Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams”
During the making of Rumours,when the members of the band were barely speaking to each other, singer Stevie Nicks took some time out from recording and chilled out in a small black and red room next to the recording studio.
“I sat down on the bed with my keyboard in front of me,” says Nicks. “I found a drum pattern, switched my little cassette player on and wrote ‘Dreams’ in about 10 minutes. Right away I liked the fact that I was doing something with a dance beat, because that made it a little unusual for me.”
10 minutes, people! 10 minutes is all it took to write one of the greatest songs the band ever produced, arguably the greatest. It was also the only number 1 hit the band ever had.
Started by a short roll, it quickly descends into the thudding bass line, and it’s not long before the warbling notes of the guitar are squeezed out. Nicks’ vocals enter, washed in reverb, and touched with anger, resignation and hurt. It’s all too obvious she’s writing about her break from Lindsey Buckingham, who is recording in the room next door. Behind her vocals, the guitar moves in and out of earshot.
The chorus starts by a quick crash on the cymbals, and then falls back onto the vocals and this time, the harmonies that Fleetwood Mac were renowned for. McVie’s and Buckingham’s vocals are soft, but manage to absorb and strengthen Nicks’ sound. The melodic line rises at exactly the right moment, and Nicks drops it back down to deliver the punch, a throwaway line:
“Women, they will come and they will go/ When the rain washes you clean you’ll know.”
It’s not quite a knife to the gut, but the message is clear. Backed up by soft harmonies, the line sounds cutting even when the music is calm.
The second verse sees some more dynamics in Nicks’ vocals. She dives down to the lower register, and then hits unexpected high notes. The drums, bass and keyboard persist in thudding along, anchoring the sound, allowing Buckingham’s guitar to keep pushing out the highly affected, sustained notes. He switches to an acoustic in the choruses, quietly strumming along. The keyboard shimmers in the background.
The song falls away with long harmonies and a wavering guitar note.
The song’s greatest advantage is its reliance on the lyrics, which are brutally honest and accepting, and involve some nice imagery:
“It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and/ Have you any dreams you’d like to sell”
It’s Stevie Nicks’ magnum opus. And it’s quite beautiful.