Fleetwood Mac — Mirage

I thought I would have much less to say about this Fleetwood Mac album, which I rarely play. Coming out in 1982, nearly three years after “Tusk,” into a world that had changed quite a bit musically in that time. That big rock sound of the ‘70s was kinda gone. All kinds of treasures and sins were being lumped under the title of “new wave.” Disco was over but synths and programmed drums were on the ascent. And video was starting to take over the musical landscape.

Mirage front cover
Mirage front cover – another romantic image from Fleetwood Mac

It seemed like, having let some time pass, there wasn’t as much of an expectation placed on this album. It didn’t really feel like something new from Fleetwood Mac was important, or even relevant. We had the reinvented J. Geils’ “Centerfold.” We had Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me.” We had Men at Work and The Go-Go’s. Did we need Fleetwood Mac? They were soooooo ’70s.

Maybe that took some of the pressure off. At this remove, maybe they didn’t need to produce another “Fleetwood Mac” or “Rumours” or even “Tusk.” They could just put out a record.

So they released “Mirage” in June of 1982, and again had a number one album, double platinum sales. If anyone wondered if they would be relevant in the video age, they produced two of the most iconic videos of their day for the hits “Hold Me” and “Gypsy.” (Again, a disconnect between record charts, where “Hold Me” hit #4 and “Gypsy” only #12, whereas “Gypsy” seemed ubiquitous and evergreen on MTV.)

So, everything about this album is my senior year of college. I’ve been saying that “Fleetwood Mac” and “Rumours” were completely the soundtrack of my high school years – with all those huge hit singles, their music was playing that whole time, and yet, I don’t exclusively think about the high school years when I play those albums. They’re not nostalgia pieces.

Mirage back cover
Pictured on the back cover: Fleetwood and Mac.

“Mirage,” though, feels different. It’s a solid album. I absolutely love “Hold Me.” “Gypsy” is undeniable. “Love In Store” and “Can’t Go Back” — also great. But something about this always brings that time back to mind: our semi-squalid second-floor college apartment on the campus’s one-block commercial strip, upstairs from a bodega. Like any good college apartment, it was fitted out with hideous and painfully uncomfortable colonial spindle style couches inherited from Lee’s parents’ basement, a wooden utility cable spool for a living room table, one actually comfortable chair purchased at a Price Chopper supermarket, a table that was made from a door, and a 21” black and white console television, weighing approximately four million pounds, inherited from my parents when they went insane and bought a color set. To that massive (and yet not) television, we had connected the most basic of basic cable, which filled our days and nights with the finest entertainment that Boston’s WSBK, then what was known as a cable super-station, could provide. There we developed an addiction to “The Twilight Zone,” “Leave It To Beaver,” and this newfangled thing called “MTV.” Just a little more than a year old, it was already hated by music fans who worried it would devalue music in favor of visual aesthetics, and it was popularizing songs and acts that, without their accompanying videos, probably wouldn’t have become hits. And anytime I hear “Hold Me,” any time I hear “Gypsy,” I flash on seeing those videos on that old television set. I hear “Empire State” or “Diane” and think of the huge front bedroom I shared with my roommate. Every time I hear this album, I think of that apartment at 163B Marshall Street.

As a result, this isn’t really an album that got a lot of plays after a few years. Still enjoy it, but any time I’m in the mood for Fleetwood Mac, it’ll be any of the other albums first, and this goes on as a novelty.

This would be my last Fleetwood Mac album (until, of course I went retro and discovered Tusk, as I wrote yesterday). When “Tango in the Night” came out in 1987, I was just kinda done, had moved on to other groups, and didn’t hear anything that made me want to change my mind. I really liked “Little Lies,” and in fact I think I bought it on 45, which was still a thing. But the rest of the album didn’t interest me; I read the names of the other singles and don’t even know what they were. The rest of the world felt differently, apparently, as that record was their second biggest seller, behind “Rumours.”

Mirage credits sleeve
Mirage credits sleeve – painting by Lindsey Buckingham
Mirage lyric sleeve
Mirage lyric sleeve
Mirage label
Somehow the biggest act in the goddamn world still doesn’t get a custom label.

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