For Fleetwood Mac, Rumours was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments: An album that, in no particular order, won the 1977 Grammy for Album of the Year, became the fifth bestselling album of all-time (40 million copies to date), fielded four Top-10 hits, and turned the group into bona fide rock stars. On the other hand, it also took a year to make, during which everyone in the band broke up with his significant other—which in four out of five cases, was someone else in the band. Pile on record company pressures, feuds, writer’s block, and jaw-dropping amounts of drugs and alcohol, and it’s easy to see how Rumours should have been a complete trainwreck instead of an unqualified success. On hand for each step of the remarkable journey was co-producer Ken Caillat, who recalls every detail in his new memoir, the aptly titled Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album.
Throughout, Caillat generously spills the beans, recounting the tumultuous sessions with great clarity even after 35 years, kicking things off with the unlikely tale of how he nearly turned down a quickie gig to mix a radio concert of the semi-known Fleetwood Mac. Taking the job on a whim, he greatly impressed the band, which was about to record its next album. While you might expect that to lead into him being asked to engineer the record, like the rest of the stories in Making Rumours, this isn’t a fairy tale. Instead, the group hit the studio with another engineer, whose console automation crashed on the first day. Nervous and finicky, the band abruptly turned to Caillat as a distinctly second choice, but sensing a golden opportunity, he took the offer anyway.
While Caillat proudly rhapsodizes about the amazing takes that turned into classic tracks, he doesn’t paint a rosy picture of the sessions. While the musicians were insecure about the album and their personal lives, the engineer, too, had his doubts, sometimes wondering if he was in over his head. In particular, Caillat has a knack for recalling small missteps that paint a larger picture of the uneasiness he felt—such as mistakenly calling Stevie Nicks “Lindsay” (as in “Buckingham,” her soon-to-be Ex) when he first met her, or getting glared at after overstepping by sitting down next to Christine McVie on a piano bench while she wrote “Songbird.”
Nonetheless, Caillat made his way into the band’s inner circle, eventually being promoted to co-producer of the album. Throughout the book, he repeatedly saves the day—not to mention the album and a concert tour, to boot. After months of recording, it was Caillat who realized that the master tapes were shedding oxide after hundreds of takes—and more importantly, he figured out a Rube Goldberg-like way to replace their forever lost high-end. Similarly, when the band sounded lackluster on the road, it was Caillat who discovered that most of the PA was out of phase. These and dozens more stories fill the book—and that’s just the technical side of things. Along the way, there’s drugs, crying jags, one-night stands, Lindsay Buckingham completely blowing his stack, misbehaving dogs, massive fights, a practical joke involving copious amounts of cocaine (well, it was the Seventies…) and much, much more.
Caillat and co-writer Steve Stiefel maintain a brisk pace throughout Making Rumors, sharing gear choices, philosophies of production and technical explanations in ways that will enthrall the tech-minded while still keeping mainstream readers wide awake. Recalling the highs (in all senses of the word) and many lows of creating a unique piece of pop culture history, Making Rumours is a fascinating—and illuminating—read.