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7th February 2013

From the vault: Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Thirty-five years on, has one of the biggest-selling rock records in history stood the test of time?

Originally released: 4th February 1977

Warner Bros.

There is a quote that goes, “a rumour without a leg to stand on will get around some other way”. On re-listening to Rumours, the 1977 Fleetwood Mac album which was re-issued last week to mark its 35th anniversary, it seems that that other way is likely to take the form of the frequent recycling and repackaging of its content.

Saying Rumours doesn’t have a leg to stand on is certainly harsh. It features as a favourite and even a classic for many, promising endurance rarely matched by the punk albums of the era it was competing with, but the refusal to wane in popularity seems inseparable from its commercial exposure. Yes, it features in the top ten selling albums of all time – along with AC/DC’s Back in Black and a Shania Twain record – but it stands to reason that sales are not always the test of quality. For me, Rumours demonstrates this perfectly. Its reissue is a blatant attempt to re-brand and recoup what expenses are left to be had, a frequented criticism of recent spates of reformations and sparsely distributed arena tour dates.

Before anyone gets me wrong, I don’t deny that there are or maybe were, some greatly appreciated songs that are unlikely to die. But on re-listening, I am staggered by the insensitivity of modern ears to its overwhelming naffness. The arbitrary guitar solo at the end of ‘Second Hand News’ the sentimental cheesiness of ‘Dreams’. Its best songs in themselves, notably ‘Go Your Own Way’ and ‘The Chain’ have had any glimmer of virtuosity sucked from them after years of synonymy with the sphere of advertising or formulaic inclusion on top one hundred albums lists. Ultimately, the critical attention and commercial success of Rumours appears unwarranted given its content, especially average when compared to previous albums. My opinion is that the early Fleetwood Mac of the Peter Green era was a better and considerably less naff band that still stands the test of time. I predict Rumours will prevail in popularity terms, but at the expense of becoming a kind of Classic Rock artefact that serves as a reminder of the unbelievable emotional upheaval the band experienced during recording.

For now, its remaining members can be assured that Rumours will continue to be lapped up by average suburban fans of anodyne dad rock. Roll on the stadium tour. I wonder if Status Quo will support them?

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