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Rolling Stone Interview with Lindsey Buckingham

Mac Daddy

Reluctant guitarist Lindsey Buckingham on the Mac's big attack

A month before Fleetwood Mac open their reunion tour in Hartford, Conn., Lindsey Buckingham has already checked into a Los Angeles hotel. Buckingham, guitarist and principal architect of the group's breezy, California sound, has fled the racket of early-morning repairmen who are currently poking holes in his home, which has sustained damage from Southern California's series of natural disasters. "You know how hard it is to leave LA," Buckingham explains. "I feel like I've spent half my life in hotels anyway, so this is natural."

Buckingham started hotel-hopping with Fleetwood Mac in 1975, when he and then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks joined the group -- which featured drummer Mick Fleetwood and the husband-wife combo of Christine and John McVie -- to help it re-tool from its blues-based origins. Two years later, when both the group's couples disintegrated, Buckingham's dreamy guitar hooks and textured arrangements helped the band wrench its emotions into "Rumours," a '70s rock & roll landmark that has sold some 25 million copies to date.

By 1987, the same interpersonal tension that gave "Rumours" its emotional edge finally led Buckingham to leave the band shortly after the release of "Tango in the Night." After five years of living as a virtual recluse, he emerged in 1992 with the critically acclaimed "Out of the Cradle." Since then, Buckingham has worked intermittently on a new solo album, but when producer Rob Cavallo left the project, the guitarist found himself on the phone with a familiar voice.

It's been 10 years since you're recorded with Fleetwood Mac. How did you guys get back into the studio together?

Well, Mick had called me just to say 'Hi,' and over the course of the conversation, I could tell that he had gone through a lot of changes. I had done a solo album and gone through my own period of re-invention, so I was in a much better place than when I left the band back in '87. At the same time, he was coming off the very end of this last incarnation of what he called Fleetwood Mac, which was him and John McVie and [guitarist] Dave Mason.

You contributed some backing vocals to the last Mac record, "Time." After you left, how many of the band's new records did you listen to?

Well, "Behind the Mask," which still had Stevie and Christine, I certainly listened to maybe once, but I didn't put too much into it because the music was already becoming more generic. When I heard that Dave Mason was joining, my initial reaction was, "Oh, that could be good." But apparently, it wasn't. [laughs] Then when I heard that they were doing this nostalgia package tour with REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar, I was like, "What happened?"

Then, as Mick and I started to work on some songs, the McVies turned up for a visit and were drafted quite naturally enough into the project, which had grown beyond just a solo album. That's when the wheels started turning with someone at Warner Bros. When they started rallying behind the idea, it was really from the point of view of, "Oh my God, these four musicians are in the same room together and don't want to kill one another."

During the Burbank tapings for "The Last Dance," what went though your mind when you saw Stevie start twirling around during "Rhiannon?"

Well, I didn't notice any twirls during "Rhiannon," although I know she did a few [laughs] -- even if she has toned it down quite a bit. You know, looking back, none of that [dancing] seemed out of place. If you want to talk about me and Stevie specifically, I would have to say that by the time of "Tango in the Night," I didn't recognize her at all. She wasn't the person I had known and had moved to [Los Angeles] with. I have also gotten through my own issues, some of which I really could not resolve until I left the band. You may think, "Well, that's a long time," but when someone is in your face everyday, certain things don't get resolved.

Judging by the looks you exchanged with Stevie during those shows, there's still a little tension there.

No matter what, some of that chemistry will always be there. It's just getting channeled into the performance without being so destructive or without being such a personal assault. For all of us, that 12 years I was in the band was kind of an exercise in emotional denial.

Some would say that the Fleetwood Mac soap opera was as much a part of the band's mystique as the music.

I think that was certainly part of the allure. I mean, if you look at the five people, it's a very unlikely mix, and, yes, what is that thread that holds it all together? I think it's the underpinnings and the ripples. It's just like looking at "Rumours" and saying "Well, the album is bright and it's clean and it's sunny," but knowing that everything underneath is dark and murky.

Fleetwood Mac songs have been covered by quite a few bands over the years. What do you think of Billy Corgan's take on "Landslide" and Hole's raucous "Gold Dust Woman?"

To be honest, when I hear those songs, I don't try to judge or critique the band's approach. A lot of times, when I listen to something now, I'm listening to figure out what I can rip off rather than what may or may not have been ripped off from me. As for the covers, I think it's a unique turn in the cyclical feeling that once said in 1980, "Fleetwood Mac is the enemy." Now, the people who set trends have come around and are saying "Fleetwood Mac is not the enemy, and never was."

It took extensive negotiations between five different managers to get the Mac reunion squared away. Will the band be traveling in five separate tour buses?

Oh, no, no. [chuckles] I think we're taking a plane for most of [the tour]. Recently, when times have come close to us actually having a disagreement about anything, it's usually been when other people like the managers get in between the band members. The thing is, we are really getting along very well right now. I'm actually enjoying this more than any of my previous time with the band.