The Oxford Student Online
By Oliver Hancock
I remember reading an issue of Rolling Stone a few years ago about the ‘100 Greatest Albums of All Time’, and thinking about how these countdowns might differ in different magazines – NME’s top 10 will almost certainly not be the same as Kerrang’s.
Getting down to the top 10, all the usual candidates I would expect in modern music magazines were there (The Beatles, Stones, Dylan etc.), but the number 4 on the list was an album I’d never really heard of: Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I wondered how an album considered canonical by one of the world’s biggest music magazines could have passed me by; why all the ‘Top 100…’ articles I’d read in British magazines could have ignored Rumours in the top bracket. The album itself was popular and critically acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic, unsurprising given the Anglo-American core of the band, and yet an avid reader of British music magazines in the 21st-century might never consider Fleetwood Mac’s seminal LP in the same bracket as many of the well-trodden ‘classic’ albums.
This has the chance to change with the impending re-release of Rumours, more than 25 years after its original release. Whether milking a cash-cow or hoping to disseminate their work to a new, younger audience, there is a sense that such an album is coming at the right time. The musicianship of the songs forms an interesting juxtaposition to the works of many of today’s new breed of guitar bands (From The Vaccines to Palma Violets), and, despite the recordings having inevitably aged, the songs themselves remain just as potent as they did in the 1970s.
When looking back upon the process of its recording, it is hard to fathom that such cohesive, well-written pop songs coincided with a time when the relationships in the band were falling apart; songs like the Nicks-penned ‘Dreams’ and Buckingham’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ even seem a direct discourse, the ‘unfurled back and forth’ Buckingham would later recall in ‘Eyes of the World’. Yet in such a capable group of musicians and songwriters, the talent will always out, and a real ear for melody and intelligently crafted lyrics interact in such a way that can seldom be accidental.
Despite a deceptive amount of experimentation, there is always a sense, simply, that each addition works; the driving rhythm of ‘Second Hand News’, made by McVie hitting his drum stool, the explosive coda of ‘The Chain’, the only song written by all five bandmates, and the now iconic ‘Go Your Own Way’, a song that was nearly scrapped as a single for having ‘no real beat’. Each song knows what it is doing and does it well- every addition stands alone as much as forms part of the album’s overall dynamic.
One could argue that such a mode of song-writing has been lost in recent guitar bands, and the next generation of NME bands could do worse than get themselves a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s best LP. The creative harmonic interchange in songs like ‘Second Hand News’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Know’ shows that a use of familiar modular chords can still avoid sounding dull and derivative (something that bands like Tribes and The Vaccines have yet to learn). There can be many discussions about what makes a classic album, but for sheer song-writing talent, Rumours deserves its place amongst the greats.
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is out on reissue from 29th January published by Rhino Records.