Warner Bros. Records
1. Over & Over (Christine McVie)
2. The Ledge (Lindsey Buckingham)
3. Think About Me (Christine McVie)
4. Save Me A Place (Lindsey Buckingham)
Also issued as Warner Bros. single #WBS-49196 (2/20/80)
5. Sara (Stevie Nicks)
Also issued as Warner Bros. single  #WBS-49150 (12/5/79); Pop #7, AC #13
6. What Makes You Think You're The One (Lindsey Buckingham)
7. Storms (Stevie Nicks)
8. That's All For Everyone (Lindsey Buckingham)
9. Not That Funny (Lindsey Buckingham)
10. Sisters Of The Moon (Stevie Nicks)
11. Angel (Stevie Nicks)
12. That's Enough For Me (Lindsey Buckingham)
Also issued as Warner Bros. single #WBS-49150 (12/5/79)
13. Brown Eyes (Christine McVie)
14. Never Make Me Cry (Christine McVie)
Also issued as Warner Bros. single #WBS-49077 (9/12/79)
15. I Know I'm Not Wrong (Lindsey Buckingham)
16. Honey Hi (Christine McVie)
17. Beautiful Child (Stevie Nicks)
18. Walk A Thin Line (Lindsey Buckingham)
Also issued as Warner Bros. single #WBS-49500 (5/8/80)
19. Tusk (Lindsey Buckingham)
Also issued as Warner Bros. single #WBS-49077 (9/12/79); Pop #8
20. Never Forget (Christine McVie)
Disc 2: Bonus Material Demos, Roughs, and Outtakes
1. One More Time (Over & Over) (Christine McVie)
2. Can't Walk Out Of Here (The Ledge) (Lindsey Buckingham)
3. Think About Me (Christine McVie)
4. Sara (Stevie Nicks)
5. Lindsey's Song #1 (I Know I'm Not Wrong) (Lindsey Buckingham)
6. Storms (Stevie Nicks)
7. Lindsey's Song #2 (That's All For Everyone) (Lindsey Buckingham)
8. Sisters Of The Moon
9. Out On The Road (That's Enough For Me) (Lindsey Buckingham)
10. Brown Eyes (Christine McVie)
11. Never Make Me Cry (Christine McVie)
12. Song #1 (I Know I'm Not Wrong) (Lindsey Buckingham)
13. Honey Hi (Christine McVie)
14. Beautiful Child (Stevie Nicks)
15. Song #3 (Walk A Thin Line) (Lindsey Buckingham)
16. Come On Baby (Never Forget) (Christine McVie)
17. Song #1 (I Know I'm Not Wrong) (Alternate) (Lindsey Buckingham)
18. Kiss And Run (Jorge Calderon)
19. Farmer's Daughter (Brian Wilson/Mike Love)
20. Think About Me (Single Version) (Christine McVie)
Warner Bros. single #WBS-49196 (2/20/80); Pop #20, AC #39
21. Sisters Of The Moon (Single Version) (Stevie Nicks)
Warner Bros. single #WBS-49500 (5/8/80); Pop #86
NOTE: This album was originally issued as Warner Bros. #2HS-3350 (10/12/79); LPs #4. Numbers In Italics (following original release information) denote peak positions attained by singles on Billboard's "Hot 100" and "Adult Contemporary" charts, respectively, and by this album on Billboard's "Top LP's & Tapes" chart - courtesy BPI Communications and Joel Whitburn's Record Research Publications. All "Demos, Roughs, and Outtakes" are previously unissued.
Mick Fleetwood reflected on the daunting task Fleetwood Mac faced when they embarked upon the follow-up to their phenomenally successful, career-defining album Rumours:
"How do you follow, let alone top, the best work you've ever done in your life, work that almost killed you to complete?"
The answer is Tusk, a fearless, groundbreaking 20-song double album that captured Fleetwood Mac at a pinnacle of creativity, embracing the muse while disregarding the bottom line. One of the most hotly anticipated albums in history, it also ranked among the most unconventional musical statements by a major rock group.
It was partly a product of its time – the new wavish late 1970s – and partly a pointed retort to the suffocating cocoon of expectations that fame had woven around them.
Not that they'd ever done differently, but it was particularly true of Tusk that Fleetwood Mac made it for the art.
Millionaires many times over in Rumours' lucrative wake, they certainly didn't need the money, and so the members of Fleetwood Mac sunk a chunk of their collective fortune into crafting this sprawling masterwork. The group spent a full year recording Tusk and, according to Fleetwood, $1.4 million alone custom-designing a new studio-Studio D at The Village Recorder in Los Angeles-to their exacting specifications. It is no accident and no cliche to say that Tusk, rock's first million-dollar album, sounds like a million bucks.
At the time Tusk was touted - and, in some quarters, criticized - for being the most expensive rock album ever made. Of course, compared to the outrageous multimillions lavished on films (even god-awful straight-to-video travesties), Tusk's cool million was but a drop in the bucket. Moreover, it is a sterling piece of work that succeeded artistically and even, to a lesser degree, commercially. Still, it was a pricey project relative to the more economically streamlined world of rock music. Somewhat ironically, Lindsey Buckingham - who was this album's driving force and guiding spirit - tapped into the freewheeling, do-it-yourself ethic of punk and new wave bands, who were altering the musical landscape. In a sense, Fleetwood Mac had the best of both worlds when they made Tusk: the adventurous, hang-it-all spirit of edgy new wavers and the lavish budget of major-label rock superstars.
A radical departure, Tusk isn't nearly as cohesive as Fleetwood Mac or Rumours. Quite the opposite. Rather than working toward a seamless group sound on Tusk, the three songwriters - Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, and Stevie Nicks - each had their own distinct say in what amounted, in a kind of oxymoronic way, to a fruitful splintering. Comparisons have been drawn between Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and The Beatles' White Album, and this seems appropriate. Both albums document what were, at roughly respective periods in their careers - 1968 for The Beatles, 1979 for Fleetwood Mac - the most popular groups in the world in the process of fraying internally and dealing with their disintegrating "group mind" by allowing individual voices to further emerge and develop. In Fleetwood Mac's case, at least, the experimental indulgence that was Tusk served its purpose by keeping the three songwriters happy. Moreover, it paved the way for solo careers without resulting in a breakup. As Mick Fleetwood wrote in his 1990 autobiography, "I think it's a great album, and probably the only artistic reason Fleetwood Mac is still together today. As a double album, it released a lot of creative frustrations."
Most of those frustrations belonged to Buckingham, a restless spirit who felt like breaking the Rumours mold rather than reacting to mega-platinum success with a safe, predictable follow-up. Buckingham was a devotee of experimental pop, with the spirited sound paintings of The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson during his Smile period serving as a model for music that managed to be both accessible and adventurous. Buckingham's modernist ear was also tuned in to the punk and new wave bands who had been rewriting, if not entirely discarding, the rulebook in the mid-to-late 1970s. He brought this liberating mindset to Fleetwood Mac in the wake of Rumours' gilded run-up, and to that extent, his is a dominant point of view on Tusk.
Buckingham asked for, and was granted, a great degree of creative freedom. He recorded parts away from the band at his home studio, experimenting with sounds and techniques.
A percussion part was played on a shoebox. Buckingham recorded a vocal on his hands and knees. For all his hard work and vision, he was paid tribute in the album credits with the line, "Special thanks from the band to Lindsey Buckingham." Buckingham wrote nine of Tusk's 20 songs, while Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks contributed six and five songs, respectively. And yet his work doesn't overwhelm the album. In fact, by a very slight amount, Nicks' five songs occupy more of Tusk's total running time than Buckingham's nine contributions.
There may not be homogeneity on Tusk, but there is balance. Buckingham was the playful madcap whose songs exhibit the wit and brevity of new wave music - which itself harked back to the short, tuneful approach that lit up AM radio during its 1960s heyday. Christine McVie served as Fleetwood Mac's unwavering anchor and Earth Mother, doling out winning, even-tempered love songs that had a more adult, radio-friendly sensibility. (Actually, the band's real anchor, in terms of sonic depth, may be John McVie, a rock-solid bass player who may be one of the instrument's most underrated artisans.) Emboldened by her songwriting successes on Fleetwood Mac and Rumours, Nicks extended her gauzy, fanciful narratives to even greater lengths on Tusk.
"Sara," one of Nicks' most soul-baring ruminations on the muse, takes up almost six and a half minutes on vinyl. (Note: The single edit of "Sara" runs 4:37, and this abridged version was used on Tusk's initial CD release so the double album would fit on a single disc.) In the moody, confessional "Storms," you can hear clouds gathering on the distant horizon when she sings, "But never have I been a blue calm sea/I have always been a storm." The good witch Stevie's "Sisters Of The Moon" was the fourth single released from Tusk - and the first of 11 consecutive Fleetwood Mac singles, dating back to "Over My Head" four years earlier, to miss the Top 40. Full of the potent feminist mysticism first heard in "Rhiannon," its failure is hard to understand. Perhaps her upbeat "Angel," the closest Nicks came to a bouncy, new wavish turn, would have been a better choice for radio, given the changing-of-the-guard taking place in late 1979.
Christine McVie generally colored within the lines on Tusk, but even she stretched here and there, especially on "Brown Eyes," with its undulating rhythms, jazzy sheen, and hypnotic "sha-la-la's." The album's opening track is McVie's plaintive, dreamy "Over & Over," which is judiciously tickled by slide guitar and electric piano filigrees. With an equal-opportunity spirit that showed how much the public loved every facet of this band, each of the three Top 20 singles from Tusk came from a different songwriter. Buckingham wrote "Tusk" (#8), Nicks penned "Sara" (#7), and McVie contributed "Think About Me" (#20). A bright, tuneful toe-tapper in the vein of the earlier Christine-written hits "Say You Love Me" and "You Make Loving Fun," the harmony-drenched "Think About Me" evoked the sunnier side of pop culture, the cuddly passion and
joyful yearning of a more uncomplicated and generous state of mind.
Whereas music seemed to flow in even, rolling cadences from Christine McVie, it erupted in fitful, quirky bursts from Lindsey Buckingham. It quickly became clear how far Fleetwood Mac had departed from Rumours' script with Tusk's second track, the energetic oddity "The Ledge." Everything about this Buckingham-penned song is unconventional: the minimalist two-step beat; the rubbery, growling, double-tracked guitars; the closely miked voices chanting "make it baby"; and its barely two-minute length. The studio had become Buckingham's laboratory, and he brought an element of humor to Tusk that rated as a new wrinkle. Even a song titled "Not That Funny" could provoke a smile by virtue of its clamping new wave beat, sing-speak vocal (check out the David Byrne-style yelps on the fade), and cross-talking guitars. There are also poignant moments of self-expression, such as the chiming melancholy of "Save Me A Place," a treatise on being torn by the demands of art and the desire for love. "That's All For Everyone" is a subtle stunner: a richly textured, highly emotional song about endings and departures set to music worthy of Brian Wilson's hymnbook, where it might be filed next to "'Til I Die."
The title track, another Buckingham composition, grew out of a Buckingham-Fleetwood riff-and-rhythm pattern and involved the participation of the 112-member University of Southern California Trojan Marching Band. Their brassy blow-up of the central riff, recorded live at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, helped propel this unlikeliest of songs into the Top 10. Since marching bands are logistically difficult to carry on tour, the live arrangement of "Tusk" features Christine McVie rendering "the riff" on accordion.
Tusk was released on October 12, 1979, and given the biggest promotional rollout in Warner Bros.' history. Rumours had sold 13 million copies and was still selling steadily when Tusk was released. The label retained the New York firm of Lord, Geller, Federico and Einstein to devise a marketing strategy, which the band nixed. ("They felt like they were being sold ... like chewing gum," confided a band confidante.) At the start, Tusk had numerous strikes going against it from a commercial standpoint. First, the record industry was in a slump at the time, and this recessionary reality ensured that Rumours' follow-up could not possibly do as well. Second, how many successes on the scale of Rumours are ever repeated anyway? Third, Tusk was a double album, marketed at a higher list price of $16.98, which cut heavily into its sales potential. Fourth, the cover's postmodern graphics - a Polaroid of a dog nipping an ankle, set against a speckled backdrop that suggested a Formica tabletop - alienated fans who would have preferred a picture of Stevie twirling. Fifth, in a backfired bit of radio promo, Tusk was broadcast in its entirety on the Westwood One network, making it unnecessary for those with tape recorders to go out and purchase the album. Finally, Tusk was, by design, the anti-Rumours: an audacious departure from formula made strictly for the art.
This is a roundabout way of explaining why, by comparison to Rumours - which topped the album charts for 31 weeks - Tusk barely managed to limp into the Top 10, peaking at #8. Moreover, it "only" sold 4 million copies. Now, what band wouldn't be absolutely thrilled with going quadruple platinum? Well, when you're coming off an album that sold like McDonald's hamburgers, a paltry 4 mil rates as a major comedown. Not that the members of Fleetwood Mac were obsessed with the new math. On the plus side, reviews of Tusk enthusiastically supported the group's daring. Rolling Stone declared that "Tusk represents the last word in lavish California studio pop and a brave but tentative lurch forward by the one Seventies pop group that can claim a musical chemistry as mysteriously right … as the Beatles'." Moreover, the halls were packed for the nearly year-long world tour that followed Tusk's release.
Most important of all, Fleetwood Mac made an album that succeeded on its own quirky terms and has stood the test of time. Tusk is as stuffed with integrity as it is songs. How many bands have dared to swim against the tide of overwhelming success to intentionally make an artistic statement and not a sure-fire seller? For these reasons, Mick Fleetwood declared Tusk - shortly after the release of 1982's Mirage, the album that returned Fleetwood Mac to the top of the charts - "the most important album Fleetwood Mac will ever make."
- Parke Puterbaugh
This Reissue/Compilation (P) 1979, 1980 & 2004; (C) 1979 & 2004 Warner Bros. Records Inc. Manufactured by Warner Strategic Marketing, 3400 W. Olive Avenue, Burbank, CA 91505-4614. Warner Media Group, a Time Warner Company. Unauthorized copying, hiring, lending, public performance and broadcasting of this recording prohibited! Manufactured in the E.U. www.onlyhitmusic.com