(Pictured: Fleetwood Mac, circa 1977.)
On a recent car trip, I reached into the CD bag and pulled out Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. If radio play is any indication of worth, Rumours is one of the most highly valued albums of all time; four singles have never been off the radio in nearly 40 years, and several other tracks were album-rock hits. There’s almost certainly nothing new to say about it, but let’s try this: a ranking of its 12 tracks, from worst to first.
12. “Oh Daddy.” The adjective “worst” doesn’t really apply to anything on Rumours. Many bands would kill to have a song this good in their repertoire. It ranks here because I’m skeeved out by women who refer to their lovers as “daddy,” Christine McVie’s vocal notwithstanding.
11. “I Don’t Want to Know.” Could easily have been a single, and would have been big.
10. “Never Going Back Again.” I don’t think Lindsey Buckingham’s gift for beautiful melodies and arrangements is appreciated as much as it should be. The 2004 reissue of Rumours contains a couple of early versions of “Never Going Back Again,” both of which are gorgeous. (Here’s one.)
9. “Don’t Stop.” There is nothing about “Don’t Stop” that isn’t glorious, from the ringing piano chords that start it to the “ooh, don’t you look back” fadeout. And yet here it is at #9.
8. “Dreams.” I can’t think of another record that sounds quite like this, little more than a bass-guitar pulse accented with ghostly guitar, and Stevie Nicks sounding hypnotized by it.
7. “Songbird.” This was Fleetwood Mac’s show-closing number for many years, just Christine alone at the piano. (There’s a full-band version on the 2004 reissue that I actually prefer.) In his autobiography, Mick Fleetwood says it reduced him to tears every night. According to Wikipedia (so who the hell knows), the version on Rumours was recorded at a show in Berkeley, California, in February 1976.
6. “Second Hand News.” One of the best album-opening tracks in rock, and another wannabe hit single.
5. “The Chain.” The story goes that “The Chain” was quite literally spliced together from master tapes of other songs, and yet it manages to sound like a unified whole, against the odds. Because of its weird genesis, it’s credited to all five members of the band.
4. “Gold Dust Woman.” There were probably other albums as laden with cocaine as Rumours, but I can’t think of any right now.
3. “Silver Springs.” This is a ringer: “Silver Springs” was the B-side of “Go Your Own Way” and did not appear on the original album because it would have pushed the length to 45 minutes, which was deemed a bit too much. (Imagine being confident enough in the quality of your other material to leave something so beautiful off the record.) Starting with the 2004 reissue, “Silver Springs” appeared between “Songbird” and “The Chain,” in what would have been between sides of the original vinyl album. The 2013 reissue put it at the end of the original album.
2. “You Make Loving Fun.” Lindsey Buckingham is mostly a picker, so the list of memorable Fleetwood Mac riffs is fairly short. This is one of them, although it was created mostly by Christine.
1. “Go Your Own Way.” Mick Fleetwood has a unique style on drums, often seeming to play slightly behind the beat. On “Go Your Own Way,” he sounds like he’s struggling to keep up with the pace set by Buckingham and the rest of the band. It’s a great radio record from the first second to the last, the Phil Spector Wall of Sound updated for 1977.
I am not sure it’s possible to love Rumours anymore—not possible for me, anyhow, but your mileage may vary. It’s become as familiar as the weather and is free of surprises. But it’s still mighty impressive.
Coming in a future installment: a ranking of the tracks on another well-traveled 70s album, Some Girls by the Rolling Stones.