Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham showcases bold solo work at Golden State.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Lindsey Buckingham says it was a demand from his bandmates in Fleetwood Mac that inspired him to start putting out solo records consisting of his more musically adventurous work.
Buckingham, the band’s guitarist, songwriter and producer, had scored a huge hit with 1977’s Rumours—still one of the best-selling albums of all time. He decided to follow that triumph with Tusk, an ambitious and eccentric double album, which didn’t generate the same brisk sales as its predecessor. Buckingham was told by his bandmates that they wanted their next release to be a more conventional record.
“It’s hard to backtrack,” he said in an interview Monday from his home in Los Angeles. “Once you go down a road, you can’t just suddenly say: ‘Now, we are going to be what we were in 1976.’ That was when I started making solo records. I probably wouldn’t have done that otherwise.”
Since 1981’s Law and Order, Buckingham has been releasing critically acclaimed solo albums between his high profile work with Fleetwood Mac. His latest solo outing is Under the Skin, which was just named one of the Top 50 albums of 2006 by Rolling Stone magazine.
Under the Skin begins with the oddly effective “Not Too Late.” The song starts with Buckingham half talking, half singing over a rainstorm of fingerstyle guitar playing. The fully-sung chorus asks whether a middle-aged rocker’s music can still matter to audiences: “What am I doing anyway?/ Telling myself it’s not too late.” Curiously, with its strange structure and impressive plucked acoustic guitar, “Not Too Late” has some striking similarities with freak folk of young artists such as Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom.
Buckingham’s fingerstyle guitar is also featured on covers of Donavon’s “To Try For the Sun,” and an elegant rendering of the obscure Rolling Stones gem “I Am Waiting.” Buckingham says he chose to do the two numbers for one reason. “I think the defining thing was that they became really effective vehicles for that type of playing,” he says. “The fact is that they succeeded as fingerstyle pieces.”
The superb album also includes a handful of beautiful psychedelic pop songs. On “Down on Rodeo,” Buckingham sings over a slab of spacey pop that recalls the best of George Harrison. Meanwhile, “Someone’s Gotta Change Your Mind” goes from being a folk tune with striking lyrical imagery to a full-blown pop number with horns. It recalls the music of the late ’60s when The Beatles and the best of their peers were able to cram an album’s worth of ideas in a five-minute pop song.
In 2007, Buckingham expects to reunite with Fleetwood Mac for another tour and to work on and release another solo effort. He admits that he feels he is in the midst of a new fruitful creative period. “I think I’ve gotten to a different level of what I’m doing,” he says.
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Looking back on Fleetwood Mac’s storied career, Buckingham clearly relishes the band’s more eclectic material. However, he says some of the enourmous buzz following Rumours probably stemmed from interest in the relationship problems plaguing the band members at that time. (Rumours was recorded as Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks called a long-term relationship quits, and bass player John McVie and pianist/singer Christine McVie ended their marriage.)
“The popularity of that album became less about the music than it became about people’s voyeurism into our lives,” Buckingham says. “That was part of the appeal of the whole thing—the musical soap opera that was going on.”
Though Tusk did not sell nearly as many copies as Rumours, its stature has grown in recent years. The fragmented brilliance of the record—check out the feverish title track with a marching band performing in lieu of a guitar solo—has been cited as an influence on an upcoming CD by indie rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and the quirky alternative band Camper Van Beethoven recently released a song-by-song reworking of the entire album. Possibly even more gratifying for Buckingham is that his longtime bandmate and former girlfriend Stevie Nicks calls Tusk her favorite Fleetwood Mac album.
“It is just a case of following your instincts,” Buckingham says. “And having people eventually pick up on it.”
LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM performs at 8pm Tuesday, Jan. 16, at the Golden State Theatre, 417 Alvarado St., Monterey. $39/upper balcony; $50/front balcony and rear orchestra; $65/front orchestra. 372-3800 or glodenstatetheatre.com.