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Empire State

Lyrics Real Audio

Written by Lindsey Buckingham.

Contributors to this interpretation included: Anusha, Calamity, Joanne, Lauren, and Les.

"Start spreadiní the news, Iím leaviní todayÖ"

Another blue eyed crooner began his homage to New York with this line, but perhaps it is the underlying meaning of Lindsey Buckinghamís tribute to New York, "Empire State." Sandwiched between the signature lovelorn Christine McVie song and Stevie Nicksí insights into dreams and lost love on Mirage, Empire State is another sign of the musical parting of the ways between Buckingham and the two female writers in Fleetwood Mac, a split which began with the sprawling Tusk album.

Before he left Fleetwood Mac in 1987, Lindsey Buckingham began to drift away from the sunny melodies that made Rumours a smash success and emblematic of the California lifestyle. Empire State is a lyrical as well as a musical attempt to distance himself from the California sound and ethic which created his greatest success and which tore his life apart. As Fleetwood Mac began to represent California, Lindsey, as a native Californian, began to reach out from his background and the scene of his greatest success to the punk and new wave music which started in England, and which, by the late 70s, had already begun to take New York by storm.

New York, open your eyes to me
Let me be what I want to be
Tell me, tell me itís not too late

As he tries to break away from the California mold and embrace the new sounds from New York, Lindsey wants to be accepted by the New York audiences. Perhaps this song was written or inspired by his trip to New York for his first solo appearance on Saturday Night Live, where he performed songs from Law and Order, his first solo album. Though he has already established himself as a symbol and a superstar of California, Lindsey wants to establish a new identity, musically, and perhaps personally, in New York, an identity which is free of the musical restrictions of Fleetwood Mac and the emotional trauma which is inherent in the group. If he can break free, he can be "what he wants to be" a goal which was stymied by the backlash after Tusk, his last attempt at independence, which created tension within the group.

Big Apple, takiní a bite of me
Whole world moviní below my feet
Not like, not like we do in L.A.

On his first attempt to break away from Fleetwood Mac, 1981ís Law and Order, Lindsey wrote a song called, "Thatís How We Do It In L.A." where he says that L.A. is a lonely place, but itís the "only place." After the lukewarm reception to the punk and New York inspired Tusk, Lindsey clearly felt trapped in the "machine" of Fleetwood Mac and the California songs which the public, and his bandmates, wanted and expected to dominate the Mac albums, and the charts. In "Empire State," Lindsey asks to be taken in by New York, where the world again seems exciting and vibrant, unlike the complicated and deadened, perhaps by drugs or success, world of L.A.

New York, make me a part of you
Straight, straight through the heart of you
Tell me, tell me itís not too late

Again, Lindsey wants to join the musical revolution in New York and to create a separate identity for himself, where he can express himself musically as he desires, rather than facing the musical and personal pressures from the members of Fleetwood Mac and the world of record company executives and managers, drugs, and hangers-on which increasingly dominate his life as a California superstar.

Flying high on the empire state
Flying high on the empire state

The chorus appears in a dreamlike, almost drugged out tone, simply floating over the background. Instead of the drugs which are making his bandmates, his girlfriend at the time, and many of the people around him high, Lindsey wants to get that high from the energy of New York and the musical environment there.

New York, watch me burn ya down
Straight, straight through the heart of town
Tell me, tell me Iím not too late

As he gains resolve, Lindsey anticipates taking the city by storm, or, in his words, burning it down. He still hopes that itís not too late for him to take charge of his musical direction, and to become successful on his own, as his own person, on his own terms.

"If I can make it thereÖI can make it anywhereÖ"

As the verses repeat and the song fades out with a throwback guitar solo, the next song on the album begins, with Stevieís signature lyrics about dreams, old dreams that have never ended. Lindsey too sings of his dreams in Empire State, a realized dream of musical success and the deferred dream of loyalty to his craft, which he hopes to regain. Yet, he knows that the vast success he has achieved as Fleetwood Mac make an independent career almost like starting over again, and like the blue eyed crooner he admires, he hopes that if he can make it in New York, then he can make it anywhere. It took another 10 years for him to find the independence he so ardently hoped for in this song, and through that independence, he was able to understand and appreciate, and even cherish the California roots he tried so long to shed.

Transcribed to HTML by Marty Adelson.

Copyright © 1995-2002, Martin and Lisa Adelson
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