al­bum proper – a col­lec­tion of clas­sic West Coast pop/rock tunes with un­der­cur­rents of real spite and gen­uine sor­row. fleet­wood­mac. com Down­load: Dreams, Never Go­ing Back Again, Song­bird

If you’re look­ing for full-on drink and drugs de­bauch­ery, celebrity psy­chosis, über-dys­func­tional in­ter-band re­la­tion­ships, lash­ings of money and ego, and ex­trem­i­ties of fear and loathing, you have to look past the usual sus­pects (Zep­pelin, Möt­ley Crüe et al) and steady your gaze on Fleet­wood Mac.

Go­ing into the record­ing of Ru­mours – still one of the best­selling al­bums of all time – things weren’t pretty. Bass player John McVie and key­boardist Chris­tine McVie had just di­vorced and weren’t on speak­ing terms. Singer Ste­vie Nicks and gui­tarist Lind­sey Buck­ing­ham were in the mid­dle of break­ing up but still on speak­ing terms – if shout­ing at each other in fe­ro­cious rage counts as speak­ing terms.

Drum­mer Mick Fleet­wood had just got di­vorced, the group had just sacked their man­ager and their pro­ducer, and they were do­ing enough co­caine “to turn horses into uni­corns” as the say­ing went. For good mea­sure, Nicks and Mick em­barked on a short­lived and very drunken af­fair.

Th­ese five peo­ple – all of whom had been ro­man­ti­cally/sex­u­ally en­gaged with an­other band mem­ber at some time – had to sit in a room to­gether and come up with 11 songs for a record com­pany-im­posed dead­line. The only other time this kind of sit­u­a­tion had oc­curred with a ma­jor band was with Abba – and they used the ad­verse cir­cum­stances to record some of their big­gest hits.

As did the Mac. But just to give some idea of the level of ten­sion, sus­pi­cion, ha­tred, in­se­cu­rity and para­noia that pre­vailed at the song­writ­ing ses­sions, Chris­tine McVie brought a new song to the ta­ble called You Make Lov­ing Fun. It was writ­ten about her new post- di­vorce boyfriend (who was also the band’s light­ing di­rec­tor) and was seen as a per­sonal at­tack on her erst­while ex-hus­band. At around the same time, Mick Fleet­wood started go­ing out with Ste­vie Nicks’s best friend.

The bl­iz­zard of co­caine was such that the band, se­ri­ously, wanted to give their dealer a credit on the al­bum. The la­bel de­murred and a stand-off was only averted when said dealer was shot dead, al­legedly by an or­gan­ised crime gang.

Given all that went on, Ru­mours should have been a mess. The songs were recorded in a small, wooden, win­dow­less stu­dio with the band ar­riv­ing at 7pm each night, get­ting off their col­lec­tive heads un­til the early hours and only putting down mu­sic and vo­cals when they were too whacked out to keep on par­ty­ing.

Yet it’s as close to a near per­fect pop-rock arte­fact as you could ever hope to hear, and its ap­peal lies in the fact that we are lis­ten­ing in to love break­ing down.

How did the band man­age to stay to­gether to fin­ish the al­bum? Ste­vie Nicks now re­calls it was a case of “I’m not the prob­lem, I’m not quit­ting. You’re the prob­lem, you should quit.” With no one pre­pared to give in, they ef­fec­tively stayed to­gether out of spite.

Ru­mours is 35 years old now and there’s a spe­cial com­mem­o­ra­tive, ex­panded edi­tion of the al­bum just re­leased. Pure mu­sic re­al­ity TV. bboyd@irish­times.com

Ste­vie Nicks: break-up blues

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