It's the Fleetwood Mac meme that perfectly explains the vast dichotomy between what it took to create the Rumours album, and the effect all of that internal turmoil has on its listeners.
The drama that was tearing the band apart would serve as fuel for one of the greatest and best-selling rock albums of all time. Of the five members, there were a pair of couples: singer Stevie Nicks and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, and keyboardist Christine McVie and bassist John McVie. Both were going through brutal separations during the making of Rumours. As if that wasn't enough, drummer Mick Fleetwood--whose own marriage was falling apart--would make things even more volatile by having an affair with Nicks in the middle of the madness. And yes, this is the fuel for the next great rock bio-pic. In a perfect world, anyway.
Those personal power struggles spilled over into the recording process. It didn't help that the band was obsessed with consuming hard drugs at a record pace: “It was the craziest period of our lives,” Mick Fleetwood told Q magazine in 1997. “We went four or five weeks without sleep, doing a lot of drugs. I’m talking about cocaine in such quantities that, at one point, I thought I was really going insane.”
For Stevie Nicks, the chaos would drive her to find peace elsewhere in the Record Plant recording studio.
“One day when I wasn’t required in the main studio, I took a Fender Rhodes piano and went into another studio that was said to belong to Sly of Sly and the Family Stone,” Nicks told Blender in 2005. “It was a black-and-red room, with a sunken pit in the middle where there was a piano, and a big black-velvet bed with Victorian drapes.”
Alone in Sly Stone's old space, Nicks went to work: “I sat down on the bed with my keyboard in front of me,” she told Blender. “I found a drum pattern, switched my little cassette player on and wrote ‘Dreams’ in about 10 minutes. Right away I liked the fact that I was doing something with a dance beat because that made it a little unusual for me."
Nicks knew she had something special, so she presented the demo to the rest of the band. Christine McVie, for one, was not impressed: “It was just three chords and one note in the left hand. “I thought ‘This is really boring.’”
Even though Nicks and Buckingham were in the middle of their bitter breakup, the artist in him had no choice but to agree that the song was good.
“It was a rough take, just me singing solo and playing piano," Nicks recalled of the moment. "Even though he was mad with me at the time, Lindsey played it and then looked up at me and smiled.”
For Nicks, it was a bittersweet validation: "I wrote ‘Dreams,’ and because I’m the chiffony chick who believes in fairies and angels, and Lindsey is a hardcore guy, it comes out differently," she wrote in the liner notes to the Rumours reissue in 2013. "Lindsey is saying go ahead and date other men and go live your crappy life, and [I’m] singing about the rain washing you clean. We were coming at it from opposite angles, but we were really saying the same exact thing.”
Rumours was released in early February 1977, with "Dreams" issued as the second single from the album on March 24, 1977. It would take a quick trip up the charts, peaking at #1 for the week of June 18, 1977. It would hold the top spot for just a single week, replaced by Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give it Up (Pt. 1)" on the following chart. "Dreams" still stands as Fleetwood Mac's sole US #1 on the Hot 100.
“What was going on between us was sad,” Nicks sighed to the The Daily Mail in 2009. “We were couples who couldn’t make it through. But, as musicians, we still respected each other — and we got some brilliant songs out of it.”