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International Musician and Recording World (12/1984), Lindsey Buckingham's Lonely Hearts Club One-Man Band < Lindsey Buckingham < Main Page

International Musician and Recording World (12/1984), Lindsey Buckingham's Lonely Hearts Club One-Man Band

International Musician and Recording World, December 1984

Lindsey Buckinghamís Lonely Hearts Club One-Man Band
ĎGo Insaneí Contains Plenty of Patented Pet Sounds
by Brant Mewborn

"When I met George Harrison, it was one of those truly memorable moments," says Lindsey Buckingham, wincing. "I said, ĎGee, of all the good work you did with the Beatles, how did you ever come up with that incredible guitar solo on "Taxman"?í And his face just fell. He said, ĎOh, Paul did that.í Grrrrr! I really put my foot in my mouth that time."

For most of his 34 years, however, Lindsey Buckingham has been remarkably adroit at putting his mouth and his feet in the right place at the right time. In the early Ď70s, when he and then-girlfriend Stevie Nicks left their college band, Fritz, they landed a Polydor recording contract as a rock-folk duo. Then, even as their Buckingham Nicks LP was going nowhere, Mick Fleetwood recruited them into Fleetwood Mac. The rest, of course, is record-breaking history. As a vocalist, lead guitarist, songwriter, arranger and producer, Buckingham helped shape the latter-day Fleetwood Mac sound into a string of platinum hits in the late Ď70s: The five albums recorded by the regenerated band have sold more than 35 million copies. And now, with his second solo album, Go Insane, Buckingham is emerging as a major musical artist in his own right-and an intensely sensitive and ambitious one at that.

Make no mistake about it. The handsome Byronic figure who wears a pretty-pensive stare on album covers and sings mellifluous melodies with breathless urgency-and even the lanky, laid back fellow who slumps in a leather jacket and faded blue jeans on the sofa of his record companyís New York office and chews gum while speaking in a soft, nasal down-to-earth tenor-is, well, no West Coast lightweight. And for a guy so dedicated to challenging the perimeters of pop for artís sake, Buckingham is disarmingly honest and unpretentious. He doesnít try to apologize for his unhip roots in the "Pleasant Valley Sunday" country-club affluence of northern California ("I wasnít a teenage rebel. I grew my hair long, but I didnít grow up with a lot of adversity"). And he isnít coy or arrogant when he draws parallels between his career and that of his musical hero, Brian Wilson.

"I wouldnít compare my talents to Brianís, just our situations," he says. "Our spirit of experimentation and our desire to break out of the limitations of the pop format sprang from early commercial success and the difficulty one experiences with that. Brian was not only shouldering the responsibility for the creativity in the Beach Boys but for the well-being of his family, including his mom and dad. And when I tried to say new things on Tusk, it was difficult for me to see people in the band say, ĎOh, what youíre doing is really great, itís really cool,í and then, when it didnít sell like Rumours, turn around and say, ĎYou blew it.í"

Buckingham responded to the 1979 Tusk debacle-it sold a mere four million LPs; Rumours sold over 15 million-by channeling his oddball ideas into his first solo effort, Law and Order, which yielded the Top 40 hit "Trouble." At the same time, he caved in to peer pressure on the next Fleetwood Mac LP, Mirage, a commercial and critical disappointment. Now, with Go Insane, Buckingham has vindicated his experimental impulses with a pop masterpiece that recalls the artistic audacity of the Beach Boysí Pet Sounds and the Beatlesí Sgt. Pepperís Lonely Hearts Club Band. It really is that kind of record. The needle drops into an aural landscape so foreign yet eerily familiar that you reach for the headphones with one hand the lyric sheet and liner-sleeve credits with the other. While your head spins through a surrealistic montage of Munchkin choruses, chants, ticks, thumps, beeps, plinks, rat-a-tat-tats and other sonic whirligigs-all shot through with references to love, lust, drugs, death and insanity-you learn that all performances are by one Lindsey Buckingham, except for the occasional cowbell or "howling." How did he conjure up this menagerie of sounds?

"I donít want to make any revelations," says the one-man show chuckling, "but there are none! Basically, I used only a few instruments. For the guitar parts-and I played a lot more solos than usual-I mainly used the í63 Stratocaster Iíve had since I was nineteen and an Ovation acoustic. I have a í79 custom-made Turner for live work, but I prefer Strats and Telecasters for recording. I played a Turner bass on just about every cut, and then thereís an antique pump organ on ĎBang the Drum,í a lap harp that Mick Fleetwood gave me for my birthday a few years ago, and no synthesizers. I used the Fairlight computer to manipulate colors and textures, but I didnít depend on it for everything. Some of the zany bits were just a matter of finding things lying around that made noise-found sounds. The Ďsitarí you hear on ĎPlay in the Rain,í for instance, is actually my Strat tuned way down so that I could bend the strings to approximate that sound."

A self-taught multi-instrumentalist ("If I can hear it, I can eventually play it") and engineer ("I just twirl knobs till it sounds good"), Buckingham spends most of his time in the 24-track studio in his Bel-Air home. Heís a walking arsenal of production tricks, and he doesnít mind launching into a complicated discourse on how, for example, he uses a variable speed oscillator (VSO) to record triple-tracked four-part harmonic clusters at different speeds to achieve his lush, otherworldly vocals ("Something beyond the Chipmunks; the Everly Brothers on helium"). Bu he soon interrupts himself to interject a cautionary note on the use of effects for effectsí sake. "A sound is not what you use, but how you use it," he lectures. "Itís a matter of having the vision of what you want in your head and then finding a way to get it out of the instrument or the machine."

Go Insane is the perfect application of this philosophy. The caravan of sounds that traverses the dense terrain of this concept album amplifies the meaning of the songs-songs about love and life lost to insanity. "You might call it a high-tech folk album," offers Buckingham. "The tools used were high-tech, but the subject is pretty high-touch. I donít know if you read that book, where the theory of high-tech versus high-touch says that for every bit of technology introduced into peopleís lives, thereís a corresponding need for more human contact. I used a lot of folk melody and harmony to balance out the technical devices. Thatís something a lot of avant-garde pop presently doesnít seem willing or able to do."

Buckingham, in fact, takes his subjects very personally. Heís too sophisticated for the confessional approach, but he doesnít go for cool irony either. Like his breathy, emotive vocals, heís totally upfront with his feelings. In the haunting "D.W. Suite," which he says is as much a tribute to Brian Wilson as it is to Brianís late brother, Dennis, Buckingham evokes a sense of community in a world gone berserk: "If we go insane/ We can all go together." And throughout the album, he deals with the insanity he experienced through his lover of the past six years, Carol Ann Harris. She sang the harmony on "It Was I" on Law and Order. After their breakup, she became the subject of the songs ("I Must Go": "Hey little girl, leave the little drug alone") on Go Insane, which is dedicated to her.

"You may find yourself experiencing secondhand insanity," Buckingham explains, lowering his voice, "if youíre close to someone, and their whole trip is testing your own sense of reality until youíre not sure whatís right or wrong or where love starts and stops."

Buckingham is the first to agree that his career supports the axiom that personal crisis makes good art. Fleetwood Macís success peaked with Rumours, whose songs, such as Buckinghamís "Go Your Own Way," were inspired by the disintegrating relationships of John and Christine McVie and of Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. And Go Insane is Buckinghamís strongest work since then. But itís not exactly a consolation. Lindseyís voice takes on a note of wistful regret when he reflects on how "Stevie and I have such similar voices. We got to where we could harmonize so tight. We donít do that a lot anymore-for obvious reasons."

Despite some rather explicit sexual allusions on the new LP ("I come up fast / But I go down slow"-"Loving Cup"), Buckingham doesnít seem too anxious to return to the dating game. "I donít think Iím a slave to physical passions," he says, "ícause I havenít gone out with anybody since I broke up with Carol Ann. I canít bring myself to go to Le Dome and pick up girls; the thought of it makes me ill. So Iím not self-imposing celibacy per se, just a loneness on myself for a while."

Neither does Buckingham look forward to rejoining the ranks of Fleetwood Mac. "Itís going to be a little rough," he says, "but we may work something out. You see, for so long Iíve been juggling these two sensibilities-the groupís music and my own-and theyíre becoming less and less similar. But everythingís still transitional."

Go Insaneís critical and commercial success has whetted Buckinghamís appetite for further adventures in modern recording. He enthusiastically relates how he admires pop experimentalist Laurie Anderson and how heís anxiously waiting to hear her response to his latest record. He also talks about his dream to do "a project thatís a total departure from a pop album."

But what about his old pop dream? He once stated that if he were ever able to write a song as beautiful as Brian Wilsonís "God Only Knows," then he would be satisfied with his career. Does he feel heís accomplished that yet?

"Oh no. Iím not even close," he says soberly. "But I no longer think writing something of that quality is necessarily gonna be the be-all-to-end-all. I mean, thereís the story about Paul McCartney telling Brian Wilson that that was the best song ever written, or something like that, and then Brian locked himself in a closet, crying, because he thought that meant heíd never write anything that good again.

"So, I donít know," Buckingham says, smiling wryly. "Iím not sure that at this point in time I want to write a song that great. You know what I mean?"

Thanks to Lesley Thode for the submission.

Date: 1984-12-01         Number of views: 2481

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