Cameron Crowe had been covering Fleetwood Mac since 1973. "I had gotten a ride with a date to see Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles play," he remembers. "I was wandering around with a tape recorder and interviewed Fleetwood Mac, and one of the road crew stole my date." Crowe kept writing about Fleetwood Mac as they grew into the biggest rock band in the world. This cover story chronicled the making of Rumours, which would spend thirty-one weeks at Number One and sell 19 million copies. "We knew we were on some kind of roll," says Lindsey Buckingham, although he says they had no idea how big the record would get. Crowe, at least, had an inkling. One page of his notebook has but a single sentence: "Suddenly everybody everywhere loves Fleetwood Mac."
In the article, the band members spoke of the stress and conflicts that had led to breakups for the entire group: Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, Christine and John McVie, as well as drummer Mick Fleetwood and his wife, Jenny. Rumours' songs were steeped in tension and recriminations. "The musical soap opera brought out the voyeur in everyone," Buckingham says. "And their protective instinct."
Crowe says that after his Fleetwood Mac story came out, "other musicians would say, 'Well, I see the level of raw honesty the magazine wants from us.' " Told this, Buckingham snorts, "I wouldn't necessarily advise that to other people. It was part and parcel of the band for us – all our boundaries got melded and we couldn't hide our level of pain."
Annie Leibovitz's iconic cover of Fleetwood Mac in bed perfectly captured the band's interpersonal dynamics. On the day of the shoot, Leibovitz says, "I thought I'd be nice and polite, and I brought a bunch of cocaine for everyone. In those days, for photo shoots, you just brought cocaine. I took it out, and they looked a little freaked out at first, but then consumed it in, like, thirty seconds. Then I learned they'd all recently been to rehab. So they were all a little jittery and tense."
Buckingham's memory of the session centers on something different: After Leibovitz finished, everyone got off the mattress except himself and Nicks. Wearing only their bedclothes, the two of them stayed where they were and just held onto each other.
The wounds of their breakup were still raw. Says Buckingham, "After all that we'd been through, knowing that we loved each other – somehow, we just couldn't get up." For five minutes, maybe more, Buckingham and Nicks shared a silent embrace. Leibovitz and the rest of the band milled around until finally Mick Fleetwood returned to the mattress and whispered to the entangled pair: "Guys, you're freaking everyone out."
This story is from the May 18th, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone.