Making Rumours is about the journey that a handful of people, myself included, took during the mid 1970s. It’s about how being part of the phenomenon of the Rumours album not only changed our lives but touched millions of other lives around the world forever. It is also the story of a perfect album, made out of flaws in the human spirit, sometimes through agonizing determination, love, lust, and a force of will that made failure unthinkable. It’s a success story of epic proportions—not always pretty, but a dramatic illustration of greatness delivered, of passion embraced. It is my story, and I want to share it with you.
Yet this book is not really about me—it’s about the music on the album. I want to take you on a journey so that you can understand what it was like being in the studio making Rumours. Imagine the control room of the recording studio being similar to the fuselage of a plane, nearly airtight, soundproof, and cramped. Imagine the band and the engineers all coming into that room, taking their seats, adjusting to get comfortable. Then I start the engines. The lights go down, and I turn up the speakers, as we leave everyone and everything else outside. We’re alone for the next ten to fourteen hours. I spin around in my chair, look back at the band, and say, “What do you guys feel like working on today?”
What happens next is magic.
After Rumours was released, the world went insane over what we’d created, and everyone wanted a piece of us. We were famous—myself in the industry, the band all over the world. We weren’t just fifteen-minute famous either but forever famous. What we had wasn’t just success, it was crazy success.
Suddenly, my world changed—money flowed and offers rolled in from other bands that wanted the producers of Rumours to work with them. Life became insane and exciting, and my path, like everyone else’s, changed, sped up, and flew by.
Today, more than thirty years later, when people meet me they still say, “Hey, you recorded Rumours. I love your work. Thank you!” Rumours sat at number one on the charts for thirty-one weeks and, as of this writing, has sold more than forty million copies. It’s taken me all of those thirty-plus years to complete my journey. It has culminated with the certification of my first number-one album since making Rumours, my own daughter Colbie Caillat’s second album, Breakthrough.
Rumours thrust my life into a great detour, one filled with the music I had worked so hard to be a part of, filled with the force of great personalities, splendid talents, and iron wills, and the current of that music has carried me through a life I never expected.
In January 1976, Fleetwood Mac’s personal catharsis, brilliant artistry, and technical innovation all came together to create Rumours at the Record Plant studio in Sausalito, California. After winning the Grammy for Best Album in 1977, it would come to stand as the defining rock-and-roll masterpiece of its generation. Making Rumours is my story of that remarkable, serendipitous time.
Most people who were paying attention to music back in the seventies can tell you where they were the first time they heard Rumours. The album boasted ten hit songs out of its eleven cuts, and the creation of the record spanned twelve months, employed seven recording studios, and cost nearly one million dollars to make.
Its emotional cost was even greater. In making the album, three couples in the band were destroyed. Yet in listening to the album, countless others fell in love. Maybe, ultimately, that makes everything worthwhile.
Musicians are a lot like children. Every day when they come to the studio, they’re unsure of what lies ahead. They’re extremely fragile. The process by which they imagine and create is almost inexplicable. They draw from their ideas and their emotions and from one another. Sex and drugs, hope and love, and fear and heartbreak are only parts of the story. It’s what a musician does with those things that creates magic. That’s how greatness is developed and measured.
By vanquishing, ignoring, and burning through the personal tragedies and turmoil, sacrificing the connections that each band member lost, the members of Fleetwood Mac created one of the greatest rock-and-roll albums in history. It’s a success story of epic proportions, and I was there to witness it and help make it happen. Not bad for a jobless kid who had arrived in Los Angeles five years earlier driving a VW minibus. I was lucky to be that guy, and I knew it.