The iconic songs from the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album are timeless musical treasures that haven’t lost one bit of their appeal or power since the record was originally released in February of 1977. The Grammy-winning Album of the Year — which has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame — has sold more than 40 million copies, making it one of the top-ten selling albums of all time.
And the secret to their success? “Lunacy, heartache, happiness, unhappiness,” Mick Fleetwood only half-kiddingly noted when he and Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, and John and Christine McVie were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
The band’s leader and drummer was, of course, referencing the personal turmoil that affected the group’s unique dynamic, most notably during the emotionally rocky recording of Fleetwood Mac Rumours. “Thank God a sense of healing has come to all of us up here on this stage today. We’ve had a fantastic journey,” he added of all the twists and turns they’d endured together.
“I’ve always been a firm believer that much of the appeal of Rumours went beyond the music itself,” Buckingham once told Dan Rather in an interview for AXS TV. “Stevie and I had been a couple for a long time. John and Christine McVie had been married,” he shared, but by the time they’d all gotten up to Sausalito to start recording Rumours, “Stevie and I…were estranged, were not living together. For all intents and purposes, [we] had broken up.”
Plus, John and Christine, as well as Mick and his wife, Jenny Boyd, were headed for divorces. “Normally when people break up, when there’s pain involved like that — disappointment, heartache — people are allowed a requisite amount of distance and time in order to let the dust settle before they move on. But we did not have that luxury,” Buckingham, the group’s guitarist, explained of how they all suffered for their art while creating Rumours, choked by complicated feelings in unusually close quarters.
Adding to the dizzying times was the fact that they’d just recently rocketed to superstardom after the success of 1975’s Fleetwood Mac album. “I was a waitress in January and I was a millionaire in October, [and] then we started Rumours,” Nicks recalled to Red Carpet News TV of the breakneck speed to which her life, and those of her bandmates, changed.
“So we started our songwriting process and then we went in, and everybody was breaking up. And of course that always adds for really great songwriting,” she quipped. “There was a kind of passion thing that was going on, and some anger [but] we never let that get in the way,” she insisted. “That was never brought into the studio. That was outside. What was brought into the studio was great words, great poems, great music. And everybody dug it, even though we were all kind of in chaos.”
“We were all writing great songs because we all had great sorrow to write about,” Nicks further explained during an interview with 60 Minutes Australia. “Straight home from the studio, straight to the piano in tears to write a great song and carry it back and play it for the band and everybody would cry. Everybody knew what it was about, but on the other side of that, everybody was like, ‘Yes, one more great song!’”
Pitchfork has called Fleetwood Mac Rumours “a flawless record pulled from the wreckage of real lives,” and the band members know the “dirty laundry” aspect of its material has played a part in its success. “That’s not to take anything away from the musical accomplishment,” Buckingham has stressed, but “Stevie was writing songs [that were] basically dialogues to me, I was basically writing dialogues to her, and Christine McVie was writing dialogues to John. So you could say that [we were] really tapping into the voyeur in the audience. People were really able to invest in us as people, because…there was nothing to hide.”
But, just as Nicks has promised, Buckingham insists he and his bandmates soldiered on for their shared love of the music that filled the Fleetwood Mac Rumours album. “The reason we did get through that was because we all knew that we needed to somehow fulfill the destiny that had been laid out for us, and to fail to do that would’ve been the weak way to go,” he explained.
“And just for myself, it was about choices. It was about saying, ‘Well, I’m hurting from Stevie, [but] she needs me to do this. I guess I could do a crappy job or I could do the job I know I can do.’ … So you try to make the right choices, and that accumulates and adds up to something.”
The power of the album’s iconic tracks is as strong today as ever. “That was a moment that we could never recreate, just like in your dreams. We could never recreate it,” Nicks has said.
Revisiting the genius of Fleetwood Mac Rumours
Here, we flash back and review the brilliance of each song on Fleetwood Mac Rumours.
“Second Hand News”
This track, along with “Go Your Own Way,” Buckingham has said, “are basically saying [to Stevie], ‘Hey, you know, I’m resigned to whatever happens, but it’s a damn shame. And it’s not what I want.’… Actually ‘Second Hand News’ at least…has a little bit of tongue-in-cheek humor in it, because it’s basically saying, ‘As a contingency, if you ever get lonely, you know, I’m always willing to proposition you.’”
Nicks told Blender in 2005 that she wrote this classic “in about 10 minutes. Right away I liked the fact that I was doing something with a dance beat, because that made it a little unusual for me.” The tune, penned for Buckingham, was done in response to one he wrote about her. “I told him that, in my heart, ‘Dreams’ was open and hopeful, but in ‘Go Your Own Way,’ his heart was closed,” she said. “That’s how I felt. That line, ‘When the rain washes you clean,’ to me that was like being able to start again, and that’s what I wanted [for] Lindsey. I wanted him to be happy.”
“Never Going Back Again”
“By the time I wrote that, [Stevie and I] had a few ups and downs, and she’d moved away from me more than once and come back. It was about Stevie, and it was also about meeting somebody else,” Buckingham told Entertainment Weekly. “It seemed to reaffirm that there was life after that, and yet, you create this illusion of ‘I was down once or twice, but I’m never going back to that again.’ Which is not really the way it works.”
“Don’t Stop”: Fleetwood Mac Rumours
Famously put to use by Bill Clinton during his 1992 presidential run, this tune was penned by Christine McVie, who died in 2022 at age 79, for her soon-to-be ex-husband. “It sunnily encouraged John, the band’s bassist, to look forward rather than brood about the past,” the Guardian noted. Its lyrics are sweet, genuine, and (if you’re a sap like me) could have you reaching for a tissue: “All I want is to see you smile, if it takes just a little while. I know you don’t believe that it’s true. I never meant any harm to you.”
“Go Your Own Way”
“I very, very much resented [Lindsey] telling the world that ‘packing up, shacking up’ with different men was all I wanted to do,” Nicks told Rolling Stone of this song, the most stinging one on the album. “He knew it wasn’t true. It was just an angry thing that he said. Every time those words would come out onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him.”
This intimate track seemed to fall from heaven to Christine McVie. “I woke up in the middle of the night and the song was there in my brain, chords, lyrics, melody, everything,” she once told People. “I played it in my bedroom and didn’t have anything to tape it on. So I had to stay awake all night so I wouldn’t forget it.” She added to the Guardian, “It was as if I’d been visited—it was a very spiritual thing.”
Nicks had written part of these lyrics — “if you don’t love me now, you will never love me again” — for another song she’d been working on, and Buckingham asked her if Fleetwood Mac could have them for “The Chain.” Since the music and the band were still her top focus during all the behind-the-scenes turmoil going on, “I thought to myself, ‘Well, okay. I will take one for the team,’” Nicks told Variety.
“You Make Loving Fun”: Fleetwood Mac Rumours
Awkward! Christine McVie penned this bouncy, flirty tune about her blossoming relationship with Fleetwood Mac’s lighting designer, yet Mick Fleetwood joked to Q magazine, “Knowing John, he probably thought it was about one of her dogs.” Christine appreciated how hard it was for John to perform it through the years knowing its true inspiration, just as each member struggled with the songs written about them. “We just gave each other goosebumps, and it was definitely a trial,” she told Moto.
“I Don’t Want to Know”
After Nicks heard that her beloved song “Silver Springs” wouldn’t make the Rumours album cut, she was upset. Having it replaced by this tune — one she and Buckingham used to perform together live — was a nice pick-me-up for her, album producer Ken Caillat told Music Radar. “We needed something shorter, a little uptempo.… We cut the song with Lindsey and the others – Stevie wasn’t there that day – and Stevie came in later and sang her parts. It might have been the easiest song on the record. We were done with it fast. It’s a great sing-along.”
“‘Oh Daddy’ was about Mick and Jenny,” Christine McVie once told Mojo, although there’s been much speculation it was another tune inspired by her new relationship at the time with the group’s lighting designer. Either way, “That’s probably my favorite Christine song of all time,” Nicks wrote about it in honor of the 2013 reissue of Rumours.
“Gold Dust Woman”: Fleetwood Mac Rumours
Its lyrics — “Rock on, gold dust woman, take your silver spoon, dig your grave” certainly seem to be referencing cocaine, a drug with which Nicks has been open about her history and battles. “[The song] was my kind of symbolic look at somebody going through a bad relationship, doing a lot of drugs, and trying to make it. Trying to live. Trying to get through it,” she noted to VH1, though in an interview with Courtney Love for Spin, she admitted she wasn’t 100% sure of its full meaning.
“I know there was cocaine there and that I fancied it gold dust, somehow… [but] it can’t be all about cocaine,” she shared. And in other interviews, she’s said “it’s about groupie-type ladies. About women who stand around and give me and Christine dirty looks but as soon as a guy comes in the room are overcome with smiles.”
For similar content, keep reading!