Go Your Own Way
|"Go Your Own Way"|
|Single by Fleetwood Mac|
|from the album Rumours|
|Fleetwood Mac singles chronology|
|Rumours track listing|
"Go Your Own Way" is a song by the British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac from their eleventh studio album Rumours (1977). It released as the album's first single in December 1976 on both sides of the Atlantic. Written and sung by Lindsey Buckingham, it became the band's first top ten hit in the United States. The album spawned three additional top ten hits, including the band's sole number one hit, "Dreams".
Rumours would go on to sell over 40 million units worldwide, 20 million of which were from the US alone. Recorded in three separate studios, the track was developed over a period of four months. Like most tracks off Rumours, none of the instruments were recorded live together; the tracks were instead arranged through a series of overdubs. Lyrically, "Go Your Own Way" is a breakup song, specifically directed at his bandmate and former lover, Stevie Nicks.
"Go Your Own Way" has been well received by music critics, and is regarded by Rolling Stone as one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
In between legs of their 1976 Fleetwood Mac Tour, the band retreated to a house in Florida to prepare new material. It was the first song Buckingham wrote for the Rumours album, and in its earliest form, consisted of the chord progression and a basic outline of the lyrics. All five members had seen their relationships crumble; Christine McVie and John McVie had divorced, Mick Fleetwood separated from his wife for the second time, and Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were no longer together, often finding themselves bickering and berating each other. Fleetwood, the band's drummer, recalls how the house's eerie atmosphere exacerbated the group's low morale:
It was hardly a vacation. Aside from the obvious unstated tension, I remember the house having a distinctly bad vibe to it, as if it were haunted, which did nothing to help matters…and that's where Lindsey played some of his stuff for the album. It was rough but it was great, though the setting didn't do it justice..."
The band didn't hear any of these early recordings until they returned to Sausalito.
Inspired by the drum feel of "Street Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones, Buckingham sought to incorporate a variation of that groove in 'Go Your Own Way'. On "Street Fighting Man", the drumbeat alternates between the tom-tom and the snare drum, which Buckingham wanted Fleetwood to play on "Go Your Own Way"'s verses. Ken Caillat, Fleetwood Mac's producer, took notice of Buckingham's enthusiasm as he demonstrated the drum part he envisioned to Fleetwood. "I remember watching him guide Mick (Fleetwood) as to what he wanted – he'd be so animated, like a little kid, playing these air tom fills with his curly hair flying. Mick wasn't so sure he could do what Lindsey wanted, but he did a great job, and the song took off." Fleetwood would ultimately come up with his own variation of the "Street Fighting Man" groove, where he played across the tom-toms while letting the bass drum play the middle beat.
Initially, John McVie's bass part was much more bouncy, and gave the song more of a country feel. Much to McVie's dissappointment, Buckingham asked him to instead play straight eighth notes on the verses, but allowed him to open up with a more melodic bassline on the chorus.
The band had a difficult time assembling a suitable guitar solo, so Caillat, who was away in Lake Tahoe for Christmas vacation, was called to return to Criteria Studios to finish off the track. Caillat built the solo by piecing together six different lead guitar takes. He accomplished this by pulling up individual guitar solos through faders, and would mute them before bringing up the next fader.
In the final mix of the song, the kick drum became too overpowering at the end of the song, to the point where it would create a pumping effect together with the rhythm guitar from the radio compression. Producer/engineer Richard Dashut argued that they would not have encountered this "lucky mistake" had they mixed the song digitally. Other overdubs include a Hammond B3 organ, several electric and acoustic guitars, layered backing vocals, and assorted percussion.
Like most tracks on Rumours, the lyrical content of "Go Your Own Way" documents personal strain in relationships between other band members. Buckingham had written this as a response to his breakup with fellow Fleetwood Mac vocalist Stevie Nicks, who he knew since he was sixteen years old. "I was completely devastated when she took off," Buckingham noted "And yet I had to make hits for her. I had to do a lot of things for her that I really didn't want to do. And yet I did them. So on one level I was a complete professional in rising above that, but there was a lot of pent-up frustration and anger towards Stevie in me for many years." As he was crafting the lyrics, Buckingham came to the conclusion that while he was still bitter about his falling out with Nicks, the songwriting process helped him come to terms with reality.
Upon listening back to the song, Nicks demanded that Buckingham remove the lyrics "Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do". "I very much resented him telling the world that 'packing up, shacking up' with different men was all I wanted to do," she told Rolling Stone. "He knew it wasn't true. It was just an angry thing that he said. Every time those words would come onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him. He knew it, so he really pushed my buttons through that. It was like, 'I'll make you suffer for leaving me.' And I did." Buckingham ultimately decided to keep those lyrics in the final song.
Release and initial response
Although the release date for Rumours was set for February 1977, Fleetwood Mac wanted a single out by Christmas; "Go Your Own Way", which had just been mastered, was chosen to fulfill that role. This marketing move proved to be a boon to album sales: Pre-orders had reached 800,000 copies, which at the time was the largest advance sale in Warner Brothers' history.
B. Mitchel Reed, an LA DJ in the 70s, was underwhelmed when he first played the single on his program. After the song had finished, he confided his ambivalence about the track to millions of listeners: "I don't know about that one". Later that day, Buckingham contacted Reed, demanding to know what the problem was. Reed informed Buckingham that he had a difficult time finding beat one of the song. Buckingham attributed the problem to the acoustic guitar track he added late into production. While he maintained that the acoustic guitar glued the whole piece together, its unusual entrance created confusion over the location of beat one.
As soon as I came up with the acoustic part, the whole song came to life for me because it acted as a foil for the vocals and a rhythmic counterpoint…so when it comes in, you don't have a reference point for where the "one" is, or where the beat is at all. It's only after the first chorus comes in that you can realize where you are – and that's what that deejay was confused about.
Fleetwood on the other hand blamed his drumming:
"Go Your Own Way"s rhythm was a tom-tom structure that Lindsey demoed by hitting Kleenex boxes or something...I never quite got to grips with what he wanted, so the end result was my mutated interpretation. It became a major part of the song, a completely back-to-front approach that came, I'm ashamed to say, from capitalizing on my own ineptness.
Despite this, Fleetwood has declared "Go Your Own Way" as one of his favorite songs to play, and cherishes playing the primal part at live performances as it gives him the opportunity to "kick the hell out of my drums". Fleetwood explicitly expressed his approval of Buckingham's songwriting on this track. Jeff Porcaro, the drummer for Boz Scaggs, as well as a founding member of Toto, was particularly impressed with Fleetwood's drumming on "Go Your Own Way". On nights when Boz Scaggs opened for Fleetwood Mac, Porcaro would watch Fleetwood from the side of the stage. Intrigued by his unorthodox playing, Porcaro approached Fleetwood after a live gig:
I've watched, I've tried to understand it. Nothing you do up there makes sense, but it sounds beautiful. What's your method? What are you doing in that last fill of "Go Your Own Way"? I can't figure it out! I've been watching every night. What do you do in the last measure on that last beat? Is the snare ahead or behind? Is the hi-hat off by two quarters or is a little more than that?
When Fleetwood confessed that his unique approach to drumming was simply a convenient accident, Porcaro was initially dubious about Fleetwood's claim. "It was only after we continued to talk that Jeff realized I wasn't kidding around. We eventually had a tremendous laugh about it, and when I later told him that I was dyslexic, it finally made sense."
"Go Your Own Way" has achieved critical acclaim in retrospective reviews. Daryl Easlea of BBC called Buckingham's compositions the best tracks on Rumours, "Go Your Own Way" included. Matthew Greenwald (of AllMusic) noted the song's folky sound, reminiscent of pre-Beatles bands like The Everly Brothers. He also heavily praises the lively chord changes and bombastic choruses. "All of these factors, plus a great performance from the band (especially Buckingham's exquisite guitar solo) helped make the song one of the band's biggest and most timeless hits, ever."
It is ranked No. 120 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list. Rolling Stone also ranked it #1 on its list of Fleetwood Mac's 50 Greatest Songs.
Like their last two singles from the album Fleetwood Mac, "Go Your Own Way" became a hit in the US. The track made its first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated January 8, 1977, where it entered at No. 71. Two weeks later, the single had already ascended into the top 40. On March 12, it reached its peak of No. 10, a position it held for two weeks. In the UK, the single was not as successful, only reaching No. 38. However, the song became popular in the UK over a longer period as Rumours received more radio airplay and it re-entered the singles chart as a digital download on several occasions beginning in 2009. In 2013, it was certified Silver in the UK for digital sales over 200,000 copies. In 2016, it was certified Gold for digital sales of over 400,000 copies, and in 2017 it was certified Platinum for sales of over 600,000 copies. The song also hit the top 40 in many other countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium, where it hit No. 1.
- US vinyl (Warner Brothers Records - WBS 8304)
- "Go Your Own Way" – 3:34
- "Silver Springs" – 4:33
- Lindsey Buckingham – electric guitars, acoustic guitar, lead vocals, backing vocals
- Mick Fleetwood – drums, maracas, cymbals
- Christine McVie – Hammond organ, backing vocals
- John McVie – bass guitar
- Stevie Nicks – backing vocals
Three years after its first appearance on Rumours, a live recording was included on Live. This performance was recorded in Cleveland in 1979, and featured Buckingham's guitar tech, Ray Lindsey, on rhythm guitar. "Silver Springs", previously relegated to the B-side of "Go Your Own Way", appeared alongside the latter on the 1997 live album, The Dance. Both songs would make it onto the DVD and CD of Fleetwood Mac: Live in Boston, filmed from their Say You Will Tour in 2003.
Throughout the years, "Go Your Own Way" has made its way onto numerous compilations, including Greatest Hits in 1988, 25 Years - The Chain in 1992, The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac in 2002, Opus Collection in 2013, and 50 Years - Don't Stop in 2018.
A year later, American singer-songwriter Lissie, would also chart with a cover of the song. Canadian post-grunge band Art of Dying recorded an acoustic rendition for their 2012 compilation album, Let the Fire Burn.
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