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Tusk (album)

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Studio album by
Released12 October 1979
StudioThe Village Recorder, Los Angeles, California
LabelWarner Bros.
Fleetwood Mac chronology
Singles from Tusk
  1. "Tusk"
    Released: September 1979
  2. "Sara"
    Released: December 1979
  3. "Not That Funny"
    Released: February 1980
  4. "Think About Me"
    Released: March 1980
  5. "Sisters of the Moon"
    Released: June 1980
  6. "Angel"
    Released: July 1980

Tusk is the twelfth studio album by British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac, released as a double album on 12 October 1979 in the United States and on 19 October 1979 in the United Kingdom[5] by Warner Bros. Records.[6][7] It is considered more experimental than their previous albums, partly as a consequence of Lindsey Buckingham's sparser songwriting arrangements and the influence of post-punk.[8] The production costs were initially estimated to be about $1 million but many years later were revealed to be about $1.4 million (equivalent to $5.88 million in 2023), making it the most expensive rock album recorded to that date.[9][10]

The band embarked on a nine-month tour to promote Tusk. They travelled extensively across the world, including the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Japan, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. In Germany, they shared the bill with Bob Marley. On this world tour, the band recorded music for the Fleetwood Mac Live album, released in 1980.[11]

Compared to 1977's Rumours, which sold ten million copies by February 1978, Tusk was regarded as a commercial failure by the label, selling four million copies. In 2013, NME ranked Tusk at number 445 in their list of "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[12] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[13] In 2000, it was voted number 853 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[14]


Going into Tusk, Lindsey Buckingham was adamant about creating an album that sounded nothing like Rumours: "For me, being sort of the culprit behind that particular album, it was done in a way to undermine just sort of following the formula of doing Rumours 2 and Rumours 3, which is kind of the business model Warner Bros. would have liked us to follow."[15] Mick Fleetwood decided early on that Tusk was to be a double album.[16] Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson, who was dating Christine McVie at the time, offered to host the band at the Beach Boys' studio, which they were about to renovate. While the band initially agreed to this idea, an attorney for the Beach Boys later told Fleetwood Mac that they would still have to pay for the facility even if they decided not to use it. Fleetwood Mac subsequently backed out of the deal and approached Geordie Hormel, who offered to construct a custom studio for the band at The Village Recorder and presented them with an option to either purchase the studio or rent it. Fleetwood Mac producer Ken Caillat suggested that the band purchase the studio, reckoning that this would be the cheaper option. However, Fleetwood's attorney opted to rent the custom studio, which was named Studio D.[17]

Production costs rose beyond a million dollars, far more than Rumours. Regarding the album's production costs, guitarist Lindsey Buckingham stated: "During the making of Tusk, we were in the studio for about 10 months and we got 20 songs out of it. Rumours took the same amount of time. It [Rumours] didn't cost so much because we were in a cheaper studio. There's no denying what it cost, but I think it's been taken out of context."[18]

After the studio was built, Buckingham queried Fleetwood about recording some songs at his home studio. Fleetwood acquiesced, but told Buckingham that the other members needed to be integrated at some point. For certain songs, Buckingham played a Kleenex box as a snare drum and had Fleetwood overdub his own drums over Buckingham's demo.[19]

Several songs were recorded with Buckingham playing all of the instruments, including "The Ledge", "Save Me a Place", and "That's Enough for Me".[20] Caillat commented on Buckingham's obsessive nature in the studio: "He was a maniac. The first day, I set the studio up as usual. Then he said, 'Turn every knob 180 degrees from where it is now and see what happens.' He'd tape microphones to the studio floor and get into a sort of push-up position to sing. Early on, he came in and he'd freaked out in the shower and cut off all his hair with nail scissors. He was stressed."[21] Buckingham had expressed interest in starting a solo career during the making of Tusk so in an effort to appease him, the rest of the band acquiesced to Buckingham's desire to create a more experimental album.[22]

I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when Warner Bros. put that on in their boardroom and listened to it for the first time.[23]

Lindsey Buckingham

Buckingham – infatuated with bands such as Talking Heads – was "desperate to make Mac relevant to a post-punk world", according to music journalist Bob Stanley, who commented that, compared to Rumours, Tusk was "unleavened weirdness, as close to its predecessor as the Beach Boys' lo-fi Smiley Smile had been to Pet Sounds. Much of it sounded clattery, half-formed, with strange rhythmic leaps and offbeat tics."[24] Journalist Adam Webb described the Tusk recording sessions as a "cocaine blizzard" from which Christine McVie's then-boyfriend, Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson, "never really came out."[25] Music historian Domenic Priore claimed that, for research purposes during the album's recording, Buckingham accessed the master tapes for the Beach Boys' unreleased album Smile, and that the tracks "That's All for Everyone" and "Beautiful Child" most strongly exemplify its influence.[26]

Peter Beard was one of the three photographers enlisted to supply images for the album sleeve and spent two weeks in the studio taking Polaroids of the band and its inner circle. He also augmented this footage with images of elephant tusks.[22] During one of those sessions, Beard took a photo of Caillat's dog biting his leg, which ultimately became the album's cover art. Fleetwood had originally promised Nicks that the cover art for Tusk would be an image of her twirling and dancing, and later told Caillat that she placed a curse on his dog for "stealing her cover".[27]

Bassist John McVie commented that the album "sounds like the work of three solo artists", while Fleetwood said it was his second favourite Fleetwood Mac studio album behind Then Play On.[28] "You got that sweetness [from Nicks and McVie] and me as the complete nutcase," Buckingham observed. "That's what makes us Fleetwood Mac."[29]

Release and reception[edit]

Retrospective professional ratings
Review scores
Christgau's Record GuideB+[32]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[33]
Record Collector[36]
Rolling Stone[37]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[38]

Tusk peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 in the United States and spent almost nine months on the chart. It was certified double platinum for shipping two million copies.[40] It peaked at number one in the UK and achieved a platinum award for shipments in excess of 300,000 copies.[41] The album gave the group two US top-10 hit singles, with the Buckingham-penned title track (US number eight/UK number six), and the Stevie Nicks composition "Sara" (US number seven/UK number 37).[42]

In his review for Rolling Stone, Stephen Holden emphasized the experimental nature of the album, comparing it to the Beatles' "White Album" in that "Tusk is less a collection of finished songs than a mosaic of pop-rock fragments by individual performers."[2] Robert Christgau of The Village Voice was more ambivalent, lauding Buckingham's production and experimentation, while dismissing Christine McVie's and Stevie Nicks's contributions.[43] Retrospectively, AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine found the album to be timeless, calling it "a peerless piece of pop art" that rivals the more accessible Rumours album in terms of quality.[30] Amanda Petrusich of Pitchfork found the album "self indulgent" and "terrifically strange".[35] Contemporary and retrospective reviewers alike have noted the stark contrast between the album's lush opening track, "Over & Over", and jarring production of the following track, "The Ledge".[44][45]

Though the album sold four million copies worldwide, and earned a Grammy nomination in 1981 for its art design in the category "Best Album Package", the band's record label deemed the project a failure, laying the blame squarely with Buckingham (considering the comparatively huge sales of Rumours and the album's unprecedented recording expense).[46] Fleetwood, however, blames the album's relative failure on the RKO radio chain playing the album in its entirety prior to release, thus allowing mass home recording.[47] In addition, Tusk was a double album, with a high list price of US$16.00, or $56.00 in 2019 terms.[48] The band originally considered the idea of releasing Tusk as two single albums each with the price of $7.98, but the record label decided against this.[49]

Further releases from the album "Not That Funny" (UK-only single release), "Think About Me", and "Sisters of the Moon" were slightly remixed for radio, and were less successful. The latter two appear in their 'single versions' on the 2002 compilation The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac, while "Sara", which was cut to 412 minutes for both the single and the first CD release of the album, appears in its unedited form on the 1988 Greatest Hits compilation, the 2002 release The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac, and the 2004 reissue of Tusk.[50]

The album was recorded by American alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven and released in 2003.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Over & Over"Christine McVieC. McVie4:34
2."The Ledge"Lindsey BuckinghamBuckingham2:08
3."Think About Me"C. McVieC. McVie, Buckingham2:44
4."Save Me a Place"BuckinghamBuckingham2:42
5."Sara"Stevie NicksNicks6:22
Total length:18:39
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."What Makes You Think You're the One"BuckinghamBuckingham3:32
3."That's All for Everyone"BuckinghamBuckingham3:03
4."Not That Funny"BuckinghamBuckingham3:11
5."Sisters of the Moon"NicksNicks4:42
Total length:19:59
Side three
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
2."That's Enough for Me"BuckinghamBuckingham1:50
3."Brown Eyes"C. McVieC. McVie4:27
4."Never Make Me Cry"C. McVieC. McVie2:18
5."I Know I'm Not Wrong"BuckinghamBuckingham3:05
Total length:16:34
Side four
No.TitleWriter(s)Lead vocalsLength
1."Honey Hi"C. McVieC. McVie2:41
2."Beautiful Child"NicksNicks5:21
3."Walk a Thin Line"BuckinghamBuckingham3:46
4."Tusk"BuckinghamBuckingham with C. McVie3:37
5."Never Forget"C. McVieC. McVie3:34
Total length:18:59


  • On earlier CD pressings, "Sara" is edited to 4:39.
  • The CD mixes of "Not That Funny" and "I Know I'm Not Wrong" differ from their LP mixes.


Fleetwood Mac

Additional musicians

Production and design

  • Fleetwood Mac – producers
  • Richard Dashut – producer, engineer
  • Ken Caillat – producer, engineer, remastering
  • Rich Feldman – assistant engineer
  • Hernán Rojas – assistant engineer
  • Ken Perry – mastering
  • Peter Beard – photography
  • Jayme Odgers – photography
  • Norman Seeff – photography
  • Vigon Nahas Vigon – art direction, design



Certifications for Tusk
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[82] 3× Platinum 150,000^
France (SNEP)[83] Gold 100,000*
Germany (BVMI)[85] Gold 300,000[84]
Netherlands (NVPI)[86] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[87] Platinum 15,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[41] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[40] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^
Worldwide 4,000,000[88]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


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  • Caillat, Ken; Rojas, Hernan (2019). Get Tusked: The Inside Story of Fleetwood Mac's Most Anticipated Album. Guilford, Connecticut: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-4930-5983-6.
  • Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.

External links[edit]