What can I possibly say about one of the best, and best-selling, albums of all time? It was remarkable then, it’s remarkable now. Released in February, 1977, the winter of my junior year in high school, it would assure that my entire high school experience had Fleetwood Mac songs as its soundtrack. Three hit singles from the previous album, “Fleetwood Mac,” followed by four from this one. These songs were huge, ubiquitous, inescapable. And somehow it felt right, it felt like our music, even though was by and about people considerably older, it somehow just felt like: this is 1977. And 1978, for that matter.
I have such very specific memories of this album.
Memory 1: Senior year. I fell in with a group of friends, five of us in total, who were so tight for that year. We just spent as much time together as imaginable — that circle of friends really defined my senior experience. Three of us are still in touch, lifelong friends; the other two drifted off. That’s what happens. I loved them all. I think it was in the spring of our senior year that one of them was babysitting for someone after school, near our high school, and one afternoon for some reason I went to the house where she was working, probably just to keep company. She was playing a record while we talked or worked or whatever we were doing, and that record, since it was 1978, was “Rumours.” (“Saturday Night Fever” or “Grease” would also have been acceptable answers, of course.)
Here’s where I need to explain old technology: there used to be record changers, intended to allow you to pile up 3 or 4 discs on your turntable; when one was done, the tonearm would move out of the way, the next record would drop, and the tonearm would move back into place and play the next record. But the thing was, if you didn’t position a balance arm just so, it would think there were more records to play even when there weren’t . . . so when the tonearm got to the end of the disc, it would lift, move out of the way, act as if a record was dropping, and then return to play the same disc.
We sat there and chatted and did whatever we were doing for maybe an hour and a half, not paying much attention to the music, when my friend suddenly perked up, looked over at the record player, and demaned, “How long is this album?!!” We were probably on the fourth time around for that side before we realized we’d heard “Songbird” enough for one day.
Memory 2: Many, many afternoon naps taken to this album. In those days when there were few responsibilities after school, just being a growing teenager was physically exhausting, and keeping my eyes open while reading and listening to music would prove impossible, nearly always leading to an inexorable nap. Time after time after time, the tones of “Gold Dust Woman” were my signal to give in and sleep. That part was always sweet. The part where my father would wake me by loudly banging on my door: not so sweet. That happened time after time, as well. I may have my failings as a parent, but my kids were never awakened by an angry drunk pounding on their door.
My original copy of “Rumours” was actually so trashed — a rare event among the records that I bought new — that I ended up replacing it just a couple of years ago with a nice new copy from Deep Groove here in Phoenixville. What happened to ruin my copy of “Rumours”? That’s a mystery to me. (That’s a good Fleetwood Mac joke, kids.) I actually don’t know, it just seemed to have gotten gouged at some point and I decided to get something new and playable. So this copy is not my high school copy; I’m not sure what I did with that, which is also unusual.
Despite Fleetwood Mac being an indelible, incredible part of my high school experience, somehow I never got to see them even though they played at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the summer of 1978. It was their first appearance at SPAC. Interestingly, I’ve learned that their opening act was Bob Welch, who was having quite a bit of success at the time but who also was a key member of Fleetwood Mac after Peter Green and before Buckingham-Nicks (years I do not care for, Fleetwood Mac-wise, but my distaste for Bob Welch grew later). Looking at the newspaper stories from back then, of course the seats were sold out, but lawn tickets ($6) were to be sold right up to the opening of the show. More than 30,000 were reported to have attended, on a Wednesday night, yet. (It was later that they started limiting attendance for some shows at SPAC.) So maybe it was just the size of the crowd that seemed daunting . . . and Linda Ronstadt would be there just a few days later, and the Beach Boys a few days after that. I’m currently unclear on whether I went to both of those or not . . the years all flow together.
And now, with the upcoming Record Store Day release of The Alternate Rumours, I’m scrambling to figure out how to get my hands on a copy (without lines or an in-store experience–I’m just not ready for that yet). I already have the tracks on it, from an extended CD release from some years back. But I don’t have them on vinyl, and these days, that’s about 70% of how I listen to music. So there may be another copy of “Rumours” in my life.