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Why we still love Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, 40 years later

Editorial Staff

Fleetwood Mac's Rumours has all the ingredients that make a great story. From infidelity to divorce to intense creative clashes — there's plenty of turmoil throughout the album. The bandmates' ability to be transparent and take the audience to different depths of each other's lives makes the record a memorable one.

Rumours was the first album to go diamond in Canada in May 1978, selling over a million copies. Four decades later, the band's music is more relateable than ever, with its timeless sound and lyrics.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Rumours, CBC Radio 2 host Rich Terfry will talk about the stories behind the recording of Fleetwood Mac's seminal album on his afternoon show, Drive. Tune in to the one-hour special on Friday, Feb. 3, at 6 p.m. local (6:30 N.L.).

Below, we talk about our favourite tracks on Rumours, and why it's a record that still resonates with us.

'Second Hand News'

All this scholarly praise for Fleetwood Mac's Rumours' 40th anniversary feels like going to a funeral for a high school friend I'd lost touch with long ago. Who are all these people and what are they doing here? Did this poor guy, Rumours, even know anybody else but us? You handsome, elegant young people, are you sure we're talking about the same person? You knew this guy?

"Second Hand News," for me, is working up a sweat in a gym doing the Funky Chicken and wearing wide-leg corduroys. Yes, there's that cool thing at the top when the somehow driving and still lazy-and-fat bass kicks in, but this is a song whose chorus consists entirely of the insightful lyrics "bowhn, bowhn, bowhn nad doot-dootily-doot." Somewhere inside I'm kind of amazed anybody else admits to even liking it. I figured I'd come to this memorial and Jack and I would spend the whole night laughing about how Peter Salmon used to yell "Yeah, BAY-bee!" every time it came on. So, like, what are the rest of you doing here?

—Tom Allen (@CBCR2Shift)


Fleetwood Mac's only song to ever hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 was written by Stevie Nicks, on her own, in a studio covered in velvet. According to Nicks, it took her only 10 minutes to hammer it out on a keyboard; inspiration must have come quickly, seeing as all of the band's storied relationships were falling apart as recording marched on — hers included. The line, "Players only love you when they're playing," was directed straight at ex-flame Lindsey Buckingham, who was working on a kiss-off song of his own (see "Go Your Own Way").

Nicks recalled in a 2009 interview that, despite the bad blood simmering between them, when she handed Buckingham a tape of her demoing "Dreams," he immediately listened and broke into a smile. If you've never heard one of those early takes with just Nicks, and a keyboard, and a little bit of guitar, click play below — it'll put a little smile on your face, too.

— Emma Godmere (@godmere)

'Never Going Back Again'

You might know it as That Other Song You Play a Lot on the Guitar, but "Never Going Back Again" isn't your usual, cheery, sing-along fodder — it, like so many of the songs on this incredible album, turns out to be a little more complicated than that. Among the last songs written for Rumours, Buckingham reportedly penned it after a fling that followed his break-up with bandmate Nicks. When Buckingham sings, "I'm never going back again," he's not talking about never returning to a relationship, or a particular woman; it's understood to mean he's finally leaving sadness behind. When you hear that, it suddenly feels like the whole song hangs with this tense sort of hope that this next relationship, maybe this next person, holds the cure for that kind of despair. It's possible, then, that "Never Going Back Again" is the saddest song on this record. — EG

'Don’t Stop'

With its cheerful, forward-looking lyrics and its decidedly upbeat sound, “Don’t Stop” doesn’t sound anything like a typical break-up song — and it isn’t. Written by Christine McVie for her bandmate and then soon-to-be-ex John McVie, the track cheerfully pushes the promise of optimism: “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” is a gentler way of saying, “Stop thinking about the past.” The reassurance that things can seem brighter if only you look at them differently was a salve for an entire generation. The danceable song was a hit for the band, and later enjoyed a second life as a campaign song for President Bill Clinton, who persuaded the estranged members to get back together to perform the track at his inaugural ball in 1993. (Odd pop culture aside: Michael Jackson also joined them onstage.) It feels like a song for a different time, but certainly one to dust off in these darker days.

— Jennifer Van Evra (@jvanevra)

'Go Your Own Way'

By now, the turmoil that served as the petulant muse for Rumours is so well-documented that Fleetwood Mac's name itself is shorthand for inter-band shenanigans. So I won't waste anymore space describing the sordid details behind Buckingham's musical kiss-off to Nicks. Besides, the gossip in "Go Your Own Way" is far less intriguing than what's happening musically on the track.

It may be regarded as the band's signature pop song, but when you listen to the individual instruments, it almost doesn't make sense. John McVie's bass and Buckingham's acoustic play a counter-rhythm for nearly the entire song. And Mick Fleetwood's drums, well, I dare you to find a more brazen drum arrangement on a "pop" song. Even Fleetwood himself famously didn't understand what he was playing when they recorded the tune. But some way, somehow, those disparate parts just plain work. Of course, it doesn't hurt that over top of it all are vocals that rewrote the book on life-affirming harmonies. So next time you give “Go Your Own Way" a spin, put the drama aside, and take a closer listen to what's actually going on.

— Mitch Pollock (@mitchellblack)


The members of Fleetwood Mac have said that it was Christine McVie's "Songbird" that got them through all the craziness. The story goes that it came to her one night as she slept. She woke up at 3:30 in the morning with the whole thing in her head. She was afraid to fall back asleep for fear she'd lose it, and ended up tossing and turning the rest of the night. Early the next morning, she recorded it alone while the other members of the band were off in their own corners, doing drugs. It's such a pretty song.

— Rich Terfry (@CBCR2Drive)

'The Chain'

No doubt by the time you’ll get to this defence, dear reader, you’ll very likely be sick of hearing of internal strife, but harden thou heart, for here we have reached Rumours’ one harmonious and arguably best — tune.“The Chain” is the only song on this seminal album credited by all members of the group (Buckingham, Fleetwood, Christine and John McVie, Nicks) and contains its most unifying chorus/crescendo (sung, naturally, ensemble). Not only does it lack blame, it also provides the album its par excellence prog epic, yet, incredibly, is also one of its simplest songs. But for all its circumstance, “The Chain” will likely be remembered most for its drop, which would remain unmatched in popular music until the rise of EDM.

— Jon Dekel (@jondekel)

'You Make Loving Fun'

When John McVie heard "You Make Loving Fun" for the first time, he confronted his wife, Christine, about it. He knew it wasn't about him. She lied and told him it was about her dog. He later found out that it was about the band's lighting director, Curry Grant, with whom she was having an affair. Drama! For the longest time, this was my favourite song on the album. Now I couldn't pick one if my life depended on it. — RT

'I Don't Want to Know'

I was an oddball eight-year-old living in a classical music bubble when Rumours came out in 1977. Nevertheless, it entered my life via my 10-year-old neighbour Mary, a charismatic tomboy who had me under her spell, and who was in the early stages of what would become a lifelong obsession with Stevie Nicks. (She would regularly shout “Stevie!” at random passersby. I was agog.) While I didn’t share Mary’s obsession — Lindsey Buckingham’s abundant black curls were more my thing — I did fall in love with Rumours, especially the rollicking Nicks song “I Don’t Want to Know.” It’s probably my closest-ever encounter with country-rock: I love the sound of finger friction in its iconic guitar intro and the laser-beam blend of Nicks and Buckingham’s voices. I’ve never been able to reconcile the lyrics, which are all about how hard it is for two people to be on the same page, lovewise, with the song’s bouncy, feel-good vibe. Does it matter? Not a bit.

— Robert Rowat (@rkhr)

'Oh Daddy'

Lyrically, it's clear that "Oh Daddy" is about heartbreak. "Oh Daddy/ you know you can make me cry/ how can you love me/ I don't understand why." Written by Christine McVie, the song talks about a strenuous relationship about to be in shambles, but from someone who is still seeking approval. One source describes the song as "the kind of deep sadness that someone can only go through alone." Though "Oh Daddy" touches on a sad subject, you can't help but love Christine McVie's sweet, direct and honest songwriting.

— Kiah Welsh (@simplykiah)

‘Gold Dust Woman’

"Did she make you cry
Make you break down
Shatter your illusions of love
And is it over now do you know how
Pick up the pieces and go home."

Given everything happening behind the scenes in Fleetwood Mac, it's easy to read into every single song the band ever recorded, trying to pick who was on the receiving end of which "screw you" and who was the subject of every lovelorn anthem. "Gold Dust Woman" was always one of my favourites because so many rock songs seem to be written from and for the male gaze, but not this track. It's deliberate, subversive and slinky, and the threat looms in every beat. Each shimmer is like a spell, a nod to the bewitching, beguiling titular character who holds all the power and is utterly unapologetic about it, who goes so far as to take pleasure and pride in her control. I mean, "Gold Dust Woman" could also just be a metaphor for cocaine, but my preference is to think of this as someone who defied gender norms and conventions, who was a difficult woman and pretty damn proud of it.

— Andrea Warner (@_AndreaWarner)

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