Fleetwood Mac's 'Tusk,' 40 Years Later: What The Hell Were They Thinking?
By | July 8, 2019
Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 double LP Tusk was called ambitious, ragged, “gleeful and elusive,” fragmented, sprawling, “over-egged pudding,” and worse. Conceived as a kind of “anti-Rumours” the album is chaotic and disjointed, finding its band members working in the familiar territory of chaotic heartbreak but without the need for success.
There was no thought of recreating the success of Rumours, the 1977 diamond selling album that bonds generations, but why go into the studio if you’re not going to create something meaningful? At the helm of the album guitarist, producer, and head agitator Lindsay Buckingham led the band to stretch themselves musically, sometimes for the best, but often in ways that only serve as experiments for sake of going to the lab.
The fractured and often confounding Tusk has aged better than records by the band’s contemporaries who played it safe (throw a dart at the ‘70s to find one of these bands), but even 40 years later it’s not a record that makes for an easy first listen.
The album cost over a million dollars
Some time near the conclusion of the band’s never-ending tour in support of “Rumours” Lindsay Buckingham had an idea for the album follow up, his grand artistic statement, but he needed a big budget to match the sounds in his head and the band’s hedonistic appetite. Enter: Mick Fleetwood, famous gadabout, de facto band manager, and the one person who shouldn’t be in charge of a band’s finances.
Fleetwood suggested to Warner Bros. that they front the band the money to buy their own studio; that didn’t happen. However, the label did pay to refit Studio D at The Village Recorder to the band’s specifications in exchange for the “Tusk” master tapes. Once the deal was made, that was the last time anyone from Fleetwood Mac spoke to a label representative for a year.
With an ever-inflating budget, the band paid for a 112-piece marching band, food, champagne, and enough cocaine to cover the North Pole. Christine McVie later said of the band’s expenditures:
Recording Tusk was quite absurd, The studio contract rider for refreshments was like a telephone directory. Exotic food delivered to the studio, crates of champagne. And it had to be the best, with no thought of what it cost. Stupid. Really stupid. Somebody once said that with the money we spent on champagne on one night, they could have made an entire album. And it’s probably true.