The 1979 Fleetwood Mac album Tusk signifies things for different people. Just like Pink Floyd‘s The Wall, it marks the end of an incredile decade for music. For the band, it marked the end of a number of relationships between the band. Tusk is embedded in many people’s minds as “the ultimate break-up album”, songs full of sorrow and loss that packed enough of an emotional punch to where it’s still talked about 32 years after the fact.
I did not buy the album until way after the fact, but I loved the title track and had my parents buy the 45 for me. I loved the atmospheric sounds of the college band in the stadium during the introduction, another classic avant-garde moment for singer/guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, and the incredible drums and percussion throughout the song. I played that 45 endlessly, and I remember the promotional film clip when it first aired on Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10. I didn’t take to “Sara” immediately until I saw the live video MTV had in rotation in 1982. The band in that video looked tired and disgusted, as if they didn’t want to be on stage with each other, with a song where Stevie Nicks sung her heart out. The highlight of that performance is when it sounds like Nicks approached the wrong microphone (i.e. one that was not hers, but Lindsey’s) and all you hear is the echo of her voice. The crowd cheers because of the emotion felt in that moment, and she struts back towards Mick Fleetwood‘s drums. That part of the song always gets to me.
If you bought the album, there was a collage of various photographs, both of the band and of each member. The picture sleeve was a very simple extension of that, but features a great photo of the group that pretty much suited the mood of the Tusk album. Buckingham looks like he was just shot, but obviously it’s meant to be humorous as Christine McVie seems to want to bust out and laugh. Bassist John McVie, however, seems to be making sure his pants do not fall down to his knees. Fleetwood can only do his sinister grin, as Nicks might be in mourning of the mock-loss of Buckingham, or is seductively sitting on the ground, contemplating white winged doves or something. This post shot is great because it’s not an image one generally associates with this song or the Tusk album, I usually see the raging dog that’s on the album cover. Yet the photo could’ve easily been a decent choice, for critics and some fans would say that Tusk was the true end of the group in turmoil over one another, with a few being direct by saying the band were carrying the musical weight of what sounded like Buckingham & Friends. In other words, Buckingham’s songwriting had caught on and the album sounds like the roots of what he would end up doing in his solo work.
Without the assumptions of what the photo does or does not mean, it showed the group dealing with a group act, and trying to bring a small bit of laughter into the business of being a “brand name”.