The bigger the record, the more fascinating what was left behind. One question I’ve always loved asking musicians about their iconic records is what didn’t make the cut; what, if anything, is left in the can. More often than not there are demos, rejected takes or songs left lingering in a tape vault somewhere that are a fascinating window into the process behind a record like Fleetwood Mac’s immortal Rumours. Rhino’s new Rumours Deluxe Edition (4xCD, DVD, LP) has added much to the story of this 70’s colossus.
Through a variety of sourcesone being a wink from Lindsey BuckinghamI knew that there was a lot left over from the legendarily wild, drug-addled, relationship fraught Rumours sessions. For those interested in minutia this is a pretty interesting trove that may be the final word on the record. Or as Jimi Hendrix’s legacy continues to provethere may be more (and more and more…) unreleased material yet to come out.
Rumours turbulent conception, which included the breakup of the TWO relationships then going on within the band, is well known and so not to be recounted here. Whatever the hurdles to its completion, or perhaps because of them, the resulting eleven track album, which spawned four hit singleswhich were subsequently beaten into fatal overfamiliarity by both FM and AM radio in the summer of 1977sold 40 million records worldwide and has become one of rock music’s most recognized touchstones. I can think of no better example of a single record that became a cultural phenomenon; that so completely defined its moment in time like Rumours did. It’s a snapshot of the days when the record business was at the height of its powers, when records were still unchallenged by the internet or computer games as THE leisure time activity of a significant slice of humanity, affecting everyone from teenagers to young adults alike. Anyone interested in wading in, and buying an early pressing had best consult Discogs.com for catalog numbers and country of origin as there are 88 different editions across all formats. The early LP pressings of Rumours are distinguished from later issues by textured cover stock.
Rhino’s new edition of Rumours is a model for what today’s niche business of selling physical mediaas opposed to downloadshas to become to succeed. Housed in a gatefold LP jacket, are one 180 gram vinyl LP reissue that is quieter than the original issuethough that’s not saying much as those were the days when major labels were mass producing floppy discsas well as four CDs (the original record, a collection of Rumours tracks played live and two discs of roughs, outtakes and demos) and a DVD documentary. The big question with this set is are the 34 tracks of unreleased studio material and 12 live recordings worth having?
Happily, almost all of the extra tracks sound as good as the finished material, which is to say despite being an overlymassaged mashup of overdubs, and the object since release of much sonic nitpicking, Rumours has enough presence, detail and transparency to make it a very listenable 70’s rock album. Whether this is a fresh remaster of the original record is not mentioned in the 20 page Lp size booklet. Could the sound of the original LP been better? Yes, but this is probably as good as the source material will allow it to sound now. But again, this is probably not the final reissue so stay tuned.
Some of the unreleased track highlights:
A loose, skeletal version of “Dreams” and an even looser guitar/voice only version of “Dreams (Take 2)” both have extraordinarily powerful vocal performances from Nicks which rival or perhaps even top the one on the released take. An early demo of “Gold Dust Woman” with just her voice, acoustic guitar and cymbals is another illuminating moment.
The two takes of Nicks' long (6:08) “Silver Springs,” which was the B side of “Go Your Own Way,” and ended up on a Mac boxed set and their 1997 reunion, The Dance, are here clearly works in progress that confirm that rejecting the song from the final sequence was the right decision. A guitar and voice only “I Don’t Wanna Know” shows again what a great singer she was at this point. Nicks’ song, “Planets of the Universe,” heard here in two demo versions, became an unlikely #1 dance hit in 2001 after Nicks re-recorded a full length version in 2000.
Lindsey Buckingham’s mumbled lyrics, to an early take of “Second Hand News,” supposedly because he didn’t want Nicks to hear they were about another woman, is a strange experience. An impassioned voice, guitar and drums take of “Go Your Own Way,” (sans guitar solo) is a study in how the band worked and how songs were coming together.
Ultimately, it’s the Christine McVie tunes, “You Make Loving Fun,” “Don’t Stop” “Oh Daddy” and the sublime “Songbird” that for me give Rumours its flesh and blood. One of the few tunes from the record that wasn't beaten into submission on the radio, “Songbird” which also became the band’s goto encore number in live shows, appears on the two rarities discs in three different versions, one of which is just an instrumental.
Perhaps the most interesting discovery amongst the outtakes is the evolution of McVie’s “Butter Cookie (Keep Me There),” which appears here in three takes. The song’s end passage, helped by a John McVie bass line, evolves into “The Chain” the only song on Rumours credited to all five band members. “The Chain” is also one of the best tracks on the Live, 1977 “Rumours” World Tour disc. This collection of live tracks, which has different performances from the band’s official live record, Live (1980) (some of which was recorded on the Rumours tour), points up the only problem with this entire reissue, namely the lack of specifics as to when and where tracks were recorded. The only info I could find in the booklet mentions that the live tracks were recorded in Oklahoma City, OK, Tulsa, OK, Nashville, TN and Columbia, SC. This seems an odd omission considering that for $84.95, the set is really only for the Rumours fanatics out there.
The film that’s included, “The Rosebud Film,” originally made as promotion item, is basically a short concert film. Aside from a really storming performance of “Rhiannon,” it’s only really interesting moment comes when Nicks casually describes each member, saying she looks like she’s “going to a Halloween party” and John McVie (in those embarrassingly short cutoff jeans), “looks like he’s going to the beach.”
To twist the old adage, Rumours Deluxe Edition is only for those who want to hear how the sausage was made, how all the heartbreak and venom flying back and forth between the band members”What you had and what you lost”resulted in one of rock’s most singular and enduring masterpieces.