“Rumours” Yesterday, Vegas today

Producer Richard Dashut, best known for his work with Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham, and several others, is up in Las Vegas now working with a few indie rock bands. He and a few partners started Ifymm Records recently, and named local band Fletch as their first signee. The band is already getting some serious attention up in Vegas, and deservedly so…they rock! Expect to hear more from these guys real soon. Their producer, Dashut, made L.A. his home base for many years, though he did get up to the Bay Area on many occasions. One of his most memorable took place in 1977, when a relatively new band called Fleetwood Mac made the pilgrimage North to record their classic best-selling album Rumours.

Below is a little bit about the recording of Rumours, culled from (where else!) my book, “If These Halls Could Talk: A Historical Tour Through San Francisco’s Recording Studios.” Enjoy! – Hj

…John and Christine McVie faced divorce, and the relationship between Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ was unraveling. Mick Fleetwood’s marriage was on the verge of collapse as well. Personally, the group was falling apart, but professionally, they were at the height of their career. “Rhiannon,” the second single from the band’s self-titled 1975 album, sprinted up the charts as the Rumours sessions got underway. They were on a roll and didn’t want to screw it up. But the strained male-female relationships created a tense studio environment, even at the party studio by the Bay. “It took two months for everyone to adjust to one another,” Dashut said in the band’s biography, The Fleetwood Mac Story: Rumours and Lies by Bob Brunning. “Defenses were wearing thin and they were quick to open up their feelings. Instead of going to friends to talk it out, their feelings were vented through their music. The album was about the only thing they had left.”

To take the edge off, they did what any pressured musician would do: They partied. A typical day would start around 7 p.m. with a big feast, then party until 1 or 2 in the morning, and somewhere down the line, they would start recording. Van Morrison, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Jackson Browne, and Warren Zevon oft en hung out, some of them working down the hall. Sometimes the band would listen back to what they thought was last night’s masterpiece, only to find that it sound terrible, so they’d start all over again. “It was the craziest period of our lives,” Mick Fleetwood told Brunning. “We went four or five weeks without sleep, doing a lot of drugs. I’m talking about cocaine in such quantities that, at one point, I thought I was really going insane.” Fleetwood tried to keep everyone happy and even took the clocks off the wall so that no one would worry about how much time had passed. They entered the studio with no demos; the album happened in the studio. After a long drought, McVie wrote continuously one day; resulting in four and a half songs on the album.

She also requested piano tuning every hour, as opposed to the standard daily piano tuning. Meanwhile Dashut, who had worked with Buckingham and Nicks since before joining Fleetwood Mac, and Caillat, whom Dashut had brought up from Wally Heider Studios in L.A., worked to get near-perfect sounds for every instrument. They spent ten hours on a kick drum sound in Studio B, then moved to A, built a special platform for the drums, and finally got what they wanted. For “Don’t Stop,” assistant Cris Morris sat between Fleetwood and McVie in the studio, because his drums and her piano were angled in such a way that they couldn’t see each other. Morris acted as conductor so they could stay in time. Morris cites recording “Gold Dust Woman” as one of the sessions’ great moments, according to the Brunning book. “Stevie was very passionate about getting that vocal right. It seemed like it was directed straight at Lindsey and she was letting it all out. She worked right through the night on it, and finally did it after loads of takes. The wailing, the animal sounds, and the breaking glass were all added later.” She did the first take standing up, the studio fully lit. Several takes later Dashut dimmed the lights. She then sat down on the floor, wrapped in a cardigan to keep warm, and nailed the vocal on the eighth take.

An estimated 3,000 hours—six months of tracking, five months editing and mixing—ended up on the 24-track masters. In order to preserve some of the clarity, they transferred the overdubs to a safety master “We had no sync pulse to lock the two machines together, so we had to manually sync the two machines, ten tracks by ear, using headphones in twelve-hour sessions.”
The fact that Caillat recorded most of the parts separately made the process even trickier. “Virtually every track is either an overdub or lifted from a separate take of that particular song,” said Dashut. “What you hear is the best pieces assembled, a true aural collage.
Lindsey and I did most of the production. That’s not to take anything away from Ken or the others in the band—they were all very involved. But Lindsey and myself really produced that record and he should’ve gotten the individual credit for it, instead of the whole band….”

Read more about the Record Plant and other Bay Area studios here.


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Filed under Music, Recording, San Francisco

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