Certain Songs #453: Fleetwood Mac – “Tusk”

tusk-album-cover Album: Tusk
1979

It goes directly to the massive commercial power of Fleetwood Mac in the late 1970s that this weird, experimental song crashed the top ten, and even more impressive that they could have made the more conventional “Sara” or “Think About Me” the all-important lead single from the follow-up to Rumours.

But no, they went with fucking “Tusk,” which not only didn’t sound like previous Fleetwood Mac songs, it didn’t really sound like anything else, period.

Leading with a Mick Fleetwood drumbeat that was almost tribal and ending with the entire fucking USC Marching Band at Dodger Stadium playing a deceptively simple and insanely catchy horn riff, “Tusk” shoulda been a complete fiasco, an object lesson in what happens when you let too much money and cocaine into the recording studio.

Instead, it was an utter triumph — once again balancing arty experimentation and pop savvy into an a unique whole. So when “Tusk” starts building on that drumbeat, and the guitars & bass comes in, they’re also throwing in weird vocal interjections everywhere (“hoogahaagahooga”), just for the sheer everlovin’ hell of it.

So it isn’t until “Tusk” finally gets to the chorus and the horns come in that it fully delivers the hooks you’ve been craving:

Don’t say that you love me!

Just tell me that you want me!

Tusk!
Just say that you want me!

Don’t tell me that you–

One of the many things that “Tusk” gets away with is that just as the song gets cooking, and you’re ready to just spend the rest of the song yelling “Tusk,” the whole thing breaks down into an almost-drum-solo, and you’re thinking “what. the. fuck. And for a split second you think, oh man, I’m not going to get to yell ‘Tusk” for the rest of the song.

But it’s just a feint. A misdirection. Because just when you think that, the guitar and the bass and the marching band comes in, and someone yells “Tusk!” and everything is utterly right with the world.

The rest of the song is just basically the USC Marching Band playing the horn riff, Lindsay Buckingham’s guitar, that Mick Fleetwood drum beat and of course getting to yell “Tusk!!”

TUSK!!

Official Video for “Tusk”

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