18th Oct, 1984
Lindsey Buckingham is feeling out of context – and looks slightly uncomfortable. Behind him the airlock has clicked shut; the last vestiges of reality are hissing away, leaving Buckingham to share the capsule with someone he's never met before and may never meet again… destination unknown…
For Lindsey, the time-honoured dilemma of the 'artist' has once more reared up from the tranquillity of personal endeavour. Yet again, a compromise is required between the desire for individual expression and the need to satisfy public taste. It's a situation the man has handled so often in the past that he's almost immune to any debilitating side effects.
Thus, whilst obviously preferring to let the music do the talking, Lindsey understands that, given the diverse aspects and dept of his approach to rock, some form of explanation is a necessity to persuade the masses that it's worth investigating what's on vinyl offer. He is, of course, in the business of selling product. Consequently, he may find the 'interview situation' degrading, artificial and superficial, but has long since learnt to use journalists as aerials purely to receive and transmit his viewpoint…
"I guess it's always difficult to strike a balance between what I'm trying to achieve in a musical sense and the commercial realities of being signed to a record company. I just aim as far as possible to reconcile artistic integrity with public taste. At the end of the day, I hope people will perceive me as someone attempting to push back the barriers of pop music."
The notion of 'pushing back the barriers of pop music' is one that is the cornerstone of Buckingham's persona. It's certainly a key, oft-repeated phrase in his vocabulary. And, given the fact that his name is usually prefixed by 'Fleetwood Mac', this constant reminder is none too surprising.
Since he joined the band (1974), they've sold over 35 million records worldwide via such AOR classics as Fleetwood Mac, Rumours and Mirage, in the process earning as many critical knee-cappings as commercial sales. Buckingham's role in the re-emergence of the one-time blues stylists was both crucial and, by his own terms, a constant frustration.
"There are fans who've bought Rumours and regard it as the greatest album of all time. Now, I'm not knocking it in the slightest, it was a good, clean pop album, but c'mon, nothing on the LP can exactly be regarded as breaking new ground. Just because it sold more than 16 million copies doesn't mean that Rumours should automatically be construed as a masterpiece"
"I've always been keen on experimentation and attempted to bring the band into fresh territories on the double album follow-up Tusk. At first, the other four (John McVie/Christine McVie/Mick Fleetwood/Stevie Nicks) were all with me, but when the LP failed to sell as many units, they disowned it and put the blame for it comparative failure onto my shoulders.
"Of course, this was unfair, but you can't fight the collective will of such a group of musicians; if you're a member of any band then you have to go with the majority opinion otherwise anarchy will rule. Thus, I was forced to take a step or two backwards on Mirage."
The latter opus, to my way of thinking a grossly overlooked effort, came out in 1982, since when Fleetwood, Nicks and the female McVie have all released solo material. And now Buckingham has at last joined the throng, putting out the thought-provoking/disorientating Go Insane LP through the Mercury label. It may seem akin to a wild flash of irresponsible flag raising, but I personally regard this album as the most adventurously successful mainstream rock release since Dark Side Of The Moon. And this too has something of a conceptual flow.
"The lyrics were to some extent inspired, if that's the right word, by the slow disintegration of a six-year relationship I had with a young lady. I tried everything I could to maintain a commitment to this person, but she began to display non-constructive behavioural patterns and I just reached a stage when no more allowances could be made. So, a lot of the songs on this album have something to do with various aspects of what happened."
Titles such as I Want You, Go Insane and Slow Dancing certainly underscore Buckingham's lyrical attitude. But GI goes beyond such emphases. Every track is a musical challenge, taking unexpected tangents which shoot out from traditional rock 'n' roll arrangements, taking the listener by complete surprise.
On top of such nuances comes Play In The Rain Parts I&II, an exaggerated journey into the region of avante garde electronics that touched base with both Laurie Anderson and Phillip Glass (Lindsey has spent quite a considerable amount of time with the former), whilst retaining the essential sensitivity of a pop profile. And then there's DW Suite, a seven minute musical exercise that proves to be the zenith of this LP's general excellence, a cinematic experience in the widest sense of the term.
"I wrote DW Suite as a personal tribute to Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boys drummer who drowned last December. It's divided into three distinct segments and contains a number of musical themes, both tradition (Loch Lomond is one noticeable strand) and modern.
"I also did it as a way of tipping my hat to Brian Wilson who was the driving force behind the band. I've always identified with Brian because he has spent years attempting to take what was essentially a successful early sixties pop band in a more adventurous and challenged direction. Yet the pressure put upon him by the other members of the BBs and even his own family because of the desire to experiment and change has been incredible.
"In fact, the only way he's been able to handle it is to revert to a child-like mental existence, which is tragic. Maybe by including this track I've managed to exorcise a demon that's been haunting me for years concerning my own position with the Fleetwoods.
"I've played virtually all the instruments on the album and also handled the vocals. I did bring in Gordon Fordyce though, to co-produce the project. Quite honestly, this is such a wide ranging affair that there was always the danger of losing perspective. Making a group album is like a movie in that everything is under constant discussion and the final decision is subject to heavy political pressures. But doing a solo LP is akin to undertaking a painting, being a far more intimate and intuitive process. And as with all canvas works, one is never sure when to stop; it's hard to judge when something has reached its most satisfying conclusion.
"Gordon provided an outside balance and he was never afraid to tell me I was wrong about something. I've spent the past 12 years working with Richard Dashut as both co-composer and co-producer. But, whilst I did consider involving him once more, I believe that he's become too much like me and thus offers no counterpoint. Gordon brought a freshness and a new sparkle into the studio.
"I'm not entirely happy with the final results on Go Insane. At times the songs are too dense and people have claimed, with a certain degree of relevance, that the arrangements are too busy. I used the Fairlight Computer on this one and it offers too many musical variations at the touch of a button, which may explain some of the LP's more glaring faults. But, overall, this is a more cohesive, better album than my last solo release, Law And Order (81)
"I'd like to tour as soon as I possibly can under my own name, but I want to wait until another Lindsey Buckingham album has been put out so that any show can contain only solo material. I don't want to be in the position of having to throw in classic Fleetwood Mac tunes to fill up the gaps. Both Stevie and Christine did this and, consequently, their gigs came across as lounge performances."
Buckingham's words certainly suggest that he's plotting a Mac-less future; so is this the end for the five-piece?
"Well, we're planning to get together soon in Los Angeles and discuss our collective future. At the moment, I'm not sure how things will go, we shall have to wait and see. If you're asking me should Fleetwood Mac continue, at this point in time my answer must be... NO! I don't see any reason to carry on with the band just because certain people have hit financial troubles."