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The 'Rumours' That Just Would Not Go Away

July 13, 1997|Jerry Crowe | Jerry Crowe is a Times staff writer

It was 20 years ago this week that Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" album ended a remarkable 15-week run at No. 1 on the national sales chart--at the time, the longest hold on the top spot since Carole King's "Tapestry" reigned for 15 weeks in 1971.

But amazingly, the Warner Bros. album climbed back to No. 1 a week later and spend another 16 weeks there. This 31-week run has been eclipsed only once since--by Michael Jackson's landmark "Thriller," which ruled the chart for 37 weeks in 1983.

In fact, it was the success of "Rumours"--with its virtually unprecedented string of four Top 10 singles--that helped change the thinking in the industry about the number of singles that could be pulled from an album.

"It was--and is--an extraordinary story," Mick Fleetwood, the band's drummer and co-founder, says now of the album and its impact. "It had a life of its own."

So intertwined with the band's legacy are the songs from "Rumours" that when Fleetwood Mac's most successful lineup reunited in May to tape a pair of reunion concerts, eight of the 22 songs performed were from the "Rumours" sessions. (The MTV special is scheduled to air Aug. 12, and the album, titled "The Dance," is due Aug. 19 on Reprise Records, with a fall tour expected to kick off in September.)

And "Silver Springs," a Stevie Nicks song that was cut from "Rumours" at the last minute, is expected to be released as the first single from the new live set.

"I remember that we were playing eight songs from that album," says Jeff Pollack, a disc jockey at the time and now a rock radio programming consultant with more than 100 client stations nationally. "You could play an entire side of it and say to yourself, 'Well, at least I played something that people liked.'

"It was one of those bizarre instances where literally everybody owned the record and played the record at every party. You couldn't get away from it."

Formed in 1967, Fleetwood Mac had been a respected but mostly neglected British blues band before striking it rich with the 1975 album "Fleetwood Mac," its first with new members Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joining Christine McVie and original members Fleetwood and John McVie.

The album, which predated "Rumours" by 18 months, sold 5 million copies, yielded three Top 20 singles and set the stage for its successor. But as Fleetwood Mac entered the studio to record "Rumours," the two couples in the group were breaking up and Fleetwood's wife had run off with one of his best friends.

"We were in a state of emotional chaos, but we were also in a very, very intense creative mode," Fleetwood recalls. "I'm sure that all the record company was thinking was, 'When are we going to get the call saying that the band has broken up?'

"Of course, it didn't happen because the music was so intensely focused that it got us all through this terrible, unhappy time."

In addition to the four singles--"Go Your Own Way," "Dreams," "You Make Loving Fun" and "Don't Stop," President Clinton's 1992 inaugural theme--the album yielded rock radio staples such as "I Don't Want to Know," "The Chain," "Gold Dust Woman" and "Songbird."

It spent 134 weeks on the national album sales chart and sold a then-record 17 million copies.

"If you take it song by song, you can make a case to pit this record against any other great album that's come out in the last 20 or 30 years," said Stu Cohen, senior vice president of promotion for Warner Bros. Records. "I wouldn't commit heresy and try to compare it to a Beatles record, but there wasn't a bad track on this album."

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