Jonathan Pine (foreground) and Ken Caillat discussed the creation of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors album, dissecting its key songs and performances at the AES Convention. LOS ANGELES, CA—When Ken Caillat began working as a engineer for Fleetwood Mac in 1976, the band was in the process of falling apart, even as it was beginning to track a new record. By the time the album came out the following year, Caillat had become the group’s co-producer, and Rumours would go on to sell more than 40 million copies. At the AES Convention, Caillat and host Jonathan Pine took a packed house back in time to those storied recording dates as they dissected various tracks from the legendary album at the inaugural Raw Tracks event.
Raw Tracks is a new series of talks at AES, where noted producers and engineers discuss, analyze and deconstruct some of their most popular works. During the 90-minute program, Caillat recalled that the band entered the studio determined to win a Grammy Award with the next album, and that attitude set the tone for the rest of the extended time spent recording it. In fact, the band was so exacting that the master tapes wore out and began shedding (“We had 3,000 hours on them”), necessitating that Caillat go back to safety first takes recorded months earlier, and then copy later overdubs on to the safetys, synching by hand since there was no time code involved.
Between playing and soloing up specific parts of “You Make Loving Fun” and “Dreams” for the AES audience, Caillat recalled developing his relationship with the band over time until eventually leader Mick Fleetwood informed him and Richard Dashut that they were fired—because they were now co-producers. Other times, he recounted Fleetwood manipulating a Jet Phaser pedal placed on Christine McVie’s electric harpsichord on “Gold Dust Woman,” placing a Sony ECM-50 lav mic on Lindsey Buckingham’s Stratocaster guitar to capture the strings’ sound on the B-side “Silver Springs,” and getting what he needed on various tracks from the group.
All the while, he encouraged engineers and producers to talk to their artists during technical pauses, an act that he felt helped not only develop trust, but also simply distracted musicians from doubting themselves: “Otherwise they self-destruct.” Asked how he controlled the famously fractious sessions behind Rumours, however, Caillat cracked, “Control? There’s no controlling those guys—I had to be deceitful and lie my ass off.”
Audio Engineering Society