Tusk

Album: Tusk (1979)
Charted: 6 8
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  • The "Tusk" is slang for penis, so the song is basically about sex. When Stevie Nicks heard the album was going to be called Tusk, she objected, but Mick Fleetwood really wanted to use the title, so he ignored her and she dropped the subject.

    Stevie Nicks recalled to Mojo in 2015: "I didn't understand the title, there was nothing beautiful or elegant about the word 'tusk.' It really bought to mind those people stealing ivory. Even then, in 1979 you just thought, the rhinos are being poached and that tusks are being stolen and the elephants are being slaughtered and ivory is being sold on the black market. I don't recall it being (Mick's slang term for the male member), that went right over my prudish little head. I wasn't told that until quite a while after the record was done, and when I did find out I liked the title even less!"
  • The music was based on a riff the band used to play when they were introduced at concerts as the lights came up and they were introduced to the audience. When it came time to record the Tusk album, they decided to use it for a song.
  • The University of Southern California marching band played on this track. Mick Fleetwood decided to use a big brass sound after a visit to Europe in 1978 where he saw brass bands marching down the street.

    Speaking with Johnny Black in 1995, Mick Fleetwood explained how it happened: "In soundchecks we used to jam on that riff, and I did the riff in drum form. When it came time to make the album, we pulled that riff out, screwed around with it, put it in the dustbin, and then a year into making that album, I pulled it out again and took it with me as a rough track to Normandy and came up with the idea of using the brass band on it, and using about 100 drummers on it, which we did.

    That really worked. It's a glorious noise, and it's something I'm proud of because it's all drums. There's really no lyrics to it.

    So I resurrected that, much to everyone's amazement, and I insisted on recording the USC marching band at Dodger Stadium. By this time they'd thought for sure I'm round the twist, and I said, 'Well, I'm going to pay for it. And we're going to film it.' They thought, 'For sure, he's blown it. He's way off the deep end.'"
  • The USC Trojan Marching Band was recorded at Dodger Stadium on June 4, 1979 while the Los Angeles Dodgers were on a road trip. This was a few weeks after graduation, so while some band members didn't show, most did, since just about everyone had a copy of Rumours in their dorm room and was thrilled to play on a Fleetwood Mac track.

    Rehearsals took place in late May, and the day of the recording, each band member signed a release and was paid a dollar. The whole scene was filmed, and the footage used to make the music video. Stevie Nicks is seen twirling, but not like her signature stage move - this time it was with a baton.
  • Lindsey Buckingham was keen on experimentation at the time, so he recorded some of his vocals for this song in his bathroom using a microphone he placed on the floor that was connected to his home studio. He also did some percussion for the track on empty Kleenex boxes in his bathroom.
  • During the recording of the album, Mick Fleetwood got a large pair of replica elephant tusks that he set up on either side of the console, which became known as "Tusk." Whenever the console wasn't working, the band would say, "Tusk is down, Tusk isn't working!"

    According to Stevie Nicks, the tusks gave them inspiration. "Those 13 months working in that room were our journey up the sacred mountain to the sacred African percussion place, were all the gods of music lived," she said.
  • The group's bass player John McVie had a falling out with Lindsey Buckingham and never made it to Dodger Stadium for the shoot, so he was replaced in the video with a cardboard cutout. When MTV launched in 1981, the song had already been out for two years, but the network played it anyway, as they didn't have many clips by popular rock bands.
  • In 1977, Fleetwood Mac released Rumours, which was one of the most successful albums ever released. Tusk was the follow-up, but the band (especially Lindsey Buckingham), decided to experiment instead of copying the sound of Rumours. The result was a 20-track double album with some very adventurous songs. The title track was the first single, and it did well, reaching #8 in the US. The next single was "Sara," which made #7.

    Tusk ended up selling far fewer copies than Rumours, partly because the double disc was sold for a hefty $15.98 in America. It certainly didn't tarnish the band's legacy, as it showed that they were willing to take risks when they could have simply recycled Rumours.

    "Tusk is probably my favorite and most important Fleetwood Mac album," Mick Fleetwood said. "Tusk meant this band's survival - if we hadn't made that album, we might have broken up."
  • On the Tusk tour, Fleetwood Mac played five shows in December 1979 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, near Los Angeles. The USC Trojan Marching Band appeared with them at each of these shows, lifted from hydraulic risers behind the stage to join the band on this song.
  • Fittingly, this is a very popular song among marching bands, especially at USC where the song has been performed regularly since its inception. At home games, fans often chant "UCLA Sucks!" during the song, even if they are not playing UCLA.

    Two other schools also claimed it: the University of Alabama and the University of Arkansas. The Arkansas mascot is a razorback (boar) known as "Tusk"; the University of Alabama's mascot is an elephant known as "Big Al," which is actually tuskless in anthropomorphic form, but the University of Alabama is in Tuscaloosa.
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Comments: 18

  • Mavis from Upper MidwestEh, it’s a fill-in song: What do you expect? I don’t actually mind it. It definitely works as a football song.
  • Tmb Embo from Usc@ James - AL - Nice revisionist history, expect nothing less from a Southerner. You probably don't realize you had a segregated team, until Bear invited USC to Bama in 1970, and intentionally took a loss just to prove to your admin that they needed non-white players to stay relevant. FACT.
    As for this drivel that Tusk is referencing, I can only hope this was a bad attempt at humor. The Spirit of Troy (USC Band) did the recordings, has the gold records, and continued appearances with Fleetwood Mac to put your version to shame. Anything less sir is libelous. ; )
  • James from NjJohn didn't have a fallout with Lindsey for the Dodger Stadium filming. He was on a planned cross Pacific sailing to Tahiti. End of story. On that sail, a whale knocked into his boat, and it almost sank. source: "Two Sticks and a Drum", by Mick Fleetwood.
  • James from Tuscaloosa, AlYou're all wrong. The song "Tusk" is about the University of Alabama Football Team, and its former Head Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant. The "He" in the song refers to Paul "Bear" Bryant and the fact that he was the winningest coach in College Football history and refused to concede his title as such to anyone else. The song is played on the University of Alabama campus daily, and is part of the rich heritage of the Alabama Crimson Tide. There is a local publication in the Tuscaloosa News ("Tusk"aloosa, original spelling), entitled "Tusk" which has been around for decades, and is part of the party/rock'n'roll/football legacy of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. :D
  • Martin from Fresno, CaWhenever I hear this song it reminds me of my best friend in High school.He went to U.S.C. when this song was a hit and said it played in the dorms a lot.I lost contact with him after college but hopefully will see him again in the future.
  • Paul from Washington Dc, DcSo "tusk" is slang for penis, huh? Gee whiz. I never heard that until just now, and I'm a 48 year old urban gay man. Pretty cool tune, all the same. I enjoyed Tusk every bit as much as I did Rumours. Plus, "Sara" is my favorite song of all time.
  • Dean from Denver, CoThis is a GREAT song, I always thought this song sounded really bad, not that good. Then I grew up and bought SUPERIOR AUDIO GEAR,(A-class amp,etc)ONLY THEN did i finally appreciate this GREAT piece of music. Listen to this song thru a really good system and you'll finally understand.
  • Tony from Chicago, IlI love the Drum Riff on this song! it's awesome!!! Lindsey Buckingham is one of my favorite guitarists!!!! It sounds like a song about sex
  • Constance from Dallas, TxCreative song! Bringing the band in was great idea. Christine playing the accordian. I might have spelled that wrong.
  • Bob from Oceanside, CaI always remember this song as being much better than it actually is. Then I hear it again, and cringe.

    It's a great song absolutely ruined by the worst production values I can think of on any major label release ever. It's hideous. It sounds like they put the microphone four blocks away from the stadium. At a bus station. In a restroom. That people were using at the time.
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnStrangely fitting that a song about sex would feature a college marching band whose mascot (the Trojan) is also a brand of condom. Maybe their choice of marching band was just a coincidence, but I'd prefer to think that the "longest-running soap opera in rock & roll history" (as FM has been called) had a sense of humor about their legendary sexual tensions and were playing it to the hilt.
  • Gerard from Honikiwi, New ZealandOf course it's overblown and pretentious; it sounds like a huge 'rich white hunter' elephant safari. Really wacky.
    My dad's a huge fan of FM, and I am not at all, but after hearing this song and "Oh Well" I am not so sure...
  • Mckenzie from Indy, Ini saw fleetwood mac in concert when i was like 12 and this was the best song they sang, even though they had to use a recording...and the 100 piece marching band is an amazing touch
  • Dale from Rumford, Methis was a big hit for linsey
  • Dale from Rumford, Mei alway enjoyed linseys voice. he also sang on monday morning and second hand news
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmyduR--Listen to the song or watch the video. The USC marching band's great, because while they're perhaps overblown, they're _not_ pretentious.
  • Rick from Humboldt, IaThis is a great song. I heard that the words "don't say that you love, just tell me that you want me" are about mick and stevie having sex just for fun and it's pissing lindsey off. It was soo cool on "the dance" when the marching band came in the middle of the song.
  • Ydur from Knoxville, TnDid they really need a 100 piece marching band to play a three note riff? Overblown and pretentious...
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