Accompany music : The Chain
So we are still in 1977, 12 days after Pink Floyds ‘Animals’ is released, Fleetwood Mac release the epic album Rumours. My 9 year old soft rock/pop loving self would hear the singles and fall in love with the West Coast american rock sound, sublime songwrting and what seemed (to a 9 year olds ears) the happy upbeat themes. It wasn’t till much later I would realise the trauma that going on when the album was recorded, and then when own life experiences caught up, how perfect, relevant and bitter these songs are.
“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.” ― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
Breaking up is a horrendous process. Whether its a first love, a short or long term relationship, the breakdown of a marriage or even a whole country leaving a larger organisation. Inevitably it brings acrimony, hurt, fear, mistrust, grief, arguments and difficult decisions regarding ownership of albums and black t-shirts. The issues are not usually confined to the couple, unfortunately children are sometimes involved, family and friends also feel the pressure. It seems to me a lot of the issues stem from a lack of communication and people’s inability to express themselves on how they feel. Men are particularly bad at this.
One of my favourite authors, Nick Hornby has written some sublime books which capture mens inability to express how they feel themselves whilst having no problem in expressing their love of hobbies/pastimes. I especially love his book High-fidelity, but it sometimes feels a little too close for comfort. Rob Flemming owns a record shop ‘Championship Vinyl’ and spends his days making top 5 lists of songs and albums, with his colleagues. When his relationship breaks down, he copes the only ways he knows how. Writing a list of his top break-ups, reorganising his record collection and making mix tapes. Some of these are too familiar.
You will be happy to know, I am not going to embark on my own personal list of relationship disasters, but in times of stress I have been known to reorganise the record collection. The worse case examples were, organising from happy to sad (too subjective), organising chronologically (impossible to remember) and organising by the colour of the spine of the album (who knew so many spines were not the same colour as the front). Every time the albums were quickly put back to A to Z. I did the odd mixtape as well, although I never gave them to the target… again these like writing letters are far too subjective. What I do find eases the pain is to play sad, sentimental songs.
“What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?”― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
There are tonnes of great examples of heartbreaker music that not only you can identify with, have a cry along to, sing defiantly along to or find strangely uplifting. In 2009, the Guardian published a list of 1000 spotify songs which were divided on 7 subjects, Heartbreak was one. I selected 32 as my own playlist and put them in my music diary. Amongst them, there are delicate songs that have a strange calming melancholy, Aint no Sunshine – Bill Withers, Flume – Bon Iver. Songs that pick up a direct feeling/situation which you can relate to, Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley, Is She Really Going Out with Him – Joe Jackson. Or songs of real desperation, Take for instance, Winner Takes in All – Abba or Harry Neilsens cover version of Without you, which as well as being an impossible Kareoke song, actually makes you feel like things aren’t this bad. There are so many tracks not on here that apply also, including one or two which still cause me a little discomfort as memories come back of times and places. But this is part of the Cathartic process that listening gives, helping us to move on and make us more happy of our current situation. Writing music/lyrics on such subjects especially about such situations must be a greater release. You see in so many cases, the other person is not involved (other than being a listener/unwilling victim when the song is released). So what happens when nearly all members of the band are involved in relationship issues and all writing songs about each other. Cue up ‘Rumours’
It has been 2 years since Fleetwood Mac released their 1975 eponymous album and the first album to feature partners Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. It was a commercial success and spawned a great single Rhiannon which showed off the qualities of the new members. Entering the studio in 1976, the cracks in the band were beginning to show. Christine and John McVie are getting divorced whilst Buckingham and Nicks relationship was on/off. Even Fleetwood is reportedly having his own relationship issues. The thing that kept the band together was writing and recording music, which considering the majority of the subject matter was based on each other is surprising. Nine of the ten tracks are written by individuals and it is interesting to see their personal approaches. Both Buckingham (B) and Nicks (N) are writing candidly about each other and not pulling punches. whilst McVies (Mc) tracks are further on, considered and conciliatory. Its amazing that when these songs are put together along with the band credited (all) ‘Chain’, that a stunning complete album of human emotions is created.
Second Hand News (B) – ‘Someone has taken my place’ – Starting with what seems an uplifting song with Jangly guitar. Dig further and it has reflective lyrics about being dumped and moved out of the picture. There also seems to be a little bit of regret in this. Chorus couplets with Nicks are great and fascinating. Dreams (N) – ‘Now here you go again, You say you want your freedom’ – A Beautiful song with soft Nicks drawl. Laid back drums, bass, guitar and keyboards washes over the listener reflecting the mood. Lyrics recounting her partner wanting to move on, her happy to let them go and reflecting on how lonely they will be afterwards. You get what you sow. Going Back Again (B) – ‘I’m never going back again’. Another paired back track, with acoustic guitars and Buckingham jumping from amerciana to children’s nursery rhyme. Lyrics suggests trying to go back and sorting out issues, but giving up in the end.
Don’t Stop (Mc) – ‘It’ll be, better than before, Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone’ – Song about looking forward about the future, moving on, apologising for the past and looking after each other. Wrapped up in a wonderful singalong which has an ear worm of a catchy happy tune. Which belies the sadness of the situation. Go Your Own Way (B) – ‘Loving you, Isn’t the right thing to do’ – This is the song which I thought was the uplifting track as a child. Its musically brilliant, from opening acoustic riffs and Buckinghams verses then into the amazing singalong harmonised choruses. Fleetwoods drumming is powerful and drives the track along. The bridge gives enough space before the last resounding chorus. Buckingham lyrics placing the issues directly at the door of his ex. Songbird (Mc) – ‘And I love you, I love you, I love you, Like never before.’ – Beautiful track, with McVie singing along to acoustic piano. Lyrics show how much the relationship and she has moved on and how much she cares for her ex, wishing them the best for the future. Its delicate and sublime and pure McVie on this album.
The Chain (All) – ‘And if you don’t love me now. You will never love me again’. Only song credited to more than one writer and rightly in this case, to the whole band. The track seems to show a group of people recognising their issues and fighting that this will not effect the group. The track shows the band pulling together, from the initial drum, banjo, guitar americana start and harmonised vocals. Building in defiant stated choruses, and almost pledge like responses. McVies bass brings in the tremendous change in the song with Buckinghams stretched guitar solo and the rolling pace which was perfect for Grand Prix coverage. The final chorus, the shouts of ‘Keep us together’ is apt for a track the whole group contribute to. Making a stunning centrepiece. You Make Loving Fun (Mc) – ‘I never did believe in miracles, But I’ve a feeling it’s time to try’. Whilst every other song on Rumours seems to be backward looking, this is McVie looking forward and singing about her future and seemingly a new relationship. The whole song is a little more sexy, a little more comforting and uplifting. Lyrics are about renewal and giving love another try. It has a great chorus which stays in your head with angelic voice backing.
I Don’t Wanna Know (N) – ‘You say you love me, but you don’t know’. Another paired back Fleetwood Mac song, acoustic guitars, bass and drum prominent. Nicks and Buckingham singing in unison, about the confusion of love, coping with it and moving on. Oh Daddy (Mc) – ‘If there’s been a fool around, It’s got to be me’. Dark, slightly sinister and melancholy track. McVie mournful lyrics searches for answers for what should be the end of a difficult relationship, but always end up going back to herself as being at fault. Gold Dust Woman (N) – ‘Take your silver spoon and dig your grave’. Great track in that great Americana tradition of painting portraits of people. Nicks bittersweet lyrics are given centre stage with the easy laid back playing and builds an effective and compelling background.
And there we have it. Rumours is a classic album that does not date in 40 years. Mostly this has to do with the sublime songwriting, great production and the brilliant musicianship. The songs are beautiful and uplifting it their own right without having to understand the actual meaning of the tracks. The Heartfelt lyrics and their amazing delivery adds another dimension. Here we have musicians writing and singing through major emotional difficulties and these translate to the listeners own experiences. The feelings felt in love and in break-ups do not change over the years. Its difficult to know what Buckingham, Nicks and McVie were feeling when they wrote these songs, I can assume as above but a lot of this is built on reflecting on my own person experience. I especially relate to McVies contributions which moves away from blame and looks forward.
“Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostagic and hopeful all at the same time.”
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
Rumours is a classic, full of passion and pain but always leaves me comforted, a little bit fuzzy inside and very hopeful.
For the card for Rumours I wanted to portray the broken-ness within the band, that gave us such amazing individual songwriting that when it came together makes a stunning collective piece. I took the cover and a heart shape was cut out. This was divided into eleven pieces (one for each track). Then lyrics from each track were printed onto free slightly gothic-y (Stevie Nicks-like) backgrounds. Four colours are used corresponding to the writers of the tracks Nicks-Black, McVie-Red, Buckingham-green, Whole Band-Blue. The broken Heart pieces were used as templates to cut out each lyric, and were then glued together. A small tab placed between the two parts which is then used to attach to the card vis some small openings. And there we have a shattered heart of the album, with the ability to turn over each piece to access a lyric. The 3d stand up nature of the pieces gives great movement and texture to the front of the card. On the back a key is produced showing each writer, the colour of their pieces and a rough indication of the number.
Billy (still aged 9 at time of album release)