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Going Insane: In Defense of Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsey Buckingham’s first solo album in a decade is upon us. The self-titled outing, recorded in 2018 and delayed for several reasons we’ll get into, is a glimmering pop effort, produced by the under-appreciated legend himself. As with any newly released work by an established artist, the lead up to the album drop has been dotted with media coverage—write-ups in the New York Times, LA Times, and Rolling Stone, an appearance on ABC’s American Idol, and several podcast sit-downs.

Yet, at every turn, Buckingham remains dogged by questions regarding the band that (we know, we know) he’s no longer a part of: Fleetwood Mac. Lindsey Buckingham is the guitar god’s seventh solo studio album, and with such a generous catalogue of material, one wonders why those who cover him in the press can’t seem to let him be a solo artist on the same level they allow, say, other members of ‘The Mac’.

We’re going to take a look into the historical frivolity of coverage Buckingham has received, how the majority of it is bullsh*t, and how one can mention Lindsey Buckingham without bringing up Fleetwood Mac, but would be hard pressed to bring up Fleetwood Mac without Lindsey Buckingham.

Writers Note:

Save the title of this piece, we’re not going to Trouble ourselves with kitschy play-on-words, unoriginal reimaginings of song titles to fit the tone or message here. There’s so very much of that cluttering the vast majority of articles written about Buckingham/Fleetwood Mac/Nicks, and so on. If we were to do that, I’d say that the majority of media who cover Lindsey Buckingham can Go Their Own Way, that I’m on The Ledge with all of it, it’s Not That Funny, and that while there should be a Big Love for the 71 year old virtuoso, I’m So Afraid that In Our Own Time he’ll always remain On The Wrong Side of the interviewer’s pen. Whether reporting from the Empire State, or residing in the Shadow Of The West, Murrow must be Turning Over In His Grave with how Lindsey is portrayed to the Eyes Of The World. It makes me want to Scream, Go Insane, and ultimately ask, What’s The World Coming To?

That said, On With The Show.

Secondhand News

Generally speaking, anyone who loves Fleetwood Mac/Lindsey Buckingham/Stevie Nicks/some-combination-of-the-three know the history. A retelling of said history may feel redundant, but punctuating it, tucked in between the lines, is the incredibly sad and true story of all Lindsey Buckingham has sacrificed, fought through, and endured to get to this point in time. This point of artistic freedom he’s showing off in this new record. Much has been made of nothing over the years—both by rock journalists, as well as members of the group themselves—and it’s safe to say that most of what you’ve heard is true and the rest, well, isn’t.

This Is The Time (okay, I really will stop with the song titles now) to tell the whole story, in one place, and maybe clear up some misconceptions; let the whole truth be seen in one place so everyone can just leave Lindsey Buckingham the hell alone about that band.

What we do know is true is Lindsey was asked to join Fleetwood Mac in 1974 after Mick Fleetwood was played the track “Frozen Love” off of Lindsey and Stevie Nicks’ duo-outing, Buckingham Nicks. Their record, released through Polydor in 1973, hadn’t quite garnered the attention the then-couple had hoped it would, and they were actively trying to conjure a follow up that might make some waves. Wave-making it certainly did, with a certain lanky British drummer. The rest, more than likely you know: Lindsey was offered Bob Welch’s vacancy, he insisted that Nicks come along with him, Mick, Christine McVie, and John McVie all agreed, Buckingham Nicks-the duo absorbed into The Mac, they put out an initial album together (1975’s Fleetwood Mac, a second self-titled release for the band) and then, while gaining traction, all hell broke loose.

There is no need to rehash the Rumours-era mischief and melancholy, except if only to point out that Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks parted ways as lovers practically a half century ago now. Let that sink in. Like a sharp dagger lanced across decades of scar tissue and scabs, the way their connection to each other gets gabbed about ad nauseam leaves the false impression that 45 entire years haven’t passed since they were “a thing.” And yet they have. It’s okay to let that go. And in a sense, some outlets have. For Stevie, that is. No one ever says, “Stevie Nicks, former romantic partner of Lindsey Buckingham,” but I haven’t been shocked when I see it mentioned the other way around. “Lindsey Buckingham, with whom Stevie Nicks had a relationship with in the past…” blah, blah, blah.

That’s just the icing on that cake, and since the release of Rumours, Lindsey has fought for his own artistry both in the group and outside of it. 1979’s Tusk, an album that stands out considerably from the rest of ’74-present Fleetwood Mac’s catalogue in its production (thank you, Lindsey) and musical/artistic direction (thank you again, Monsieur Buckingham) turned heads, although not in the way Warner Bros. Records had intended. Despite selling four million copies at the time—and giving Buckingham the space to create music he felt challenged by in the face of industry expectations to simply pump out Rumours IITusk was considered a flop. Which is insane by today’s standards, but let’s digress.

We’ll end our focus primarily on Fleetwood Mac where the sole focus on them should end: 1981

Trouble

With the general consensus being that Lindsey wasn’t to have such immense control over the band’s direction for Tusk’s follow up (1982’s return to form Mirage), Buckingham struck out on his own with his first solo album, Law and Order. This was it, the freedom he had explored and enjoyed throughout the recording process Tusk, unfettered by the expectations or the confines of being in a band. The four other distinct personalities that comprised Fleetwood Mac couldn’t cloud any of the vision Law and Order strove for. This was Buckingham’s first baby, all to himself.

Except in July of 1981, a few months before Law and Order was scheduled for release, another record dropped. Nick’s classic Bella Donna, a hit-heavy juggernaut influenced and overseen significantly by the late great Tom Petty. In a cultural sense, Lindsey’s artistic musings were swept aside for the phenomenon of Bella Donna, or in the very least, compared to it by fans and critics alike.

Also, unlike his bandmate, Buckingham hadn’t the time to give Law and Order a proper supporting tour, as he was needed in production for Mirage. This became something of a regular slight for Lindsey, something that realistically didn’t end until the past ten years.

For perspective, the scheduled 2022 UK/European leg of this new record’s supporting tour mark Buckingham’s first solo dates on that continent. The same cannot be said of others. If that isn’t proof enough in and of itself that the man has been bogged down so entirely by the spectre of commitment to Fleetwood Mac for the past almost 50 years, nothing else will be.

This Is Why I Must Go

Squeezed amidst a tour for Mirage and pressure to follow the album up, Buckingham released several contributions to soundtracks, including the classic “Holiday Road” for National Lampoon’s Vacation, “Timebomb Town” for Back To The Future, as well as his second solo record, Go Insane. The album, put out on Warner subsidiary Electra records in 1984, blended Lindsey’s more artistic leanings nicely with commercially viable power-pop. The record from start to finish is a timestamp masterpiece, yet still managed to be clouded by what’s next for Fleetwood Mac, as well as the industry’s somersaults for Nick’s The Wild Heart. Once again Buckingham came out slighted, tapped to produce Mirage’s follow-up, Tango In The Night, and at his home studio, no less.

By the time sessions for that came around, Fleetwood Mac’s ability to gather together as a group had become something of an impossibility. Everyone, essentially, had a solo career. Christine McVie had released an unbelievably good album of her own (Buckingham contributed guitars and vocals on several tracks for his friend), Mick Fleetwood had formed Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo, and, as mentioned, Stevie was off and running on her own. It was more than personalities by then, and Buckingham felt confined once more in the Mac-trap. He’d given up so much of his own time to wrangle everyone together, to produce material for the band, continue on with arranging the contributions of others (as he always did, uncredited), and was growing more and more frustrated with the whole thing. Rightly so!

In a 1992 interview with Rolling Stone, Buckingham had this to say about what occurred during the Tango In The Night sessions:

It was a mess. Whatever was going on in people’s lives, I can’t really say. I was never the one up all night creating shenanigans and high jinks (sic) anyway—I was the one who went up to my room to work on songs. But for whatever reasons, there was no camaraderie left.

Once recording wrapped and music videos were shot, Buckingham made the difficult decision to leave the band, right before they were about to embark on tour. He’s maintained that it was an act of self-preservation, and that can be wholeheartedly believed with the route the other members of the band went down in the years that followed. The absenteeism of the band was another thing that irked him, and Buckingham felt that there was no joy left, nothing of value for him in continuing on with this thing the band become.

It should be noted that for the Tango In The Night Tour, Buckingham had to be replaced by, not one, but two musicians. This practice had to be implemented again in 2018 with Neil Finn from Crowded House and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers fame being called on to fill Lindsey’s shoes. And sing his songs. And try to cover his technical, often puzzlingly difficult riffs. A very telling signifier of the massive hole left in the band when he isn’t sharing the stage with them.

Fans may have been disappointed at the time, and surely the music journalism world skewered him over the decision to stay away, but what came next was the first gasp of fresh, free air Buckingham had until, well, now.

Do Not Look Down!

Freed from obligations, four years of work was poured into Out of the Cradle, perhaps Lindsey Buckingham’s most beautifully orchestrated, well written, and creatively satisfying works to date. Released in 1992, the album solidified Buckingham’s ability to live outside of the bubble he’d been forced into. Sure, there were still questions about his former band, and yet, at the same time, credence was being paid to him as a solo artist—as a magnificent songwriter as well as producer—for the very first time.

But this time wasn’t without its blemishes for him, either. In 1990, Mick Fleetwood’s book, Fleetwood: My Life And Adventures With Fleetwood Mac was published. Co-written with the controversial and dubious Stephen Davis (widely considered to exaggerate or completely make up things in the rock biographies he’s worked on), the book contains several incendiary tales about Buckingham, all of which Lindsey (and now, ironically, Mick Fleetwood) maintained were simply not true.

It should be noted that several years later, Davis was responsible for penning the unauthorized and wholly inaccurate Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks, in which the writer actually contradicts several supposed occurrences detailed in Mick’s book. It was all bullsh*t, but that didn’t stop droves of people from reading (and believing) much of what was in either book. Regardless of whether the made-up stories matched up, their existence, and inclusion into the lexicon of Mac-Member lore has tarnished some people’s view of Buckingham. And as we all know, especially in today’s society, greased-up falsehoods travel faster than bald truth ever could.

Despite this, Out of the Cradle proved to be something of a success. In comparison to the floundering post-Buckingham era of Fleetwood Mac, it was a goddamn smash.

Then came a man from Arkansas, who happened to be running for President, and who, as fate would have it, used McVie’s Rumours hit “Don’t Stop” (co-sung by Buckingham) as his battle cry. When Clinton cinched American’s highest office (“It’s the {FLEETWOOD MAC}, stupid”), the band was asked by Bill himself to reunite, Buckingham in tow, to perform at his first Inauguration Ball.

While such a thing must have felt like an immense validation for all involved, it also served as something of a lightning rod. The suffering band sans-Lindsey (and Stevie, by that point) saw the reception they received and lightbulbs began going off. Buckingham, on the other hand, had begun churning out a follow up to OOTC, and, given the recent amicable reunion, asked Fleetwood and John McVie to sit in on sessions for the album.

It all gets vague around this point, but there are certain things that can be gleaned from the information that’s out there. Following the Clinton Inauguration, the bubble of enthusiasm for Nicks’ solo career had officially burst. There wasn’t so much buzz around her as there had been, and Fleetwood Mac’s 1995 album, Time, was as welcomed as a wet fart at a baptism. It was ultimately decided that a full scale reunion would be critical for everyone involved.

Everyone, realistically, except Buckingham.

My Little Demon

It would be an understatement to say that The Dance, a live greatest hits-style reunion album, was a much needed success for all involved. A rejuvenation for all parties, Buckingham included. The three songwriters—Buckingham, McVie, and Nicks—all contributed new material to the effort, with Lindsey premiering “My Little Demon” and “Bleed to Love Her,” which would later appear in studio recorded form on Say You Will.

But with the plunge back into the world of all things Mac, the boundless artistic freedom Lindsey had only begun to tap into was eroding, to say the least, and being snuffed out, to say the most. The solo album he’d been working on, Gift of Screws, was halted and dismantled at the request of Fleetwood Mac’s record label. The band was back, after all! The time to strike was now! And, to make matters worse, during the interim period between The Dance and what would eventually become Say You Will, Christine McVie bowed out of the band. With McVie not contributing any of her (criminally underrated) songwriting talents to the project, the pressure was on for both Buckingham and Nicks. Many of the pieces originally intended for Gift of Screws, coupled with an astounding number of Nicks-penned tracks (nine, her most ever with the band), Say You Will came to fruition in 2003.

After touring in support of that album, Buckingham gathered an entirely new crop of material fairly quickly, and put out 2006’s Under The Skin. Having mentioned before that, as of the publication of this article, Buckingham has yet to tour Europe as a solo artist, it should be likewise noted that it took 32 years of performing professionally for the man to even get to fully tour an album of his own. He had done a select number of solo summer dates in 1993, but never a full, multi-state campaign like the Under The Skin tour, and like his counterparts had enjoyed since the very year he released his first solo album, all that time ago in 1981.

Out of Pity, Out of Time

close up of Lindsey Buckingham
Cover art from self-titled “Lindsey Buckingham,” reminiscent of “Law and Order”

From Under The Skin on out, Lindsey has released two more studio albums not including his latest (a re-imagined Gift of Screws in 2008 and Seeds We Sow in 2011) and three solo live albums. In 2013, Buckingham appeared on Nine Inch Nails’ album Hesitation Marks, sitting in on three tracks, as well as performing “Copy of A” with Reznor and company at the Grammy Awards in a medley with Dave Grohl and several members of Queens of the Stone Age.

Piece by precious piece, Buckingham had begun to be recognized, at long last, as a singular entity.

He reconnected with Christine McVie for 2017’s Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie (or, in almost a full circle-brand of karmic humor, simply known as Buckingham McVie). The Buckingham McVie album’s inclusion in all of this is incredibly important, as it was originally intended to be the first studio album with all five classic members (Buckingham, McVie, also McVie, Nicks and Fleetwood) for the first time since Tango In The Night. Both McVie’s and Fleetwood remained on the project with Buckingham, however Nicks declined to be involved due to, not joking, touring commitments. The album was a moderate success, and essentially acts as a Fleetwood Mac album in theory, despite not being called such. There are some tunes on there that stand up on equal footing with some of their greatest work, and checking it out is highly recommended if you haven’t already.

Following a brief tour for Buckingham McVie, Lindsey gathered together a group of ten strong, pop-influenced songs, recorded them, and planned on releasing that album following a brief, three month tour. But his request for time (officially), coupled with the absolutely ridiculous “smirking incident” (unofficially), led to his dismissal from the band after all the time, effort, success, and shelving of his own ambitions for the same of the group.

The dismissal blindsided him, and after settling for breach of contract with his now-former bandmates on tour residuals, Buckingham rerouted, and went to put those ten pop-oriented songs out.

Heart attack. Precautionary triple bypass surgery. Damaged vocal cords as a result of a roughly inserted breathing tube (ugggh).

While healing, he provided an instantly recognizable solo on The Killers‘ single “Caution.”

New album time?

Nope. Global Pandemic.

Buckingham finally announced the release of Lindsey Buckingham, and subsequent US and UK tour in support of it, in June of 2021.

News breaks the following day that Kristen Messner, Lindsey’s wife of 22 years and mother of his children, filed for divorce. (According to Buckingham, they are spending time together once more, trying to smooth things over. I wish the two of them all the best.)

Last month, Buckingham made a memorable appearance smack in the middle of Halsey’s newest album, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, supplying some signature finger-picked acoustic guitar to the sweet, thoughtful track “Darling.” The album, produced by Nine Inch Nails braintrusts Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, marks the second call-in from the group. (This writer hopes for more!)

Despite the trials and tribulations currently prevailing in Lindsey’s life, the record is finally released, he’s feeling healthy, and trying to work things out in his personal life.

And yet, here we are, sitting amongst a formidable sea of articles and interviews, all laser-focused asking him about one thing and one thing only: Fleetwood-friggin-Mac. Or worse yet, in the case of the odious LA Times article, successfully attempting to spark up actual confrontation between Lindsey and Stevie Nicks once more. Rabble rousing for views. Mutating and twisting headlines that could (and should) be based around Buckingham and his new album—let alone his recent high profile collaborations—into more Fleetwood Mac clickbait for the TikTok crowd to sip cranberry juice and gossip over.

Enough.

Look, setting aside all of his arrangement contributions never attributed to him anyway, Lindsey Buckingham has contributed approximately 34 tracks in total to Fleetwood Mac over the course of six albums. As a solo artist, since 1981, he’s put out approximately 85 tracks over seven solo albums and soundtrack appearances, and three live albums since finally being allowed time to tour in 2006. He’s been more prolific as a solo artist—against all odds—than he has been with the band that sorely needs him amongst their ranks to continue on in any meaningful capacity.

Lindsey Buckingham is, and always has been, more than just your Fleetwood Mac headline. Now, leave him the f*ck alone to do as he pleases.


Lindsey Buckingham is out September 17th on East West Records.

Written by Donnie Kirchner

Donnie Kirchner is a writer from Scranton, Pennsylvania. While primarily focused on his works of fiction, it is his sincerest hope that his oddball views and contributions to 25YL will be greeted warmly. He is currently striving to master the art of brevity.

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  1. THIS IS THE BEST MOST ACCURATE ARTICLE ABOUT LINDSEY I HAVE EVER READ THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR ACTUALLY FOCUSING ON HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS A SOLO ARTIST AND EVERYTHING HE’S ALWAYS DONE BEHIND THE SCENES AND NEVER GOTTEN CREDIT FOR. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS ARTICLE!!!

  2. Thank you so very much for writing this article about Lindsey Buckingham. He deserves so much credit for all of the work that he has done. He is a great guitarist and vocalist and he has never been given the credit that he most definitely deserves. I love to watch him play and hear him sing. I really appreciate you writing this article about the things he has done. Thank you so much for writing this article!!!

  3. Lindsey Buckingham is a very talented musician but his personality – temper, controlling behavior, previous documented abuse of women – seems much less palatable than his musical talents. A gifted musician but apparently difficult to deal with. dA

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