Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album chronicles the entire year it took to make the legendary album. And while everyone involved knew the album would do well, no one could have predicted just how well. It has been certified platinum 19 times making it the sixth best-selling album in U.S. history, and earned engineers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut a Grammy for Album of the Year.
In Making Rumours, Caillat describes what it took to make the legendary album.
Caillat also does it from the unique perspective of an insider tasked with making it happen, but without the baggage many of the band members might still have. In addition to mastering and engineering the album, the band eventually asked Caillat and Dashut to serve as co-producers.
Caillat takes readers on an entertaining journey through a period in the 1970s when sudden fame, fortune, and excess changed everyone in the process. The members of Fleetwood Mac who walked into the isolated Record Plant in Sausalito in early 1976 were not the same people who celebrated the album’s completion one year later. Caillat saw the dynamics, power struggles, egos, and brilliance.
Quiet bass player John McVie was struggling with a drinking problem while dealing with the conflicting emotions related to the breakup with his wife and keyboardist/vocalist Christine McVie. At times, he would just stand alone staring at Christine, torn up inside out. McVie also resented and resisted guitarist/singer Lindsey Buckingham’s attempts to tell him what to play and how. After all, having played with the best (Eric Clapton, John Mayall), McVie didn’t need any direction.
The earthy Christine McVie also enjoyed drinking (mostly wine and Champagne), but seemed to be more in control. She indulged in cocaine, as did all of the band and their associates.
During the making of Rumours, she had started seeing the band’s lighting director, Curry Grant, and this didn’t sit well with John. In fact, Christine wrote You Make Loving Fun for Grant, but told John it was written for Duster, her dog. John wasn’t fooled. Caillat describes Grant sneaking in and out of the studio through various doors just so John would not see him.
Drummer Mick Fleetwood felt an obligation to be the “daddy” of the group.
He did his best to hold things together and soldier on, even as he was dealing with the pain of his own divorce. Caillat paints Fleetwood as a fun-loving guy who loved to pull pranks just as much as he loved his Heineken.
Without a doubt, he was (and probably still is) the glue that held the band together. He didn’t appreciate Buckingham telling him how to play either, but he handled it more diplomatically than John McVie.
Buckingham spent a lot of time hanging out with Caillat and Dashut, both in and out of the studio. He also spent a lot of time rolling and smoking joints. Caillat gives Buckingham props for his brilliance as a guitarist and songwriter and for his ability to add arrangements and ideas to the other band members’ songs to give them an added lift.
Although a perfectionist, Buckingham could also be volatile and unpredictable. Caillat describes how Buckingham once went into the control room to try and strangle him, only to apologize profusely later. There’s also a recounting of Buckingham punching a former girlfriend.
Singer Stevie Nicks is described as a cute, talented vocalist with a great sense of humor, which Caillat laments would change dramatically. Her contributions to Rumours were more limited than the other band members as she didn’t play an instrument. And as a result, the others often didn’t want her ideas or suggestions.
As the White Album brought money and fame, Caillat says Nicks started to get an ego. While she was content to appear (with just Fleetwood) on the Rumours album cover, she was very angry not to have her face on the Tusk album cover. That honor went to Scooter, Caillat’s beloved beagle (depicted biting Caillat's foot).
Nicks was so resentful that she told Caillat she put a hex on Scooter. And when the dog died a few years later (presumably not from the hex), she told Caillat “I’m glad, Ken.” She reaffirmed that it should have been her on that album cover and not Scooter. Talk about weird!
Caillat is no angel either, and he admits to dabbling in cocaine, among other things. His writing style, perhaps shaped by co-author Steve Stiefel, is conversational and provides a nice snapshot of Southern California in 1976-77. I would love to see a follow-up book about the making of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk album, which Caillat co-produced, co-enginered and remastered.
Today, Caillat operates his own recording studio. Throughout his career he has worked on the albums of artists such as Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Michael Jackson, Warren Zevon, and his daughter, singer Colbie Caillat.
Making Rumours By Ken Caillat Rocks 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
While the book is an absolute must for Fleetwood Mac fans, even casual fans will enjoy it too. There are several never-before-seen photographs that add a nice touch. Most were taken during the recording process and provide insight into the music industry during that era.
Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album by Ken Caillat is available at Barnes & Noble. You can also find Making Rumours on Amazon or download the book from iBooks. The digital book also includes 80 black and white photographs that are included in the physical copy. The album that inspired the book can be found on iTunes. For more about the band, see our other reviews.