Fleetwood Mac – ‘Rumours’

Prior to the tail end of 1987 my knowledge of Fleetwood Mac was limited to say the least. Quite a few of their most popular songs were familiar to me, many of which I liked, but I’d owned nothing so had yet to pay them my full attention. That was about to change. Rumours was about to get personal.

Some artists or albums bring back memories of certain people, and Rumours is definitely one of those. A one-year relationship was the launch pad for a lifetime of love for an album flooded with personal trauma. It took me quite a while to be able to listen to Rumours and absolutely love it for the stunning album it is, rather than the associated memories, but if anything these songs hit me harder now than they’ve ever done.

Let’s ignore the drugs, apart from to say there’s no better album recorded under an ocean of booze and snowstorm of coke. Despite the intense and fractious themes, Rumours is so much more than a break-up album. Yes, pain is ever present, but so is love, and the songs are all the more powerful for their brutal honesty.

Rumours may be full of sorrow, but the album is also full of majestic songs that never fall far from perfect. Yes, I love songs that make me cry and I’ve shed plenty to Christine McVie’s epic, Songbird. Knowing that these songs were written amongst, and about, intense breakups within the band, makes them all the more magnificent.

Lindsay Buckingham wrote Go Your Own Way about Stevie Nicks. Buckingham on lead, Nicks on backing vocals…
“Loving you isn’t the right thing to do
How can I ever change things that I feel?
If I could, baby I’d give you my world
How can I when you won’t take it from me?”

Stevie Nicks wrote Dreams about Lindsey Buckingham. Nicks on lead, Buckingham on backing vocals…
“But listen carefully
To the sound of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering
What you had and what you lost”

I’m not sure what it says about me but much of my favourite music is the saddest and most despairing. Since a very early age I sought emotion from music, I couldn’t care for gimmick, for fake, for music that lacked soul. Music could move me in many ways, and Rumours hits heavy with the sheer genius contained in the songwriting; the melody, harmony, production and best of all it hits you where it hurts most. The heart.

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – ‘Rattlesnakes’

So, I was working in Discus, a ‘trendy’ menswear boutique, and I was shopping for clothes in Bizarre Bazaar, a grubby, dishevelled, glorious palace of second-hand clobber. My boss said I should smarten up in the shop’s trendy togs, saying I looked like a beatnik, which made me a very happy man. Job done, considering my influence of sixties style and culture was now mixed with a new roll-necked songster.

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions’ Rattlesnakes was a huge influence musically, lyrically, and in the album’s all-encompassing fragrance and melancholy. It oozed masculine sensitivity, referencing a host of style and literary icons, which as an all too easily influenced 18 year-old fed my intrigue massively. I related to Lloyd Cole’s visually shy and faintly awkward persona, whilst his lyrics were clearly that of a deep-thinker, beautifully gushing what it felt like to be a young romantic.

“She’s got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin and she’s sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan.” – Perfect Skin

At the time, Prefab Sprout’s Swoon was another gem of an album; musically exquisite, though with lyrics bordering on ‘trying too hard’, it was Rattlesnakes that was far more personally relatable. Lloyd Cole’s songs read like books, teeming with cultural references urging exploration, wrapped in such genuine timelessness that any accusation of pretentiousness is instantly dismissed.

Reaching a lofty No.65 in the Top 40 singles chart in late ’84, musically and lyrically Rattlesnakes is bordering on perfection…

Jodie wears a hat although it hasn’t rained for six days
She says a girl needs a gun these days
Hey on account of all the rattlesnakes

She looks like Eve Marie saint in On The Waterfront
She reads Simone de Beauvoir in her American circumstance

She’s less than sure if her heart has come to stay in San Jose
And her never-born child still haunts her
As she speeds down the freeway
As she tries her luck with the traffic police
Out of boredom more than spite
She never finds no trouble, she tries too hard
She’s obvious despite herself

She looks like Eve Marie Saint in On The Waterfront
She says all she needs is therapy, yeah
All you need is, love is all you need

Jodie never sleeps ’cause there are always needles in the hay
She says that a girl needs a gun these days
Hey on account of all the rattlesnakes

She looks like Eve Marie Saint in on the waterfront
As she reads Simone de Beauvoir in her American circumstance
Her heart, heart’s like crazy paving
Upside down and back to front
She says “ooh, it’s so hard to love
When love was your great disappointment.”

Rattlesnakes was the band’s finest work. Their two following albums, whilst being hugely playable and achieving higher chart success, lacked Rattlesnakes’ romance and emotional impact. The closer Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken? squeezed out the last drops of an album loaded with depth and sentiment, an album which, like many other sensitive souls, seemed like it was released with me in mind.