Feature Image by Virginia McCarthy and Cap Blackard
Cover Girl is a monthly music column in which Associate Editor Nina Corcoran compares cover songs to their original version. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, this month’s column highlights track-by-track cover songs that speak to the flexibility, melodies, and genius of the band’s songwriting.
When Fleetwood Mac released Rumours, fans couldn’t know how iconic it would grow to be. Of course, at that point in their career, Fleetwood Mac had already proved they knew what they were doing. Eleven records deep, the British-American rock band figured out how to rope folk elements, rock instrumentation, and pop hooks together while using multiple vocalists to flesh out their work to hone in on a singular sound. Fleetwood Mac had already formed their own sound, but on Rumours, they coated it in a clear finish to preserve it for decades to come.
Over the span of 11 songs, Fleetwood Mac worked their way through countless issues. Each member was going through relationship struggles. Hedonistic behavior was rampant. Fights weren’t uncommon. On vacation and in the studio, tensions grew taut, but the songwriting process allowed them to work a lot of that out — ironically, by forming songs that illuminate with positivity and uplifting features. This was the record where Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, and John McVie found their harmonies and, in the process, discovered how to fix the cracks that began to form in the band.
It turns out Fleetwood Mac create the best music when in the worst shape. The songs of Rumours ride a stylistic format that has yet to sound outdated. Now, celebrating its 40th anniversary, the record remains an album of hits and singles that bring generations of listeners together, be it the long hollers of “Go Your Own Way”, the joyful rhythm of “You Make Loving Fun”, or the fan-adored B-side “Silver Springs”. It’s inspired musicians and bands in every year since its release, and with that comes a connection to their music that convinces those very musical acts that they should pay tribute by covering their material.
So here it is: Rumours played out track by track, but reimagined in traditional and unconventional ways alike to remind you why this songwriting is just as timeless as the band that wrote it 40 years ago.
01. Mates of State – “Second Hand News”
It begins not with a bang, but with a whimper. The bang follows shortly after. Fleetwood Mac open Rumours with some silent background noise before the opening crash of “Second Hand News”, a song that bounces around with silly lyrics in its chorus and a rush of acoustic guitar strumming. It opens with a statement to set the album’s tone: “I know there’s nothing to say/ Someone has taken my place.” Yet Fleetwood Mac go on to make a name for themselves and, in the process, make sure that name remains relevant decades later. Whereas most people try to expand upon the semi-annoying verbal chatter of the chorus (Here’s looking at you, Tonic and Julienne Taylor), Mates of State decided to reinvent the song for their 2010 album Crushes (The Covers Mixtape). Singer-drummer Jason Hammel has gone on record saying it was the weirdest challenge they faced on the album and for good reason. Their cover uses a reggae beat to carry the song … and it works surprisingly well. Crunchy filters make guitar and drums sound over-processed, but they pair it with woodblock and xylophone to balance the weight. It’s a curious take on a pop-heavy hit, and by adding enough elements, Mates of State turn it into a song that deviates just enough from the original to sound like a different song.
02. The Morning Benders – “Dreams”
Some songs come quicker than others. For Nicks, “Dreams” was one of them. She wrote the song in about 10 minutes after finding a drum pattern on her keyboard. “Right away, I liked the fact that I was doing something with a dance beat, because that made it a little unusual for me,” she told Blender in 2007. She was right. The song, though it fades in and out of verses and the backing instrumentation feels like folk rock, makes listeners dance. The Corrs saw that and capitalized on the undertones, turning their cover into a certified hit that still plays on the radio today. But instead of highlighting their rendition, look at what The Morning Benders did with “Dreams”. Chris and Jon Chu and the rest of the band used their California vibes to mellow out the song on 2008 LP The Bedroom Covers. Open strumming and soft falsettos turn the song into a dream itself. Though the band opts for snappier songs nowadays (under a new moniker, POP ETC), The Morning Benders turned their cover into something for cozying up with the one you love, using their brand of indie pop to create a soothing, beach-side number.
03. Slaraffenland – “Never Going Back Again”
No song off Rumours is as rich or warm as “Never Going Back Again”. The song sees Buckingham on top of his game. The guitars sparkle endlessly, shimmering and waving in the wind like summer itself. Any cover song you stumble upon likely highlights that. It’s impossible to steer away from the beautiful instrumentation that uplifts even the grumpiest of grouches. Occasionally, an artist will try to deviate from the original, shaping the song into something that breaks Buckingham’s melodies, alters the emphasis, and tries to turn it into something new. One of the few acts to succeed in doing so is Slaraffenland. The experimental pop band hails from Denmark, a place that already likes reimagining what the world offers. On their cover, the five-piece experiments with freeform jazz, letting horns fade in and out while keys trickle through, sometimes sounding as if they’re played in reverse. A loose percussive beat plays out on plastic cans. The deeper into the song it goes, the more unrecognizable the original structure is, replaced by equal feelings of happiness and freedom, but the melodies contradict one another. It’s a handful of joyous instruments too pleased to work together — and, in that, they work seamlessly, swelling towards an outro that’s just as sunny as the original.
04. The Phoenix Foundation – “Don’t Stop”
The first time I heard “Don’t Stop”, I thought it was Elton John. The song carries a level of campiness otherwise absent on Rumours — which is part of why the record ages so gracefully — but in a knowing way that makes its romping gleeful and, if you’re in the right mood, addicting. Buckingham sings with total diva delivery, scratching his voice on vocal slides and punching up lines that normally wouldn’t deserve to be. Yet, at the time, it was one of their strongest hits, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard singles chart. New Zealand act The Phoenix Foundation picked it up for MOJO Magazine‘s free CD in January of 2013 that asked a slew of artists to cover a song from the album. There’s something otherworldly about their cover. It’s a twisted, almost psych version that feels like it’s constantly on the verge of burping. Synth sways back and forth, an electronic drumbeat hiccups in the back, and guitars echo on their own accord in the distance. It’s peaceful and lush, like the musical child of the Cocteau Twins and Connan Mockasin, an unexpected but fruitful combination.
05. The Cranberries – “Go Your Own Way”
Arguably the most well-known song Fleetwood Mac ever wrote is “Go Your Own Way”. The title alone makes Buckingham’s vocals shoot into your ears. At the time of its conception, the band holed up in a Florida vacation house and were caught in a rough tension, and Buckingham escaped to write a few demos. Piece by piece, the song came together elsewhere. Fleetwood wanted the drums to sound like those on The Rolling Stones’ “Street Fighting Man”. The guitar solo came together after numerous takes. There’s plenty to focus on in the song, but ultimately, it’s a song for wailing. Why else would bands like Silverstein, NOFX, and Biffy Clyro be drawn to cover it? Few bands know how to belt with sweetness and intensity side by side quite like The Cranberries. Dolores O’Riordan uses that Irish accent to charm listeners with each verse, introducing minor trills and intimate whispers at various points, until she gets to the chorus. It’s there that she belts, letting her voice dive through deeper notes before launching it up high. When partnered with the syncopated drumming, it ditches the occasional feeling of dragging on the studio version to lift listeners up onto their feet so that they can dance — and should they need it, a whispery, dream-like interlude comes mid-song, too.
06. Eva Cassidy – “Songbird”
The moment of pause in Rumours comes at the exact halfway point: “Songbird”. Christine McVie wrote that song and performs it like she’s caught up in every word she’s singing. It’s a beautiful, famous number rich with honesty and intimacy — the latter expanded upon by Buckingham joining her with some frail acoustic guitar parts — that gets played at countless weddings nowadays. It’s hard to talk about the song without bringing up Eva Cassidy, though. The American singer recorded her own version, but it didn’t rocket until she died of melanoma. The cover was included on her 1998 posthumous compilation album, Songbird, which, randomly, reached No. 1 in the UK three years later. It’s hard not to feel caught up in her take. It’s lush in every way, from her powerful, whispery delivery to the cheesy spa instrumentation, that tugs at your heart strings — which, it should come as no surprise, made it a prime pick for inclusion in Love Actually.
07. Silkworm – “The Chain”
The only song on Rumours to see all five members contribute songwriting credits is “The Chain” — and for good reason. From its inception on through to today, the song’s country rock stomp hits you in the chest. It feels urgent and raw, like a song you hear on the radio and feel overcome with emotion for. It’s evocative, if purely because each member’s contributions can be heard, creating the effect of a multi-layered, overpowering, chill-inducing stack of music. There’s bold renditions of the song everywhere you look, from Florence + the Machine’s live performance at Glastonbury in 2010 to a heavy Liars cover or a breathy Shawn Colvin take, but no one has reworked the song into their own style quite like Silkworm. The underrated but highly-influential Chicago rock act managed to inspire the likes of Jeff Tweedy, Steve Albini, Stephen Malkmus, and more over the course of their career from 1987 to 2005. At some point in the middle of their career, they recorded a sludgy, heavy, knotted version of “The Chain” that went on to see an official release on Even a Blind Chicken Finds a Kernel of Corn Now and Then (Archives, 1990-1994). It’s the song’s closing section that sees Silkworm capitalize on the song’s layers. The band pick up the tempo and scream over one another, creating a dizzying spiral that only seems to quicken, drawing out for a full two minutes of noisy, cluttered bliss.
08. The Besnard Lakes – “You Make Loving Fun”
The final 45 rpm to come from Rumours was Christine McVie’s saucy ’70s number “You Make Loving Fun”. It’s a song built for guitarists eager to take a solo. The Hammond organ and clavinet build a Stevie Wonder-style funk backbeat, but openness dominates the song, leaving space for someone to step in and take the lead. Instead of pawning that off on guitar licks — which does come post-chorus — McVie tricks the listener by doing impressive vocal jumps during the chorus, soaring into a falsetto while singing, “I never did believe in the ways of magic.” Most covers of “You Make Loving Fun” get caught up in McVie’s singing and, no shade tossed, try to outdo her. So while Jewel and Cyndi Lauper’s takes (or the half-joking one Kurt Vile did years back) stick to tradition, it’s a rendition like The Besnard Lakes that reimagines the band’s songwriting in a worthwhile way. In January of 2013, MOGO Magazine included a free CD of Fleetwood Mac covers called Rumours Revisited: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Classic 1977 Album. The Besnard Lakes turned it into a half-shoegaze, half-dreary pop number. Guitars roar through muffled amps. The whole time, the vocals layer themselves like ’60s cooing but never take the spotlight, instead, over the course of the song, slowly being washed out by the wall of guitars. It’s a beautiful, hazy take on a song built for crystal-clear delivery.
09. Goo Goo Dolls – “I Don’t Want to Know”
Okay, look. Before scoffing at the cover version, take a look at the history of Rumours. The album could have let campiness overrun its songs, but Nicks knew how to format the album’s songs so that they appealed to listeners of all genres and ages. Case and point, “I Don’t Want to Know” being covered by the Goo Goo Dolls in 1998 for a covers album called Legacy – A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. The honky-tonk number gets a quintessential ’90s makeover: hoarse vocals, power chords, wailing guitars in the background. Yet as easy as it is to make fun of the Goo Goo Dolls, they do the song justice, keeping its cheesy structure at heart while reformatting it for a different generation that, at the time, loved it so.
10. Natalie Cole – “Oh Daddy”
If “Oh Daddy” always stuck out to you, then pat yourself on the back. The song was actually written by Christine McVie, one of the band’s lead vocalists who joined in 1970. Instead of focusing on a guitar-led melody, the song falls into an ethereal realm where percussive flourishes and jam-inspired guitar improvisations decorate McVie’s vocals. R&B singer Natalie Cole heard the song shortly after its release and knew she had to cover it. She recorded her own version and released it on the 1979 album I Love You So. In her take, Cole draws on the song’s groove and puts the emphasis on McVie’s lyrics, injecting a heap of soul that could have catapulted the original to new heights had McVie thought to do so years prior.
11. Hole – “Gold Dust Woman”
Like openers, closing tracks are often used as an opportunity to illustrate larger themes of a record, getting a say in what the final notes that hit the listener’s ears are. Rumours ends with “Gold Dust Woman”, a song full of gusto and swagger thanks to Nicks’ songwriting. Fleetwood Mac struggled to capture a version they liked until, at 4 a.m., Nicks wrapped her head in a black scarf to cover her senses, leaving only her mouth open. The recording that followed saw her tapping into memories that flooded to the front of her mind and letting them paint her delivery. The song creeps about in an unnerving way, and though many artists have captured that eeriness with dollops of beauty (particularly Julia Holter), it’s Hole’s cover from 1996 that taps into its own, mesmerizing, strange darkness. Hole pummel the song with classic ’90s alt-rock intensity. Above it all is Courtney Love’s voice, throwing Nicks’ words around like she’s caught in an undertow, and it’s hard to look away.
12. Lykke Li – “Silver Springs”
Though the original release of Rumours only contains 11 tracks, the reissues that came out from 2001 onwards included “Silver Springs”, the fan-adored B-side of “Go Your Own Way”. Recorded during the same sessions as the rest of the album, the song takes a slow stroll through the songwriting of Nicks, making good use of accordion and wonky keys. Apparently, the band didn’t include it because it stemmed from the dissolve of the romance between Nicks and Buckingham. Of course, out of all the musicians out there, Lykke Li was the one to record a cover that picks up on the song’s complex, emotional history. With reverb elongating her words, the Swedish singer finds loneliness in what originally sounds like contentedness, but the use of tambourine and a heartbeat-like guitar line bring hope. Her cover comes from Just Tell Me That You Want Me. Depending on who you ask, her contribution is the best on the record, but, hey, that’s just an opinion.