(The GRAMMY Museum will host Making Rumours: The Inside Story Of The Classic Fleetwood Mac Album — A Conversation With Ken Caillat on June 12. Caillat will discuss the making of the album and his new book. For ticket information, click here.)
Originally released in 1977, Fleetwood Mac's GRAMMY-winning album Rumours is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2012. GRAMMY-winning producer/engineer Ken Caillat has marked the anniversary with the release of his new book, Making Rumours, a riveting tale that details the making of the album. Caillat recently visited The Recording Academy's headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., to share his recollections about some of the album's standout songs and individual performances.
By the recording of Rumours, keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie was a veteran of Fleetwood Mac, having joined in 1970. An integral part of the band's songwriting team, she penned Rumours hits such as "Don't Stop" and "You Make Loving Fun." However, according to Caillat, the melancholy piano ballad "Songbird" arguably ranks as McVie's finest moment on the album.
"'Songbird' was amazing," says Caillat. "We were finishing up one of the crazy sessions [at] Sausalito Record Plant and I was wrapping up some [studio] cables. Christine sat down at the piano and started playing this beautiful song. I stopped what I was doing and I turned around and watched her. I was just amazed at how beautiful this song was."
While 11 songs ultimately made the album, Rumours is also known for a song that did not make the cut. Due to the limitations of vinyl's running time, the Stevie Nicks composition "Silver Springs" was left off Rumours. The shimmery ballad received vindication of sorts when it was included on Fleetwood Mac's live reunion album, 1997's The Dance, and received a subsequent GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.
"To me it was one of the best recordings I've ever done. It's just really brilliantly beautiful," says Caillat of the original recording of "Silver Springs." "[But] it was another slow song, another rock ballad with a big ending, and we already had those."
In contrast to "Silver Springs," "Gold Dust Woman" revealed a darker side to Nicks' songwriting. While originally dressed with a folk arrangement, the song ultimately evolved to a hypnotic, lavishly produced album closer, complete with a harpsichord, dobro and disturbing noises such as screams and breaking glass.
"It evolved slowly. The basic track was very simple, kind of like a folk song," says Caillat. "Stevie wanted it to grow. It just kind of snuck up on you. The next thing I knew it was getting kind of creepy."
Not to be lost within Rumours are the performances of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie. Caillat is quick to praise the top-shelf abilities of the band's rhythm section while noting their uncanny fraternal sense.
"I think they're both psychic," says Caillat. "Mick has a flamboyant style of playing drums. Every song [John] played bass on is just amazing. … He is just a poet. They had the unique ability to play and read each other's minds and they were like two brothers. Two Siamese twins."
Turning to Lindsey Buckingham, Caillat cites "many brilliant moments" throughout the album. A talented songwriter and guitarist, Buckingham's idiosyncratic rhythmic sensibilities are evidenced throughout songs such as "You Make Loving Fun, "Go Your Own Way" and "Second Hand News," the latter in which he used a Naugahyde chair for percussion.
"There's some tom fills on 'You Make Loving Fun' in the choruses that Lindsey wanted to have kind of a spastic, accentuated beat," says Caillat. "Mick felt that he didn't really want to try it so Lindsey played the toms. Lindsey was the accent king. He could accent with guitars, he could accent with toms [and] he could accent with Naugahyde chairs."
On the strength of songs such as "Dreams," "Go Your Own Your Way," "Don't Stop," and "You Make Loving Fun" all reaching the Top 10, Rumours inhabited the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 for a staggering 31 weeks. On Feb. 23, 1978, the album's legacy was further cemented at the 20th Annual GRAMMY Awards when it was awarded the coveted Album Of The Year honor.
The album has continued to resonate with fans worldwide, selling more than 19 million copies in the United States alone, according to the RIAA. But given his intimate role in the album's creative process and his front-row seat for the triumphs and challenges that went into making Rumours, Caillat finds it difficult to listen to the iconic album.
"I spent at least 3,000 hours on it. I wish I could enjoy it like everybody else," says Caillat. "But every time I listen to it I can remember every part, every issue, every fight, everything. So it's not as much fun for me."
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