Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours sessions were among the most emotionally fraught in history, and you can hear it in every note on the demo for ‘Dreams’.
The group was comprised of two couples – John and Christine McVie, and Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – both of whom were going through break-ups at the time, writing kiss-off anthems, coded barbs and tales of heartbreak about each other. In addition, Mick Fleetwood was going through his own divorce, which meant the studio setting in 1976 wasn’t the most calm place.
In 1989, Buckingham described to Blender the “elaborate exercise of denial” that being in the studio entailed. “[It was about] keeping our personal feelings in one corner of the room while trying to be professional in the other,” he said.
While Buckingham wrote the seething ‘Go Your Own Way’ about Nicks – he refused her request to remove the line, “Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do” about her – her response to the dissolution of their relationship was more tender and diplomatic. She ducked off during a session at the Record Plant studio in early ’76, taking a portable Fender Rhodes keyboard into another studio, which was adorned with a black velvet bed that belonged to Sly Stone, of all people. She sat on the bed with the keyboard and the song poured out of her.
“I found a drum pattern, switched my little cassette player on and wrote ‘Dreams’ in about ten minutes,” she recalled years later. “Right away I liked the fact that I was doing something with a dance beat, because that made it a little unusual for me.”
The demo is sparse, with just Nicks singing over the organ, but it showcases what a strong song it is from the get-go. Surprisingly, despite the almost-inevitable hit quality about it, the other members of the band weren’t blown away.
“They weren’t nuts about it,” she told Blender. “But I said, ‘Please! Please record this song, at least try it.’ Because the way I play things sometimes… you really have to listen.” The band recorded it, and soon changed their tune.
Although the demo seems fully formed, it would appear Nicks was correct about really having to listen.
Christine McVie dismissed ‘Dreams’ as “boring”, being comprised of “just three chords and one note in the left hand”. Boring or not, the song became Fleetwood Mac’s only number one single – a positive beacon on an album filled with snarky goodbyes.