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Guitar Magazine, October 1997

Back in Mac

Lindsey Buckingham returns to Fleetwood Mac's fold for a reunion tour and new album

By Mike Mettler

To borrow a lyric from our subject's song "Go Insane," there are two kinds of Lindsey Buckinghams in this world. One is the radio-savvy song doctor who prescribes the creative glue that holds Fleetwood Mac together. The other is the seminal studio whiz whose deft solo work (see 1992's impeccable Out Of The Cradle) invites comparisons to musical geniuses like the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Oh sure, the two Buckinghams occasionally coexist in blissful harmony, as they did while producing 1979's Tusk (an album drummer Mick Fleetwood calls "Fleetwood Mac's Pet Sounds"). But as every Mac fan knows, Buckingham has frequently been torn between duty to the band and desire to heed his own drummer.

Even now, as Fleetwood Mac gears up to tour behind The Dance - a live album of old and new material that reunites Buckingham with singer Stevie Nicks, keyboardist/singer Christine McVie, bassist John McVie, and Fleetwood - the guitarist is "trying to find the time and energy" to finish his next solo album, an effort tentatively dubbed Gift Of Screws (the title comes courtesy of poet Emily Dickinson). He's also perpetually reminded of his personal dichotomy: Recently, Buckingham was conducting an interview while a nearby guest was watching raw footage of Mac's MTV reunion special. Apparently unfamiliar with Buckingham's patently frantic onstage antics, the guest exclaimed, "Damn, Lindsey's really going crazy!" To witch the interviewer hastily replied, "Well, Lindsey's always been a little crazy!" Buckingham saw no need for contradiction.

When it comes to guitars, Buckingham has always tried to tailor his sound to the task at hand. He plucked Strats and Teles before switching over to Les Pauls when he joined Fleetwood Mac in late 1974. "The Fenders just didn't fit into the existing sound of the group," he explains. Since the late '70s, however, Buckingham's main guitars have been Turners, axes hand-built by Rick Turner, who once worked at Alembic and now runs Rick Turner Guitars. Observes Lindsey: "They're like Les Pauls with parametric equalizers."

Stylistically, Buckingham employs a unique three-finger picking technique that can be heard to great effect during the intro to Out Of The Cradle's "This Is The Time" and throughout "Never Going Back Again," a song from the band's 1977 album Rumours, one of the best-selling records of all time and a chronicle of the group's relationship woes. While he cites influences like Andres Segovia, Scotty Moore, and Merle Travis, those familiar with the 47-year-old Buckingham's style know full well the slabs of otherworldly chops to be found within the mighty Mac oeuvre. Besides his supportive rhythm work on radio staples like "Dreams" and "You Make Loving Fun'" there are also the ferocious leads that transform tracks like "Not That Funny" and "I'm So Afraid" into manic onstage barnburners.

The past decade has seen Buckingham leave Fleetwood Mac somewhat acrimoniously in '87 ("It got ugly," he explains. "There was no way to approach creativity seriously anymore."), take a nine-piece band on the road to support Cradle in '93, and then retreat back into the studio to begin twisting knobs for Screws. Give or take a few high-profile Mac moments (a brief hop on stage with the band at the end of its 1990 world tour and a one-shot reading of "Don't Stop" during January 1993's inauguration ceremonies for Bill Clinton), Buckingham felt quite comfortable riding the solo shotgun. "I certainly never thought I'd be back in Fleetwood Mac again," he readily admits. "But, here we are, and, well, it feels pretty good."

Mick Fleetwood and Buckingham renewed their storied collaboration on Screws sessions held at Lindsey's home studio in Southern California. "Lindsey's a brilliant chap," Fleetwood marvels. "Through all the years of Fleetwood Mac, I'd never spent this much time with him just as a person, and we just emotionally bonded. We don't always see eye-to-eye on things, of course, but we do have a formula." Buckingham concedes, that he and Fleetwood "have always had what I call 'the driving underpinnings' - just this crazy rock-and-roll connection."
Soon after, John McVie was recruited to play bass, Christine McVie came in to provide vocals and keyboards, and then it was déjà vu all over again: The last time the scattered members of Mac had reconvened like this was for a 1986 Christine McVie solo session that directly resulted in Tango.

Discussing this current reassembly, Buckingham grins. "The four of us were in the control room all at the same time, and we thought, 'Jesus, this feels good.'"

Stevie Nicks hopped aboard soon thereafter, making it only a matter of time before Fleetwood Mac found itself on a Warner soundstage in Burbank, California, this past May - playing 22 songs that would be trimmed down for the obligatory MTV special and The Dance (the title, Buckingham notes, comes from the Matisse painting). Along with performances of the band's hits, the album features new songs that include Nicks' "Sweet Girl," McVie's "Temporary One," and Buckingham's "My Little Demon" and "Bleed to Love Her." "That title conjures up some visuals," he smirks.

In addition to his trusty Turners, Buckingham leaned heavily on his solid-body '92 Gibson Chet Atkins, notably during The Dance's back-to-back readings of "Go Insane" and "Big Love." "Landslide" sees the debut of a new, "delicate-sounding" Taylor acoustic, and "Say You Love Me" gets its own special revamping: "There I'm playing a longneck 5-string banjo, getting a little bluegrassy on the intro, and then I slip right into the folkiness of the song."

For amps, Buckingham switched from the older Mesa/Boogies he'd used on his solo tour to Dual Rectifiers. "The Mac sound is a bit bigger and I needed something beefier," he explains. "And I'm still not using a major amount of pedals, just a Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive and a Boss DD-5 Digital Delay."

Buckingham is still impressed with that ol' Mac magic. "There aren't a lot of bands that have the level of musicianship combined with the material and the theatricality of the individuals that we do. It's very cool. We've all been able to step back and sort through all of the baggage. All of that Rumours stuff isn't so bittersweet anymore. It's just kind of sweet."

Once The Dance has run its course and Fleetwood Mac completes its 40-date fall arena jaunt (it's being touted as the "20th Anniversary Rumours Tour"), Buckingham plans to finish Screws, for which he says he's reinvented his approach to songwriting, "One of the things I've been wanting to do for a while was to make one guitar - two guitars at the most - do the work of a whole track. I was also looking for a way to get the kind of energy that, say, a drum track has. So I ended up creating a tremolo-like foundation from the source tracks and got them to be very exact in their timing, which is something you really can't do if you play through an amp's tremolo setting. It creates what I call a 'negative space' as opposed to the positive space of a snare and a kick drum. There's one track called 'Red Rover' that this all applies to, but, of course, I'm still working on it."

Even with this plan of attack, Buckingham is well aware of the ever-seductive calling "to Mac, or not to Mac." "Hopefully you make the right choices," he muses. "It always feels good going through stuff you haven't heard for a while. It always sounds good initially - that is, before you start tearing it apart."

Thanks to Ocean for posting this to The Ledge and to Anusha for sending it to us.