Despite this being a truly excellent album, the reasons we’re talking about it here have very little to do with the music itself. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the bigger tracks on the album, notably “The Chain,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “Gold Dust Woman” have an energy that will fuel many a writing bender. And quieter songs such as “Songbird” and “Oh Daddy” will break your goddamned heart. From beginning to end, it’s a solid album well worth listening to.
But why this album is particularly good for me to have in the catalog for writing?
The year before Rumors was recorded, the band had their biggest hit yet and went on a grueling six month tour. By the end of the tour, bassist John McVie and pianist/vocalist Christine McVie’s eight year marriage ended in divorce. They weren’t even talking to each other socially, and yet they were expected to go back into the studio, write new music, and produce a follow-up.
It didn’t help that two other band members–guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks–were going through a bit of tumultuous on-again-off-again relationship and were also fighting by the time they got to Sausalito, CA, to record. Apparently the only time they weren’t arguing was when they were working on songs together.
Oh, and Mic Fleetwood, the drummer from whom the band derived its name? He had recently discovered that his wife and mother of two children had an affair with his best friend–made only better I assume by the fact that at least the best friend wasn’t in the band.
Suffice to say, there was a lot of emotion in that studio. I suspect it could have easily ended in flames at any point in the recording session. Everyone was tense. The band members didn’t socialize outside of actually working on the album. They were writing and singing some very personal songs about what was going on in their lives–often all into the same microphone, looking across at the other band members who were intimately familiar with the story behind the lyrics. To make things more interesting, there were some technical problems with the master tapes that could have sunk the whole album. Plus, there was enough cocaine flowing through the studio to make Charlie Sheen look “quaint.”
But the kept going, recording an album that was, in Buckingham’s words, “…more than the sum of it’s parts.” After more than two months, they toured for ten days to try out the new material in front of an audience, then went back to the studio to finish laying down tracks and engineering.
Despite delays, despite the conflict, despite the pressure of crafting a follow-up to their biggest album yet, Fleetwood Mac released perhaps the most important album of their careers. But those aren’t my words. That was Mick Fleetwood’s opinion.
If Fleetwood Mac can do that, I have no legitimate excuses to not finish my writing projects. I doubt any of you reading this do, either.
Writing isn’t easy. Everyone has things going on in their personal lives that make sitting down and doing the work difficult. I’ll admit, some days I get home and I’m frustrated with my day job, or distracted by some relationship hiccup or another. The last thing I want to do is write. Or edit. Or really anything other than curl up on the sofa and listen to music.
But creating art, be it a classic album or a weird little horror short story, can be a release. It can be a place to dump the hardships of the day and power through, turning the coal into diamonds.
And for that, if nothing else, Rumors is an essential in my writing soundtracks.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to crank up “The Chain” and work on a combat sequence that, as fate would have it, involve an iron chain being used as a weapon.