Given the status and longevity of Fleetwood Mac’s classic 1977 record Rumours, it’s easy to consign the music of this Anglo-American five piece as the sort of palatable fodder ripe for Golden Oldies radio stations.
But that would be making a grave error of judgement.
Mumford and Sons have led an epic live 20-person rendition of ‘The Chain’, a song that’s one of Rumours’ many highlights. Florence and The Machine covered it too, the English singer citing the song as her favourite song of all time.
Through covers by Hole, Sharon Van Etten, Lorde, Tame Impala, New Pornographers and NOFX, the songs of Fleetwood Mac – particularly those from Rumours – continue to find their way, meaningfully, to new generations of music fans and music makers.
The fabled stories of drugs, dysfunction and excess that contributed to the making of this album and its pristine pop songs have been told and retold over the decades. Our knowledge of the backstory to Rumours has added to its perceived romance and mythology. The sordid and wretched tales of anguish, jealousy, lust and rage ooze out of every crevice in each of the album’s tracks.
Perhaps it’s the willingness to share the intimacy of that pain and the joyous emotional release that the melodies give rise to that has been critical to this album’s enduring relatability and relevance.
So, in honour of its four-decade reign as one of the most influential albums of all time, here are ten songs that have benefited from a good dose of Rumours inspiration and a sprinkling of its emotionally wrought musical gold dust.
Hole – ‘Boys On The Radio’
When Courtney Love was looking for likeminded people for her band, Fleetwood Mac was listed as one of her important musical touchstones.
Hole covered ‘Gold Dust Woman’ in 1996, later tapping into some of that wistful ‘70s California sound on 1998’s Celebrity Skin.
Songs like ‘Malibu’ is Courtney recalling her youth whilst ‘Boys On The Radio’ goes a step further, with strong echoes of her hero Stevie Nicks.
Haim – ‘Forever’/’Honey & I’
The force of the Mac is strong with these LA sisters. Their 2013 debut album Days Are Gone was a taut and terrifically melodic collection of songs with an obvious love of soft rock (as well as ‘90s R&B and hip hop).
They’ve covered Fleetwood Mac live and on tribute compilations, but listen to ‘Forever’ to hear an ‘Edge of Seventeen’ inspired guitar riff and ‘Honey & I’, which exudes the tenderness and toughness of Christine McVie.
Empire of The Sun – ‘We Are The People’
Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore got to work with one of their musical heroes, Lindsay Buckingham, on their latest album, Two Vines. Before this collaboration came about, the pair were paying homage to the sun drenched sonic expanse that Fleetwood Mac and Rumours epitomised in the ‘70s.
Midlake – ‘Young Bride’
A strong ‘70s sound permeates the 2008 album by this Texas group. Eric Pulido said of the band’s early records that Midlake’s hands on, trial and error production approach was due to the band being, “gathered around the gear and user manuals trying to figure out how to make an album sound like Rumours”.
Hot Chip – ‘Take It In’
Although purveyors of understated yet infectious house inspired tunes, Hot Chip have also expressed their love for vintage acts such as The Beach Boys, Leonard Cohen and Fleetwood Mac.
Alexis Taylor has said ‘Alley Cats’ has a “Fleetwood Mac-y” feel to it (I can imagine they were dreaming of John McVie’s Dreams bass riff), but take a listen to ‘Take It In’ and hear how this song opens doors in your mind when the refrain of ‘and oh-oh, my heart has flown to you just like a dove, it can fly, it can fly…’. It feels as though it had some divine intervention from some of the most inspired Nicks/McVie Rumours songs.
Fleet Foxes – 'Lorelai'/'Montezuma'
Sublime harmonies and a soundscape that feels at once invitingly intimate but also dauntingly expansive. These are key elements in both the music of Fleet Foxes and Fleetwood Mac.
One great illustration is ‘Montezuma’, the opener of their 2011 record Helplessness Blues. ‘Lorelai’ with its lyric ‘I was old news to you then, old news, old news to you then…’ seems like a distant, perhaps more retiring, relative to Buckingham’s more effusive stance on Rumours’ ‘Second Hand News.’
Rilo Kiley – ‘Dreamworld’
Jenny Lewis has worn her Mac influences proudly. Her 2014 solo album The Voyager serves up her ‘80s-era Mac fandom. But check out her band’s 2007 track ‘Dreamworld’. You can hear Stevie singing her signature lyrics ‘When the rain wash-shes you clean, you’ll know…’.
Gypsy and The Cat – ‘The Piper’s Song’
This Melbourne duo’s name already suggests a firm Fleetwood Mac influence. Try listening to this track from their 2010 debut and not noticing them channelling the spirit of Christine McVie in the refrain… ’where to run, are you there, are you there, in the wilderness look and you will find him’.
Best Coast – ‘The Only Place’
Bethany Cosentino has long proclaimed her love of Fleetwood Mac. There may not be too much sonically that resembles the music of her heroes but the sunny coastal giddiness of her band’s psych-infused pop tunes, mixed with the weary longing in her voice, is evidence enough of the inspiration she draws from Stevie Nicks.
Tori Amos – ‘A Sorta Fairytale’
Tori has often spoken of Rumours being one of her favourite records of all time. Arguably, Tori has also sensed an affinity with Stevie personally. Both have inhabited various mystical characters and personas over their careers as part of their own internal and external creative explorations.
Regarding the making of her 2002 record, Tori told CNN, “I was kind of studying all the great '70s records for this album. It's patterned more after classic song structure – Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, Neil Young's Harvest…
“I think that I was trying to just immerse myself in the way things were recorded. It was a real craftsmanship. It's very hand done. Handmade. And so we approached it like that.”