Never Break the Chain: Fleetwood Mac and the Making of Rumours by Cath Carroll (yes, that Cath Carroll) provides an excellent overview of the long, strange career of Mick Fleetwood and company. Like many of you (I’m guessing), I was introduced to Fleetwood Mac via my parents, who played Rumours ad infinitum. It was one of the first albums I “owned”–from the vinyl, I recorded a cassette copy that I played on my Sony Walkman repeatedly. I believe Born on the USA was on the other side. As the years passed, Fleetwood Mac somehow became very uncool to my ears (i.e., they did not rap, there was a paucity of shredding metallic guitar overtures, etc), then slightly cooler, then totally uncool (i.e. the Clintons, the reunion tour), then very very cool (thank you college, thank you Tusk).
Never Break the Chain is organized chronologically, making it easy for readers such as myself to skip around to sections of greater interest. The majority of Carroll’s research comes from previously published articles from magazines like Creem and Rolling Stone, as well as a few interviews. Carroll navigates the Mac’s bizarre history, detailing the numerous personnel changes. Mick Fleetwood is the book’s undisputed hero, the rock(er) who kept the band together through the tumultuous tempest of three decades. It’s fascinating to see how the band transforms from a British blues rock group from the John Mayall school of rock, to the melodic songwriting team that recorded the utterly-Western masterpiece Rumours.
As the title suggests, the making of Rumours becomes the focal point of the book. Carroll explores the bizarre love quadrangles that erupted within the band during that time, although for my taste there wasn’t quite enough VH1’s Behind the Music trashiness to her analysis. Ditto for the legendary cocaine use that supposedly fueled the FM’s late seventies output, which is largely glossed over. However, gearheads who can’t get enough descriptions of studio equipment, instrumentation, and production techniques will love this book. Carroll goes into very detailed accounts of how FM approached songwriting–some of the most interesting passages recount how the band arrived at the album sequences. Plenty of in-fighting, plenty of fights with the studio, and a whole chapter devoted to Tusk. On the whole not bad. However, no substitution for actually listening to the albums.