Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk

We’re very pleased to announce that the volume in the series about Tusk is now widely available.

Here’s what it says on the back of the book:

After Rumours became the best-selling single album of all-time, Fleetwood Mac asked Warner Brothers Records to buy them a studio (the label refused, costing both Warner Brothers and the band significant cash in the long run) and then handed the reins to their guitarist and resident perfectionist Lindsey Buckingham. “You know,” Buckingham told me, “we had this ridiculous success with Rumours. We were poised to do another album, and I guess because the axiom ‘If it works, run it into the ground’ was prevalent then, we were probably poised to do Rumours II. I don’t know how you do that, but somehow my light bulb that went off was, ‘Let’s just not do that. Let’s very pointedly not do that.’ ”

Here, Rob Trucks talks to Lindsey Buckingham, as well as members of Animal Collective, Camper Van Beethoven, the New Pornographers, Wolf Parade, and the USC Trojan marching band in order to chart both the story and the impact of an album born of personal obsession and a stubborn unwillingness to compromise.

Rob Trucks lives and obsesses in Long Island City, New York.

And here’s a taste of what’s inside the book:

Perhaps artists were merely gearing up for the Reagan years, but something about the late ’70s made successful creative-types spring headlong from triumph into the pool of excess.

Following the critical and commercial achievement of The Godfather: Part II, Francis Ford Coppola overextended cast, crew, and budget in the jungles of the Philippines to make Apocalypse Now. The cost of production, including a not insubstantial infusion from Coppola himself, ran to nearly $40 million, the most expensive movie ever made (at the time).

After Rumours becomes a generational touchstone, Fleetwood Mac custom-built a studio and handed the reins to Lindsey Buckingham, a fusion of factors that led Tusk to become the first record in history to cross the million-dollar threshold in production costs.

When I take a song into Fleetwood Mac . . . I mean, it certainly wasn’t like that on Tusk, but most of the time it was a fairly conventional thing. You’d have to pretty much have it worked out for the group to respond to. The changes that get made and the way band involves themselves in it are all fairly conscious. It’s like Point A to Point B. It’s like making a movie probably. You talk about it. No, let’s shoot it this way and then you shoot it and you run the tape and you play.

—Lindsey Buckingham, October 11, 2006

Like Godfather II, Michael Cimino’s Deer Hunter succeeds by all measures. Both films finish among the top ten in gross for their respective years. Both win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Cimino moves on to Heaven’s Gate, which eclipses Apocalypse Now as the most expensive film ever produced, and single- handedly bankrupts the United Artists studio.

You could do a similar comparison/contrast with Tusk and Heaven’s Gate, with Buckingham and Cimino, but Tusk, though expensive, didn’t bankrupt Warner Brothers.

In fact, Tusk, a now legendary commercial failure, made money…

…Actually, Tusk lies somewhere in between.

Apocalypse Now, while branded for ever and all time as egoistically excessive, is, nevertheless, a success. Both commercially and critically, against any and all measures save for outsized expectations and comparisons with Coppola’s previous work.

Heaven’s Gate is a disappointment by almost every yardstick and stands today as an example of how not to make a movie.

And though Tusk is ultimately profitable, no album in music history falls so precipitously from commercial grace.

Consensus sales figures total 4 million for Tusk (it most recently certified as double platinum all the way back in 1984). Consensus sales figures cluster at 23 million for Rumours (it had sold 12 million copies by 1984 and picks up another million in sales every three to five years).

Regardless of the set of numbers used, Rumours to Tusk represents the largest drop from one album to the next. Ever.

Even Hootie and the Blowfish sold 3 million copies of their sequel to Cracked Rear View (#16 all time). So did Alanis Morrissette’s follow-up to Jagged Little Pill (#20 all time).

And neither Cracked nor Jagged came close to the sales of Rumours.

The music business has changed. No record in the future, at least in any currently known format, will ever sell 20 million copies, which makes a competing collapse impossible.

The Rumours to Tusk nosedive is a fall that will stand forever.

The music business has changed. The 4 million copies of Tusk which represent the groundside of the drop from dizzying heights would now qualify as the best-selling album of the year.

You make a decision to work outside. Here’s where everyone else is and you want to be over here. That’s your decision. If you see it and you feel it and it’s a vision you have, you have the choice to move towards it or not, and at that point it’s not really so much about everybody else, only in the sense that you don’t have a support system. You have to be your own support system. You have to keep patting yourself on the back and having the balls to keep, you know, sort of believing.

—Lindsey Buckingham, October 11, 2006

5 thoughts on “Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk”

  1. Total nerd alert, but here goes: Just purchased a house a few months back and have now just started putting my books on newly built IKEA shelves – the two dozen I have look better than any other uniformly dressed series, finally united with their brothers instead of being strewn around an apartment…

  2. Have to say, I'm thrilled that 33 1/3 decided to do a book about "Tusk" because, in the end, aren't the failures more interesting to read about than the successes? (BTW, I should note that despite its weaknesses, "Tusk" includes my all-time favorite Fleetwood Mac single, "Sara")

  3. From 1982 to 1987, when Prince's "Sign of the Times" came out, my all-time favorite album. Even now, it's top three with De La Soul's "Three Feet High and Rising" and the Prince album.I love programming just the Buckingham stuff – in order – and calling it Lindsey Buckingham 'Zero'. Very interesting to note how in the first and last of his tracks, he uses the other two vocalists and then drops them in between…

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