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Classic Album FLEETWOOD MAC RUMOURS

“Art is only a way of expressing pain”, reckoned John Lennon – and with Rumours, Fleetwood Mac took massive hurt and polished it into a tour de force of pop-rock that helped define the 1970s. Michael Leonard looks back at a 40-million seller that has transcended genre and fanbase, and whose legend is half-based on the fractious relationships and excess that surrounded its very making…

NOW IT’S PERSONAL

The album was going to be called Yesterday’s Gone, an apt enough description of crumbling relationships, but it was John McVie who coined the final title, said Christine McVie: “We were all writing journals and diaries about each other. But we didn’t quite realise that until all the songs were strung together.”

ANNIE/MAC

Fleetwood and Nicks are paired on the front cover, but weren’t an item: Nicks was still dealing with the decline of her relationship with Buckingham. However, their relationship started to grow at the Rolling Stone cover shoot soon after, when all five were shot in bed together by Annie Leibovitz.

OLD BALLS

Mick Fleetwood’s wooden ‘balls’ were toiletchain pulls he’d wrenched from a lavatory. They became a lucky charm and soon hung from his trousers at most live shows. When the originals were lost, Fleetwood had replicas made. He later said, “I won’t say they’re as old as me, but my balls are quite old.”

OLD ORBS

Rumours’ cover snapper Herbert Worthington III (died 2013) was Stevie Nicks’ portraitist of choice: he also shot Nicks for her Bella Donna and The Wild Heart albums. He owned House Of Worthington, an antiques store in LA: his footstool and glass orb are used as props.

NOW IT’S PERSONAL

The album was going to be called Yesterday’s Gone, an apt enough description of crumbling relationships, but it was John McVie who coined the final title, said Christine McVie: “We were all writing journals and diaries about each other. But we didn’t quite realise that until all the songs were strung together.”

YESTERDAY’S VIGON

Designer Larry Vigon, who painted Rumours’ lettering, also did the paintings for the cover of Eric Clapton’s Behind The Sun LP, as well as designing covers for Chicago, Frank Sinatra, The Rembrandts and John Lee Hooker.

FLEETWOOD GAK

Fleetwood Mac planned to thank their cocaine dealer in the LP’s sleeve credits: he died before they got the chance.

“ Trauma. Trau-ma.” That’s how Christine McVie described the making of Fleetwood Mac’s 11th album to Rolling Stone just after its release, forewarning the world of the one thing that everyone now knows about Rumours – that it’s an album born out of intense strife. Numerous other rock records are like this, of course. You don’t need to be a medic to see from the cover alone that Syd Barrett was ‘a bit gone’ for his post-Pink Floyd debut, The Madcap Laughs. Nor is a Relate counsellor needed to detect personal disconnect in Richard & Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out The Lights. But these troubled albums had the benefit – even if that’s the wrong word – of being relatively ‘fringe’ sellers. When the members of Fleetwood Mac literally forced themselves to make Rumours under a grim cloud of infighting and powder-snorting, they were already a No. 1 band. When they came out of the studio with Rumours under-arms, they were going to get even bigger. But not much had got better on a personal level.

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