Now that the punks are old and fat and have good jobs in the media, Fleetwood Mac have been quietly rehabilitated, like Hawkwind, and people can admit to liking Rumours, which is, after all, the 8th most successful album of all time for a reason.
I first heard Rumours at a party my mum took me to just before Christmas 1977, and it made the party – which was full of adults getting drunk and eating multi-coloured rice salad – more or less bearable. In the New Year I ventured down to Broadmead, in central Bristol, and scarfed myself a copy with my Christmas money. Rumours thus became the first vinyl album I paid money for, although my cousin Marc and I had jointly invested some Woolworth’s tokens in The Best of Chuck Berry and The Best of Buddy Holly on cassette. Marc wanted to buy Led Zeppelin IV but I persuaded him that we could get both the Berry and Holly tapes for the same price. We’d also acquired a pile of vinyl from a neighbour, who turned out in later life to be a paedophile, not choosy about whether he abused boys or girls. He is now in prison, which is where he belongs. Still, thanks for the Crosby Stills Nash & Young albums, Darrell. Not so sure about the Barclay James Harvest.
Back to Rumours. Few albums have such a high ratio of quality to filler. Actually, there is NO filler on Rumours. I used to like the more upbeat tunes like Don’t Stop and Go Your Own Way – and I still do – but it’s taken me years to recognise the depth of talent Christine McVie possesses, how much she – along with Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks – contributed to Rumours. Often times in the past I’d skip You Make Loving Fun or Oh Daddy. Actually I’d skip most of side two once I’d listened to The Chain (aka the Formula One theme) and go back to side one and play Go Your Own Way over and over, standing in front of the mirror with a broom for a guitar or mike stand or both. Guitar, mike stand, guitar, mike stand… I was alternately lead guitarist and lead singer, a bit like Lindsey Buckingham. Then it dawned on me that you could get away with playing Dreams in a DJ set because really, who doesn’t dig those hypnotic Stevie Nicks vocals? Although it sounds like she was snorting a lot of horse rather than a lot of charlie. Even slower, even more hypnotic and opiate-like in its effect, is the album closer Gold Dust Woman, which I have often “dropped” as my set closer, to enormous applause, albeit only in the safety of my own bedroom (I’m yet to try it on a live audience, but hey… there’s still time!).
And then there’s Tusk. Buying Tusk at the height of punk – or new wave, to be precise – felt like a genuinely subversive act. This album is now recognised as a masterpiece, the West Coast AOR equivalent of Sandinista. Who listens to their crappy old Cortinas records when you’ve got the might of Tusk to navigate? It’s a strange, slightly baffling, entirely life-affirming record, in which all the disparate elements that fused so successfully on Rumours are pulled apart by the restless Lindsey Buckingham. Sure, Stevie Nicks trots out the same woozy, “I’m on cocaine but someone mixed it with heroin” speedball ballads (here called Sara, Storms, Sisters of the Moon) Christine McVie still sings love songs so simple and heartfelt their complexity is lost until the umpteenth listening but Lindsey B has thrown his toys out of the pram and gone punk. With a budget of billions, he decides to record his songs (The Ledge, Not That Funny) like Rainbow Warrior demos (only a handful of people will get that reference, but they are the handful who read this blog). The drums sound like biscuit tins, the guitars sound like a Sniffin’ Glue version of Robert Fripp… and then there’s the title track, another DJ perennial, Talking Heads-like tribal drum thuds and marching band horns, with a time signature-busting breakdown to give James Brown nightmares. The official video also includes a rousing horns-only version at a football match around the 3 minute 20 mark – well worth a peek!
While we’re at it, a word for The Fugs, whose It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest is certainly one of my most treasured possessions. In a parallel universe, everyone would own a copy of It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest. The Fugs would be gigantic, and appear as guests on The X Factor, promoting their new single. Teenage girls would sing along, reciting the multiple synonyms for marijuana which the Fugs set to a Gregorian chant, and call Marijuana. They (the girls) would know all the words to Ramses II Is Dead, My Love and Crystal Liaison, and in their spare time they’d read my blog. In my parallel universe, the other Fugs albums which you can “scarf up”, according to the inner sleeve, would actually exist and not be a horrible practical joke played on the listener. In both universes – the real and parallel one – The Fugs would include Ed Sanders, who would write a book about the Manson Family, though not a very good one, certainly not as good as 68½ – MOVIES, MANSON & ME by Nick Gilbert, available to download from the link on the right, and Tuli Kupferberg, who would be seen patrolling the streets of New York dressed as a soldier in Dušan Makavejev’s most celebrated movie, WR: Mysteries of the Organism. The circle would be completed by Hawkwind, whose greatest hour, Orgone Accumulator, celebrates Wilhelm Reich’s orgone machine with rhyming couplets Jim “pyre/fire, road/toad” Morrison would have been proud of: isolator with stimulator, vibrator with creator, greater with later, although inexplicably, it omits the following: mater, pater, masturbator, man-hater, alligator, equator, data and tater.
The rest of the Fs in my collection….
4th Coming (Pyschedelic soul with country stylings from cult figure John Greek and the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band)
Faine Jade, Introspection (late-sixties US pysch imitating UK psych – sounds like it was recorded in his bedroom, under water, with fish playing the instruments. In other words, a bit like Lindsey Buckingham’s contributions to Tusk).
Marianne Faithful, Broken English (I bought this because Why’d Ya Do It contains the line “Every time I see your dick, I see her cunt in my bed” – possibly the bitterest lyric of betrayal ever written).
Faust, Faust/So Far/IV (If someone doesn’t have at least one Faust record in their collection, I stop being their friend. Last time I counted, I still had THREE friends!)
Bill Fay, Time of the Last Persecution (Bill Fay languished in obscurity for thirty or more years, was rediscovered and made a couple more dreary autumn-of-his-years albums, which are like late Leonard Cohen, only worse. Back in the day – 1970 or thereabouts – he was just miserable before his time, and it’s that precocious ennui which makes this album so compelling).
Field Music (just to prove that I DO have 21st century music, even if it sounds like Be-Bop Deluxe).
Roberta Flack, First Take (I’ll take some flak for that, I expect)
Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive (not many people have this album)
Aretha Franklin, Hey Now Hey (The Other Side of the Sky) (I bought this album for £1 from John Stapleton’s shop in St Nicholas Market, Bristol, because it was warped but it plays fine, despite the absence of songs with the word cunt in them)
Erma Franklin, Soul Sister (contains a great version of Light My Fire, and a clever double entendre in the use of the word sister)
Funk Factory (does what it says on the tin, albeit not very successfully)