During the sessions for Rumours, everyone in the band was going through a breakup (Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham with each other, John and Christine McVie with each other, Mick Fleetwood with his wife Jenny Boyd) and doing a lot of drugs. They were able to work together, but most of the songwriting was on an individual basis. Stevie Nicks wrote this one in the studio next door where Sly Stone was recording. He had a big, semicircular bed and red velvet all over the walls - a great vibe for a song about romantic entanglements.
The line, "Players only love you when they're playing," was directed at Lindsey Buckingham. Stevie Nicks was not pleased when he brought "Go Your Own Way
" to the sessions, which was clearly about her. Stevie told Q
magazine June 2009: "It was the fairy and the gnome. I was trying to be all philosophical. And he was just mad."
This is Fleetwood Mac's only #1 hit in the US, surprising considering how familiar many of their songs are in that country. The Hot 100 didn't always reflect the impact of their songs, many of which showed remarkable endurance.
Stevie Nicks recalled to The Daily Mail October 16, 2009: "I remember the night I wrote 'Dreams.' I walked in and handed a cassette of the song to Lindsey. It was a rough take, just me singing solo and playing piano. Even though he was mad with me at the time, Lindsey played it and then looked up at me and smiled. What was going on between us was sad. We were couples who couldn't make it through. But, as musicians, we still respected each other - and we got some brilliant songs out of it."
The word "dreams" shows up just three times in this song:
It's only me who wants to wrap around your dreams
And have you any dreams you'd like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness
They could have titled the song "Thunder Only Happens When It's Raining" after the first line of the chorus, but went with something much more compact. Part of Fleetwood Mac's appeal was their gift for making incredibly popular songs without hewing to the strictures of popular songwriting like title repetition.
In 1998 a Todd Terry re-mix of a cover by The Corrs peaked at #6 in the UK. The Irish group originally recorded the song for a Fleetwood Mac tribute album. Mick Fleetwood, who is a fan of The Corrs, had asked them to record it.
Christine McVie said in a 1997 interview with Q: "'Dreams' developed in a bizarre way. When Stevie first played it for me on the piano, it was just three chords and one note in the left hand. I thought, This is really boring, but the Lindsey genius came into play and he fashioned three sections out of identical chords, making each section sound completely different. He created the impression that there's a thread running through the whole thing."
Christine McVie played both a Hammond organ and a Fender Rhodes electric piano on this track.
Kristin Chenoweth performed this on the hit show Glee in the 2011 Fleetwood Mac-themed episode "Rumours." This version, credited to "Glee Cast with Kristin Chenoweth," went to #92 in the US.
Artists to cover this song include Richie Havens, Melba Moore, Yo La Tengo, The Corrs, and the American singer-songwriter Lissie
, who included it on her 2019 album, When I'm Alone: The Piano Retrospective
This was used in the 2010 film Eat Pray Love and in the 2017 "Living The Dream" episode of Big Little Lies. Another TV use of "Dreams" is in the British version of The Office in the 2002 episode "Party."
The song returned to the Billboard charts in 2018 after a meme went viral. A Twitter user named @bottledfleet edited parts of "Dreams" over footage of Alcorn State University's Golden Girls cheerleaders dancing to an overlay the song to prove that Fleetwood Mac is not boring. The video was posted on March 22, 2018 with the caption: "'Fleetwood Mac's music is so boring, you can't even dance to it."
The song got another boost when the TikTok user Doggface208 (real name Nathan Apodaca) uploaded a video
of him skateboarding down a road while drinking Ocean Spray juice and lip-syncing along to "Dreams" on September 25, 2020.
On October 4, Mick Fleetwood made his own TikTok
re-creating Apodaca's video. Fleetwood posted: "@420doggface208 had it right. Dreams and Cranberry just hits different."
Such was the interest generated by the clips that the song re-entered the Hot 100, peaking at #12.