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The Story Behind Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours Tour: “We All Went Beserk”
In Depth

The Story Behind Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours Tour: “We All Went Beserk”

Hedonism, drama and great music… Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours Tour had it all – as the ‘Rumours Live’ album proves.

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When Fleetwood Mac embarked upon the Rumours Tour in February 1977, they were rock stars. By the time they wrapped up the tour in August 1978, they were a phenomenon.

In the intervening months, their 11th studio album, Rumours, had exceeded all expectations, selling over ten million copies worldwide in its first 13 months of release, and staying at the top of the US Billboard 200 for 31 non-consecutive weeks. In February 1978, the band and co-producers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut won the Grammy for Album Of The Year.

The album’s success far eclipsed anything that any of the group had previously experienced, and had the effect of multiplying the troubles that had been brewing internally for the previous few years. Relationships that were already strained became dysfunctional, and yet the show went on – even the behind-the-scenes drama couldn’t derail the juggernaut that Fleetwood Mac had become. In fact, if anything, the soap-opera-like happenings only heightened the intensity of the live shows Fleetwood Mac performed on their Rumours Tour.

Here’s the story of how the Rumours Tour enabled the band to perform an emotion-filled catharsis on stage every night.

Listen to Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours Live’ album here.

The performances: “I could have never planned any of this”

Drummer Mick Fleetwood took a philosophical approach to the hedonistic madness that surrounded the group on tour, as he told Rolling Stone in 1977: “I could have never planned any of this. I don’t even believe in making plans. They only create an atmosphere of disappointment. So it’s not a day-to-day situation with us, but there’s always full potential of either great things happening or totally disastrous things happening… Fleetwood Mac, from point one, has been like that. We’ll always be able to move without breaking a leg.”

By the time the second North American leg of the Rumours Tour began, in May 1977, audiences were guaranteed fireworks. The version of Go Your Own Way, Lindsey Buckingham’s kiss-off to Stevie Nicks, performed at the Fabulous Forum, Inglewood, California, on 29 August 1977, and released on the Rumours Live album, is a case in point. The studio sheen of the Rumours original is replaced by a gutsy and volatile-sounding take of the song, with Buckingham’s ragged vocals complemented by the kind of wild, distortion-drenched guitar solo more commonly associated with Neil Young And Crazy Horse.

Rumours Live proves that Nicks gave back as good as she got, as demonstrated by her performance of Dreams – the song she wrote after hearing Go Your Own Way. Nicks would later tell Mojo, “Dreams and Go Your Own Way are what I call the ‘twin songs’. They’re the same song written by two people about the same relationship.” While Buckingham’s anger feels palpable on his song, on the Rumours Live version of Dreams, Nicks’ vocals are relatively measured and cool, so when she spits out such pointed lyrics as “Women they will come and they will go”, it feels especially damning. The tension is heightened by Buckingham’s sizzling guitar playing – his way of responding to Nicks’ words.

The audiences: “They want the comfort of songs that feel like old friends”

The audience reaction is palpably ecstatic on Rumours Live – much as you’d expect from fans desperate to witness the hottest show in town. But when the Rumours Tour began it was a different story, as Nicks told Billboard in 2001: “I learned an important lesson back during the first Rumours tour with Fleetwood Mac. You can’t shove new songs down your audience’s throat. You can do three or four at the most… They want familiarity. They want the comfort of songs that feel like old friends.”

By the time the second leg of the tour started, however, fans knew the Rumours material inside out – though the group cannily included a nod to their past. A gritty version of their 1969 single Oh Well (Pt.1), written by original guitarist and founding member of the band, Peter Green, became a highlight of the set, giving Buckingham a chance to unleash some quicksilver blues licks while the original rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie laid down a suitably heavy backing.

In stark comparison to the rollicking blues of Oh Well was the song that became the Rumours Tour set closer – Christine McVie’s Songbird. The performance captured on Rumours Live is a thing of bittersweet beauty, McVie’s masterful vocals and piano complemented by Buckingham’s subtle acoustic guitar, just as on the Rumours studio version. The crowd’s adoring reaction underlines how far the band had come since the tour started, and just how much power the best Fleetwood Mac songs had come to assume on stage.

The legacy: “We didn’t have any idea what was going to happen”

For Fleetwood Mac, more madness was around the corner, as McVie told The Independent in 2017: “You don’t see any money for a year after the album’s released, so when the first cheques started coming in, we all went berserk and went out and bought Porsches and Rolls-Royces.” This most famous of Fleetwood Mac’s line-ups would remain together for another decade, through the Tusk, Mirage and Tango In The Night albums, but, after the Rumours Tour wrapped, things would never be the same for the band again.

“There’s a picture of the five of us back in the day taken by [rock photographer] Neil Preston, and I always look at it and we’re laughing away, and we didn’t have any idea what was going to happen,” Mick Fleetwood reflected. “No one could have imagined the success and the hardship and the torment.”

Buy Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours Live’ on vinyl.

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