Fleetwood Mac’s remarkable album “Rumours” sounds flawless, but behind the scenes, a whirlwind of emotions and tensions was brewing. Each band member was navigating personal struggles and grappling with drug issues that occasionally brought recording sessions to a halt. Amidst these challenges, conflicts sometimes erupted in the studio.
With the songwriting contributions of newcomers Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, along with Christine McVie’s exceptional keyboard skills, Fleetwood Mac elevated their music to new heights. Yet, as they pursued radio-friendly tunes, their intimate relationships began to spill over into the sessions.
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In the book “Making Rumours,” engineer Ken Callait recalled moments when things could have spiraled out of control.
The breakup between John and Christine McVie cast a shadow, leading to instances where Christine’s new boyfriend was carefully kept away from John during recording sessions.
To channel her feelings, Christine poured her creative energy into crafting the song ‘You Make Loving Fun’. While she claimed for years that it was about her pet, it was widely interpreted as a subtle love song to her new boyfriend. But this wasn’t the most dramatic episode in the studio.
Trouble arose when both Buckingham and Nicks were tasked with adding background vocals to the track.
According to Callait:
“We played around with some ideas, and Stevie and Lindsey were sitting on two high stools in the studio. When I stopped the tape to rewind it, Stevie suddenly cried out, ‘F*** you, a**hole! You can go to hell!’.”
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Their romantic woes that had begun during the early days of “Rumours” fueled this dynamic, switching between professional collaboration and sudden hostility.
Despite the aftermath of heated exchanges, Buckingham channeled his frustration into the song ‘Go Your Own Way’, an expression of his pent-up feelings towards Nicks.
Nevertheless, they persevered and completed the takes. Callait described the moment, saying:
“I couldn’t rewind the tape fast enough. When I got to the beginning, Stevie and Lindsey looked at each other. Then they turned towards their microphones, right on cue, and nailed the parts.”
Perhaps these outbursts resulted from simmering tension with Buckingham as well.
As one of the group’s leaders, his perfectionist approach created strains within the band, culminating in a near-strangulation incident involving Callait when a tape was accidentally erased.
Despite the heartache and the cloud of cocaine that enveloped the production, Fleetwood Mac crafted radio-rock gems with “Rumours.” The album saw success on the airwaves, proving that even amidst their animosity, the band could still create music that resonated. While conflicts roared, their vocal cords found a better purpose in song than in shouting matches.