The recording of Rumours has been covered more than any other album backstory in history, and rightly so! The tale of the record is a fascinating kitchen sink drama that ends with an almost sci-fi-like final twist: they somehow, (to lend a cinema cliché) against all the odds, managed to produce a near-unrivalled pop-rock masterpiece.
The fact a masterful album was somehow alchemically coaxed from the tempestuous tension of the studio is a feat that far outstrips anything that the little giant-killing creep David from the bible managed, because at least he didn’t also have a burgeoning cocaine problem to contend with as well, at least not as far as we know. Amid the masterful songs that unfurled from the herculean triumph of simply keeping the studio afloat, one stands out in the songwriting credits.
The swelling groove of ‘The Chain’, is notable in that it is the only song that credits all five members of the band as songwriters. Thus, when you think about it, the construct of the chain itself is a very poetic way of saying that the musical bonds that the band had somehow forged in the fires of matrimony hell were stronger than the utter madness that howled around them. All that being said, the whole poetical analogy would fall as flat as a ‘Rumours? No, it was all true’ joke if it wasn’t for John McVie’s inimitable rousing bassline. Or would it?
The song might prove that Fleetwood Mac were all about a swell of constituent parts coming together to form magic, however, when pulled apart into isolated tracks, the glory still remains. This isolated vocal take from Stevie Nicks is the sort that could haunt an empty house. The sheer emotional energy poured into it becomes palpable and her powerpack bravura is a humbling thing to behold. At the time of recording, Nicks was only 27 or 28 years old and yet her voice has the lived-in quality of an ageless siren.
What’s more, the rocking perfection of the finished take is such a headbanging devil-may-care romp that often the lyrics in the verses slide into the mix almost unnoticed. However, with nothing other than the occasion click knocking about in the background, their mystic depth really stands out in this isolated vocal cut.
Rumours is the distilled cacophony of five people falling apart and yet at the very top of their game. Despite all the chaos and despair, it is the sound of a rarefied space between crazy, debauched love and its lonely, sombre counterpoint — people at their best and worst. Most importantly though, none of this is imbued retrospectively through the lens of the story we now know, it is all so perfectly captured and present in the sound.
The isolated vocal below stands out as one of the highlights of many. With lyrics and a performance that encapsulates everything that was happening — all the wrung-out heartache, the comic silver-lining of tragedy, the vying musicianship, opulent excesses and all the inherent jubilation that they were, in their own berserk way, getting through it together. In short, the isolated vocal, much like the record itself, is somehow a total mad expression of love — everything coalesces to make not only one of the greatest rock and roll records ever but one of the greatest records ever, period and ‘The Chain’ will forever be a unified highlight.