Rumors by Fleetwood Mac doesn’t sound like it was made in any way for enjoyment at all. The sessions were driven by the demand for musical precision, with every band member playing every song with faultless accuracy despite the many band breakups occurring left and right. So when they finally produced a song that the majority of the band liked, it turned into a nightmare when Lindsey Buckingham was unable to record the vocal.
Buckingham’s skills on a six-string guitar were what made him most famous as a folk rock musician. He preferred to play fingerstyle rather than with a plectrum and would frequently let out a barrage of various notes during a tune to bring everything together. ‘Never Going Back Again’ was a lot more personal than the rest of his songs, save from the odd strumming.
‘Back Again’ was a bittersweet eulogy for Buckingham’s failing relationship, promising himself that he will never go back to his former sweetheart no matter how strongly the yearning grips him. Although the song’s inspiration came from his painful divorce with Stevie Nicks, ‘Go Your Own Way’ was a more overt reference to that painful split. When it came time to record the final guitar track, Buckingham suggested using freshly wound strings on his guitar to make the recording sound much brighter.
While recording Rumours, Buckingham finished tracking his guitar before exiting the studio, according to engineer Ken Caillat. Caillat recalled Buckingham losing it as he was ready to press record, recalling: “I rewound the tape to the top and hit play and record, and the song started playing from the top. Lindsey tried it again. ‘She broke and let me in.’ We all stared at him. He shouted, ‘F*** me, the song’s in the wrong key. I can’t sing it. We have to re-record everything.'”
Despite Caillat’s first suggestion to pitch Lindsey Buckingham’s voice track a little higher, the guitarist refused to consider the suggestion, claiming that doing so would make him sound like Mickey Mouse. The band came together after a long day of swallowing pride, changed the song’s key a few steps down, and started recording it again.
The song still shows Buckingham singing at the top of his range, hitting some of his highest notes on the chorus, despite the shift in key. The melody was first kept a secret from the rest of the band, despite the fact that it quickly became a popular favorite among guitarists. Buckingham purposefully withheld portions of the actual lyrics from Nicks while using the working title “Brushes,” knowing she would assume the song was about her right away.
That wasn’t the first time Buckingham got angry in the studio; during one session, he got so angry that he almost choked the engineer when he was told to record over one of his parts again. Despite the demanding long hours, it resulted in one of the most beautiful pop-rock albums of the 1970s, putting each songwriter against their significant others and producing pure perfection on two sides of vinyl. Although Buckingham’s confidence may have wavered while recording “Never Going Back Again,” the recorded version is about as pure as Buckingham’s songwriting ever got.