Oh Daddy

Rhino Records

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 sources—one being a wink from Lindsey Buckingham—I 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 prove—there 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 singles—which were subsequently beaten into fatal overfamiliarity by both FM and AM radio in the summer of 1977—sold 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 media—as opposed to downloads—has to become to succeed. Housed in a gatefold LP jacket, are one 180 gram vinyl LP reissue that is quieter than the original issue—though that’s not saying much as those were the days when major labels were mass producing floppy discs—as 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 overly–massaged 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 go–to 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.

mauidj's picture

Last week we had the unique experience of an evening with Mick Fleetwood and friends at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. A lovely 1000 seat auditorium a few miles from my home on Maui's North Shore. The program consisted of Mick and his great friend and Fleetwood Mac guitarist, Rick Vito conducting a question and answer session from a living room setting on stage. During which he talked about and answered questions relating to his many years in the music business...going back to his time with the Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac. He spoke at length about the turbulent years surrounding the recording of their seminal album (not his favorite by the way). I won't bore you with the details but it was most informative, funny and quite surprising at times. Yes they were indeed strange and drug/alcohol filled days!

After a brief intermission he was joined by the other members of the Mick Fleetwood Blues band. While Fleetwood Mac could never be accused of playing in that genre the blues were and still is his favorite musical form.

As if that were not enough they were later joined by Steven Tyler (another Maui resident) and Christine McVie. This was the first time she had performed in over 14 years!

For a lucky few, me included, we then got to go back stage for further conversations and revelations......Oh what a night!

Bubbamike's picture

Fleetwood Mac was indeed a blues band at first, just not this incarnation, it went through many, many incarnations before the iconic version with the McVies, Nicks, Buckingham. Peter Green's version was a rocking blues band and his leaving the band was a big blow.

mauidj's picture

I agree...

I meant that in it's more famous incarnation it was not blues oriented. I personally loved the band under the guidance of peter green. As did Mick it seems.....

deckeda's picture

... about Rumours does a good job describing the behind-the-scenes "sausage" and like many of the Classic Albums DVDs includes some interesting peeks into the sound as the relevant performers, producers or mix engineers bring up differnet fades on the board.

One thing I found interesting from watching the DVD is that the original drum track didn't survive production. After working on Rumours for a year (!) and running the tape over and over again the drum track was in bad shape.

This threatened a year's worth of recording for the rest of the tracks because of course they'd all been played and sung against the drum track laid down earlier. 

The master tape was created by playing back two machines, one running the safety copy of the drum track, and the other main tape that had everything else, with the engineer listening to both machines, wearing headphones getting fed a special mix and manually tweaking each machine speed to keep them in sync --- the kind of thing no one would have to slog through with digital recorders today and sync code tracks.

Presumably, any collector who buys this already has that DVD as well as the Warner Reprise Records 517787-1 45 rpm (2011) mastered by Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman at AcousTech Mastering.

dalethorn's picture

I thought Caruso2000 was the first and last of manual syncing, now Fleetwood Mac. I suppose 30 years from now the new quantum computers will be able to digitize each bit of magnetic fiber on those old tape reels, and fill in all the missing blanks. BTW, I wonder if anyone did a restoration of Bare Trees.

corrective_unconscious's picture

Whenever I encounter this album I cannot help remembering that it was used for the final (somewhat perfunctory, rote) audio listening test by a Boston area electronics manufacturer in the heydays of Snell, et. al. The designer thought it was an excellent recording for the task. Suffice it to say that everyone at the factory joked about how often we heard the test track each day.

And they kept using the same disc year after year, if I'm not mistaken, which might offer some indirect insight as to why they went out of business....

dalethorn's picture

I took this album into a relatively new audio dealer in Akron Ohio who had just gotten the Fulton J-Mods in for demo, and he refused to play "That album" on his precious loudspeakers. He too went out of business.