The Elephant In The Room: The Background To Tusk
by Jim Irvin
A grubby breeze had been whistling through British music for a while by February 1977. It blew albums by The Ramones and The Damned, punk's first long-players, onto the lower ledges of the charts, as if they were mould spores ready to discolour the musical wallpaper. That same month, Fleetwood Mac, a British band that had grown up American, released Rumours, whose plush delights were a world away from the band's bluesy origins and the sound of punk rock.
Anybody following the Mac's picaresque progress had witnessed a complete transformation across 11 albums. Founded by British blues guitarist Peter Green, the band went through an ever-shifting cast of players and singer-songwriters, which included former Chicken Shack alumni and solo artist, Christine McVie - née Perfect - and journeyman Bob Welch, who guided the band towards their world-beating American sound. That new approach was consolidated by the arrival of unknowns Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, who revived the band's fortunes. Rumours was about put Fleetwood Mac on Mount Olympus.
By the summer of 1978, when the band turned their attention to a follow-up to Rumours, that grubby wind of change had been assimilated into the mainstream. No longer a scruffy DIY thing, this impatient music was being styled and marketed as the less threatening "new wave." Its hair was cropped, its ties and pants were skinny and its attitude to the past was youthfully abrupt.
While Rumours was exploding, The Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, The Clash and Elvis Costello & The Attractions were breaking out with music that didn't thrive in the deluxe, fragrant air that Fleetwood Mac breathed. These groups and their speedily evolving output - Costello released three markedly different albums between the summers of 1977 and 1978 - suggested ways to express yourself outside the received commercial wisdoms.
Lindsey Buckingham totally got that. He came off the Rumours tour and kept playing records by all the above. The music's succinctness, scrappiness, and pell-mell sense of possibility reminded him of what he'd loved about his first rock 'n' roll 45s, and reawakened some of the values he'd cherished when he started out. New wave was all the rage in the U.K., which was reacting to a recent economic recession with political ferment. Its impact upon the wider culture was less tangible in America, where radio was still loving the FM format - mellow, adult, expensively recorded music that sounded like it turned gold in the perma-sunshine of Los Angeles - and the lucrative explosion of disco. There was so much reassuring music on the dial, why embrace anything that might spit in your cocktail? But punk, disco and the early stirrings of electronic music, world music and hip-hop were signs that young ears were after something truly fresh. Consumers experiencing recession weren't necessarily going to be spending precious bread on any more prog, fusion or yacht rock.
Mind you, all the punks and new wave acts combined were selling a fraction of what Rumours had already shifted. It must have felt like the Mac had the golden way ahead to themselves, but Lindsey wanted to show that his band was not a thing of the past that had gotten lucky, but a progressive creative force that could take on the future.
He wanted his contributions to the next record to give the band somewhere new to operate. He was also feeling uncomfortable about the nature of the success Rumours had brought them; it seemed to have shifted from an interest in their music to what he calls today "success about success... a dangerous Michael Jackson-land to be in." One function of not simply repeating the winning formula on the next record would be to wave away some of that unwanted heat. Rather than run into the idiocy of fame head on, why not exploit the variation inherent within their unique recipe and make new, unexpected things with the ingredients?
"There was a 'fuck you' thing about it on some level," says Lindsey today. "Not direction at anybody in particular, but at the business, the need to conform to some vague set of commercial standards, the things a lot of the new wave people were saying 'fuck you' to as well."
How do you follow a miracle? Lindsey's logic was that something as phenomenal as Rumours was impossible to follow, so you may as well have fun. "Where are you gonna go from that? Anything you do, if you try to repeat it, you're gonna be perceived as not succeeding. It seemed better to undermine it and build it back again."
Of course, the rest of the band might have been forgiven for thinking that his "fuck you" was partly aimed in their direction.
"Lindsey was really making a stand. "I'm not doing Rumours over!"" recalls Stevie. "And the rest of us were like, 'What do you mean? Why would any of us want to do Rumours over? We just want to make a great new record.' If you want to go down some different pathways, research some different genres of music and change it up, everybody was fine with that, but Lindsey was just so adamant about doing something that was the opposite of the previous records. He announced it so viscerally, so demandingly that I think he scared us. We were like, 'What the fuck?!'"
"I didn't define it with any parameters about style," says Lindsey. "It was really me saying, 'Looks, guys, I want to shake up the process a little bit. I want to work at home and bring stuff that I've worked on into the studio and have it augmented by the collective.'"
"I remember Lindsey sitting on his lawn with me, saying, 'Can I do this, bring stuff in from home?'" says Mick Fleetwood. "And I always felt that it was not going to be a problem. This is a band, however, so at some point it had to be integrated, and there was a lot of experimental stuff that excluded out direct input, but then I had muscle memory of Peter Green doing that, so it wasn't that shocking. Like Lindsey playing a Kleenex box as a snare drum and getting me to overdub. That didn't freak me out, because John and I remembered that happening on Then Play On, Peter playing the timpani parts, or something."
The rest of the band was, initially, less inclined to join Lindsey on this particular left turn.
"Mick was on board for shaking things up," says Stevie, "because he wanted to make an African record. He was saying, 'Let's do a native record with chants and amazing percussion.' I love that too, so great, and Christine was fine with that and John would have liked to have been in an-all black blues band, so he was on board. We were definitely all on the rhythm train. We set off on this journey to the top of the mount, and this record started to unravel itself in The Village [recording studio] and become something entirely different."
In his experiments at home, Lindsey favoured short bursts of unexpected sound, setting up a sonic premise, an atmosphere, and then embellishing it, just enough. The lyrics might be rudimentary or merely functional, the sounds might not be as sweet as easily digested as his previous compositions, but Lindsey was enjoying rediscovering the things that had sparked his love of music.
"What I came up with was not something that was verbalised [in advance], not something that I knew was gonna come out. I don't even think of myself as a writer. I'll never be a writer in the way Burt Bacharach or Brian Wilson is, or people on that level, I'm sort of a stylist. There's nothing wrong with that. They're still songs and they have a set of reference points that come from rock and pop."
"Lindsey felt he had to fight to get this to happen," says Mick. "'When we got into making this album there was no trepidation at all. I think he imagined that there might be."
Stevie and Christine slowly began to react to the material Lindsey was bringing in - songs from the Brian Wilson flavoured "That's All For Everyone" to the breakneck rockabilly of "That's Enough For Me," with songs that contrasted or offset his work. Their take on artistic freedom was different than Lindsey's, but they appreciated the imperative.
"Everyone became quite enchanted by what we were doing," Lindsey says. "So it fed off itself, and shaking things up became something that eventually they began to enjoy, whether they were willing to admit it or not."
Tusk became famous as the first album to cost more than $1 million to make. "They can't lay all of that on me. I was working from home," Lindsey laughs. But one reason for this price tag was that Studio D in The Village was build to the band's specifications.
"Our lifestyles had changed," notes Mick Fleetwood with obvious understatement. "We'd had every kind of accolade and reward you can imagine thrown at us after Rumours. By the time we got in the studio, the whole thing was like a Fellini flick. There we were, all busted up as usual, at the height of our success. Stevie and I were the most into living rock 'n' roll lifestyle, I think it's safe to say. We were the "par-tay" leaders. But we didn't let that interfere when we went into Studio D. That was our place of worship. It was really a trip, everything we'd ever dreamt of, including a replica of Lindsey's bathroom at home, which had a particular ambience he cherished.
"It sounds like an indulgence, but in truth it's very much not. I think it's really cool that a bunch of people don't just go in and say, 'Hey let's feed them fish, make an album in three months and get the fuck out of there'. We slaved doing what we were doing, and we always do. And, by the way, that's our money. We were funneling resources right back into our art. We managed ourselves too, so we didn't have some paranoid Svengali saying, 'It's gonna be the kiss of death if you do this.' So we did it. It's a reminder of the quirkiness of Fleetwood Mac."
The first song to be worked on at The Village on Butler Avenue in Los Angeles (then known as The Village Recorder), where the whole album was cut with Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut, was Lindsey's itchy rocker - pointedly titled, perhaps - "I Know I'm Not Wrong." That first studio day was logged on June 26, 1978. When the album wrapped on June 22, 1979 (having used over 175 reels of two-inch tape and then consuming almost 400 mic reels), that song was also the last to be worked on, having gone through multiple recordings. Ken Caillat recalls how, having set everything up in the usual way, Lindsey arrived that first day and asked him to turn every knob on the console 180 degrees and "see what happens." Some found this kind of behavior if not combative then at least unproductive.
"I think Tusk is a spectacular record," says Stevie. "But when we were locked up in Studio D for a year - with the shrunken heads and leis and Polaroids and velvet pillows and saris and sitars and all kinds of wild and crazy instruments and the tusks on the console, like living in an African burial ground - it was heavy, intense heavy. We were all down with getting heavy, but Lindsey was really trying to make it weirder and heavier than any of us were able to comprehend. But we went along. We followed him up that mountain!"
It wasn't a solid year of work. Lindsey tiptoes around the subject, but suggests those new "lifestyles" had a lot to do with the amount of time and money consumed. Although they'd work at least five days a week, often the whole group wouldn't convene at The Village until the evening. Once small talk, gossip and the enthusiastic absorption of drink and drugs had taken place, actual recording might not have started much before sundown, continuing for as long as anyone was interested and capable. Leaving the studio at dawn was not uncommon. Working this way ate up time and energy. Plus, the notoriously insular and emotionally complex Fleetwood Mac was still thrumming from the fallout of the Rumours sessions.
"The rule of thumb when you're making a Fleetwood Mac record is that there are no other people, " says Stevie. "So everything that was going on in our personal lives was really not welcome in there. People were under a lot of pressure for that."
One major source of tension in the first weeks was that Mick's marriage - which had been under strain since 1973 when his wife Jenny had an affair with a former band member - finally collapsed when he began an affair with Stevie. But after three months it went horribly, inevitably wrong.
"Mick and my best friend Sara [Recor] fell in love and that just turned into a nightmare," says Stevie. "She moved in with him overnight and I got a call from her husband telling me the news. Neither of them bothered to tell me. I went and sat up on the mountain for three hours and watched my life pass before me. Then I had to get up the next day, get dressed and go into work, and not ever look at Mick for months. I was just sitting on the couch, crocheting dozens of scarves, watching. It was horrible, horrible."
Later that year, Mick's father passed away. John McVie married his second wife, Julie Rueberts. Christine ended her relationship with the band's lighting designer, Curry Grant, and met Beach Boy playboy Dennis Wilson. Lindsey seemed relatively stable in his relationship with Carol Ann Harris, the studio manager and model he'd met while was Rumours was being mixed, but to some of his workmates he appeared to be stressed about the work. He also cut his hair really short and shaved off his beard, much to everyone's consternation.
In other words, the emotional turmoil wasn't any less taxing than it had been during Rumours - all the quarrels, sulks and uneasy interludes drained further energy and time. Certainly, the year wasn't spent polishing the music to a crystal sheen; many of Tusk's songs retain a frayed, unrefined quality. Yet, despite all the emotional strain, the songs kept on coming. The volume of material soon sparked discussions about a double album, which was a counterintuitive move, one might think, considering the initial new wave inspiration. (The Clash's ow unruly double LP, London Calling, would appear two months after Tusk.)
"At that particular time the music business was in a bit of a slump," recalls Mick. "I well remember the record company going, 'You do know [a double album's] not a good idea', and me going, 'We are doing it and you won't regret what [this work] is doing within the band.' I think it was hugely important to the survival of Fleetwood Mac."
"I'd love to have been a fly on the wall when Warner Bros. first put Tusk on," says Lindsey Buckingham today. "We were a very self-contained microcosm. There wasn't a lot of intelligence [the label] had been able to glean to get a sense of what we were going to give them. There wasn't any kind of studio playback. We just delivered the album and they put it on in the boardroom."
As the band's self-described "mutant manager," Mick Fleetwood was there. "I think they were stunned. They didn't know how to react. I think they soon realised they had their work cut out for them, that it wasn't Rumours II. There were shockwaves, not unpleasant, but a sense of 'Man, this is quite challenging.'"
"It's easy for me to overstate how confounded they might have been," says Lindsey, "because at the same time you have to look at what the record business was like then, with Mo Ostin at the head of Warner Bros. He was incredibly supportive. If I was railing against some set of formulas... well today, forget it! It's all from the top down. The Mo Ostins in today's world have no autonomy. There was a lot more open-mindedness at the labels then. In today's climate Tusk maybe would have gotten shelved."
Instead, it was housed in an embossed outer sleeve, with four full-colour inner sleeves, minimal information on the back of the outer sleeve, and Vignon Nahas Vigon's design bizarrely focused upon Ken Caillat's dog, Scooter, the cover star and a recurrent theme of Peter Beard's crazed collages inside. (Scooter's head on the body of a naked woman with an enormous tusk between her legs is a particularly starling image.) Jayme Odgers took unnerving shots of the band in a gravity-defying room, while Norman Seeff's unmistakable, luxuriously casual pictures included a telling portrait where the rest of the band is giving Lindsey - who is grinning - a concerned, almost consoling look.
"I didn't get the title," says Stevie. "There was nothing beautiful or elegant about the word 'tusk.' All it really brought to mind was people stealing ivory. Even then, in 1979, you just thought about rhinos being poached, tusks being stolen, elephants being slaughtered and ivory being sold on the black market. I don't recall tusk being [Mick's private slang term for a penis]. That went right over my prudish little head. I wasn't told that until quite a while after the record was done, and then I liked the title even less!"
It turned out that the sleeve is apt, a visual translation of its contents. Listening to Tusk is like walking around a ridiculously eclectic art gallery curated by someone who's keeping their aesthetic a secret - an old master next to an abstract, a kinetic sculpture next to a watercolour. It makes no sense at first.
If Rumours was a sunny record created during an emotional storm (and a literal one, since it rained hard in L.A. during the spring and summer of 1976), then Tusk represents the following calm, the comedown. With the exception of Lindsey's outbursts of angularity, a reflective, crepuscular tone prevails, with more introspection than you would expect from a hugely popular band at the top of their game.
It's also apparent that the chosen running order is not the most obvious route through this music. The world was introduced to Tusk via the title track, released as a single in September 1979. Based on a riff Lindsey and Mick used to play in soundchecks, it starts our unassumingly with a padding drum loop and a soft double-tracked vocal, then creeps up in intensity until the atmosphere is invaded by the arrival, from leftfield, of the 112-piece USC Trojan Marching Band. It's bold and bizarre but undoubtedly arresting. A cinch, one might think, to open the record. But Tusk is the penultimate song on the decidedly mellow side four, breaking the mood like an oblivious toddler at a funeral.
A similar attitude toward accessibility exists throughout, with all three writers (not quite) unveiling some of their more inscrutable works. Lindsey delivers nine wildly different offerings, from the tenderly beautiful "Save Me A Place" to the addictively ugly "The Ledge," with most of them reveling in a garagey bluntness, a pushy sound that leaps out of the speakers. Stevie's contributions - including the meandering "Sara," the fragile "Storms," the achingly sad "Beautiful Child" - are even more gauzy than usual, her voice captured somewhere in the middle distance, wreathed in mist. Christine's trademark brand of sanguine blues becomes interior and wistful in "Brown Eyes," "Never Make Me Cry" and the glacial "Over & Over," a particularly unlikely candidate for the role of opening track.
What's also curious - and please try this at home - is that it's quite possible to condense this material into an excellent single album that almost feels like Rumours II. Fine, but would it have the peculiar allure of the record they delivered, which grows on you as it unfolds and, if you take the trouble to return to it, eventually exerts a powerful hold? Fans often speak of an epiphany on the third or fourth spin, when its difference no longer matters and they realise how gorgeous many of the songs are. It contrasts to Rumours, by being melancholic, unfocused and eccentric, yet there's a palpable air of defiance about it, refusing to do what you expect it to do. Nobody's songs are really grandstanding for your attention; you have to approach them and consider them like those artworks in the gallery. Step back and the bigger picture eventually becomes clear. And from a distance of 36 years, it's clear that Fleetwood Mac created something no other band on Earth could have made - something that won't ever happen again.
Unsurprisingly, the first wave of critics couldn't give it the time it required. There was a lot of fence-sitting, a wait-and-see tone to many reviews. Plus some bafflement and hostility. "Tusk? White elephants is more like it," wrote Creem magazine's Mitchell Cohen, "[Mac have gone] from shining platinum to dull ivory."
Said Robert Christgau: "Only Buckingham is attuned enough to get exciting music out of a sound so spare and subtle it reveals the limits of Christine's simplicity and shows Stevie Nicks up for the mooncalf she's always been. Also, it doesn't make for very good background noise."
Others, however, were impressed by its ambition. "Tusk ought to leave Rumours in the dust, conferring a new regality on Fleetwood Mac," wrote Al Aronowitx in The Washington Post. "Tusk leaves you at a loss to compare Fleetwood Mac with any other group except The Beatles, largely because of the depth on its songwriting bench."
But the most effusive praise came from critics who'd absorbed the record over time. Greil Marcus singled out Tusk in a year-end round-up. Nineteen seventy-nine, he asserted, was "a year dominate by The Knack, Journey, the Doobie Brothers and the Blue Brothers: retreads all... the stand Fleetwood Mac has taken with Tusk is as brave as that Bob Dylan took with John Wesley Harding... With its insistence on perceptions snatched out of a blur, drawing on (but never imitating) Jamaican dub and ancient Appalachian ballads, Fleetwood Mac is subverting the music from the inside out."
Tusk sold healthily enough - over four million copies of an expensive double album makes a decent profit - but after the sales sensation that was Rumours, Tusk was doomed to feel underwhelming. Lindsey felt that, having won the band over to his way of thinking, they now disowned the result and vowed not to work that way again. They didn't want him to experiment alone at home in the future. Mick came and told him so.
Millions may have bought it, but how often was it played? Second-hand stores were a handy source of mint-condition copies for a couple of decades. But, gradually, people came to understand and appreciate Tusk's peculiarity, playfulness, depth and beauty, no longer viewing it in the long shadow cast by its predecessor. Lindsey notes that the number of musicians name-checking it as a favourite album has grown in recent years. Mick Fleetwood regularly declares it to be his favourite Mac album.
"It reminds me of the situation with Peter Green and Then Play On," he says. "He took charge of that and it was a great album. Those two albums are peaks for me. A lesson learned, that if you want to keep creatively stimulated, you have to take risks. Lindsey's mindset really foresaw the pitfall that can happen to artists who reach a form of complacency, which leads to, 'Oh, we're kinda done.' Lindsey deserves full kudos for this record, which has become an important milestone in the band's history."
Lindsey, still nursing some residual pain from the band's decision to abandon his then-new way of working, is content that the passing of time had vindicated him. "Their perception of the album went from, 'This is a cool album' to 'This isn't a cool album' to a number of years later, finally opening up to the fact that it is a cool album."
by Jim Irvin
OVER & OVER
The opening track, the first of Christine's six songs on the album, is played remarkably slow - a ballad with a backbeat.
By the time we got to this we knew we had [an album] that was not by the book. When it came to the sequencing we felt this song had a certain familiarity to it, something that people were going to be able to latch onto on one level and yet set them up for some of the other, more untraditional things. Where this got untraditional was leaving it in a fairly raw state, not too glossy in the production.
Lindsey kicks off his contributions with the last Rumours-like song of the lot. Many of the vocals were recorded while kneeling or lying on the floor.
About as far from "Over & Over" as it's possible to go. I was trying to find things that were off the radar. I took a guitar and tuned it way down, in the range of the higher notes of a bass, not like a baritone guitar, where it's correct, but where it's actually a little incorrect - the strings are flopping around and sharping when you hit them. I wrote a little figure with that, threw some teenage influences at it with the drums. It becomes a bit surreal - you throw a bunch of vocals on top that are communal, messy, a little bit punky even.
I don't think there's anyone else on there but me. There were times when the band would augment, and there were times when, even if I took a song in with the intention of having them play, it wouldn't necessarily stick. On this, that one guitar was covering everything. It was a concept piece on that level. There was nothing for John or Christine to do.
Lyrically, I didn't really have anything to say other than what I could put together that sounded musical. There was probably something subconscious about the lyrics. You could say that about Rumours too. I don't think anyone in the band was in touch with the fact that we might have been writing dialogues with each other. It took the audience to help define that for us. That probably holds true for songs on Tusk too.
THINK ABOUT ME
This steady boogie by Christine was a Top 20 hit in the U.S. when released as a single in a punchy, remixed version.
SAVE ME A PLACE
In complete contrast to "The Ledge," this is Lindsey's tenderest song on the album, and one of his tenderest ever.
Stevie and I had compartmentalised our emotions in order to [get through Rumours], lived in denial. Same with Christine and John. None of us had the luxury of distance to get closure. You get to Tusk and there's a real aggressive attitude in a lot of the songs from me. But "Save Me A Place" is one where, late at night, you reflect on the vulnerability underneath that. It's about a feeling that's been laid off to one side and maybe not been fully dealt with, sadness and a sense of loss. There's also a sense of loss for my youth and my upbringing; memories of that, which I loved so much, and how I saw that receding away.
Stevie's first song on the album began as a 16-minute home demo, condensed into a nine-minute studio version, further trimmed to a six-and-a-half minute album track and, later, a four-minute single edit, which was a Top 10 U.S. hit and the version used on subsequent CD editions of the album. The nine-minute first take, mixed down for listening purposes but not intended for release, is sometimes referred to as the "cleaning lady version," after the dialogue at the start. It is among the bonus material in this edition.
Some of Stevie's songs were hard to rein in. If you're very lyric driven and not overly worried about time and structure, if it's more freeform, which a lot of Stevie's things can be, six or more minutes is not hard to get to. The nine-minute version of this was something we cut but probably never intended it to go out at that length.
I wasn't delving into Stevie's private life at the time, so I was never told what it was actually about. I always assumed it was addressed to her friend, who was Mick's wife at the time.
It was a 16-minute demo. My friend Sara was there when I wrote it. She kept the coffee going and kept the cassettes coming and made sure we didn't run out of batteries, and it was a long, long night recording that demo. She was a great songwriter helped. Sara was the poet in my heart. She likes to think it was all written about her, but it really wasn't. She's in there, for sure, but it's written about a lot of other things too. Mick was the "great dark wing within the wings of the storms," but when I was going with Mick I was hanging out with J.D. Souther and he kept saying, "You do know this relationship with Mick is never going to work out, don't you?" And I said, "Well, when I get out of it, I'll let you know." And so there's bits and pieces of him there talking to me.
I played it for J.D. and Don Henley and they both said, "You know what, it's almost not too long. It's good in its full 16 minuteness - it's got all these great verses and it just kinda travels through the world of your relationships." They were really complimentary to me and these are two great songwriters. I knew I had to edit it down, but I found it hard to get below seven minutes. As simple and pretty as the song was, it turned into a magical, rhythmic, tribal thing with all those "oohs" and "aahs." It's a fun song to sing.
I recall it being just me and Stevie going into the night on this one. Everyone apart from Ken and Richard had left. Chris was going to replay the piano and Stevie re-sing the song, but we listened back to this guide [vocal] and she sang it so beautifully while she was playing piano, which was leaking into her vocal mic. And the timing of it was just so individual - there was no way Chris could get in there. The vocal and piano were just not able to be separated. But the guys were saying, 'The timing is all over the place," so I said, "Just let me weasel around and make it okay. If I'm playing brushes there's no absolutes, no hits, it can just grease around." So I spent about 24 hours - a long, long time - dropping in phrases, schmoozing my way around her timing, and that's the track that survived, with Stevie playing piano.
WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU'RE THE ONE
This spirited Lindsey song is notable for the loud, enthusiastic drum track, which Mick made the most of when performed live.
We cut this with just me on piano and Mick on drums, on opposite sides of the room. Aside from setting up the normal mics, we set up a cassette player, a boombox, in front of the drums and ran it into the desk. The mics on those devices have capacitors in them that act as really low-quality limiters, so you got this squash that's really explosive, a real garage, trashy sound that you could only get that way. A good-quality limiter couldn't replicate it. As soon as Mick heard that sound in his headphones he was, "Oh my god, I love this." It turned him into an animal. There's not much else on there. I did some bass and guitar, but the center of that song is Mick's drum work, one of my favourite drum performances by him. We talk about it to this day.
A perfect example of the tastefulness and delicacy of Fleetwood Mac's playing: everybody contributes just enough to one of Stevie's most finely poised compositions.
This album is a study in contrasts. It's a very different mood from the previous song and a very strong song in terms of its form. It has its own folky, country thing going on. The recording speaks of it being cut fairly live. I love this song.
Another tragedy. It has so many layers of telling the world what was happening to me without actually saying what was happening! It was really about Mick. That's Stevie not happy with the way that relationship ended. That relationship destroyed Mick's marriage to Jenny, who was the sweetest person in the world. So did we really think that we were going to come out of it unscathed? So then what happened to me, my best friend falling in love with him and moving into his house and neither of them telling me? It could not have been worse. Payback is a bitch. Bad karma all around. Here's that song in a nutshell: Don't break up other people's marriages. It will never work and will haunt you for the rest of your miserable days.
THAT'S ALL FOR EVERYONE
Echoes of the Beach Boys with layered harmonies and a tempo like waves, tapping the shoreline.
This was influenced by Brian Wilson. What I love about him is not just his music but his choices. He gave me the courage to flout success, showed me that what you need to do as an artist is take risks and find new avenues.
It's a wisp of a meaning at best, more of an atmosphere piece. I had the idea of being at a function with these people and having to go home, but on a less literal level I think it may also have been about deprogramming from the formulas you need to follow to buy what the corporate world is trying to sell you.
NOT THAT FUNNY
Lindsey's sarcastic rocker with a distinctive, plangent guitar sound was extended into an eight-minute tour de force at subsequent live shows. A slightly remixed version was issued as a single in the U.K. but didn't chart.
This was directed at Stevie a little bit. There's something we are still having to deal with as a band: "What's important here? People thinking you're cool or thinking you're cool yourself?" It's more how you feel about yourself, isn't it? This is a classic pitfall of the entertainment industry. It draws people to it who are looking for a Band-Aid to fix things that have happened in their lives. The celebrity culture we live in is a very Roman manifestation of something gone a little wrong with the value system. It doesn't speak of substance; it only speaks of visibility. It's about not buying into other people's idea of you - that's the important thing.
The guitar sound is just a Stratocaster, but I love using the VSO (Variable Speed Oscillation, or Varispeed, allows you to incrementally speed up or slow down a tape recorder). I just slow the machine down, come up with a picking part like that, double or triple it and tweak the VSO on either side so that it's slightly out of tune, and the whole thing comes out with all this phasing.
SISTERS OF THE MOON
A lyrically enigmatic Stevie contribution, with a guitar solo by Lindsey that's reminiscent of "The Chain," this was a surprise addition to the set on the band's spectacularly successful 2014/15 reunion tour.
I honestly don't know what the hell this song is about. I've been singing it on tour for the last two and a half years, and every time I'm thinking, What the hell is that? I think it was me putting up an alter ego or something, the dark lady in the corner, and there's a Gemini twin thing. It wasn't a love song; it wasn't written about a man, or anything precious. It was just about a feeling I might have had over a couple days, going inward in my gnarly trollness. Makes no sense. Perfect for this record!
In a contemporary documentary, Stevie noted that this upbeat rock 'n' roll song somehow ended up with a eerie undertone.
A song about Mick. Not so much my love affair with him. I was always taken with his style, and in those days he would walk in the room and I would just look up. "I still look up when you walk in the room... I try not to reach out." It's all about him and his crazy fob watch and his really beautiful clothes. He's a very stylish individual and I was just this little California girl who'd never really known anybody like him. I remember sitting in The Village writing it - we have it on film - and it was such a quirky little song everybody liked it immediately. And that doesn't always happen with Fleetwood Mac! Instantly, Lindsey picked up the guitar and Mick started drumming on the piano, so that song came to life very fast. In its own strange way, even though it was written in a sad place, it came out to be more of a fun song.
THAT'S ENOUGH FOR ME
Lindsey's breakneck rocker with country roots. Amazingly, the band sometimes played it, even faster live. The song was initially known as "Out Of The Road" - that title is visible in the handwriting incorporated into the inner-sleeve collages.
Rockabilly on acid. An attempt to do something quite surreal, grounded in something recognisable. I was tapping into a general set of reference points on this album. But I never thought of it in terms of nostalgia. It was anti-nostalgia, if you will.
Fleetwood Mac's founder, Peter Green, makes an uncredited appearance on this song by Christine. His solo is just discernible on the fade out here but can be heard in its entirety on The Alternate Tusk.
I don't remember Peter Green coming in, so I don't think I made any judgment on whether to use it or not. Mick would ultimately have had the decision to use his playing or not. And it was Christine's song to do with as she wished.
Peter was living in L.A. then and hanging out at my house a lot. He was still as he is now, changed, but he used to pop into the studio occasionally. I don't know if he was that interested or not, but he did play on this song, which I love. Classic, slinky, killer stuff from Chris. The band's playing really shines. I can't recall why we only used Peter at the very end, but it's great that he's on there, because it's Peter and it's his band.
NEVER MAKE ME CRY
Short and sweet. A classic Christine McVie ballad.
I think the others wanted to counter some of my more manic moments with something a little more downbeat, so this is the kind of thing we ended up doing. This would have worked too with more of a beat, but I assume Christine saw it as a "Warm Ways" kind of ballad.
I KNOW I'M NOT WRONG
The first and last song worked on in Studio D, it went through several iterations during the band's year in the studio, as indicated by he density of the arrangement.
This is a close relative to "Not That Funny" and they share a lyric. "Here comes the night time/Looking for a little more." It's a little joke - can you find the thread here? Like a repeating theme in a novel.
A Christine song with a markedly subdued arrangement, designed to never quite lift off its close cousin, "Never Forget," brackets the mostly mellow fourth side of the vinyl album.
A tearful Stevie ballad and a staple of the five set on the 2005 Say You Will tour.
Stevie never confided in me who it's about, but it's clearly someone who was a bit older, someone who was just passing though. I think it speaks of her longing to connect with someone on a deeper level again. It's sad because it comments on her loneliness. It's a gorgeous song. That and "Storms" kill me.
This is one of my very favourite ballads. It's so from the heart. It was written about an English man I was crazy about who was quite a bit older than me - another one of my doomed relationships. He used to read poetry out loud to me in his beautiful English voice, and I would sit at his feet, just mesmerised, and he would say, "You are a beautiful child," and I'd say, "I'm not a child anymore." He was married, so we stopped, because it was going to hurt a lot of people. The song is like a straight retelling of the last night of that relationship. Every time I sing it I'm transported back to the Beverly Hills Hotel and walking across the grounds to get a cab after saying goodbye.
WALK A THIN LINE
Lindsey's experiment in embellishing a stately melody with multitracked drums.
This was sparked by a Charlie Watts drum fill in "Sway" on Sticky Fingers. There are a couple of times where he does a kind of military press-roll across the beat, and I was in love with that moment. When I thought about the tempo of the song I was reminded of "Sway" and that fill. It was a spirited idea that fit the song.
This is the first music from the album that the world heard when it was released as a single. It became a Top 10 hit in the U.S. and U.K., and versions of the main guitar and drum riff appear on soundcheck tapes - labeled simply "Stage riff" - from as far back as 1975.
My dad had just passed away and I went to see my mum, who lived in the south of France, and it was all pretty crazy. The first night I was drinking like a fish and I got woken in the morning, with an outrageous hangover, by the local brass band playing outside my window - a thing they do every weekend in a lot of places in Europe. It was like the pied piper: the whole village, old fishermen, kids, people in wheelchairs, all following this band, going 'round and 'round the village. Just as I thought I'd get back to sleep, the band would march past again. In the end I thought, Fuck it, I'll keep on drinking. So I sat on the veranda with my brandy at 8 o'clock in the morning and started to think, What a cool thing, involving everyone in the village, bringing people together a celebration. That's what we should do on that track. Who might be the best brass band in L.A.? The USC marching band was touted, and I sold the idea to the band. John was uncontactable, off sailing somewhere, when we got the chance to record and film the band, so we took a cardboard cutout of him to Dodger Stadium to be in the video.
On some level this song was the embodiment of the spirit of the album. Riffs were a big thing for me, and Mick was always one to pick up on the potential of that. Christine helped me on this with some chords. The drum track is a loop. We found a 15-second section we liked and made a circular loop of two-inch tape that went across the room. We let it run for ten minutes and put the song over it. It was Mick's idea to include the marching band. It was a great thing for USC. Not a particularly hummable song in the normal sense, but it functioned as a commercial piece, and it's a killer movement in the live show.
I can't say that I remember a strategy for it appearing at this point on the album. But because it stood alone, in terms of how it was done and with the marching band, if you were to stick it in too early it might blow too many cookies too soon. It feels like a capper of sorts.
After the crazy parade of the title track, this mellow coda by Christine functions like a wave goodbye, possibly chosen to close the record for its repeated sentiment: "We will never forget tonight."