The recording of Fleetwood Mac’s eleventh studio album, Rumors, was the stuff you usually only find in movies. During the album’s production process, there were some rifts and complicated affairs between the five band members. Additionally, an outrageous amount of cocaine and money fueled the band’s creativity, and the music itself is widely considered the band’s magnum opus. Rumors, therefore, is an album like no other. (The album also beat Hotel California by the Eagles, star wars by John Williams, news by James Taylor, and aja by Steely Dan for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 1977.)
Obviously, there’s a lot to unpack here. But to make things more digestible, we’ll just start by taking a look at the first impression of the album: the album cover. Read below the story behind the famous Rumors album cover by Fleetwood Mac.
Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks
Similar to the band’s self-titled album released two years prior, Rumors features only two band members – drummer and de facto band leader Mick Fleetwood and vocalist Stevie Nicks. Both performers appear to be in stage costume and Nicks kisses her character “Rhiannon” which is, as Nicks describes it, “an old Welsh witch”. Nicks wrote “Rhiannon” after reading the novel Triad by Mary Bartlet Leader, in which a witch named Rhiannon has another character. Fleetwood, for his part, stands rather stoically while holding Nicks’ hand and supporting his leg. It’s like Fleetwood is trying not to be touched by Nicks/Rhiannon’s charms. (Spoiler: It didn’t work out for long; Fleetwood and Nicks got into a rocky romance shortly after. Rumors has been freed.)
Now, to the part that everyone is wondering about, but might be a little too embarrassed to ask. Yes, Fleetwood sports two dangling wooden balls, and no, the crude hint isn’t lost on us. However, these bullets are actually pieces of “toilet chains” that Fleetwood ripped from toilets earlier in his career.
“Actually, I started out as a blues player. The whole ethos of a lot of blues music is slightly suggestive, should I say. And appropriately, I walked out on stage with these two toilet chains with these wooden balls hanging down, and after that it just stuck,” Fleetwood said. The wooden balls became something of a perverse lucky charm for Fleetwood, and they became a constant companion to his drumming during subsequent performances.
And, if you look closely, there’s another ball in the picture. Nicks holds a crystal ball in his outstretched arm. Maybe it’s another accessory for her witch Rhiannon, or a reference to the crystal vision in “Dreams”, or even more allusively, perhaps she is simply looking for a way out of the Rumors time.