Producer of iconic Fleetwood Mac album to speak at Warwick’s June 6
■ If you go
What: Book signing with Ken Caillat (producer of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’)
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6
Where: Warwick’s, 7812 Girard Ave.
Contact: (858) 454-0347, warwicks.com
By Pat Sherman
Ken Caillat says he’s thankful for the year he spent producing Fleetwood Mac’s Grammy Award-winning pop rock masterpiece, “Rumours.” However, more than 35 years later he still finds it hard to sit back and enjoy hits such as “Dreams” or “Don’t Stop” without recalling the well-documented drama, tension and drug use the band was caught up in while recording the album in 1976.
“There was Champagne thrown in people’s faces, yelling, screaming and storming out of the room — and a lot of tears,” recalled Caillat, who has also produced albums for Harry Chapin, Michael Jackson, the Beach Boys and, more recently, his daughter, Grammy Award-winning pop star Colbie Caillat.
“There was a point where we wondered, are we actually going to be able to finish the record? Are people going to be able to hold it together? Are they going to want to hold it together?
“I personally had thousands of hours invested in the project and we (Caillat and co-producer Richard Dashut) were concerned that all this great work we’d done might just disappear.”
Caillat will be at Warwick’s bookstore 7:30 p.m. June 6 to read from his new book, “Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album.”
Released Feb. 4, 1977 (less than a month after it was finished), “Rumours” would go on to sell 44 million copies and include the chart-topping hits, “You Make Loving Fun,” “Go Your Own Way” and “The Chain.”
The lyrics, written almost entirely on the spot during sessions, reflected the failing personal relationships between band members, most notably the breakup of guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and vocalist Stevie Nicks, and of vocalist-keyboardist Christine McVie and her bassist-husband John McVie.
“Everybody wanted to break up with their significant other, for one reason or another, and it all kind of came out in a therapy session with me in the room,” Caillat said.
However, amidst the acrimony and mayhem, there was plenty of magic, Caillat said, including Nicks’ haunting howl at the end of the song “Gold Dust Woman,” recorded while Nicks was twirling around the studio with her headphones on.
“We sat there for two or three hours (waiting) for her to get in the mood, the spirit,” Caillat recalled. “I believe we turned the lights down and lit candles around the studio. She had a little bit of pot, a little bit of Courvoisier — and I’m sure a little coke, too.”
Of the band members, Caillat said Buckingham lit up the most.
“As I wrote in the book, Lindsey was a very nervous guy. … He’d continuously, nonstop be rolling a joint … maybe only take one puff and put it down and then five minutes later light it up again. Most of the rest would only do it every two hours or something — just a little bit. … They were always looking for the right headspace to be creative and spontaneous.”
Though the sessions, largely recorded at Record Plant Studios in Sausalito, Calif., were constantly on the verge of derailing, during the midst of a particularly heavy “crying session,” the band’s manager phoned to offer some persuasion.
Fleetwood Mac’s previous, self-titled album (“Rhiannon,” “Over My Head,” “Landslide”) was making its way up the charts, and their manager promised a big payoff if the band could keep it together to finish “Rumours.”
“He said, ‘If you’re able to duplicate the success of this record, you’ll probably be guaranteed superstars and be rich for life. … They looked at each other and said, ‘Holy crap … I get it.’ They all kind of said, basically, let’s put all our suffering and differences aside and we’ll make a great record” — and dissolve Fleetwood Mac after it’s finished, Caillat said.
However, he added, “It wasn’t quite so easy to do, because the lyrics were all about the breakup. So, every now and again, somebody would be working on a song and one of the lyrics would (sting) and another fight would break out.”
However, Caillat said, that familiar human drama “was embedded in the music so deeply that 35 years later it still resonates with people. It’s probably why the record sold 44 million copies.”
Despite working 14-15 hour days, nearly seven days a week, recording “Rumours” was also a transformative experience for the young Caillat, who was hired as an engineer, then eventually given more duties and creative license, eventually being granted a portion of the album royalties.
“Partly why I wrote the book is because it was such an amazing year for me — being at the right place at the right time and watching this amazing music go down,” he said.
The book is written in diary format, allowing the reader to follow the band through the recording process.
“I wanted people to feel what it (was like) … to sit with the real band every day —they come in, they’re cranky, they’re hung over, whatever, they’ve got to work and they hope they have some magic that day.”
Despite the band’s promise to “go their own ways,” two years later Caillat and Dashut were back in the studio working on Fleetwood Mac’s follow-up album, “Tusk.”
So, had the band mellowed or gained perspective during those two years?
“No, just the opposite,” Caillat confided, noting that the now affected rock stars each arrived at the studio with personal assistants and their preexisting grudges.
“The relationship issues were still there,” Caillat said. “John could never forgive Christine, … Lindsey would always be on Stevie’s case. …
“They had made a lot of money off of ‘Rumors’ and they were now superstars and there was a decadence factor. They all had their own personal stash of whatever their favorite drugs were and we had lobster brought in every night for dinner and built our own million-dollar studio to record. Christine had to have her Pouilly-Fuissé wine or the session would end and she’d be furious.”
To make matters worse, Buckingham demanded complete creative control, threatening to leave Fleetwood Mac if the rest of the members didn’t follow his lead, Caillat said.
“Lindsey decided he didn’t want to do another record like ‘Rumours.’ He was looking for a new self and he didn’t know who he wanted to be. … He wanted everything to sound grungy.
“That record was basically made under a hostage situation, if you will, loosely speaking. It was very strange, just very decadent,” including the nearly impossible task of recording the USC Trojan marching band at Dodger Stadium for the album’s title track (Mick Fleetwood’s brainchild).
“Actually, it’s a terrific album but at the time I had my doubts,” Caillat said. “I was so embarrassed of the sound. It was just so grungy. It took every bit of effort we could to make it clean and enjoyable.”
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