Lindsey Buckingham stakes his claim in the Fleetwood Mac legacy
The man doesn’t need Perry Mason to argue his case. It’s clear from one spin through the recently-remastered mid-’70s Fleetwood Mac masterpieces (Fleetwood Mac, Rumours and 1979’s underrated Tusk) that guitarist/vocalist/arranger Lindsey Buckingham was, is and always will be the heart, soul and brains of this stadium-filling supergroup. After all, the band foundered when he went solo after ’97’s Tango in the Night, only to whirr back to life last year when he returned to oversee the Mac’s creative, well-kudoed comeback, Say You Will, as well as the spanking-new concert CD/DVD Live in Boston. A true renaissance man, the crafty Buckingham developed his own finger-pickings style as a rockabilly-obsessed Palo Alto teen, then settled on a particular guitar, as well — the customized, viola-shaped Tuner Model 1 that now provides that signature Mac-chimey sound. Is this unexpected reunion all that he hoped it would be? During a Los Angeles rehearsal, Buckingham weighed in on this and other issues.
The Wave: Have your bandmates finally conceded that, yes, indeed, you are truly the Alpha Wolf?
Lindsey Buckingam: Well, I dunno… I dunno if anyone would wanna define it quite that way. But when we regrouped, everyone had sorta gotten their shit together, so it was really great to see all these people and realize that there was still a lot of care, a lot of love and that the chemistry was certainly as good as ever. We were playing better than we ever did, so that alone made it worthwhile. And one of the things that happened was a male-bonding kinda-thing. It was interesting to watch Mick [Fleetwood, founding drummer] and John [McVie, bassist/co-founder] talk, for example. Because without Christine [McVie, founding keyboardist and ex-wife of John] there, John was able to be a little looser, with no baggage or buttons to be pushed. It was really neat to see some business get taken care of that might’ve been 30 years old. Same with Stevie Nicks and me, in some ways. There was a renewed appreciation.
TW: But you’ve got to claim some credit, right?
I was cynical about our success because I perceived the pitfalls. And I felt that I was pretty much holding it together on a musical level, and in a way wasn’t getting credit for it. But it wasn’t as if there was any kind of organized suppression — people gravitated to what was most obvious, and Stevie was almost immediately singled out in terms of her personage and the witchy image she’d put together. Maybe if I’d been the one who was singled out, I wouldn’t have been so cynical. But I had to fight for myself in the band, fight for what I thought was right without anybody’s help. To get to Tusk, I had to punch some holes in the status quo.
TW: People probably forget the dramatic U-turn you took with Tusk. It wasn’t exactly what folks were expecting after Rumours.
We came out with Rumours, which was certainly a beautiful album, musically and otherwise. But the musical soap opera aspect of that, I think, became more the focal point than the music. And then you’re in this spot: Where do you go from there? Well, you can make a Rumours 2 — certainly, the record company’s gonna ask you to make Rumours 2 for all the wrong reasons. But in the meantime music from England had come out — new wave and punk — and although it wasn’t anything that influenced me directly, it did give me the courage to say, “Hey, look, I wanna try some new things.” But I had a meeting with the band, and everyone was dead set against it and we had a fight about it. But somehow I managed to prevail and do it. And by the end of it, everyone was totally on the same page. But I mean, releasing “Tusk” as a first single, compared to “Go Your Own Way”? It took everyone by surprise, and that was part of the beauty of it for me. It confounded everyone’s expectations.
TW: And now, of course, every marching band in the world has to learn “Tusk” by heart.
Ha! I know, I know. It’s crazy. And at the time, everyone was happy with the album, until, of course, it didn’t sell 16 million records. Then there was a backlash again. So then you got Mirage, which is not a bad record, but it’s sorta drifting in hazy waters. Tango was better, but it’s still way under duress.
TW: But Mac songs from that era still mean the world to people. You helped compose and conceive some all-time classics.
And it’s hard to be as connected with that as one might think. You’re not necessarily in touch with the illusion it creates. Obviously, you figure if you’re selling 16 million albums, something is happening, but you’re just too insulated to be in touch with that collective effect.
Tom Lanham / The Wave (Vol. 4, Issue 16) / July 28-August 10, 2004