"Richard's not a musician, per se, or really an engineer in the finer sense of the word," he says of the mystery man behind the scenes. "Neither one of us is that technically oriented. I'm just blessed with a fairly decent imagination, I guess, but that probably comes from years of listening to hits. It gives you a sensibility about how something could become that much more accessible, or at least that much more effective. Our philosophy has always been, turn the knobs until it sounds good.
"Stevie and I moved to Los Angeles in, probably 1973, and we met him almost immediately. He was at another studio, and then he moved over to Sound City in Van Nuys, where Stevie and I recorded the Buckinghmn Nicks album, and he second-engineered that album. By that time, the three of us were all sharing a big apartment, and he just continued to work with us. And when we were asked to join the band, I just said, 'Hey Rich, wanna come out on the road and mix sound?'"
Of course, the last two albums by that other band-Mirage and Tango in the Night-were pretty much produced by this same team; in fact, the story goes that Buckingham's last solo effort was scratched in 1987 so that he and Dashutt could go into the studio to "save" Tango in the Night. Which probably explains why it was the first album by that band on which the duo got sole production credit, if not why the album was the final release by that group to reach the top of the charts and produce a slew of hit singles. What makes Out of the Cradle his first real solo release, however, is that in the past, he always felt obliged to give his rockers to that other band. And since the band was obviously as close to mainstream rock as mainstream gets, he driven to immerse himself in the experimental side on those earlier solo releases. After all, that same experimental side failed miserably on relative commercial terms when he incorporated it into the band on 1979's Tusk. As a result, Go Insane was downright weird, including stuff like a bizarre musicial suite dedicated to late Beach drummer Dennis Wilson.
"I knew him pretty well-he even had an affair with my girlfriend," he laughs. But he was a good guy. He was kind of lost, but I thought he had a big heart. I always liked him. He was crazy just like a lot of other people, but he had a really big heart, and he was the closest thing to Brian (Wilson) there was, too. He was halfway there.
"That was a bit of a darker period," he admits. "I think Law and Order was more like a Lindsey Buckingham variety show. But with Go Insane, there were a lot of not-so-great things happening in my personal life and I really felt I had been drifting a little bit creatively. The band was getting crazy, and personal things were kind of crazed, and that was the product of a very stressful time. I remember I was back East, and some girl called me up and said, "Why do you have to write about such down stuff?' Because that's what was happening." With Out of the Cradle, however, Buckingham has had a chance to merge all his diverse pop styles and influences into something that's totally cohesive. "After I left the group situation, I just kind of sat, tinkering around, letting the emotional dust settle, and then I started getting into it. It's time consuming when you're doing everything yourself, but I just felt I wanted to get some of the instincts back and some of the things that I maybe put aside a little bit with the band--things that sort of got left by the wayside, like different guitar styles. I do have this little esoteric niche that helps in terms of how you're perceived, as well as giving you sort of a whole area to tinker around in and maybe grow. But then I also had that mainstream thing to fall back on. I really thought it was important to cover all the ground of what I'm about, and not just keep cultivating the little sidebar there. I mean, I really wanted to get away from too much synth, and really assert the guitar playing a little more, even to the point of being a little flashy. So, I just tried to get it all in there, as much as I could.
"And I did think that if I were to continue as a solo artist and have any sort of longevity, it would probably make sense to approach it this way...but to do it without becoming something you didn't want to become in the process. Which is a really fine line, you know?"
What would be something he didn't want to become? "Just gearing your entire approach to what's going to sell. Besides, God only knows what's going to sell; that's part of the problem these days. I mean, 15 minutes is really becoming 15 minutes. When Bruce can come out with two albums, and they can hit the top immediately, and then go down just as fast. This is why he did Saturday Night Live, right? I mean, that's a scary thought So God knows what my aIbum is going to be perceived as. Also, you don't want to water it down to be more radio friendly. And you still want to make it somewhat challenging--make it your own and make it fresh. So if you can do all that, and still make it accessible, then I guess you're doing alright." STREET OF DREAMS The first thing you may notice about Lindsey Buckingham is how "normal" he seems to be for a rock star. This may be your thought, regardless of whether he's sitting in a Warner Bros. conference room in 1992, following five days of "video hell" with director Julian Temple; or in his own Bel Air home studio--dubbed "The Slope" back in 1987, feeling somewhat miserable and trapped (and perhaps not unlike Michael Jackson at the time of the Victory tour) because that other band needs him to go out on tour. (The band's namesake drummer, in fact, made no secret of the fact that he's broke.) Perhaps the normalcy has to do with his fairly traditional upbringing in a small Northern California town called Atherton, near Palo Alto. Growing up in a middle class family (his father owned a smalI coffee company), Buckingham makes it sound almost like an episode of The Adventures of Ozzy & Harriet, with him in the Ricky Nelson role. "I had a swell childhood--two older brothgs, great parents, and lots of activities and shared quality times," he recalls. "And it was one of the older brothers who was probably responsible for me doing what I'm doing." "Of course, that wasn't an uncommon story in the '50s. I'm sure if you asked Bruce what he listened to growing up, it would be a similar situation. I mean, anyone can see how strong that image of a guy with a guitar was. And all of us, even that age, could hear the. difference between 'How Much Is That Doggie in the Window' and 'Heartbreak Hotel' and see what a jump that was. Yeah, a lot of kids running out and getting guitars in 1957 and '58, I'm sure. And I was one of them. I started very, very young. No lessons, just playing and listening to the records. "By the time Hendrix came along, he didn't have much of an effect on me. I mean, I enjoyed what he was doing, but I cut my teeth on (Elvis's lead guitarist) Scotty Moore, so that by the time Brian Janes ana Keith Richards came along, I wasn't overly impressed by what they were doing as guitarists. I mean, I loved how they made their records. Obviously, I love that stuff, but it wasn't like I was going,'Wow,listen to that guy!' I mean, I could already play. When the psychedelic stuff came along, I wasn't taking drugs...quite yet, he laughs, "so I would go up to the Fillmore and watch all that stuff, but I was so locked into my style as a guitar player that it didn't really influence me much. Plus, right about that time, I switched over to play bass (in the Bay Area band, Fritz). It was actually the first band I was in, and I switched to bass because I didn't have a fuzz unit. In fact, all I actually had up to that point was an acoustic guitar. I had started playing young, but I had always kept it to myself. I mean, I was a swimmer in high school, and our family was very athletic. My mother was never one to say, 'Yeah, you should go into entertainment,' because she knew what a rough life it was. So she always encouraged me to be a good player, but never as a career. And then, right after high school, someone saw how well I played, and they just sort of yanked me out of my situation. That same fall, I quit the water polo team, grew my hair out, and that was it. My mom was going, 'Oh my God!' My brother's going, 'You're not going to let him grow his hair out, are you?!' Fritz did OK in the Bay Area. We opened shows at the Fillmore maybe once or twice, but it was not a big thing. At some point, however, Stevie and I kinda got selected out of that group as the ones who were perceived as having the most potential. We had not gotten romantically involved until that time, though, and when Fritz broke up, we kind of got together on a lot of different Ievels. We met (producer) Keith Olsen who eventually brought us down here to LA to make the Buckingham Nicks album, and one thing led another. It was kind of a tough time, actually. After the album went down the toilet, we had managers who were trying to get us to play steakhouses and that sort of stuff...which we figured was a dead end, so we didn't want to do that. We also had to deal with a record company that didn't seem to have any idea of what the music on the album was about. "So, yeah,we had to deal with all that. To make money, I had to go out on the road with Don Everly's band, which was as heartbreaking as hell, watching Don trying to do something that wasn't being received very well. Stevie was working in LA as a waitress. And yet this whole cult thing was emerging out of the South, where we were able to headline in front of 5000 people. I mean, that was just a bizarre contrast to what we were dealing with in Los Angeles, where we were starving. We weren't much a part of the scene in LA during the early'70s. We played the Starwood and a few other clubs, but not in a situation of prestige at all. One time, I was right in the middle of a song, and the club manager walked up onstage and turned down my amp. We had to deal with all that sort of stuff. But we went down south and opened for Poco, and they absolutely loved us. We never really found out what would've happened with that scene, because right about that time, Mick Fleetwood stepped in and asked us to join. We thought about it for a week, and then we went, 'Oh, OK. Let's do it.' "They weren't making any money at all. Fortunately,they were on Warner Bros., which has always been an artist's label. And Mo (Ostin) had seen them through all these various incarnations and still believed in what they had going. And Mick was defiant in terms of seeing something through, believing in what he had to offer, and what certain aspects of that band had to offer."