First, thanks for your patience over the past couple of weeks. I had some family stuff to take care of, but thankfully everyone is now healthy and well (or on their way to being so), and life is a bit more like normal again.
Second, let’s ease back into the swing of things with a little Swipefile fun, shall we? This time around it was this article in the Guardian that caught my eye:
Fleetwood Mac: after its 926 weeks on the chart, who’s still buying Rumours?
WHOA (or as the kids spell it: WOAH). What a headline!
There’s that “926 weeks” that grabs you. After all, even if you can’t do the math in your head to figure out how long that actually is (almost 18 years, as it turns out) 926 of anything is usually a LOT. And even if you don’t know the band Fleetwood Mac, or even that album, it’s still… a LOT.
And then there’s that question there, too, “Who’s still buying it?” I’m curious, aren’t you? Who IS buying that album still?
- The first thing we discover is that the album is actually 45 years old, which somehow makes its current popularity even more interesting. But perhaps that’s no surprise, the album was very successful when it first came out: it “won album of the year at the Grammys, went 20 times platinum in the US alone, and sits alongside Kind of Blue [Miles Davis – Jazz] and The Rite of Spring [Stravinsky – “Classical”] in the Library of Congress’s registry of historically significant recordings.”
- We then learn that where the album is really doing well right now isn’t just in digital downloads, but in actual physical copies—vinyl albums. In fact, only new albums by Adele and Abba outsold it in vinyl last year. And Rumours outsold Lana Del Rey and…get this… Ed Sheeren!
- Why so popular? A Rolling Stone writer weighs in: “It’s a fantastic pop album with classically written pop songs that never goes out of style.” [Take that, Lana Del Rey!]
- I love this line: “Those songs emerged from long, meticulous studio sessions punctuated by romantic tension and heavy drug use.” Fleetwood Mac seemed to be constantly in romantic tension, with pretty much everyone in the band dating pretty much everyone else in the band at one point or another. At the point when the songs on Rumours were written, one member was in a new relationship (with the band’s lighting director) after a divorce (from another member in the band), and two of the bandmembers (Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham) were actively breaking up after a number of years together. Zoë Howe, who wrote a book on Nicks, notes the result: the album delivers “the great theatre of heartbreak from multiple sides.”
- While Rumours sells well on its own, its current popularity, particularly in vinyl, may be related to the “wider vinyl boom.” With more people buying vinyl records of all sorts, Rumours is often seen as a classic that needs to be part of any “good” collection of albums. [Who wouldn’t want their product or ideas to be thought of that way? What a great standard to set for yourself, right?]
- It’s also been helped by a bunch of recent covers of its songs. Artists like Florence + The Machine, the Highwomen, and Kacey Musgraves have had success with Rumours hits. There’s even a cover band, Fleetmac Wood, that creates “more elaborate interpretations via inventive remixes.”
- And there’s Stevie Nicks, the woman whose voice is so recognizable my kids could identify it by the time they were 5 or so. [This is also my favorite parody of Nicks, and why my boys refer to her as “the goat lady.”]
- More recently, TikTokkers near and far were introduced to Dreams (which Nicks wrote) thanks to Nathan Apodaca, his skateboard, and some cranberry juice.
- More along this line: “Nicks has also acted in American Horror Story, launched a well-received solo tour, and earned a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction as a solo artist; younger artists such as Miley Cyrus are influenced by her to the point of explicit homage, and she has a high-profile friendship with Harry Styles.”
- For some the TikTok-Styles one-two punch was enough to kick off deeper explorations of her work! As one 15-year-old put it, “I know that Harry likes Fleetwood Mac, and I trust him because he likes David Bowie,” she says. “I’m definitely a punk person, a rock person. I wouldn’t expect myself to be that into Fleetwood Mac. But it’s kind of its own thing. It’s really beautiful, and it has its own personality; all the songs are different, but cohesive.” [“I trust him because he likes David Bowie” is a good life rule, don’t you think?]
- So, what’s the answer to the question posed by the headline? Who’s still buying the album? Well, as it turns out, “there is no simple demographic of who is buying Rumours.” Why? The article ends with the explanation given by the album’s co-producer, Ken Caillat: “I think the combination of the young band members – and that half of them were British and half of them were California hippies – and that the lyrics were fuelled by each of the couples breaking up simultaneously, made the songs relatable to people of all ages.”
How you could use it…
The story is certainly ripe for any kind of “oldie but goodie” illustration you may want or need. It also seems to be a superb example of the lasting power of quality work, or of the difference between fashion (what’s trendy or popular at the moment) and style (what’s appealing and successful over time).
There’s also that 15-year-old’s comment that “all the songs are different but cohesive,” which is a spectacular goal of any brand-building activities. That, of course, could lead to conversations about how Fleetwood Mac achieved the “different, but cohesive” bar. Depending on your interpretation of that, you could have an analogy that appeals to multiple generations (which is increasingly hard to find, by the way, at least in popular culture!).
There’s even a case for using it to demonstrate something along the lines of “a rising tide lifts all boats” – the fact that the boom in vinyl sales overall has led to a boom in the vinyl sales of this particular album.
But for me, the co-producer’s observation is the key one. The idea that, rather than going with the current sound of the day, Fleetwood Mac wrote and performed the songs that meant something to them, in the way that was most meaningful to them, in the styles that were natural for them performing together.
Call it authenticity if you must, though I prefer to think of it in terms of congruence or, to use the sonic term, consonance. The alignment of creators with their message, of the message with their delivery and performance, and the alignment of all of that with their audience is a well-tried, and not-so-secret, sauce.
In other words, the band didn’t try to create an album that would outsell modern artists 45 years later, they created the album they felt compelled to create based on who they were and what they were going through at the time.
I think there are lessons for all of us in that.The alignment of creators with their message, of the message with their delivery and performance, and the alignment of all of that with their audience is a well-tried, and not-so-secret, sauce. Click To Tweet
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