Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’ at 35: Still the ‘perfect album’

Story highlights

Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" is one of the highest-selling albums of all time

When recording began, Fleetwood Mac had yet to have a hit in the U.S.

Album included songs such as "Don't Stop," "Go Your Own Way" and "Gold Dust Woman"

Members of Fleetwood Mac were all undergoing painful breakups during recording

CNN  — 

After a year of 10-to-14 hour workdays, the use of seven recording studios and just under $1 million in production costs, Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” was released in 1977 – and it hasn’t fallen out of rotation since.

The classic disc was the No. 1 album on the charts for 31 weeks, with Rolling Stone naming “Rumours” the 25th greatest album of all time. It is the 10th best-selling album ever with more than 40 million copies sold to date, and it features four top 10 singles.

It won the 1977 best album Grammy and, 35 years later, remains the band’s most successful effort.

Ken Caillat, author of the new book, “Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album,” was the iconic album’s engineer/co-producer. (He’s also the father of Grammy-winning singer Colbie Caillat and produced her No. 1 album, “Breakthrough.”)

Ken Caillat today.

“Rumours,” Caillat said, is the “perfect album because it had this really great combination of lyrics and … well-thought-out musical components,” he told CNN. “It’s the perfect ride for the perfect time.”

But Fleetwood Mac’s story began in another decade on another continent. And as fate would have it, the only two members who were with the group from the start are its namesakes: Mick Fleetwood and John McVie.

Fleetwood Mac was originally a blues-format group formed in England in 1967 by Fleetwood, McVie, Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer.

In 1970, Green left the group and McVie’s wife, keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie, joined. Spencer left that same year, and the late guitarist Bob Welch joined. The group relocated to California in 1974.

Welch, who took his own life earlier this month, resigned in December 1974 and was replaced by guitarist/vocalist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks. By the time Buckingham and Nicks joined, Fleetwood Mac had put out 10 albums but had yet to have a big hit in the U.S.

The 'Rumours' album cover.

In the book, Caillat described “Rumours,” Fleetwood Mac’s second album with Nicks and Buckingham, as “a journey that a handful of people … took during the mid-1970s.” It was “made out of flaws in the human spirit, sometimes through agonizing determination, love, lust, and a force of will that made failure unthinkable.”

Recording began on “Rumours” on January 28, 1976, at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California. Twelve days earlier, Caillat had never even heard of the band, but that would soon change because 1975’s eponymous “Fleetwood Mac” album (“Rhiannon,” “Say You Love Me”) was beginning to climb the charts.

“What’s ironic is that throughout the ‘Rumours’ journey, Fleetwood Mac went from one end of the fame spectrum to the other,” Caillat noted. “That day in Sausalito, when we walked into the studio to start recording, they were an established band, but you could hardly say they were rock stars. Before we even released ‘Rumours,’ that had changed dramatically.”

Although Nicks arguably became the best-known member of Fleetwood Mac, when they first started recording “Rumours,” many involved with the project thought she was the band’s weakest link, Caillat said.