The San Jose Mercury News, Sunday, March 14, 1993


by Bob Frost

This article is the property of Bob Frost and is used here with his permission.

The Atherton-born guitarist was musical leader for Fleetwood Mac in the 1970s and '80s. Buckingham, 43, is today a solo artist living in Los Angeles.

Q. Growing up in the 1950s, did you dream of becoming a big rock 'n' roll star?

A. I don't know if I thought of it in those terms exactly, but Elvis definitely sparked my interest in playing guitar in 1956, when I was 6 years old, when popular music made the turn from Patti Page to rock 'n' roll. I was lucky enough to have an older brother, Jeff, who bought a lot of records. "Heartbreak Hotel" made a big splash; that provided such a model for youngsters, and I'm sure a lot of kids went out and bought guitars. It's odd, though -- I can remember being 4 years old and drawing guitars. I had that fascination from a very young age.

Q. You met Stevie Nicks in high school, before you both joined Fleetwood Mac?

A. Yes, at Menlo-Atherton High School; she was a senior, and I was a junior. When I got out of high school I joined a band called Fritz and she re- emerged on the scene and joined us; later on, she and I were a duo, and then we joined Fleetwood Mac in the mid-'70s. Fritz, as local bands go, did pretty well; we opened shows at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds and the Fillmore in San Francisco and places like that.

Q. How did you feel about reuniting with your ex-Fleetwood Mac band mates to play "Don't Stop" at Bill Clinton's inaugural?

A. It was fun. The sound system wasn't set up for rock 'n' roll really, but it was a memorable moment.

Q. Was "Tusk" in 1979 your personal peak with Fleetwood Mac?

A. In many ways it was. The creative process that was introduced to me during that album, and the way I was thinking about work, were things I still hold in high esteem -- that is, not to do the work just for money, not to adhere to the old adage "If it works, run it into the ground." There was a lot of pressure after "Rumours" to do just that, to repeat that formula. After it became clear that "Tusk" wasn't going to sell another 16 million copies, there was suddenly a backlash from within the group that said, "Well, Lindsey, we're not going to do that anymore, are we?" At that point, around 1980, I think a certain amount of wind was taken out of my sails, and for a few years I wasn't quite sure why I was still working with the group. I was in a doldrums on a work level.

Q. Could you describe the role of each member of Fleetwood Mac in its 1975-1987 embodiment? Let's start with drummer Mick Fleetwood.

A. Mick went through so many incarnations with the group; he must have had an extreme amount of faith in his own ability, and in destiny, just to see the band through to the point where it became so successful. So he was going to be the spiritual father of the group no matter who was calling the shots musically. Even if I was saying "This is what we're going to do today in the studio," it was filtered through Mick's sensibilities. I always had a great amount of respect for that. John McVie was a lot more enigmatic; I never really got to know him. I don't think he ever tried to do anything but be the bass player; he played so well with Mick -- they are a great rhythm section. Christine McVie was the Earth: feet on the ground. Always pretty much on an even keel. Her songs are never flights of fancy; they have a certain sense of being meat-and-potatoes, which I think was great. Stevie Nicks -- if Christine was the Earth, I guess Stevie was the sky. Out there somewhere. Stevie's chiffon twirling image was a very strong thing for the group. The sense of the ethereal that she brought to her songs. And her voice. She brought quite a bit into the situation, obviously. She and I together brought a lot. Probably my main contribution was to take raw material and fashion it into a sound in the studio. There were other things too, certainly. But overall, I don't feel that I was tapping into my potential fully then.

Q. You've gone back to pre-rhythm-and-blues days, to the Tin Pan Alley era, for some of your ideas on your most recent solo album, "Out of the Cradle."

A. There's a whole reservoir of high quality sensibilities out there that's untapped by rock. When you're talking about Tin Pan Alley, George Gershwin, any of those writers, or the people who interpret them, Frank Sinatra or whomever, you're talking about a real high standard. Harry Connick Jr. is kind of addressing those sensibilities on a revival level, not really changing them at all; I'm trying to do something new and weird with them.

Q. Is it strange to be in front of live audiences these days, after all those years holed up in your studio making "Out of the Cradle"?

A. Well, I'm really excited about it. It's the first time I've had a chance to put together a band on my own terms. In the making of the record I was able for the first time to get close to what I thought I could do, and now with this group I can take that sound out on the road and not have to paraphrase it down to a couple of instruments. We have four other guitarists besides myself in the group, and three percussionists. It's a group of pretty much unknowns, who are all very hungry, and we've created a real family atmosphere.

Thanks to Les for posting this to the Ledge and to Anusha for formatting and sending it to us.