As Fleetwood Mac prepared to make its 11th album — and second with its latest lineup — in 1976, it was on top of a world that was falling apart.
The group’s self-titled 1975 release, its first with new American members Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, had revived the veteran British band’s flagging fortunes. It was certified seven times platinum and gave Fleetwood Mac its first No. 1 album in the U.S., spawning three Top 20 hits. The group was top of the pops, quite literally.
But the quintet wasn’t quite able to bask in its success.
All hell broke loose, also quite literally, between albums. Buckingham and Nicks, a couple when they joined Fleetwood Mac, broke up. Singer-keyboardist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie ended their eight-year marriage. Drummer Mick Fleetwood and his wife Jenny were splitting as well after she began an affair with his best friend. “It was… relentless,” Fleetwood remembered a few years later. “Pain, anger, heartache, it was everywhere, every time you turned around. It was like, ‘When will this end?!'”
But with the pressure on to follow up Fleetwood Mac’s great success, the band chose not to stop. “The bottom line is this is what we do. We make music, and accept this as an unfortunate situation,” Fleetwood said in a 1997 Classic Albums documentary about Rumours. Buckingham added, “There was never any consideration of, ‘Do we want to stay together? or ‘Do we want to approach this in a different way?’ We had to play it out. The only way to do that was to take all the feelings… and sort of cram them into one corner of the room and get on with [the album].”
So Fleetwood Mac, along with co-producers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut, locked itself into the Record Plant in Sausalito, a windowless environment that became something of a pressure cooker. The sessions were fueled by cocaine, both in and outside of the studio, and hairpin-triggered emotions.
Buckingham called the making of Rumours “one of the most intense years I’ve ever spent, working,” and Christine McVie recalled having to keep her then-boyfriend Curry Grant, the band’s lighting tech, largely away from the studio so not to upset her ex-husband — who would occasionally show up, shouting, at the condominium complex where she and Nick were staying.