This is a double album released on a single CD. The vinyl version included the full album version of "Sara". The first CD edition of the "Tusk" album included the edited (4:37) version of "Sara" instead.
Charts Peak : US #1, UK #4 (Nov 1979)
Fan Album Intepretation:
The interpretation to this album was compiled after a month long discussion on the message board of the Penguin, The Ledge, with input from the interpretations from all of the individual songs contained on this album.
This interpretation was written by Farrah. Thanks to Barbara II, Hillary, Janet, Tracy G, and everyone who contributed to the individual song interpretations. (November 9, 1999)
In the All-Music Guide, critic Steven Thomas Erlewine writes that Tusk "is the sound of a band imploding." It is more likely, however, that Fleetwood Mac was reflecting.
Rumours is the sound of a band exploding. So what happens after a band explodes? What happens after a "bubble called Fleetwood Mac" bursts, leaving five pieces of the bubble in five different places? Tusk is what happens.
Before we examine Tusk as a whole, we need to examine it in three distinct parts: Lindsey, Stevie, and Christine. Here are three distinct songwriters struggling to be a "band" in the conventional sense, after the explosion called Rumours.
Tusk has been called Lindsey Buckinghamís first solo album. Lindsey got a taste of the creative freedom he obviously cherishes in his solo career. He experimented with new sounds in the studio, on the bathroom floor, wherever he could extract music. Then he came back to work on Stevie and Christineís arrangements. It was not until then, according to Mick Fleetwoodís 1990 book, that Fleetwood Mac was able to fall into its "usual lunatic studio habits."
Lindseyís songs, as we can see from the Penguinís individual interpretations, tell a story. His story begins (as does Christineís) with an ending, with the anger and defeat apparent in "The Ledge." "Save Me A Place" calms Lindsey down so that he may make a crucial statement in the lyrics to "What Makes You Think Youíre The One?" : I love you, now itís time for you to stop hurting me.
"Itís not that funny is it
When you donít know what it is
But you canít get enough of it"
Listen to the taunting tone of the music and lyrics of "Not That Funny." In this part of the story, Lindsey feels that he has gotten his revenge. Now that the score has been settled in song, Lindsey can move on. In "Thatís Enough For Me", he gives up and asks for 'her' back. There is more hope in "I Know Iím Not Wrong", when he almost brightly sings of "the dreams of a lifetime". But before long, it is obvious that 'she' has said no to him. He repeats the "donít blame me" line from "Not That Funny", the angry, vengeful song of the set.
"But no one was listening
I walk a thin line . . .
ĎStay by my sideí
But no one said nothin"
Here Lindsey seems to be giving up Ė but he is also saying something like, ĎHello? Look at me . . . help me or Iím going to go insane!í (pun very much intended). And then he does go insane, facing a personal implosion in Tusk. But weíll talk more about that song later.
Did Lindsey mean to have these wildly original songs fall into a storyline? Maybe not. In Songwriters on Songwriting, Lindsey explains the creative process behind Tusk as such: "You start putting strokes on the canvas . . . and the colors will lead you in a direction you didnít expect to go." This applies to both the music and the lyrics. All we know for sure is that Lindsey wanted his contributions to Tusk to have a "folky, organic sound, maybe a little bit campy."
Stevieís songs tell a story as well . . . but her songs slowly but surely reveal a story to those who are willing to listen and understand. Her lyrics begin very mysterious and repressed; Stevie then opens up and bares her soul.
"Sara" is the most mysterious of Stevieís songs. Fans have had debates over who Sara is, what Sara means to Stevie. The best way to examine "Sara" as the first in a chain of songs that allow Stevie to bear her soul is to look at what has been left out. (To those of you who may have qualms about this, hereís a small aside. We study Shakespeare by digging through first drafts and figuring out what was left out. So there is nothing wrong with looking at "Sara" in raw form.)
The night is coming and the starling
Flew for days"
This verse was cut from the album. It has a meaning so subtle that it is almost purely personal to Stevie. Then there are lines like "No sorrow for sorrow/you can have no more" and "Smile for my Sara . . ." which color this song with the meaning it deserves. But "Sara" doesnít get this meaning on Tusk; she is forced to remain an enigma for the fans to solve. But Stevie will tell us more.
In "Storms", Stevie is talking to herself. She is still not revealing much here, but she allows the listener to feel the torment sheís in through her raspy voice and painful chords. In "Sisters of the Moon", she reveals another torment altogether:
"So we make our choices
When there is no choice
And we listen to their voices
Ignoring our on voice"
It is a creative torment, quite similar to what her bandmate Lindsey was dealing with.
"I still look up
I try hard not to look up
That girl was me"
Stevie once said that she wrote "Angel" to be lighthearted and funny, but it ended up becoming completely serious and intense. "That girl was me" . . . here she seems to be directly (and maybe humorously) telling us that the "girl" sheís always singing about is herself. Maybe we knew that already. But Stevie takes a major step in confirming that.
"Beautiful Child" is that last and most revealing song of Stevieís sequence on Tusk. She gives us numbers . . . "you fell in love when I was only ten". Mick fell in love with Jenny Boyd when he was sixteen, according to his book (Stevie would have been ten). Stevie told us this years before Mick would reveal it bluntly in his book. Lindseyís work on this song also makes it intensely revealing as he blends one of himself with two Stevies to create a painfully truthful chorus.
Christineís songs on Tusk are mainly haunting melodies reminiscent of "Songbird", rather than her more familiar upbeat style. Her first song on the album, also the first song on the album, is "Over and Over." The album begins with the feeling that everything is over. "And I said, could it be me? / could it really, really be?" . . . and Christine believes it is her fault, that it could all be her.
Tracy G said in one of the album interpretations that Christine McVie has very low self-esteem. The songs on Tusk support this idea. Sure, there are the traditionally "happy" Chris lyrics in "Think About Me" and "Never Forget", but the haunting tracks in which Christine questions and even berates herself stand out more. "Never Make Me Cry" is tragic like "Why". In "Honey Hi", she sings the line, "bittersweet, but what can I do?" The "what can I do?" gives us the sense that there is nothing that Christine can do; more accurately, that Christine believes that there is nothing she can do. She accepts the fact that the honey will always be bittersweet, never just sweet.
Now that weíve looked at the separate pieces of a band that had exploded two years earlier, we have to try to figure out the elusive meaning of Tusk as a whole. In one way, itís the story of what happened to the bubble called Fleetwood Mac after the bubble burst. One interesting way to look at this bubble is to examine the pictures on pages 2 and 5 of the Tusk CD booklet.
On page 2, Fleetwood Mac literally looks like it is floating in an invisible bubble. Chris and John have their feet on the ground. Lindsey is soaring, Stevie has hit the ceiling, and Mick is floating upside down. Then we turn to page 5 and find a much darker scene . . . Christine is wrapped in a shawl, cold and devastated, holding on to Lindsey. As Stevie descends into a pit of smoke, Mick tries to hold her up with one hand, his other hand holding up a structure standing behind him. John is not there at all.
Of course the haunting and meaningful pictures in the album sleeve are not what Tusk is all about. Letís look now at the title track.
So what is "Tusk"? Mick has mentioned that it is his slang word for the male sexual organ. According to the song interpretation on the Penguin, there is much more to the song in terms of rage and emotion. But we must accept, first of all, that Tusk is a reference to part of the male genitalia. Admitting that something contains an overt sexual reference does not mean that we are denying that it has meaning at all. (Let us recall Reginaís profound interpretation of "Slow Dancing".) Tusk contains many layers of meaning; by this we mean both the album and the song.
Lindsey layers meaning like he layers melodies. There is a loud and direct melody from what are probably the second and third brass in the USC Marching Band. Tusk! Lindsey is directly saying (or shouting) that heís angry, furious with what heís had to put up with. The woodwinds and the first trumpets layer on a calmer countermelody. Tusk! Thereís something covertly funny about this exclamation. The drums pound out a savage-like beat. Real savage-like . . . Tusk! He just wants to go wild. The sound of wind in the background. Tusk! Is anyone listening?
We can look at the entire album in layers like this. The white album gave us the band as a whole. Rumours gave us a band exploding. Tusk is the sound of the pieces of this explosion reflecting on themselves and on one another. The meanings of the separate pieces are intricately layered over one another to give us one composition called Tusk.