As a verified messy bitch who lives for the pure drama of it all, Rumours is a musical godsend. Describing Fleetwood Mac’s legendary 1977 album as just ‘a break-up album’ feels like the understatement of the century. When the band locked themselves away in a windowless, clock-less studio in California to record their eleventh album, they were more soap opera cast than band. Vocalist-guitarists Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham’s on-off relationship had finally exploded, bassist and keyboardist/vocalist John and Christine McVie had divorced, and Mick Fleetwood’s wife was having an affair. All this in the bright-lights-fame-and-limitless-cocaine world of Fleetwood Mac in the 70s was enough to tear them apart. But it didn’t.
What came out of that time was a perfect pop album. It was a cannibalistic effort that consumed the band members’ personal lives and turned their private pain into public gossip, but there isn’t a single bad song on that album. Rumours holds up perfectly, even divorced from the rest of the record and the story of its chaotic beginnings. Behind the smooth pop, there’s an undercurrent of passive-aggression and hope that makes the pain all the more relatable. To listen to this album is the pop-rock equivalent of being friends with both the people in a break-up, each one performing their heartbreak to try and come out on top of their mind-game of choice, but without all the emotional exhaustion of actually knowing these people. (For the record, Stevie Nicks definitely won Rumours – just listen to the barely-concealed bitterness of ‘Dreams’ and tell me she’s not more sympathetic than Lindsey Buckingham’s spiteful performance on ‘Go Your Own Way’). Rumours lets you watch three break-ups happen in real-time, giving equal voice to almost every party, with songs like ‘The Chain’ literally having vocalists fighting for control of their story. But beneath all the posturing and performance, the emotions are all there.
I’m not saying it’s always a positive experience. Rumours is an album guaranteed to dredge up all the memories you thought you’d forgotten about how awful you were in your last break-up and you’ll get angry and sad all over again, even if all the songs are solid bops. Whether you’re bitter, broken-hearted, or just a bitch like me, there’s something here for everyone to connect with. Maybe the best thing about this album is that it doesn’t really move on. All its songs are stuck in this process of being pulled apart, inch by agonising inch, and even amongst all the vindication, passive-aggression, and pain, Rumours gives its listeners the chance to stay living in that awful heartbreak.