Back in the day, John McVie and Christine McVie were divorcing; Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were breaking up; and Mick Fleetwood’s marriage was ending while they wrote and recorded “Rumours.” It’s still one of the biggest-selling albums ever.
Fleetwood Mac was everywhere in the summer of 1977, including the back seat of my parents’ Oldsmobile.
We were moving to another state, far away. I was 13. And near the beginning of the trip, I found “Rumours” on sale for $3.99 in Eugene, Ore. A friend convinced me to scoop up the bargain, the first album I ever bought.
It was on vinyl, long before personal cassette players, and our car didn’t even have an eight-track player. So for the unfolding weeks of that sultry season, across the country and halfway back again, I guarded the album from heat, unable to play it but convinced I’d scored a deal because my friend — who was a little older, much more physically mature and impossibly more sophisticated than I was — had told me so.
… and today. The tour, with Christine McVie back behind the keyboard, stops in Atlanta on Dec. 17 at Philips Arena.
Plus, the music was inescapable and, for reasons I couldn’t begin to understand, I knew I loved it, even then. The churning rhythms. The gorgeous harmonies. The Southern California glamour. The already famous infighting among the band’s lovers — songs by three startlingly individualistic writers on an album that morphed to provide, as one critic put it, the audio equivalent of a soap opera told from three different characters’ points of view.
“Oh, Daddy, you know you make me cry. . .”
“Take your silver spoon and dig your grave . . .”
“You can call it another lonely day . . .”
Art from Drama
The band had two couples, both breaking up while the album was made, and there’s blood and tears all over it. Back then, I knew nothing about love or its demise. But I already knew I liked a sharp turn of phrase and was drawn to larger-than-life characters, and this band had five.
And, although I didn’t fully realize it until later in life, I wonder whether the epic cohesiveness of the record tapped into some innate understanding I had of alchemy, the magical process of creating something grander than any of its parts.
Sure, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie are a top-flight rhythm section. Of course Lindsey Buckingham is a fabulous guitarist, Stevie Nicks an enchanting beauty and Christine McVie a pristine vocalist and journeyman musician. But put them together, and there was history. Let them all break up with each other at the same time, and forget it.
After “Rumours,” they continued to create, throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, music that played large parts on the soundtrack of my life — some forced upon us all as mere members of the planet and some, quite deliberately, chosen by me to illustrate my very own affairs of the heart.Buckingham’s self-torture. Nicks’ self-worship. Christine McVie’s nurturing earthiness.
As much as I love Fleetwood Mac’s music, I know that millions of people feel the same way. It’s a powerful connection, and it’s lasted all these years like a bell through the night.
VIDEOS of their 10 best songs, voted by Rolling Stone readers
Then Play On
The gorgeous “Mirage” cover, 1982… “the gypsy that remains…”
Beyond my family’s move in 1977, I remember that early video with the University of Southern California marching band for “Tusk.” Then, a few years later, my love — timeless and sublime (just a wish) — on her parents’ porch in Denver, the wind whipping her hair as she listened to “Mirage.” And, in the early ’90s, a date with someone 10 years younger who had no idea: “Stevie Nicks? Who’s he?” I even wrote an early version of this post for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution a decade ago, when the band released “Say You Will” without Christine McVie, who had retired.
Now, 37 years after my family’s long drive, I’m in my Atlanta condo listening to an iTunes playlist of Mac classics. Nicks is everywhere in the media — traditional and social – promoting her new solo CD and the band’s tour, which started this week, its first with Christine McVie since the late ’90s. It stops here in Atlanta in December.
Most of them are in their 70s now. They’ve been together off and on for 40 years. Drummer Fleetwood has come back from his improbable bankruptcy, John McVie from his recent cancer diagnosis, and Christine McVie from early retirement in England. Nicks has survived drug addiction. And Buckingham, the eccentric genius, has found peace with gaudy success.
I’m 50 now. It’s been a long time since that summer of “Rumours.” But I still see those bright eyes. And I’m still fallin’, fallin’ . . . fallin’ . . .
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