Most important moments in pop: The story of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
It was 35 years ago that Fleetwood Mac started working on what would become one of the biggest-selling and most revered albums in the history: Rumours. But these ravishing and uplifting songs were created by a band in emotional meltdown. The story behind Rumours is like a particularly sadistic soap opera, albeit one with a cracking soundtrack.
Rumours was Fleetwood Mac's 11th album, although the band had changed its members so many times by then, nobody would have been surprised if they'd had a revolving door installed in their studio. The Rumours-era line-up consisted of founder member Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckingham, his girlfriend Stevie Nicks, married couple John and Christine McVie. And it would be a stormy time for them all.
Lindsey vs Stevie
Lindsey vs Stevie
Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks had been working together before joining Fleetwood Mac in 1974. Soon after, the group released the eponymous album Fleetwood Mac – which became their first real commercial smash hit. "The band got so big, so fast, that we were all just blown away," Stevie later said. As they started working on Rumours, the pressure or equalling their previous success became too much. They had a painful break-up, but were forced to continue working together for the sake of the album.
Fuelled by drink and drugs and often recording into the early hours, Lindsey and Stevie were inspired by their personal anguish to come up with some of the best-known songs on Rumours: Go Your Own Way (which was Lindsey's beautifully bitter response to the break-up) and Dreams (Stevie's more hopeful and meditative take on things).
The other couple in the band, John and Christine McVie, didn't fare any better either. They too were hammered by the unexpected success of the previous album, and the substance-fuelled recording sessions. All of which tool their toll on their marriage.
They divorced in the middle of making the album, but the rocky end of their marriage inspired Christine to write Don't Stop, in which she tried to encourage her estranged husband to look to the future. It became one of Fleetwood Mac's most famous anthems. But what John thought of You Make Loving Fun, a song Christine wrote about a new man she was having an affair with, remains a mystery.
The madness and the masterpiece
Mick Fleetwood didn't escape unscathed either. In between trying to keep the two warring couples from killing each, he had to deal with his own messy divorce. He later wound up having a secret affair with Stevie Nicks. But, while the whole period was traumatic and the various band members could barely talk to each other outside of the studio, they managed to channel their anger, resentment and love towards each other to create a timeless, multi-platinum masterpiece.
In terms of popularity, critical adulation and influence on other musicians, Rumours is part of a select company of untouchable albums that include the likes of Michael Jackson's Thriller and Nirvana's Nevermind. Rumours even helped bring Bill Clinton to power, when Don't Stop became synonymous with the future president's election campaign in the 1990s. Just this year, Rumours became a global hit all over again after a whole episode of Glee paid homage to it – proving again that it was well worth what Stevie Nicks described as the "trauma" of its creation.