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Old 06-15-2022, 09:38 PM
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dougl dougl is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Providence, RI
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Default Mirage at 40

https://albumism.com/features/fleetw...-retrospective

Albumism

Mark Chappelle June 15, 2022

Happy 40th Anniversary to Fleetwood Mac’s thirteenth studio album Mirage, originally released June 18, 1982.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Once the watershed Rumours (1977) sold 40 million units worldwide and did everything but cure cancer, the grading curve for Fleetwood Mac albums was wrecked. As a result, the return-to-form Mirage(1982) got punished for being merely outstanding, rather than larger than life like its predecessor.

It wasn’t the first time comparison swallowed music whole. Creative reins were handed to guitarist Lindsey Buckingham for the experimental Tusk (1979). He became a pariah when it underperformed. Both the public and the band panned it despite double platinum sales. The ensuing world tour became a cheap way to create Live (1980), another double disc that managed gold sales, but was considered a relative failure.

Fleetwood Mac’s energy started to pull away from its core entity thereafter. Frankly, they were sick of each other. Thus began a mass exodus of solo spinoffs. Drummer Mick Fleetwood recorded The Visitor (1981). Buckingham bowed with Law and Order (1981). Mystical vocalist Stevie Nicks stepped out for the first time with the quadruple platinum Bella Donna (1981).

No one was particularly bullish on getting the band back together except Warner Bros. Records, still hungry for a repeat of Rumours. However half-hearted, Fleetwood, Nicks, Buckingham, and coworker-divorcees bassist John McVie and singer Christine McVie joined with producers Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut in the spring of 1981. They rented Château d'Hérouville near Paris, France and would record there until the summer. With peaks stronger than its valleys, the resultant Mirage returned Fleetwood Mac to rock preeminence.

Its lead single was the delightsome, layered “Hold Me,” written by Christine McVie and Robbie Patton. She and Buckingham stripe their colors together for tandem lead vocals, but harmony fell apart at their Mojave Desert video shoot. Everyone was overheated, off schedule, and on edge. John McVie even took a drunken swing at the video producer. Trouble aside, the single reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 Mainstream Rock. Despite its success, the band rarely performs the song live.

Though “Hold Me” charted higher, the most enduring single was the wistful “Gypsy.” This Nicks composition intended for Bella Donna began as a sparse demo, recalling her simpler life as a young woman. It grew into an emotional tribute after the death of childhood best friend Robin Snyder Anderson (“She is dancing away from me now / She was just a wish / And a memory is all that is left for you now”). Easily the finest offering from Mirage, “Gypsy” rocks and sways, boasting pentatonic melodies, diaphanous support vocals, and a mind-blowing Buckingham solo.

In the US, the Motown-styled “Love In Store” was released as a third single. On this, the album’s opener, as well as its closer “Wish You Were Here,” Christine McVie’s confident lead has a transitional, almost androgynous versatility that meshes seamlessly in chorus with Buckingham and Nicks.

The third radio volley for UK territories was “Oh Diane.” The surprise hit achieved a #15 chart notch with its yesteryear sound. One final single gave it a go in the UK. Despite modest chart performance, “Can’t Go Back” provides an energetic boost in the LP sequence. Grouped with “Book of Love” and “Eyes of the World” though, these Buckingham tunes evinced an obsession with ‘50s rock-and-roll that often proved the weak link on Mirage. Where he was fixated on a single sound, Nicks’ muse was notably more itinerate.

“I started this whirlwind thing of being able to flit between two worlds,” Nicks explained to Mojo Magazine in 2013. ”Fleetwood Mac made Tusk and I made Bella Donna. Fleetwood Mac made Mirage and I made The Wild Heart, and on it went. I loved it because I get bored easily. I change hotel suites twice in the same week.”

And flit she did, starting with the boot-clacking “That’s Alright.” Her crushed velvet voice has a bit of strum, without a full twang. Its easy fit here begs the question of whether “Gypsy” is more country at its core than it seems. The progressive and synth-supported “Straight Back,” however, is different than them both. Reportedly written about Nicks’ failing relationship with producer Jimmy Iovine, she wasn’t the only one drawing on heartbreak.

“Only Over You,” like “Hold Me,” was authored in the wake of Christine McVie’s relationship with Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys. “Chris had loved him with all her heart, but she couldn’t keep up with him and couldn’t make it work,” Fleetwood shared in his autobiography Play On. “She had to part from him, because it would have been the end of her if she hadn’t.” Wilson’s death in 1983 added a mournful tint to her emotional trilling (“Angel please don’t go / I miss you when you’re gone / They say I’m a silly girl / But I’m not a fool / I’m out of my mind / And it’s only over you”).

“Mirage was an attempt to get back into the flow that Rumours had,” Christine McVie ceded to Uncut in 2003. “But we missed a vital ingredient. That was the passion.” That’s putting it lightly. Buckingham’s then-girlfriend Carol Ann Harris gets more candid in her memoir Storms. “There were the very real, sinister fights that echoed from the recording studio into our rooms every night,” she writes. “The screams and curses of the band members fighting with one another sounded demonic within the walls of the dormitory.”

Underlying all this tension were knotted entanglements between them. Buckingham hadn’t resolved tension with Nicks after their breakup. Nicks had a brief involvement with Fleetwood after his wife had an affair with the band’s lighting director. And of course, drug use complicates everything. Their interlocked cover pose with disconnected glances is emblematic of this. Where their connections and severances fueled creativity during the Rumours era, it offered little help to Mirage.

However, the end justified the means. Mirage spent five weeks at #1 in the US and earned two more platinum plaques, though it fell from the charts quickly as the band lost interest in promotion. And who could blame them? Buckingham and Nicks were both eager to refocus on their own endeavors. And even the sparsely recording Christine McVie had sessions booked for a solo album. It would take five years and several acts of God to corral them back together for Tango in the Night (1987).

For what it’s worth, Mirage did what it needed to, getting Fleetwood Mac back on the radio. With MTV debuting in 1981, it arrived at the perfect time for “Hold Me” to stay in heavy rotation. And “Gypsy,” the first ever MTV World Premiere Video, was the most expensive video ever filmed at the time.

Whatever Mirage lacks in cohesion, it makes up in musicianship. It might be hell to agree on which songs get done how, but regardless of the process, the product is a cut above others. After decades in the shadows, Mirage finally got a moment in the sun with a 2016 triple-disc deluxe reissue featuring outtakes, rarities, and live versions.

The biggest mistake would be to set Rumours as the standard for judging any album of that time. If we did, perhaps only Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life (1976), AC/DC's Back in Black (1980), or Pink Floyd's The Wall (1979) could make the grade. Ironically, requiring everything to be big, bigger, biggest is the most ‘80s thing one could do. With the era of bloat and artifice now behind us, it should be easier to appreciate Mirage for everything it is—rather than anything it is not.
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