The Breakdown: “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac

With a buzzful moan, the heater turned on again.

And a breath, weightily endowed, pushed itself along the cracked lips. I couldn’t help it, a pathetic, loathing sound. It caught myself in the flytrap of sufferance. That which we call barely lucid reality. Eyes sown shut by sheer willpower, but ears remaining unmercifully keen to the unseen world that itself reached the quiet, psychic grove, the theatre in the park for the scenes to come. That would come. That should come. I sigh; if only they could come…

What I would give for that heater to turn the hell off—the couch and blankets would do just fine! In contending with grander forces, I wondered if this what the terminally ill felt. Unable to sleep and move on from tonight, unable to putt and move on from the green. Par for the course. Reaching, fingers and hand stumbled across my uncle’s coffee table, looking for my smart phone, the black box of the unordinary. It’s unordinary tech for unordinary people, like me and probably like you. In eyes of a kale-chewing mogul, smarts now ordained themselves by telephonic standard. But, code entered, some valley of silicon’s potential unlocked. Unfortunately, sleep only had time for the ethereal, the subconscious tangential, not time for the latency of metal. Sleep only had time for dreams and, conveniently, the last few days boiled down to nothing but Fleetwood Mac on repeat.

A live performance of “Dreams” from 1977 held my current attention, the song roosted on mind. The sound quality lacking fidelity, a bootleg standard, made up for it in a warm glow: the hum of an era and, changed from the 60’s grain, it fit the old “new” Fleetwood Mac well. Furthermore, as I motioned and clicked the screen to play, it was the only warmth I was about to feel. Fighting through, Mick Fleetwood’s beat pitters, patters along the tom-toms to start this rendition with wet slaps, the McVies fill out this drizzling rhythm section with an organ and a bassline that no one ever thinks about.

At least, not on this dreamscape.

Stalling, starting, the Macs play a stormy ambiance unsure of just how baleful it wants to be. Yet I couldn’t shake the feeling it was saving something for later. How was it possible to know? Smell of a rainy day, I suppose. No matter, melodic figures whistle from Lindsey Buckingham’s fingers, cooing to small gusts of your love’s breath, it’s no longer his guitar neck but your neck and each note exacts whammyful moans. Then, still habited in a Welsh black, twirls Stevie Nicks and a shimmy, a voice, a Rhiannon riding along with Buckingham’s concoctive gale. Sensual, elemental, emotional, she questions:

“Now here you go again, you say you want your freedom
Well, who am I to keep you down?
It’s only right that you should play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness”

Personally, the two were cracking up, musically, you can hear the expressions. Every time Nicks calls out, Buckingham responds. Lonely in tone, humid in ambiance, powerful in character, the two work like the winds retorting what the other has to say. Nicks plays on her lack of control of her partner—ceding his right to remain headstrong and stubborn with that calm coolness of a wiser le Fay. Buckingham plays a rising, minor melodic scale, suddenly mournful of the coming storm. They fight as if the breakup has yet to happen. As if a rainy day has yet to cloud. Riposting on madness, reminiscences and losses, the two build this tempest from the melody up. Then comes the soft violence of Fleetwood’s cymbalic “cressssshhhhhhh” signaling the change:

“Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Say women they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know, you’ll know”

My prejudice is only musical, and there, this stadium tape missed a vital piece of the studio recording. They break the perceived calmness of this tempestuous cut, those crashing cymbals, begetting the thunder of the chorus. And, a song only being so because there is a singing element, saying lyrics hold no importance to a song is like saying the wind is unimportant to the hurricane.

In this case, if ever there was a reason to listen to lyrics, “Dreams” holds it. The interplay between lyrics and song have never been so clear.

There’s weight, emotional weight in each drop of the cut and, as Nicks’ lyrics suggests, it will scrub her clean, her ex-partner clean and the audience clean. On cue, Buckingham’s solo breezes itself across sheet music and to my ears—chilling through whatever poor quilt covered me. My eyes once again shut, my body once again at rest, I am still on the couch, but my spirit moved elsewhere. Lyrically, Nicks has become the fortuneteller, the gypsy she would cry for on 1982’s Mirage, her voice sorcerous, becomes the visions she sings of. I wouldn’t doubt for a second that the five-foot-two Nicks couldn’t deal in daydreams and fly in fantasies. But as Nicks’ voice flashes from smoky coos fighting the cold rain, to burning modulations in the face of all this drizzly soothing musicality, it’s quite clear that experience is naught without the accumulable losses.

Aged but 17 in this story and yet to even have a relationship, Fleetwood, Nicks, Buckingham and the McVies unlock a sentimentality that should remain, by all counts, unknown until that first notch in the loss column of relationships. Before long the cut fades with me along vocal and melodic lines. The stormy cut dissipates for a time. Silly me, had forgotten to uncheck the repeat box and it will only start again in a few seconds time, ready to chomp on what precious data I had left.

No matter, job done, a small snore escapes my lips and thrums…

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About BenJamsToo

A young dude with an old soul from Portland, OR but currently teaching and writing in rural France. A lover of rock n roll since his mother first spun The Police’s “Roxanne,” he’s also dabbler in soul, funk, jazz, blues, electronic and hip-hop. Perhaps it’s easier to list what he doesn’t like; most gangster rap, country-western and modern metal disagrees with his stomach. Spends all day wondering what Ruban Nielson eats for breakfast, why Danger Mouse hasn't made a through and through GOOD record since St. Elsewhere, if Kamasi Washington is the Kanye West of jazz and just what the hell people hear in mumble rap. Between those things he writes for Atwood and his own blog, Come here for the nice clean thoughts; go there for the ramblings of an insane man.