Monday, January 04, 2016

Fleetwood Mac's TUSK

1979 saw the supergroup Fleetwood Mac release the follow up to their monster album RUMOURS.  TUSK was an ambitious project -- an overpriced two-disc album which, guitarist Lindsay Buckingham has always insisted, was greeted with panic by executives with the Warner Bros. label who saw their Christmas bonuses flying out the window.

1977's RUMOURS would be certified for selling over 20 million copies.  By contrast, TUSK would be certified for selling 2 million copies -- but that's really one million because it's a double album.  (Check out the RIAA's certification policies if that's news to you.)

While the 1977 album would spawn the band's only number one hit (the Stevie Nicks' penned and sung "Dreams") and three other top ten hits (including the Christine McVie written songs "Don't Stop" and "You Make Loving Fun"), TUSK would only produce two top ten hits -- the highest charting was Stevie's "Sara" which reached number seven.

Yet, for some strange reason, when the album made its debut in the 90s on compact disc, the only song edited was . . . the biggest hit from the album "Sara."

Apparently the album's running time was too long for a single disc at the time and some genius, attempting to figure out which song to edit, said, "Oh, I know what will please people -- we'll edit the song the album's known for.  That'll please people."

It didn't.

And many fans of the band and fans of Stevie Nicks have avoided the CD version for years.

Though the edit was removed a few years ago, many didn't take notice and December's release of a new TUSK package may be the first chance the label has to get the news out.


The three disc set contains the full double album on the first disc -- with no edits.

It's the second disc and the notes that destroy the project.

The third disc is alternate takes of the same line up of the original album.

But disc two, twenty-two tracks, is nothing but crap.

Six different versions of Lindsay's insipid "I Know I'm Not Wrong" (a song that never charted in the top 100) and five of his overdone "Tusk"?

If you're thinking the other 11 tracks are all Christine and Stevie, you're wrong.

Christine's three tracks are "Think About Me" (which made it to number 20 on the top forty), "Honey Hi," "Never Make Me Cry" and Stevie's three are "Sisters of the Moon" (number 86 on the top 100), "Sara" and "Storms." The two women get six tracks.  The remaining five are more Lindsey songs.

Lindsey was a minor talent as a songwriter -- one who largely recycled the Mamas and the Papas.

The project reminds you of why Stevie's a star and why Lindsey's a freak.

Though Stevie and Christine consistently delivered the hits ("Landslide," "Rhiannon," "Say You Love Me," etc.) and Lindsey's freakish vocals were always something of a joke, so that the band wouldn't appear 'soft,' Buckingham was elevated as though his talent was equal to their own with his receiving more songs on each album than either woman.

There was also the never ending praise which tended to give him credit for not only his guitar work but for the drumming of Mick Fleetwood and the bass playing of John McVie.

TUSK was the last time Lindsey came off like a human being on a Fleetwood Mac album.

He'd fall for gadgets and sound like Gidget by the time MIRAGE came around.

He'd offer undeveloped song 'ideas' that left you groaning ("Empire State" and "Eyes of the World" come to mind).

Sexism was rife in those days.

And this helped Stevie and Christine.

Their fans saw how, despite their talent, they were treated as second class citizens by the rock press of the seventies.

It not only bonded them to their fans, it helped establish the critique of the inherent sexism in the rock canon that continues to this day.

As the three songwriters embarked on solo careers, Lindsey was the joke, the novelty act, who became a real freak when, after a decade of being know, he lied about his age (and ROLLING STONE let him) while promoting his failed solo album GO INSANE.

Meanwhile, Christine would get a top ten hit and a second top forty hit as a solo act while Stevie Nicks would become rock's high priestess with million selling albums with ten top forty hits and fifteen hits to crack the top forty of the US Rock Chart.

Lindsey would release nine solo albums -- not one of which went gold, let alone platinum.

Blame the critics who rushed to confuse his contributions to TUSK with genius.

The only thing he brought to TUSK was energy.

His songs themselves?

They said nothing, they offered nothing.

They were unshaped musical doodles.

But praised and egged on, he mistook himself for Brian Wilson (who actually knows how to write a song) and Lindsey's feet would never touch the ground again.

His nose is up in the air in the 'writing' Jim Irvin (failed journalist) offers for the package.


That's Irvin's term for "Sara."

Yeah, the album's most successful song.


The bulls**t sexism is back and front and center.

Irvin does little 'notes' on each track.

And for some reason, he always quotes Lindsey.

Even when it's Stevie or Christine's song.

Christine is never quoted once.

Stevie is quoted if she wrote the song.

But, again, so is Lindsey.

Lindsey was never Fleetwood Mac.

But sexism repeatedly served him up as the leader.

It was too threatening in the seventies for the rock critics to admit that the driving creative force in the band was two female songwriters, that the band's front person was, in fact, Stevie Nicks.

So she was short changed and a minor talent was repeatedly elevated.

If you're not getting just how short changed she is on this new release, check out the credits and you'll find she's only credited for vocals -- when the original release also noted her piano work on "Sara."

A lot of care was put into this package -- a lot of care to misrepresent.

Fans of Stevie and Christine should be outraged but so should any fan of the truth.

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