The Penguin Lyric Interpretations


Return To
The Penguin

Big Love

Lyrics Guitar Tabs MIDI Real Audio

Written by Lindsey Buckingham.

Contributors to this interpretation included: Erik M. Grebner, Jamie, Ali, Dana, Lauren, Hayley, Miss Scarlett, and Jessica.

It is perhaps the most archaic of all cliches to say that "Less is More," yet that principle could very well apply to Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. This is not in regards to his music, but to his lyrics.

Buckingham is not the member of the group best known for lyric mastery, admitting to writing the music first, contradictory to the lyric-writing practices of Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie. He often weaves simple, sometimes quirky poetry into his songs. Within this simplicity, however, lies a hidden complexity of thought and power, of emotion and passion, of love and heartache, and no better example of this delicate intricacy exists than in his U.S. Top Ten hit, "Big Love," from the album Tango in the Night. The lyrics to "Big Love" could get lost somewhere in the liner notes; a haiku, on occasion, has shown greater length. Yet, the emotional intensity within such few words clutches one's heart almost with the force as Stevie Nicks' "Sara."

Since the end of his six-year relationship with Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham has been unfortunate in the area of true love. Drugs, accusations, lies, and harsh breakups have plagued his relationships, some of which have lasted longer than with Stevie. "Big Love" was following his romantic involvement with Carol Ann Harris, at a time when Lindsey was at an emotional crossroads. This period was also in the aftermath of his "lay-the-cards-on-the-table" vent of emotion expressed during the album Go Insane. Now, plagued by his lack of luck for love, Lindsey is withdrawn, saddened, maybe even frightened.

Looking out for love
In the night so still
Oh I'll build you a kingdom
In that house on a hill

Lindsey is pondering the meaning of love. He knows he is looking for it, but he is unsure where to look. Looking at those around him gave him the cathartic relationship with Stevie. Waiting for love to come before him led him to Carol. He looks into the black night and notices that it is quiet, dark, forbidding, cold. No heart beats in this still night; no heart beats for him. Where is his love, he wonders. Where is his love, the one that will bring him true happiness in his life? Where is his love, the one he is willing to give it all up for and love unconditionally? Where is his love?

Realizing that the darkness brings no comfort, he becomes desperate. He looks around what life has brought him-belonging, his expensive striped suit, his Rick Turner guitars, his studio, his rain room. He sees a kingdom with a king but no queen. His castle is in shambles without love to make it livable again. He vows to build the woman he finds a life of luxury. Within this luxury, he will build a new kingdom, one built of love not riches, at his house on the hill.

You said that you loved me
And that you always will
Oh you begged me to keep you
In that house on the hill

But why, he wonders, why haven't I found that love? What more can I do? He searches his life for an example, a woman he fawned over and treated like a queen, one he allowed to join his kingdom. He finds Carol Ann in the shadows of his mind, her voice and exaltations of love reverberating. These declarations of love continue as he sees their relationship before his eyes, up until their breakup.

Lindsey remembers Carol before he kicked her out, how she cried and screamed the same love for him, begging him to let her stay there with him in their kingdom. But he couldn't. He couldn't let her stay. He didn't love her; she wasn't the one. He may have loved her once, but it was not the love he seeks. Lindsey could not let her stay and let their problems and his apathy continue. She had to leave.

I wake up alone with it all
I wake up but only to fall

To Lindsey, their relationship was not the kingdom he wanted to build. Instead, it was a house, a house on a hill, sprinkled with marijuana, cocaine, and priceless but worthless baubles. What kingdom could this have been?

So, he wakes up every morning alone, surrounded by nothing but his suits and his furniture. He has everything and nothing at the same time. He tries to avoid this feeling of emptiness within him, burying himself in the music he so loves and cherishes, furiously working on his solo album (which would eventually become Tango in the Night).

The exact opposite happens to Lindsey. He is exposed to reality through the straightforwardness he expresses through his music. If he is sad, then his music is sad, and he reminds himself of anguish. By ignoring the situation and working on other things, he only submerges himself further.

Looking out for love
Big, big love

The thrice-repeated chorus serves as his thesis to his love life. He is looking, always looking, never rejoicing. He admires the greener grass, the husband and wife who sit at home with their children watching television and laughing, together. How, he wonders, can I fit that into my life?

The question can now be raised as to what is the big love for Lindsey? The fact that Stevie Nicks uses the odd phrase "big love" during an interview with Playboy provides an interesting parallel, one where Big Love is spending his life with Stevie. True, life with Stevie was a great love, and he remembers it with fondness and want, but was it really the big love?

Lindsey's Big Love possesses the one thing that Stevie could not give him-the ability to love one more than his music. Music is the first love of Lindsey's life. Stevie gave that love a contender; his love for her may have even equaled that of his music. Still, she could not win the fight. Lindsey tried to ignore that fact, hoping the two would coexist; Stevie knew otherwise, and she left him.

For this reason, Lindsey goes on searching for someone to compete, someone who can ask Lindsey to put down his guitar forever and he would follow. He knows that this Big Love would never ask that, though, but he would know in his heart that he'd sacrifice it all for her.

With most Fleetwood Mac songs, the performance of the song has little or no bearing on the meaning of the lyrics, for the song is performed similarly each time. "Big Love" breaks that mold, as Lindsey Buckingham's performance of this song has changed within the last ten years. Two versions, separated in all ways except the lyrics and the choral structure, exist, the original appearing on Tango in the Night in 1987 and the other on The Dance in 1997.

The original "Big Love" places the lyrics against a harmonically graceful background accentuated by a dance beat. The multi-layered blending of horns, fingerpicking, VSO-ed voices, and guitar riffs give the song a very ambient feel, almost as if Lindsey were citing the song as a melancholic sigh. Lindsey's reading is laid back until the last verse, when the pain comes out.

The entire song leaves the impression of nostalgic emotion, as if Lindsey were recalling this time he had been through, not experiencing it firsthand. The song was released during the beginning of his relationship with Cheri Casperi. Perhaps Lindsey had found a love he hoped would be the Big Love.

Ooh . . . aah!
Ooh . . . aah!
Ooh . . . aah!
Ooh . . . aah!

Here, in the Tango version, the Ooh's and the Aah's appear between the second and third verses and at the end of the song. Lindsey is voicing the ooh, while a female voice (actually Lindsey's voice VSO-ed) voices the aah. Within the soft setting of the original, their connotation is more sexual, a remembrance for Lindsey of the Big Love he once shared. Sex in a loving relationship is an expression of the ultimate wants and desires of the parties; therefore, it should not be illogical that the sex in a relationship can provide the most memorable moments.

The Ooh's and the Aah's remain at one level during the Tango version of the song. At the end of the song, the music builds around them steadily, first the drums, then a lead guitar ascending in volume and intensity. The guitar could represent Lindsey's building frustration as he remembers the times once shared. The passion builds until the end, where the guitar cuts everything off in glissando. Lindsey, tired of this nostalgic torture, cuts off his memories and goes back to whatever he was doing before.

In The Dance version, however, the setting is completely changed. The complex harmonic background is dropped in favor of a fingerpicked acoustic guitar. The simplicity of this arrangement brings Lindsey's vocals to the focus. He is now emotionally exposing himself for all to see.

Adding to this emotion is the fact that Lindsey no longer was with Cheri Casperi, or anyone, for that matter. "Big Love" is no longer a nostalgic rendition of a search; it is now a blaring reality. For this reason, the lyrical reading is more intense, rawer, harsher.

Ooh . . . aah!
Ooh . . . aah!
OOH . . . Aah!
OOH . . . AAH!
OOH . . . AAH!!!!
OOH . . . AAH!!!!
OOH!!! AAH!!!
OOH!!! AAH!!!

Though the acoustic guitar (now sixteenth-note chords) is increasing in volume, Lindsey's voice is a remarkable change. He sounds both voices now (the second one not altered), growing in intensity and furor. Put in the sexual sense, Lindsey could be interpreted as approaching an orgasm of sorts.

However, within the emotionally exposed atmosphere, this crescendo takes on a deeper meaning. As sex can serve as an outlet of exposing ultimate wants and desires, it can also be an exertion of rage or frustration. As Lindsey's relationship with Cheri was drawing near an end, he came to the realization that she was far from being his Big Love. Still, like Stevie and Carol, he chose to ignore that fact for a while and continuing acting as if he was in a loving relationship. His desires and his true wants clash, and as he draws nearer and nearer to his peak, his insanity builds. Should he go on with the charade? Should he abandon and keep looking out for love? Finally, the rage explodes into . . .


Unlike the Tango version, where the guitar brings the focus down, Lindsey's screams and guitar cease into utter silence (except for the applause he receives). As a recollection, the Tango version can have an ending, a place where Lindsey's thoughts turn back to the present. As a reality, there is not yet an end for Lindsey. The give-and-take, the rage, the frustration, the desire still remains with him to this day.

His big, big love is still but an unfulfilled dream.

Transcribed to HTML by Marty Adelson.

Copyright 1995-2001, Martin and Lisa Adelson
All Rights Reserved.