Fleetwood Mac: After 926 weeks on the chart, who’s still buying Rumours? | MacFleetwood
FForty-five years ago this month, Fleetwood Mac released Rumors, an album that combined wispy soft pop, manicured folk and stormy rock with a soap opera level of intra-band strife. It won Album of the Year at the Grammys, went 20 times platinum in the US alone, and sits alongside Kind of Blue and The Rite of Spring on the Library of Congress’ Historically Significant Recordings Register.
What is truly remarkable, however, is how it continues to sell new physical copies, despite being available to stream and in second-hand form from all the high street charity shops. According to the UK’s Official Charts Company, Rumors sold 34,593 vinyl copies in 2021, third only to new albums by Adele and Abba, and beating new records by Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey. It sold 32,508 copies the previous year. It is currently at No. 29 in its 926th week on the UK Albums Chart – up five places from the previous week – while in the US Rumors sold 6,000 vinyl copies in the last week of January, reaching No. 1 on the vinyl album chart. It has sold 169,000 copies on vinyl in the United States in 2021 (according to MRC Data).
For Brittany Spanos, senior editor at Rolling Stone, its continued popularity has a simple explanation. “It’s a fantastic pop album with classic written pop songs that never go out of style.”
These songs emerged from long, meticulous studio sessions punctuated by romantic tension and heavy drug use. Keyboardist-vocalist Christine McVie was dating Fleetwood Mac lighting director following her marriage to bassist John McVie, while vocalists Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham ended their long-term relationship: The LP gives the impression that each stage of a breakup breaks up suddenly. “The distinct personalities of the songwriters are really raw; they communicate with each other in a heartbreaking and angry way,” says Zoë Howe, author of the book Stevie Nicks: Visions, Dreams and Rumours. Spanos adds, “You get great heartache theater from multiple sides.”
Phil Barton, owner of Sister Ray Records in Soho, London, says Rumors is a “must have item – we sell hundreds of copies every year. It never seems to stop”. He also credits the wider vinyl boom – sales have increased every year for 14 years in the UK – as part of Rumors’ endurance: “People looking for classics will inevitably include Rumors in their collection.”
That rings true for Rupert Morrison, owner of Drift, a record store in Totnes, Devon: “If you were scared to get back into vinyl, or wanted to have that implicit credibility, it’s a safe bet,” says- he. “It’s implied [idea]: ‘It’s a classic.’”
Songs from Rumors have also become modern standards: Florence + the Machine and country supergroup The Highwomen have tackled The Chain, while Kacey Musgraves covered Dreams on their 2022 US tour. more elaborate interpretations via inventive remixes. “The original production of Dreams, with the hypnotically looping drums, is essentially a prototype modern dance record”, says co-founder Lisa Jelliffe (AKA Roxanne Roll). Fleetmac Wood’s dance-appropriate sets span the entire Mac era, though Jelliffe understands why the rumors continue to fascinate. “A lot of modern pop releases feel like marketing compared to the authenticity of Rumors,” she says. “[The band] knew that what they had created together was greater than personal turmoil. This album is incredibly meaningful to people, and it’s heartwarming to bring it to the dance floor.
Nicks’ pop cultural resilience is another explanation. In 2020, Dreams Written by Nicks returned to the charts after a man named Nathan Apodaca posted a TikTok video of himself vibing to the song while skateboarding and drinking cranberry juice. (The clip spawned countless tributes, including one from Mick Fleetwood himself.) Nicks also starred in American Horror Story, embarked on a well-received solo tour, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. younger artists such as Miley Cyrus are influenced by her to the point of explicit homage, and she has a highly publicized friendship with Harry Styles.
“People appreciate Stevie Nicks as a wise and inspiring rock ‘n’ roll elder, but also recognize her songwriting more than ever,” Howe says, “rather than superficially seeing her as this charismatic, stylish singer for which everyone had a crush on.”
Rumors fan Jane Wagle, 15, had her interest in the band piqued by the Dreams TikTok but was inspired to explore Nicks’ work further thanks to Styles’ endorsement. “I know Harry loves Fleetwood Mac, and I trust him because he loves David Bowie,” she says. “I’m definitely a punk person, a rock person. I wouldn’t expect to be such a fan of Fleetwood Mac. But that’s kind of its own thing. It’s really beautiful, and it has its own personality; all the songs are different, but consistent.
Wagle’s assessment shows that there is no simple demographic for who buys rumors. Sister Ray’s Barton notes that buyers tend to be women and are “younger and younger,” but at Chicago’s Reckless Records, where Rumors has been one of the best sellers of the past decade, the buyer in chef Matt Jencik says there’s no typical customer profile. And while Drift’s Morrison says he sees older music fans buying Rumors up, it’s also hard for him to rank buyers. He quotes a 24-year-old store clerk: “A fan of extreme music, he still had to admit he had a thing for Rumors.”
I give Ken Caillat, co-producer of Rumours, the last word on the sustainability of the LP. “I think the combination of the young band members – and that half of them were British and the other half were Californian hippies – and that the lyrics were fueled by each couple breaking up at the same time, made the songs relevant for people of all ages,” he says. “The band members were only in their twenties, so I guess their youth and optimism still shines through today.”
Fleetmac Wood performs at Troxy, London on February 18th.