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35 Years Ago: ‘Rumours’ Tops the Charts

Fleetwood Mac
Warner Bros.

It’s hard to not hear the heartbreak in Fleetwood Mac‘s ‘Rumours.’ It’s hard to not hear the anger too. After kicking around as a cult blues-rock band for almost a decade, the British band hit the jackpot in 1975 after hiring a pair of California singer-songwriters, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Everyone was happy: longtime members John and Christine McVie, who were married, Buckingham and Nicks, who were a couple … But then fame hit.

And so did the fooling around. And the hooking up. And the breaking up. ‘Rumours’ runs down these trysts, at times with candidness and fury, for all to hear. Suddenly, no one’s happy: not the McVies, heading for divorce; not Buckingham and Nicks, who broke up; not even Mick Fleetwood, who split from his wife. From Nicks’ painful ‘Dreams’ to Buckingham’s bitchy ‘Go Your Own Way,’ ‘Rumours’ (which reached No. 1 on the U.K. album charts 35 years ago today (Jan. 30, 1978), their first album to hit that position in their original homeland) is the sound of hearts falling on the floor and everyone else rushing to stomp on them.

The most damning moments come from Buckingham and Nicks. “Loving you isn’t the right thing to do,” he sings at the start of ‘Go Your Own Way,’ basically setting up his girl (in this case, Nicks) for the kiss-off chorus that gives the track its title. Nicks counters on ‘Dreams’: “You say you want your freedom / Well, who am I to keep you down?” She eventually boils it down to the whole dating-a-musician dilemma, singing, “Players only love you when they’re playing / Women, they will come and they will go.”

That sentiment is continued on ‘Rumours’’ side-two opener, ‘The Chain,’ the only song here credited to the whole band. And rightfully so: The relationship hanging by a thread in ‘The Chain’ is the one shared by all five members of Fleetwood Mac. They may have particular exes in mind when they sing “If you don’t love me now, you will never love me again,” but the chain they want to keep secure is linking the entire group.

But look beyond the words, and this isn’t angry or heartbreaking music. The songs are full of life, from the brisk, album-opening ‘Second Hand News’ to Christine McVie’s playful ‘You Make Loving Fun.’ And Buckingham’s burning guitar solo on ‘Go Your Own Way’ is pure cathartic release. The harmonies are tight, the melodies are tighter and the terrific ‘Rumours’ eventually finds hope among the wreckage. But make no mistake: Fleetwood Mac went through hell to get there.

Next: Top 10 Fleetwood Mac Songs

Watch Fleetwood Mac Perform ‘Go Your Own Way’ in Concert

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