How Rumours took Fleetwood Mac to the peak of their success
With a new line-up and a new commercial sound, Fleetwood Mac hit new heights of success, while relationships within the band hit new lows thanks to drink, drugs, fights and affairs
Mick Fleetwood had only popped out for groceries. But a chance encounter with an old PR buddy at a shop near his home in Hollywood’s fashionable Laurel Canyon led to an invitation to check out a newly refurbished recording studio nearby. Eager to find somewhere to record Fleetwood Mac’s next album, he was duly taken to Sound City.
In-house engineer Keith Olsen was there to greet him. To demonstrate the studio’s sonic capabilities, Olsen played Fleetwood a track he’d produced for a local duo the previous year: Frozen Love. Its creators, the duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, had since been dropped by their label after the album, Buckingham Nicks, had tanked. Fleetwood, however, was smitten with the track.
Frozen Love was “seven enchanting minutes of vocal harmony and dynamic guitar”, he recalled in his 2014 memoir, Play On: Now, Then And Fleetwood Mac. “I loved what I heard and asked him to play more.”
A few weeks later, in December 1974, Fleetwood was rocked by the news that his band’s singer-guitarist, Bob Welch, was quitting. A combination of gruelling tour schedules and a disintegrating marriage had finally tipped him over the edge. Fleetwood Mac needed a replacement – fast. And their drummer knew exactly who to reach out to. He called Lindsey Buckingham and asked him to join. Buckingham was quick to stipulate that he and Nicks came as a package. This insistence impressed Mick Fleetwood.
“It was family first, it was loyal,” he recalled. “They were like-minded – they wrote together, lived together, loved together. They were very much what Fleetwood Mac was all about.”
So it was, in the first week of 1975, that Buckingham and Nicks formally became Fleetwood Mac’s latest members.
The arrival of the American couple signalled the end of a messy chapter in Fleetwood Mac’s career. Buckingham and Nicks seemed to offer a brighter future and, crucially, an expansion of the Fleetwood Mac sound. The band were now blessed with three first-rate singer-songwriters. Nicks’s pliant voice could shift in a heartbeat from a kittenish rasp to a wounded wail. Christine McVie brought a sturdier, though no less tractable, alto. Buckingham, meanwhile, brought a Cali-pop sensibility to his lead vocals and guitar work that finally unshackled the band from their blues-rock past.