He looks, in the old photographs,
like the ultimate poster boy for breezy, spritzer-sipping
Californian rock: white suits, silk shirts slashed to the waist and
a halo of curls big enough to accommodate nesting birds.
Twenty-seven years ago, Lindsey
Buckingham was a bona fide soft-rock god and he looked the part.
He'd joined Fleetwood Mac as a guitarist in 1975 and two years later
the release of Rumours - the band's era-defining,
25-million-plus unit-shifting album - catapulted him into the
stadium league. Buckingham found himself strapped to one of pop's
biggest rockets as it blazed a spectacular, if wildly dysfunctional,
course across the musical firmament. Regrets? He has a few.
"Left to my own devices, I would
much rather have been in a band like the Clash," says Buckingham.
The Clash? It's hard to imagine
Buckingham sporting a Mohican and cranking out a three-chord punk
anthem such as London Calling. "Well, just a band that had a
little more of an experimental sensibility," says the guitarist, who
was born into a middle-class family in Palo Alto, California, in
1949. "Just because Rumours sold what it sold doesn't mean I
had complete regard for it as a work." What's wrong with it?
"The femaleness of it. The
lightness of it. You might say it's overly poppy in parts. It's
ironic that the truthfulness of what we were saying in the songs was
represented in a very glossy way. I wasn't directly influenced by
punk, but it did remind me of some of the reservations I had about
Rumours and what was important."
Buckingham, a guitarist renowned
for his fluid, elegant finger style on both electric and acoustic
guitar, isn't being ungrateful about the album that made him rich.
He's convinced, however, that the stratospheric sales of Rumours
was partly due to the public's fascination with the soap opera that
Let's recap. Fuelled by industrial
quantities of cocaine, Rumours was recorded during a period
drummer Mick Fleetwood has described as an "emotional holocaust".
After seven years as lovers and collaborators, Buckingham and singer
Stephanie "Stevie" Nicks had gone through a bitter break-up. The
marriage of singer-pianist Christine McVie and bass player John
McVie was over and Fleetwood was in the middle of a messy divorce.
The band's three principal songwriters - Buckingham, Nicks and
Christine McVie - turned their misery into songs and the result,
improbably, was a middle-of-the-road masterpiece.
The success of Rumours
earned Fleetwood Mac a blank cheque when they returned to the
studio. They took full advantage: their 1979 double album Tusk
was, at the time, the most expensive disc recorded.
They held it all together until
1987's Tango in the Night album, at which point Buckingham
was itching to pursue solo projects and flatly refused to tour. The
decision led to a "physically ugly" scene with Nicks and Buckingham
quit the band in acrimonious circumstances.
Now, Fleetwood Mac's class of '77
are back together, save Christine McVie, who nowadays lives a quiet
life in rural England and has no interest in touring. McVie wrote
Don't Stop and You Make Loving Fun, two of the songs from
Rumours that became enormous hits. Buckingham insists the
band isn't diminished by her absence.
"We could play her songs [Don't
Stop is the only McVie composition in Fleetwood Mac's set list],
but there's no reason," he says. "We have a much ballsier show going
now and we're playing better than ever.
"Everyone wishes her well, but
none of us saw it as a problem that she wasn't there during the
recording of the album." He's referring to Say You Will, a
collection of songs written for the most part by Nicks and
Buckingham. It has received warm reviews, but no one is pretending
the fans packing out the current tour are paying hundreds of dollars
each to hear the new stuff.
Buckingham says he's happy to be
back with the old firm. Time has healed old wounds and he claims
he's better friends with Nicks than at any time in the past. That's
a remarkable turnaround, considering the former lovers didn't speak
for much of the '90s and in 1994 Nicks told Rolling Stone "I
just bug him to death."
Buckingham says his life is very
different nowadays. In 2000 he married his girlfriend, Kristen
Messner, and the couple have a five-year-old son and a
three-year-old daughter. Another baby is due in April. Buckingham
has even torn down his bachelor pad in the plush LA suburb of Bel-Air
and built a more family-friendly house. "[Family] puts me in a whole
other thing," says Buckingham. "I have my own world, which isn't
always Stevie's world."
Once in a while, Buckingham allows
himself to ponder how his life might have turned out had he not
joined Fleetwood Mac. He says he and Nicks were almost penniless
when a chance meeting with Mick Fleetwood in a Los Angeles recording
studio put them on the road to a world of packed stadiums and
"You know, he asked me to join the
group first," says Buckingham. "He didn't ask Stevie. But I said,
'We're kind of a package deal.' I like to remind Stevie of that now
Fleetwood Mac will perform at
the Sydney Entertainment Centre on Saturday and Sunday.