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21st February 2022

Rock on gold dust woman: Rumours at 45

Owen Scott looks back at Fleetwood Mac’s iconic album ‘Rumours’ as it turns 45
Rock on gold dust woman: Rumours at 45
Photo: Fleetwood Mac, Rumours Cover

There are few bands as iconic as Fleetwood Mac. There are also few bands as turbulent as Fleetwood Mac. And there’s few that could produce a record as influential as 1977 LP Rumours. As one of the best-selling vinyl albums of all time, we look back at Rumours, 45 years on.

Rumours has perhaps one of the longest and most convoluted histories of any record in music history. After the departure of Peter Green and a movement away from the band’s bluesy, British roots to a Californian sound with the introduction of couple, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac had undergone many changes.

Nicks’ and Buckingham’s introduction provided a second wind for the band, generating hits like ‘Rhiannon’ and ‘Say You Love Me.’ However, just as they gained such success, the band was thrown into turmoil. The collapse of Nicks’ and Buckingham’s relationship, as well as John and Christine McVie’s, and Mick Fleetwood’s, threatened to destroy the band and this already tense state of affairs was made worse by the band’s growing taste for cocaine.

But from this intense environment came some of Rumours’ most iconic songs. How can we talk about Rumours without talking about ‘Dreams’? We all know it, we all saw the man on his skateboard, listening to ‘Dreams’, drinking cranberry juice. Thanks to that cranberry juice TikTok, the song enjoyed a sort of renaissance and was introduced to a new audience, though it’s one of the strongest songs on the LP either way. The song details Nicks’ and Buckingham’s break up from Nicks’ perspective with all her mysticism and magic glittering throughout the lyrics. Just the bassline is recognisable enough that everyone, everywhere, will be singing “now here you go again, you say you want your freedom” when they hear it.

The drama continues with Buckingham’s side of the story, in ‘Go Your Own Way’, another of the band’s greatest hits. Buckingham is perhaps a little harsher than Nicks’ though in his telling of the end of their relationship; where she tells him “Well, who am I to keep you down?”, he tells Nicks to “Go your own way / You can call it another lonely day.” A song filled with resentment, Buckingham’s anger comes through in his frantic guitar playing.

However, there’s ‘The Chain’, a statement of intent by the band, to not allow this chaos to break them. Despite the turmoil rocking the band, they vow “never to break the chain”, and ‘The Chain’ is a true collaborative effort, with lyrics written by Nicks, and reworked by herself and Christine McVie, the bass progression written by John McVie and Mick Fleetwood and the intro recycled from another song by Buckingham. Despite their many changes in line-up, with many more to come after Rumours, ‘The Chain’ is the band at their most unified, and it’s no wonder it’s one of their most successful songs.   

Photo: Stevie Nicks performing with the rest of Fleetwood Mac @ Wikimedia Commons

Other songs like Christine McVie’s ‘Songbird’, ‘Oh Daddy’, and ‘Don’t Stop’ remain fan favourites. McVie is generally known for her pop sensibilities, penning 1980s hits like ‘Everywhere’ and ‘Little Lies’. But here she presents an emotional piano ballad with ‘Songbird’ and a promise that tomorrow “will be here better than before” on the optimistic ‘Don’t Stop.’ On ‘Don’t Stop’, the band’s determination to carry on, despite the turmoil, shines through again.

Rumours closes with my favourite from the album ‘Gold Dust Woman.’ It’s Stevie Nicks at her witchy-est, complete with hazy harpsichords and otherworldly howling by Nicks. The song looks at her experiences with love and her addiction to cocaine through her career. From when she sings “Rock on Gold Dust Woman / take your silver spoon, dig your grave” through to the supernatural outro, its confessional and ethereal from the start.

Photo: the band in its 2014 incarnation @ Wikimedia Commons

A testament to the quality of the album is that there’s not enough time to talk about each song, like Buckingham’s ‘Second Hand News’ and Nick’s ‘I Don’t Want to Know.’ Universally celebrated and praised, Rumours has even been listed by Rolling Stone as seventh in their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album has inspired countless works from artists across music, including mega stars like Harry Styles singing live with Stevie Nicks. It’s fair to say that trading their blues sound for sun-drenched California rock clearly worked out well for the band. In the decade ruled by disco, Fleetwood Mac stood out with tales of heartbreak weaved into the hippie spirit of the era. A pillar of modern music, Rumours truly stands the test of time.

For more on Fleetwood Mac, you can check their official site here and you can listen to Rumours here:

Owen Scott

Owen Scott

Head Arts Editor at the Mancunion and culture journalist

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