Captain of the Fleetwoods
BUCKINGHAM JUSTIFIES FAITH IN ROCK 'N' ROLL ICONS
Fri, Jun. 25, 2004
By Brad Kava, Mercury News
If Fleetwood Mac were starting out today, it might not get a chance
to make more than one album, says guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who
will perform in the band's shows Saturday in Concord and Tuesday at
"I feel sorry for bands starting out today. I wish them a lot of
luck,'' says Buckingham from a tour stop in New York. He says few
of the new groups have strong advocates at record labels who will
give them opportunity to grow and develop.
"Fleetwood Mac is a prime example of how important a record company
executive can be,'' he continues, noting that it's best to have
executives on the other side of the desk who are artists
themselves. "We had Mo Ostin'' -- Warner Bros. Records chief from
the 1970s to the 1990s -- ``who obviously sensed, intuited through
all the turmoil and changes, that there was something there to hang
onto'' in Fleetwood Mac.
Buckingham is one of the most interesting and pleasant interviewees
in the annals of rock, sort of the American David Bowie.
He has fought in the trenches and lived a Rolling Stone/People
magazine life. He is witty and intelligent. Some 35 years of
performing have deepened his perspective on the music business. But
unlike so many who get caught up in the dramas, he channels his
strongest passions into writing and playing music.
You can hear that passion in the twists and turns he puts into every
vocal and Silly Putty guitar solo that keep Fleetwood Mac in the
arena league long after many of its contemporaries have gone to the
When you look at the history of this band, named for drummer Mick
Fleetwood and bass player John McVie, it becomes clear that the
group has defied the practices of today's music execs, who pay more
attention to the bottom line and to justifying their actions in
shareholder reports than to their ears and artistic instincts.
Fleetwood Mac started as a blues band in 1967, having spun off from
the Bluesbreakers, John Mayall's performing school of the blues,
which also helped groom Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Jimmy Page.
Led by guitarist and songwriter Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac played a
psychedelic brand of blues, including "Black Magic Woman'' (which
later became a huge hit for Santana).
After the 1970 departure of Green, who was suffering from drug abuse
and emotional problems, Fleetwood Mac handed the reins, at various
times, to Danny Kirwin, Bob Welch and Christine Perfect (who later
married McVie). The sound softened; the albums bore little
resemblance to the band's earlier style but, remarkably, still
While auditioning some engineers in 1975, Fleetwood and McVie signed
up Buckingham and Stevie Nicks after hearing their duo debut album.
The couple had gotten together in San Jose. They honed their chops
as an opening act for almost every rocker passing through town.
Buckingham's pop song craft and Nicks' husky, sexy voice took
Fleetwood Mac to another level, producing two of the biggest hits
of the '70s -- ``Fleetwood Mac'' (1975) and ``Rumours'' (1977).
After that, the band was rife with turmoil, surviving the split of
two marriages, a heap of drug abuse and, most recently, the
departure of Christine McVie. The core quartet still delivers shows
that capture moments of magic from the past 30 years, with
Buckingham's hard-driving, over-the-top guitar toughening up the
rockers and Nicks out front on the ballads.
One of the questions Buckingham, 53, now faces, in the midst of a
tour that has continued 18 months (a year longer than he figured),
is whether he can finally finish the solo album he started nine
His biggest changes over that period have been getting married and
becoming a father to three children, ranging in age from 8 weeks to
6 years. Can the man whose best works seemed to be wrung from inner
struggle and pain (``I'm So Afraid,'' ``Go Insane,'' ``Trouble,''
"Tusk,'' "Go Your Own Way'') create good music when he's happy?
"After I didn't write for two or three years, I did wonder about
that,'' says the South Bay native. ``I used to be a proponent of
the adage that children are death to the artist. But in the last
six or eight months, suddenly out of the blue a whole bunch of
material has passed through me. It's very reassuring, and I think
I'm somehow getting in touch with getting the message and lyric to
work in a way that I haven't been able to do before.''
Which is great for the many fans who consider Buckingham to be a
musical descendant of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson in his prime.
"They are happy songs,'' says Buckingham of his latest works. ``I'm
not talking `Sugar, Sugar.' They have slightly more overview of the
good and the bad and how they relate.''
Those who have heard the recent Fleetwood Mac shows say Buckingham
is performing with a youthful fire. "It's kind of funny. There's a
whole new audience out there,'' Buckingham notes. ``We're playing
in front of 13- and 14-year-old girls, and I'm like a 54-year-old
But, he adds, ``I'm at the top of my game. All those years we were
successful, but it wasn't that much fun. It was more negative than
positive. Now it's all come back around. I feel like I have so much
more to add to this band.''
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