Fleetwood Mac still bafflingly popular

Mac It Up!
Fleetwood Mac
Rose Garden
1401 N. Wheeler
July 25
8 p.m.
$49.50-$125 general ad.

I can’t remember the exact position held by Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours the last time I looked at an all-time best-selling record chart, but I’m sure that it was – and still is – somewhere among the top five. The irony of the record’s sales history is that, if I really wanted to brush up on my Fleetwood Mac, I could either check out the vinyl bin at any American thrift store or save myself the 69 cents and dig through my parents’ old crates in the attic. In fact, it is extremely difficult to believe that Rumours has moved a single unit since around 1983. Supply seems like it would be plenty high by then and, well, where is the demand?

The thing about the record’s particular, peculiar brand of terror is that it is terrible and does not even yield a single track that sounds like it could ever have been a hit single. This strange formula for a multi-platinum success story gives the recording a timelessly bad feel, ensuring that it does not even benefit from the charm of sounding dated.

To make matters even worse, the group’s last line of defense – “at least we wrote ‘Landslide,’ you’ve gotta give us that” – doesn’t even account for the record’s success, as the song appeared on their previous, eponymous record. Unfortunately, it makes absolutely perfect sense that a record of decidedly middle-of-the-road songs by a mediocre group would become not the anthem of a generation, not a watershed recording, not, unfortunately, the swan-song of an era, but simply a really, really well-selling record.

So, despite the sub-mediocre work that has dominated the group’s discography for the past 25-plus years, Fleetwood Mac is somehow still riding high on the comparative strength of Rumours. To hear a sort-of-okay song played at a Fleetwood Mac performance will be considered a huge treat when compared to the material from 2003’s Say You Will or, worse, 1997’s Dance, that will inevitably be introduced into the set and condescendingly suffered by the audience.

A glance at the Fleetwood Mac discography since 1980 – predominantly live recordings – makes the sorry truth painfully obvious: Fleetwood Mac has given up hope that they will ever again be able to write a mediocre song. When actually-sort-of-good songs somehow crept onto 1979’s Tusk, the follow-up to Rumours, the band apparently freaked out, concerned as they were that their fans would not appreciate their playing music that was forward-thinking in the least.


Since then, Fleetwood Mac has followed one of the more retrogressive career trajectories in pop music history, using the singles from their newer recordings as live-album filler for their older, kind-of-beloved or at least somehow familiar, tunes. The group doubtlessly recognizes that the album filler from their 1970s recordings is far superior to the standout tracks from their later albums, but as the group’s entire reputation has been staked on establishing in audiences a curiously detached familiarity with their work, their job has become quite simple. A Fleetwood Mac song needn’t be good as long as it is somehow familiar, making their whole post-1975 discography, despite an overall decline from a not-too-high peak in quality, negligible but persistent.