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Apr 09, 2008 at 06:33 PM

1977

Yesterday's Gone

The first output from 1976's recording sessions hit the stores at the end of December and immediately began charging up the charts. "Go Your Own Way" and its flip side "Silver Springs" were but a taste of what was to come, and a fine taste they are. "Go Your Own Way" is certainly the strongest rocker the band produced since 1970's "Green Manalishi", featuring Lindsey Buckingham flawless playing which builds to a fever-pitch as the song progresses--and one of the coolest air-guitar songs for many a teenager of that era (including the author)! It's B-side, the beautiful "Silver Springs", is one of Stevie Nicks' finest efforts, with her unerring sense of melody and word-imagery featured throughout. The theme of the lyrics for both songs is one of relationships on the rocks, a fitting theme since that is exactly what the two composers were going through. And they weren't alone.

The new album, Rumours , which finally came out in February, followed this theme. Not only was Nicks' and Buckingham's relationship (they were never married) at an end, but also the McVies were splitting up and Mick Fleetwood, who had reunited with his wife Jenny after the Bob Weston debacle, was also on the verge of divorce. To complicate matters further, the actual recording of the album was plagued with technical difficulties throughout. For example, one of the tape machines at one point chewed up a significant amount of material, earning it the nickname "Jaws" and necessitating rerecording the destroyed tape. Situations like this, plus the continued success of the previous album, pushed the release date for Rumours further and further back. It was the first Mac album released on the Warner Bros. label, perhaps indicating the band had been long overdue for a promotion.

It debuted in the Billboard charts at number 10, and very quickly made it to Number One where it stayed for six months (May through all of November, a record at the time), and was either Number One or Two for a total of ten months (March 1977 to January 1978). Eventually the album would sell over 25 million copies, becoming one of the top four or five sellers in the whole history of recorded music!

There were four Top Ten singles spawned from Rumours . "Silver Springs" was also originally intended for the album, but was dropped at the last minute, ostensibly because there wasn't enough room on the disc. But that explanation sounded alot like a cop-out to its composer, and this issue remained a sore-spot for Stevie Nicks (who was justifiably proud of the song) for a long time to come.

The second single, Stevie's ethereal ballad "Dreams", may have eased whatever anxiety she felt, however. It was, after all, the first (and, as of this writing, the only) Fleetwood Mac single to top the Billboard US Hot 100 charts! It was backed by Christine's excellent "Songbird", a piano- solo ode to her breakup with John. "Songbird" was not actually recorded in the studio, but rather it was recorded in the cavernlike emptiness of Zellerback Auditorium (University of California, Berkeley), which very much enhanced the emotionality of the track.

The third single was Christine McVie's "Don't Stop", a bouncy song full of hope for the future. So hopeful, in fact, that fifteen years later, in 1992, Bill Clinton chose this song as the theme song for his successful presidential campaign! The U.S. single came dressed in a nice picture sleeve--the first US single so honored--that was essentially a reprint of the album cover photo.

The final Rumours single was Christine's "You Make Loving Fun", itself a sort of postscript to 1975's "Say You Love Me". The British and American releases of the "Don't Stop" and "You Make Loving Fun" singles switched B-sides "Gold Dust Woman" and "Never Going Back Again". The album was so chock-full of potential singles that really any one of them could have been hits, prompting one critic to remark that if they had chosen to release the hole in the middle that that too would have gone double-platinum! One especially fine track is "The Chain", a complex, multilayered track that seemed to, in one line, underscore the entire album: "Damn your love/Damn your lies". It's also the first group composition (in which all band memebers are credited) since 1971's "What A Shame". By fall, Warner Bros. had rereleased the first two A-sides as part of their "Back-to-Back Hits" series, which of course caused the price of the original "Go Your Own Way" single (with its non-LP B-side "Silver Springs") to leap in value on the secondary market.

The UK record buying public was slower to warm up to the Mac, but by November 1977, Rumours had made it to Number Three, and while all four singles made it into the Top 40 in Britain, none climbed any higher than "Dreams" at Number 24.

The interpersonal struggles within the band served as fodder for the tabloids, the music press, and "celebrity" magazines like People...all of which helped carry the buzz for the new album and kept the musicians in the public eye. And of course the nearly constant worldwide touring didn't hurt, either.

In the summer of 1977, Warner Brothers purchased Sire Records from ABC. This brought the old back catalog finally under the WB umbrella in America, just in time to cash in on the new popularity of the band stateside. This promising scenario resulted in autumn rereleases for Fleetwood Mac In Chicago , The Legendary Christine Perfect Album and, for the first time in the United States, The Original Fleetwood Mac . However, other opportunites were lost. Rather than do a good reissue job of the old Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and Mr. Wonderful albums, with perhaps another album to cover the uncollected singles, B-sides, etc., they opted for reissuing Vintage Years.

In Britain, however, the old Blue Horizon catalog was still controlled by CBS Records. They cashed in on the success of Rumours in the summer with a somewhat bizarre collection entitled Albatross . In this record, they combined one side of the LP with various tracks from the first two Fleetwood Mac albums and some singles with another side consisting of excerpts from The Legendary Christine Perfect Album .

The former members of the band were also busy in 1977. In addition to the Danny Kirwan album already mentioned, Bob Weston was also active. He appeared on Sandy Denny's (formerly with the UK folk/rock band Fairport Convention) album Rendezvous . And in The Best of Savoy Brown , released in January, Dave Walker is also represented, if only by way of reissue.

But the big success story for 1977 was Bob Welch. After Paris folded up shop late in 1976, a disappointed Bob decided that he would concentrate on creating a hit record no matter what. He joined John and Mick's Seedy Management and recruited new musicians (and some old friends) and veteran producer (John) Carter and got down to work. By the end of the summer, the product of this outburst hit the stores.

French Kiss , as the new album was called, was a triumph. It was a collection of very commercial yet also artisically pleasing songs filled with hit potential. Welch considered carefully what the first single would be...and he chose to give his old Bare Trees track "Sentimental Lady" a new lease on life with the assistance of old friends Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie and new friend Lindsey Buckingham. It was a strategy that paid off--"Sentimental Lady" made it to Number 8. Many of the other songs on French Kiss leaned strongly on the disco sound so common to the American music scene in the late '70s, but here too, the huge excesses of that particular genre of popular music were avoided. Welch could still rock, and nowhere is that more evident than on the second single, "Ebony Eyes", which also scored another hit for him. There was also a third single, "Hot Love, Cold World" which was originally the B-side of "Sentimental Lady", indicating that no one could have forseen this kind of success! It also was a hit, making it to the #31 slot. The 45 came dressed in a picture sleeve that was a miniature version of the LP cover. All-in-all, Welch achieved his goal: three hit singles and a platinum album ( French Kiss made it to Number 12)--not shabby for a debut!

And speaking of debuts, Stevie and Lindsey, despite all their relationship difficulties, also found time to coproduce an album by a friend of theirs, Walter Egan. Egan's debut, Fundamental Role , hit the stores in the spring and made it as high as 137. Greater success would be forthcoming for Egan, however.

With all the fresh activity and the band's (and Bob Welch's) new-found, second chance at success, one wonders what happened to Peter Green. Sadly, the news is not good. In the years since the end of his recording career, Green wandered from job to job, worked as a grave digger, jammed in local pubs with various people, slept on the floors of assorted friends and acquaintences. He was once nearly married. His mental state was still unstable, and he was for a time institutionalized. He underwent electroconvulsive (ECT) shock therapy. In short, he drifted while trying to put his previous life behind him.

But at the beginning of 1977, Peter Green had slipped to a new low: he was arrested for threatening accountant Clifford Adams with a rifle (though the weapon in question was not in his hands at the time). This regretable incident occurred because Mr. Adams was trying to pay Green a royalty check! Peter wanted no part of it--he wanted his royalty payments (estimated at around 30,000 a year at that time) stopped. He was sentenced to Horton hospital, a psychiatric institution in London, and was later moved to The Priory, a private mental health clinic. But, as things turned out, it may have been just what he needed...by autumn he was back in the studio!

 
 
   
 
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