The real Lindsey Buckingham: He’s their creative glue
Up close, there was something of the actor Kevin Kline about Fleetwood Mac’s guitarist, songwriter and producer Lindsey Buckingham in 1977. It isn’t the appearance, so much. It’s more that Buckingham’s nervy, jittery demeanour reminds me of Kline in one of his nervy, jittery film roles.
It’s 10:30am and the tray in Buckingham’s hotel suite contains evidence of a healthy breakfast: lots of juice and half-eaten fruit. Buckingham looks wiry in black shirt, black jeans and flip-flops, but I notice that he wiggles his toes and jiggles a knee when answering some questions. Critics and the other members of Fleetwood Mac have described him as “uptight.” He is, but then he’s earned the right to be. Without Buckingham, Fleetwood Mac would probably have finished in 1975.
The trouble is, Fleetwood Mac wasn’t what Lindsey Buckingham had in mind when he left the family home in suburban California to try and become a singer-songwriter. It was Stevie Nicks who persuaded him to join Fleetwood Mac. Their Buckingham Nicks album had tanked, and she was concerned they were going to starve. Buckingham, though, would have gone hungry for his “art.”
His painstaking approach to writing and arranging is what made Rumours so great. That he then stuffed the follow-up album, Tusk, with wonky non-pop songs such as “The Ledge” and “Not That Funny” only makes you admire him even more. Buckingham can “do” pop as well as Nicks and Christine McVie, it’s just that he prefers to sprinkle a little broken glass into the mix as well. Like Nicks, he’s an emotional exhibitionist who bleeds all over his songs. The mind boggles at what it must have been like to have been around that extraordinary couple “back in the day.”
Since the late ‘90s Buckingham has repeatedly parked his erratically brilliant solo career to make time for Fleetwood Mac. That’s where the money and the acclaim is, but it must have hurt handing over songs he’d earmarked for his own record to 2003’s Mac comeback album, Say You Will. That album went to Number 3 in the US; Buckingham’s next solo album, Under the Skin, made it to 80.
When I next spoke with him in 2005, he’d become a father to three young children, and had lost that Kevin Kline-like jitteriness. When we spoke again in 2012, he was back on Fleetwood Mac duties, and sounded uptight again. But as the conversation wore on, he gradually thawed out. He admitted that, at times, yes, it was hard being in Fleetwood Mac and dragging all that history and emotional baggage around. But, as he said, it could have ended up like Peter Green.
“Boy, I consider myself lucky,” he said, with a laugh. “I am one of the few who escaped…mostly unscathed.”
Photo caption: Lindsey Buckingham, an emotional exhibitionist who bleeds all over his songs (Jeremy Cowart / © 2011)
Mark Black / Q / October 2013 (from “The high times of Fleetwood Mac – 17-page collector’s special”)