Is Rumours overrated?

      4 Comments on Is Rumours overrated?

Every music lover has lists. One that I’ve revisited over the years has been the Most Overrated Albums. For years, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours found itself on that list. The Danny Kirwin era of Fleetwood Mac was probably my favorite (who can argue with “Jewel-eyed Judy?”) and the Buckingham/Nicks era my least. There is a lightness or breeziness once Buckingham and Nicks arrived that can be a bit off-putting. Besides, I was never a fan of Stevie Nicks’s voice. The lore of Rumours coming out of dissolving romantic relationships within the band didn’t seem a compelling background. With multiple staples of classic rock radio, it was easy for me to blow Rumours off as “boomer” music. In 1970, they played shows with Wishbone Ash and Jethro Tull. By 1977-78, they had the likes of Pablo Cruise and Firefall opening for them. There were so many easy reasons to dismiss this era of the band.

Maybe fifteen years ago, I was comparing overrated records lists with a friend. While I thought my inclusion of Rumours was a slam dunk, my friend, among others, disagreed (which is partly why it felt like such a great idea in the first place). In fact, I was so sure that I nailed this one that I had the confidence to give the record a fresh listen.

It was as if I had never heard it before. It was the most delicious plate of crow I’d ever eaten. Yes, there is a breeze rock element to it, but the songwriting and recording show incredible skill in their craft. The breakup theme that runs throughout turns out to be very rich, not so much in the story itself (which is not all that relatable), but in the music that tension produces. The way the three vocalists play out over the record is brilliant (yes, even Stevie Nicks) and Lindsey Buckingham is actually one of my favorite guitarists. Who knew? Everyone but me, apparently.

Years later, that same friend passed on his old set of Bose headphones to me. I tested them out on Rumours. It went from a record that I hated to a record that I used to fully appreciate a really great set of headphones. These days, I save my Fleetwood Mac venom for the stinkers with Bob Welch and, to prove I am no less a contrarian than before, the also-ran of 60’s blues heroes, Peter Green.

Maybe I should start a new list: Bands I Mistakenly Disliked.

“Personal Stories” is a series of posts about artists, albums, concerts, and other experiences that permanently changed our relationships with music.

4 thoughts on “Is Rumours overrated?

  1. Chuck

    It’s really interesting that you’ve written about revisiting both Aja and Rumours, yet you had such completely different reactions to each. With Aja, it seems like every time you’ve revisited it, you’ve discovered it has even less heart that you anticipated. With Rumours, however–which is arguably a similar album from the same time–you surprisingly found a deep well of heart that you didn’t know existed.

    But maybe that’s the key difference between the albums, and the bands themselves. Steely Dan is all head, with performances by session kings who are paid by the hour to emulate whatever you want them to emulate and songs that are academic odes to the ivory tower. Meanwhile, Fleetwood Mac’s heart is what makes them stand out. Without the heart, they’d be just another overproduced ’70s band. But maybe the heart isn’t worn on their sleeve, and unless you’re willing to listen for it, it’s a bit elusive.

    1. bobvinyl

      Rumours is a great proof that the head and heart are not exclusive of each other. In terms of production quality, it can hold its own with Aja, but it doesn’t have to be merely a technical to achieve that level of perfection.

      I hadn’t thought about it not wearing its heart on its sleeve, but that is an interesting point. For all of its drama, it is not overwrought.

  2. Rick

    Back in the late 1970’s a couple of friends of mine and I had the fortune of seeing Fleetwood Mac at a General Admission event. I was no major fan of Fleetwood Mac at the time, but I was always up for a concert.
    To make a party out of it, we got to the arena in the morning and held first position in front of the door. When it opened we were lucky enough to dash in and position right up against the stage center. Three feet from Stevie Nicks for two beautiful hours.

    What does all this have to do with answering the question, “Is RUMOURS Overrated?” Probably nothing, but I was a bit blown away by a band that up to that point I had considered mostly radio fluff. Christine McVie on keyboards was flawless, and when she took the stage for her songs she did not disappoint. Stevie Nicks mesmerized and everyone loved her. From my perspective, it didn’t hurt that I was still a young man and would have run off to Tibet and lived with her forever if she had asked.

    But your post mentioned that Lindsey Buckingham became one of you favorite guitarists and I couldn’t agree more. One of the things I remember was ease at which he played guitar. He didn’t force it or have to. He knew his craft and he did it exceedingly well. He became on of my favorites too.

    I also agree with Chuck, Fleetwood Mac in those days did have heart and honesty in their music and I thinks that’s why they were loved by the fans.

    But to the original question, I don’t think RUMOURS was overrated. It’s an album by a very talented band that fit well in that place in time and was given it’s deserved accolades.

    1. bobvinyl

      That’s a good story about the show. I had a similar reaction to seeing Cheap Trick. I never too them that seriously and then saw them and never looked back. I found out that day why they’re great!

      I think one of the things I really like about Lindsey Buckingham is that it’s easy to miss how good he is. He plays to the song, not the solo and he’s just so subtle.


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