How the band turned headlines into hits

By Marlene McCampbell
Updated February 02, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

The title of the album that ended up in nearly everyone’s record collection was suggested by bassist John McVie, with a wink at the gossip then swirling around Fleetwood Mac’s romantic meltdowns. John and honey-throated songbird Christine McVie had recently ended their seven-year marriage; mystic-minded vocalist Stevie Nicks had just left the brilliant, volatile guitarist Lindsey Buckingham; and drummer Mick Fleetwood was serving as the outfit’s father-confessor even while divorcing an ex-model. Unhindered by that baggage, Rumours, released Feb. 4, 1977, shot to the top of Billboard‘s chart, propelled by exuberant melodies, lyrics evoking loss and hope, and Lindsey’s stinging guitar. It stayed there a remarkable 31 weeks, eventually selling more than 17 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Only two years before its release, Mick Fleetwood had stumbled across the struggling young duo Buckingham Nicks, who brought a fresh California sensibility to the ever-mutating British blues band, which had sprung out of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1967. The new lineup’s initial effort, 1975’s Fleetwood Mac, gave the group its first No. 1 album. A repeat of Macmania seemed unlikely, but the emotionally turbulent group transformed heartbreak into polished pop while scoring some direct hits on each other (”Shacking up is all you wanna do,” Lindsey fired at Stevie in ”Go Your Own Way”). The year Rumours hit, you couldn’t turn on a car radio without hearing ”You Make Loving Fun” or ”Dreams.”

Later Fleetwood Mac albums yielded fine songs, but none came close to the magic coalescence of Rumours. The band members’ lives didn’t always come together either. Mick landed in bankruptcy court, Stevie in the Betty Ford Center, and John on probation for unregistered firearms. After a blowout in 1987, Lindsey went his own way but came back to join in on ”Don’t Stop” at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inaugural gala. Stevie, the most successful solo act of the bunch, quit soon after the appearance, later saying ”My part in that particular Shakespearean drama is over.”

But the drama itself won’t stop. Last October, Fleetwood Mac, now made up of Mick, Christine, John, Billy Burnette, Dave Mason, and Bekka Bramlett, released its latest album, Time. And Rumours stands as America’s third best-selling album of all time, behind Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits: 1971-1975.