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Without A Leg To Stand On


Written by Lindsey Buckingham.

Contributors to this interpretation included: Lauren Leichter, Les, Janet, Phil, Juliana, Barbara II, Ryan, and Joanne.

In the music industry, 1973 was a time when the rawness of folk music created a much needed balance between the hate and violence of the Vietnam war and the innocence that stemmed from the late 50s and early 60s. It was the year when such songwriters as James Taylor, the Mamas and the Papas, Carly Simon, Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary were making their mark on America. Emerging from this era was the musical and romantic duo of Buckingham and Nicks - Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. Their album Buckingham Nicks, was their first and only album together as a duo before they joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975.

Musically and vocally, the theme behind Buckingham Nicks portrays a fresh and innocent quality and displays feelings that preceded their fame and their untimely breakup. The lyrics, however, create quite a different picture. A picture of unrest between two people whose musical and romantic relationships, both together and apart, were not always harmonious.

"Without a Leg to Stand On," written by Lindsey Buckingham in his early 20s, is a song that comments on Lindsey's musical ambitions and his choice for personal freedom. It can be related to much of the imagery in some of Lindsey's later songs, both with Fleetwood Mac and in his solo efforts, and compares the sentiments and perspective of the younger man to that of the older man.

It also touches on his personal relationships, most likely with his family and with Stevie Nicks. It encompasses the discussion about the demoralizing affect of being a musician and constantly facing rejection, while testing his endurance, commitment, passion, self- esteem, and even sanity in his life and with the people he loves.

While Lindsey often masks the sorrow and pain behind a lot of his lyrics with upbeat music, "Without a Leg to Stand On" goes against the grain. The guitar picking is dispassionate unlike songs like "Frozen Love." It does not display the delicacy and beauty felt in songs like "Stephanie" and "Django." What you hear is what he feels, a strong sense of resignation.

"I got nothin' but time
No time for living
I've been everywhere
It's all the same
I just need somebody
That I can lean on
Nobody wants to keep you
When you're in love with the game"

Lyrically and vocally, this verse displays the apathy and boredom that Lindsey was probably feeling when he wrote this song. Lindsey's personal freedom and his love for music have always been his core. He has also realized that with that comes sacrifices.

Lindsey may be at a point in his life where he is unsure about his future and is feeling complacent. "No time for living" - is this related to being afraid to live or being too busy to stop and take care of the small things? He is possibly inferring that he may feel he could lose his relationship with Stevie.

"Nobody wants to keep you when you are in love with the game." Here we see a common theme that runs through many of Lindsey's songs as well as Stevie's. Their love and their music is about winning and losing. In a game, someone has to win and someone has to lose. Whatever the game may be, Lindsey most likely wants to rise above and win and succeed at both. But he realizes there is a cost at this price and he may end up alone.

"But you know that I can't let go
And there ain't nothin' left to show
Got the feeling I can't say no
Without a leg to stand on."

Although Lindsey has nothing to substantially back him up at this point, his desire and belief in himself signify his drive to move ahead. Pulling at him is the significance behind the statement "without a leg to stand on." It signifies Lindsey's drive and ambition towards his musical dreams and what obstacles may get in the way of these dreams.

"There's so many fine people
That I believe in
They don't care where I'm going
It's not their show
I got nothin' but time
No time for living
I used to be somebody
But that was so long ago."

We see here yet again Lindsey's frustrations with himself and his personal freedom away from his family and friends and the solidity that surrounded that life, and into his musical career. It is a common theme that Lindsey has expressed at different points in his life and career through his music. He restates the fact about "I've got nothing but time, no time for living." These lyrics are considerably deep for a man in his early 20s. We have seen the same feelings of despair in his guitar showpiece "I'm So Afraid" - "slip and I fall and I die". There is a strong sense of rejection playing out here, which in turn leads to confusion and feelings of reduced self-worth - "I used to be somebody, but that was long ago."

Lindsey is feeling the affects of his past and he can't move forward as long as these feelings remain. How much faith can he put into the music business when he has nothing to really back him up? He had gained success in many things in his life at this point and he feels he can't fail at this, but he doesn't have enough experience yet to feel complete. He may feel he's one step away from disaster, and there's nothing to catch him if he falls.

"Look around but you won't see me
Just a picture of what I used to be
There ain't nothin' to set me free without a
leg to stand on."

Lindsey realizes he is not the former image of himself. However, that is all he has at this point. Here again, we see that Lindsey's insecurities stem from the chains that bind his freedom - freedom of making his way in the musical industry. He feels he's merely the outer shell of the person he once was.

We see these same feelings in his later work. From the song "I Know I'm Not Wrong," (Tusk, 1979) "The dream of a lifetime, a year gone bad. The dreams of a lifetime, told me wrong, everything is all right, but now it's gone." From "Shadow of the West," (Law and Order, 1981) "Once upon a time I was strong and proud, I'm a shadow of the west," and from "Can't Go Back," (Mirage, 1982) "Standin' in the shadows, the man I used to be, I wanna go back."

The imagery continues to be seen in this last verse and chorus and creates a liaison between "Without a Leg to Stand On" and Lindsey's "Street of Dreams" (Out Of The Cradle, 1992). Both are comments upon the unforgiving and heartbreaking process of trying to figure out how to pursue his music while surrounded by a sense of confusion.

"Without a Leg to Stand On" is written from the perspective of one just beginning to experience these feelings and it has a whimsical feeling to it. "Street of Dreams" is written from the perspective of a much older man who has now experienced quite a lot of heartbreak that has almost broken his spirit, and it has a terribly desperate feeling to it. "Without a Leg to Stand On" is written with a general audience in mind, while "Street of Dreams" delves into Lindsey's dreams surrounding his feelings for his father, who had passed away years before. Both songs comment upon the same difficulties facing a passionate artist trying to pursue their ideas in a seemingly uncaring world. And both songs, also express the artist's inability to let go of the passion (music), despite the heartache:

"Without A Leg to Stand On" - "There ain't nothin' to set me free."

"Street of Dreams" - "Will I ever stop dreamin' dreams, he said never, never, never."

"But you know that I can't let go
And there ain't nothin' left to show
Got the feelin' I can't say no
Without a leg to stand on."

Lindsey realizes he can't go forward without a leg to stand on. He cannot continue to make music without support. He also realizes that although his love for music is his essence, he does not want to loose his relationship with Stevie and with others around him that are important. In the end, Lindsey sounds a bit more upbeat and sure of what he wants and determined, although still vulnerable. Fortunately, "Buckingham Nicks" became Lindsey's "leg to stand on." The rest, as we know it, is history.

Transcribed to HTML by Marty Adelson.

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