How do you follow-up a record like Rumours? Fleetwood Mac answered this question on Oct. 12, 1979, when they released their ambitious double album Tusk.
Just as Rumours was nothing like Fleetwood Mac had ever released - amid major personal struggles, the group created a pop masterpiece that spun off four Top 10 hits, won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and became one of the best-selling albums of all time - Tusk marked a stunning, experimental about-face for the group, a conscious rejection of making a sequel to their big hit.
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Recorded over a year in the heavily customized Studio D in Los Angeles' Village Recorder Studios (at a record-breaking cost of $1 million), Tusk was largely the brainchild of singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, obsessively tinkering with demos and determined to keep the band relevant against a tide of punk and New Wave that had enraptured critics over the last two years. "I didn't define it with any parameters about style," Buckingham later said in liner notes to a deluxe edition of the album. "It was really me saying, 'Look, guys, I want to shake up the process a little bit. I want to work at home and bring stuff that I've worked on into the studio and have it augmented by the collective.'"
This process could be unpredictable. During the Tusk sessions, drummer Mick Fleetwood overdubbed rhythms to a pattern Buckingham had tapped out on a Kleenex box and recorded; at one point, the band discovered the guitarist had cut his long hair and beard on a whim. But the sonic ambition of the album could not be denied, from moments of pure pop ("That's All for Everyone," "Walk a Thin Line") to frenetic rock ("That's Enough for Me," "I Know I'm Not Wrong") and everything in-between. (Cue the charge of the USC Trojans marching band on the title track!)
And with two other powerful singer-songwriters in the group, Tusk really delivered something for everyone. Stevie Nicks brought her signature magic on songs like "Sara," "Sisters of the Moon" and "Beautiful Child," while Christine McVie - the group's longtime secret weapon - delivered bliss on "Think About Me," album opener "Over & Over" and "Brown Eyes" (which featured a cameo from former Mac guitarist Peter Green).
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Living up to a blockbuster like Rumours was already a heavy burden, but Tusk did its best despite a high selling price and the decision to play the album in full on the radio a day before it came out (where people could tape it). It topped the U.K. charts and reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200, while "Tusk," "Sara" and "Think About Me" were all Top 20 singles in America. Most importantly, the album is quite respected by the members of the band; Fleetwood called it one of his two favorite Fleetwood Mac albums in 2016.
Buckingham put it best to the Classic Rock publication in 2013 - describing not only Tusk, but the dynamic that keeps fans coming back to Fleetwood Mac's catalog: "You got that sweetness [from Nicks and McVie] and me as the complete nutcase. That's what makes us Fleetwood Mac."
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