Dreams is one of Fleetwood Mac’s best-loved songs, a Stevie Nicks classic that became the group’s only US No.1 hit and continues to win hearts today. And yet, according to its author, it took just ten minutes to write, pouring from Nicks as she took time out from the studio to reflect on the deterioration of her relationship with bandmate Lindsey Buckingham.
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The backstory: “What was going on between us was sad”
The subject matter was typical of Rumours, the 1977 album Dreams appeared on, which was made at a time when the band’s personal relationships were in a state of turmoil. The success of Fleetwood Mac’s self-titled 1975 album – the first of the group’s records to feature Buckingham and Nicks – had led to a packed touring schedule, the strain of which resulted in the collapse of keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie’s marriage. Drummer Mick Fleetwood was going through a divorce of his own. And Nicks and Buckingham’s tempestuous relationship had also fallen apart.
Despite the inter-band tensions, sessions for Rumours began in February 1976 at The Record Plant, a lavish studio located in Sausalito, near San Francisco, that had recently been used by Sly And Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and Grateful Dead. It quickly became apparent that these would be no usual recording sessions, an air of no-holds-barred debauchery taking over as the band attempted to deal with their respective frustrations and heartbreaks. Mick Fleetwood later described the mayhem in a 1997 interview with Q magazine: “It was the craziest period of our lives. We went four or five weeks without sleep, doing a lot of drugs. I’m talking about cocaine in such quantities that, at one point, I thought I was really going insane.”
The writing: “I sat down with my keyboard and wrote it in about ten minutes”
Despite the hedonism, the band’s quest for sonic perfection meant that the Rumours sessions dragged on, reportedly costing the group over a million dollars and resulting in long stretches where Nicks – less interested in the technicalities of recording – found herself at a loss. On one such occasion, her boredom was Fleetwood Mac’s gain, as the singer took herself away from the action.
“One day when I wasn’t required in the main studio, I took a Fender Rhodes piano and went into another studio that was said to belong to Sly of Sly And The Family Stone,” Nicks told Blender magazine in 2005. “It was a black-and-red room, with a sunken pit in the middle where there was a piano, and a big black-velvet bed with Victorian drapes. I sat down on the bed with my keyboard in front of me. I found a drum pattern, switched my little cassette player on and wrote Dreams in about ten minutes.”