Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours: Why the under-30s still love it
Ahead of the release of a special boxset edition of the Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, James Lachno argues that the 1977 album has survived better than its punk rivals.
This Monday, a three-disc, 35th anniversary boxset of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 masterpiece Rumours will be released. There’s never been a better time to celebrate the band and their gorgeous 11th album, both of which are more
popular and fashionable than ever.
For many music fans in their mid twenties, Rumours has been the soundtrack to large portions of our lives. During my childhood, it used to initiate a brief ceasefire between me and my sister as we squabbled during long car journeys, and in my teens, Songbird often featured on the giddily romantic mix CDs I made for girlfriends. Recently, Go Your Own Way and The Chain – better known as the BBC’s Formula One theme tune – have become 2am favourites for bleary-eyed twentysomethings desperate to keep a house party going. By contrast, pioneering punk hits released in the same year such as God Save the Queen and White Riot never seem to get a look in.
But why is Rumours so beloved among my generation? Its resilient popularity is, of course, in part due to the timeless quality of the music, which is warm and sweetly melodic, with coruscating harmonies, breezy rhythms, and virtuoso guitar flourishes. By 1977, Fleetwood Mac had had almost a decade to hone their songcraft, via several line-up changes and subtle changes in style, and Rumours shows a band at the pinnacle of their pop powers. It’s an album that’s chock-full of potential singles, all lushly produced to create an almost faultless, glossy soft-rock sound. It’s sold 40 million copies worldwide, making it one of the bestselling albums of all time, and everyone from family pop quartet The Corrs to Californian hardcore band NOFX have covered its songs. All of this is testament to its broad appeal.
But there’s more to it than that: right now the hippest bands around all want to sound like Fleetwood Mac. What started in the late-2000s with US folk-rock revivalists such as Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver has built up a head of steam. Last year saw the release of fine albums from trendy US acts such as Best Coast and Sharon Von Etten that bore the unmistakable influence of Fleetwood Mac’s classic Seventies period, as did work from blockbuster pop artists Mumford and Sons and Taylor Swift. Barely a cigarette paper, meanwhile, can separate the sound of Stevie Nicks’s songs from Rumours and those of the BBC’s feted Sound Of 2013 poll winners, Haim.
Where a decade or so ago the success of New Yorkers The Strokes and British quartet The Libertines led young music fans to devour the visceral debuts released during 1977’s punk explosion – from Television to The Clash – the resurgence in hook-laden guitar-pop has led us back to Rumours.
My generation, meanwhile, can enjoy the album without any of the baggage. We weren’t born until a decade after it came out, and didn’t live through the punk tribalism of the late-Seventies that would have made it so uncool to be the fan of such a “safe” album.
For us, Rumours stands out for its artistic merits. We love it for its easy hooks, and its raw emotion – real stories of love, heartbreak and despair that still resonate. Whether we’re aware of the dysfunctional partner-swapping, cocaine binges and paranoid atmosphere that provided the backdrop to the album’s recording sessions in 1976 is irrelevant. Anguished, vulnerable and embittered lines such as “players only love you when they’re playing” from Dreams will always strike an emotional chord.
Fleetwood Mac will tour for the first time since 2009 later this year, and a headline slot at Glastonbury would have offered a fitting opportunity for my friends and me to toast their current popularity. Much to our disappointment, however, the band’s US tour commitments have cruelly ruled out an appearance at the UK festival, leaving us with nothing but Rumours – and those wee-hours party playlists.
Rumours 35th Anniversary 3CD Deluxe Edition boxset is released on Monday, January 28