With Lindsey Buckingham having celebrated his 66th birthday last year, Getintothis’s Martin Waters trawls through the Fleetwood Mac guitarist’s solo catalogue to pick his top 10 tracks.
While Mick Fleetwood may be the heart and soul of Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham was the one who took them by the scruff of the creative neck to lead them to some of their greatest hits. Whether it’s yelling at Stevie Nicks to “do one” on Rumours or providing intricate guitar solos on some of Christine McVie’s finest work, it’s no coincidence that the Mac’s fortunes took a turn for the better once the Palo Alto native (and his then girlfriend Nicks) joined the group. Buckingham has perhaps not been given enough credit as the one behind the refashioning of the Mac sound with Nicks being the main focus of attention, but that cool west coast sound that resulted in 40 million album sales for Rumours alone belongs firmly to Buckingham.
As sometime producer, engineer, lead and backing vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Buckingham was often literally a one-man-band shouldering the major load of duties with the other members of Mac popping in later on between drug fuelled hazes. Tango in the Night is a prime example and combined with the pressure of his relationship with Nicks was, understandably, the final straw that saw him walk away.
It is also telling that when he left in 1987 the group seriously lost their way only to re-emerge re-energised and refocused on his, what he admitted, was an unintentional return. Buckingham has always said that he wasn’t a particularly happy or willing member of the Mac, certainly not during his first stint, but his return saw a far more relaxed character. He puts this down, in part, to his 1992 solo album Out of the Cradle where he finally expelled the demons over his and Nicks‘ breakup, something he felt that he couldn’t do while still a member of the Mac (and to this writer, it remains his best none-Mac work). But perhaps his new found calmness should be credited more to his finally settling down at the age of 51, the birth of his children and possibly the early death of his brother at only 45, rather than simply the burying of his Nicks’ demons.
Despite crafting some of the Mac’s best known and, let’s face it, their best work (whether they be his own songs or the work he did elevating Nicks’ notoriously loose compositions to classic status – see our Fleetwood Mac Top Ten as evidence), he’s never managed to transfer that success over to a solo career. There’s nothing unusual in that, only Nicks has managed to sustain a successful career away from the behemoth that is Fleetwood Mac with even Christine McVie’s efforts struggling to hit the right chord despite her obvious songwriting talents. But despite this, Buckingham has produced some standout solo songs that are worthy of a look; a number of tracks would have graced any Mac album and would have seriously improved some of their post-Buckingham output.
While working through Buckingham’s six studio solo albums to compile this list, it’s hard not to wonder how they would have fared had they been produced by the band as a whole and it is perhaps telling that a number of songs on our list are essentially ‘stripped down Mac’ with notable contributions from Fleetwood and John McVie serving to elevate those songs to the next level. The problem possibly stems from Buckingham’s trademark playing style. As a self-taught player who learnt guitar at the age of 6, and like his musical idols the Kingston Trio, he opts for traditional finger-picking over regular guitar picking and very rarely uses a guitar pick resulting in a style that is instantly recognisable as Fleetwood Mac, as is the tone of the favoured Rick Turner Model One he generally uses.
If you are going to work through Buckingham’s back catalogue, while Law and Order and Go Insane are worth a look, Out of the Cradle is the best place to start. It is here that he hits his stride and produces well-rounded songs rather than the often seemingly half-finished tracks on the first two albums. It is almost as if they were just a testing ground for his more outlandish ideas, riffs and guitar solos that he couldn’t incorporate into Fleetwood Mac. It is only once he’d finally broken free of the band that he seemingly had the time and patience to up his game, and a lot of it deserves to have been more successful.
For fans of Buckingham, the good news is that he appears to be getting better with age and, if the rumours are anything to go by, he’ll have a lot more time to concentrate on his solo work at the end of the Mac’s current, and, a possible headliner at Glastonbury aside, apparently last, tour.
So in wishing Mr Buckingham a belated happy birthday we present the Getintothis’ Lindsey Buckingham Solo Top 10.
Check out some more of our Top 10s here
10. Countdown from Out of the Cradle (1992)
An appropriately titled opener for our own countdown, and an incredible opening lick pulls you into what to our mind is a perfect introduction to the Buckingham style. It finishes off with one of his trademark guitar solos that simply makes you marvel at the guy’s technique.
9. Slow Dancing from Go Insane (1984)
The problem with a lot of Buckingham’s solo output is amply demonstrated in this 1984 release. A perfectly paced piece of 80s pop that is almost indistinguishable from anything the Mac put together during the Rumours/Mirage era Considered one of the more accessible tracks on the Go Insane release it’s slight and a bit dated but nevertheless a catchy and enjoyable tune.
8. It Was You from Under the Skin (2006)
Buckingham admitted that the shadow of Nicks hung over, and probably ruined, previous relationships, but here we have a love song not only to his wife but also his children who are name-checked in each verse, perhaps underlining that he’d finally moved on. As love songs go this is a beautifully crafted uplifting number from what is essentially an acoustic album that finally moved him away from the Mac sound.
7. In Our Own Time from Seeds We Sow (2011)
The album was recorded at Buckingham’s house and it has both the feel and sound of a demo at times which only serves to add to the interest. The criss-crossing melodies make this a standout track and underlines Buckingham’s masterful production.
6. Show You How from Under the Skin (2006)
A metronomic beat and a multi-layered vocal track form the basis of a catchy little number that gives the perfect feeling of speed and a sense that Buckingham is picking up pace in life rather than slowing down, despite his advancing age.
5. Stars are Crazy from Seeds We Sow (2011)
Multilayered acoustic guitars combined with perfect harmonies underline the regret of a past romance as Buckingham sings about waking in the middle of the night with you in my heart. Pretty much a perfect anthem to lost love.
4. Don’t Look Down from Out of the Cradle (1992)
Don’t Look Down would have fitted perfectly on Tango in the Night, as Buckingham’s army of 7 guitarists (who he personally taught to play each chord exactly how he intended it for the two and half hour live show) give the track an almost Mexican mariachi feel. While lyrically it’s pretty sparse, one of the issues with some of his earlier work which lends a demo feel to some songs, the guitars are the real heroes of the piece. Excellent and a lot of fun when performed live.
3. This is the Time from Out of the Cradle (1992)
This is a track that shows off Buckingham’s entire guitaring repertoire. A mellow slow start makes way for a huge throbbing beat and those familiar guitar solos. Veering from one extreme to the other it’s a perfect example of Buckingham’s wish to push things to the limit. There’s little middle ground here, you’ll either love it or hate it.
2. Gift of Screws from Gift of Screws (2008)
Would sit happily along the craziness/genius that is his contribution to Tusk and is up there with Not that Funny and The Ledge. Originally slated for the Mac Say You Will comeback it strangely didn’t make the cut and appears on the album with both Fleetwood and McVie in their familiar roles offering perfect support.
1. Trouble from Law and Order (1981)
As with his masterful Big Love, Buckingham performs a show-stealing live acoustic version of Trouble, but it’s the original studio version with the four seconds of Fleetwood’s looped drumming that takes our number one spot. Continuing his inability to break free from the Mac, the video contains not only Mick Fleetwood but also former Mac guitarists Bob Welch and Bob Weston.
An honourable mention goes to Holiday Road from National Lampoon’s Vacation Soundtrack (1983). Not appearing on any of his solo albums but worthy of inclusion as the one solo production that most people will probably have heard, due to its inclusion in the ‘classic’ National Lampoon’s Vacation film and its use in a series of holiday based adverts. His most famous and most popular solo release.