For years one of my best friends in the entire world was (and is) absolutely obsessed with Fleetwood Mac. She would buy nearly everything relating to them or Stevie Nicks (her goddess) and almost cried when I gave her Stevie’s greatest hits one year for Christmas. I always respected her love of them, and I always had a general idea of who Stevie Nicks was but I because was either A) lost in my grunge period or B) lost in my indie rock period, I never got around to actually listening to Fleetwood Mac until this past March when I was home for spring break.
And then it was as if every piece of my confusion, anger, hurt, and resilience was found in that record the first time I heard it. I had never, since Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, felt so connected to an album. And I realized, I was very happy I had waited until I was twenty to listen to this. For some reason, I had always had this preconcieved notion that music from the sixties and seventies couldn’t be relate-able. Whether this came from me only hearing the cliched music from those times that my parents listened to, or only hearing the disco music, I was just never convinced that that generation had anything relevant to say about my generation. Of course now that I’m older I see the parallels between the that generation and ours; from the Vietnam and Iraq war, to the search for truth and a real sense of stability, I firmly believe our generation is most like the flower child generation. But it wasn’t until I listened to Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” and felt like my life was being sung to me that I realized the problems hadn’t changed. If anything they were just as real then as they are now, because we’re still struggling with the same issues, but in a different context.
Which brings me to spring break when I got Rumours. After feeling like “Blue” was the most honest thing I had gotten my hands on in years, I was a little over-excited to find that my friend had Rumours still on her iTunes. That night I got home and listened to it and had a revalation. These lyrics DID NOT seem dated. In fact, there was nothing on the record except on a song like “You Make Loving Fun” (which is still absolutely brilliant) that gave any indication that it was made in 1976. By the time I got to Lindsey Buckingham’s “Never Going Back Again” I had fallen in love.
The subtle moments are the things I love most about “Rumours.” Whether it’s Stevie’s humming at the beginning of “Dreams” or Lindsey trying to find the right note on his guitar on “I Don’t Want To Know”, I love those moments that just can’t be faked and probably weren’t even given a second thought. But it’s the lyrics that are the pure genius. Listening to “Secondhand News” where Lindsey and Stevie sing, “I’ve been tossed around enough”, I was impressed by the bluntness. It’s a line you don’t usually hear when referring to love gone wrong and the accusations everyone makes against you, but it’s a pretty freakin’ accurate one. “Gold Dust Woman”, quite possibly their most notorious song, is another one where the lyrics almost seem drenched with anger. Upon first listening it seems pretty obvious that Nicks is the scorned lover, but as it turns out, it’s about her addiction to cocaine adding even more complex layers to the song. But above all it’s the anger you feel. The anger directed at herself, the man she’s singing it too, and the drug.
Without a doubt the emotion is the strongest and realest part of this album. It’s the one thing that completely pulled me in while listening to it, and along with the lyrics, it’s what makes it so relate-able. My favorite song, no contest is “Never Going Back Again.” I’m usually not a fan of male singers, and because of that I have a long list of attributes a male singer can not have in order for me to like him. Men who sing can’t be whiney, douchey, too aggressive, or too sentimental, but they have to be raw and have almost like a heaven-sent voice. (So, yes I’ve eliminated about 3/4 of men who sing, but they suck anyway so it doesn’t matter.) Anyway, when I heard Lindsey Bucking sing his voice was pretty much everything I admire about male singers. It was sweet without being whiney, it was hard without being aggressive and it actually showed emotion. And “Never Going Back Again” showed real vulnerability. I could relate, undoubtedly to what he was saying because he sounded like he had been ripped apart by his previous relationship and was just starting to figure out what he wanted in love That struck a chord with me in a way few songs do. My favorite line in that song is “You don’t know what it means to win, come down and see me again” because it’s so heartbreaking. The moment he sang it I knew who he was talking about, for me. That’s when a song becomes your own–you look past who they could be singing about and see who it is for you. Beyond the overall vulnerability, I loved the subtle parts of it too. The humming in between verses by Buckingham and Nicks; the intimate feeling it gave because it was just him and an acoustic guitar. It made it accessible in a way a Lady Gaga song never will be.
Emotion also plays a part in “Songbird” which is the most endearing and touching love song I’ve ever heard. I will say that in the hands of any other singer, the song could suck. The lyrics could come across as trite and the singer could completely butcher the vocals by deciding to make it like a god-awful Dashboard song, but McVie is smart and plays it with grace and a hint of sexuality. Like “Never Going Back Again” it sounds intimate and almost wide-eyed in her love. You believe everything she’s saying because of the passion she sings it with. And I suppose with her and Mick Fleetwood going through a divorce and her also having an affair on the side, that passion couldn’t be faked. The song is so incendiary and ethereal that it’s one of those if you put on a mix CD for a girl, you will get laid.
So, you may ask, what does this mean for people in their twenties? Rumours is import because it covers every aspect of relationships and still leaves you with hope. Even though the record is about relationships ending left and right, there are songs that make you believe that there is real love out there somewhere. “Songbird” is proof of that; just like “Go Your Own Way” is the perfect song to listen to when you want to stab someone’s eyes out. In addition, every artist in the group plays a key role in each song, and each gets their own moment to shine which in effect gives everyone someone to identify with. Out of igorance, I actually thought Fleetwood Mac only featured Stevie Nicks on vocals but to be honest, I really can’t imagine what it would be like if McVie and Buckingham didn’t have a hand in it. They certainly wouldn’t be as strong a group. And the reason is because every member brought a different experience to the table that only they could tell through song, and if anyone else did it, it would never work. You couldn’t have Nicks sing “You Make Loving Fun” and wholeheartedly believe her because she wasn’t the one cheating on Fleetwood and then writing a song about how much she enjoyed it. McVie did it, and sang it with absolute glee.
The reason for me that I enjoy it so much is because I got it at a time when many of my friends from high school were starting to get married and take their own paths to a conservative, mellow life. One girl I was completely infatuated with in high school actually got engaged around the time I had really grown to know the album and I remember listening to “Go Your Own Way” and really feeling the anger in the song and thinking how much I could relate to that. I also remember listening to “The Chain” and having the same experience because it was if they had read my journal and then written a song depicting the anger I felt hearing the news while we still talked. I know in ten years this will be the album, along with “Blue” and Buckingham’s “Law and Order”, that I look back on and think about the nights I stayed in my apartment blasting it from my stereo while working on projects or writing and feeling absolutely connected to the bohemian lifestyle they were singing about. Rumours caught me at time when I was, and still am, coming into my own and is something that provides a soundtrack to a changing and pivotal moment in my life.
To me Rumours is important because it shows that another way of life is possible that doesn’t involve getting married at twenty-three and popping out a child at twenty-four. But I what the album can mean to you is different for everyone. For me I saw that you can still be in your mid-twenties and early thirties, and not be married and come out as a relatively sane, smarter person. I think we all have to go through our twenties experiencing these crazy relationships that aren’t so good for us and get tossed around before we can feel like we want to settle down. When we skip that we’re denying ourselves the chance to really get to know ourselves as flawed individuals who need a specific kind of love, even if it isn’t the traditional kind. I’m getting off on another tangent here, but I really believe this album, like others of the time by Simon and Garfunkel or Joni Mitchell, is so important because of it’s authenticity and because it’s something we as young adults all go through. There’s doubts, there’s fears, and there’s a ton of anger. But it’s also, life.
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