Lindsey Buckingham Interview Circa February 1982
Andy Warhol's Interview
By Liz Derringer
The tall good-looking guitarist in Fleetwood Mac is Lindsey Buckingham. His ever-present songwriting and guitar playing abilities have played an important role in the tremendous success of the group. Fleetwood Mac has sold millions of records; then why would Lindsey take a side step and record an album of his own? He compares it to the painter alone with his canvas. This idea conjures up a pleasant image, and for Lindsey it worked. His solo effort, "Law and Order" has received high critical acclaim, and the single, "Trouble," climbed to the top five on the charts.
I spoke to Lindsey when he was in New York recently to perform on "Saturday Night Live."
LIZ DERRINGER: Why did you choose "Law and Order" for an album title?
LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM: It's law and order in terms of establishing codes by which to live and having a certain amount of order in your life. That's all.
LD: Somebody wrote about you saying you have "a boyish innocence and a penchant for old-fashioned romance," that you have an "anti-want-to-get-laid attitude." And since you're always surrounded by anarchy and promiscuity in rock and roll, that's difficult. How true is that?
LB: Well, a lot of the music promotes that. I think a lot of it is, "Let's go get laid." "Let's go get high." "Let's escape." Let's not commit to anything. Everything seems so disposable today. If you're in a relationship and it starts confronting you with any sort of pain, you just chuck it - most people these days just move onto [sic] somebody else. I have been with the same girl for five years. And I have been faithful to her all that time. Can you believe that? I think it creates a deeper meaning for a relationship if you can do that; put all that energy into writing another song.
LD: What about being surrounded by it in rock and roll? Does that bother you?
LB: What - you mean the availability?
LD: Yeah. In your position, you certainly can do what you want.
LB: I don't know. I think that being in Fleetwood Mac and having two girls on stage as opposed to a group of five guys up there who might be more aggressive about presenting themselves.... There's something about the presence of the group with two chicks, sort of out front, that repels a certain amount of that. But I just don't look for it anyway. I don't go to too many parties. I have a good time once I'm there. I'll have a few drinks or something.
LD: Let's go back to the beginning of your life, when you started playing guitar at seven years old.
LB: Originally, I was into my brother's 45s - Buddy Holly and Elvis, all that stuff. That's what got me started playing guitar. He brought home Heartbreak Hotel; I was never the same. That's certainly not a unique story, I'm sure. When that stuff came out a lot of people went out and got guitars. I was lucky to be that young and so heavily influenced... to have an older brother who was bringing home all that stuff. He's got a great collection of all the best.
LD: Do you remember the first time you decided to play guitar?
LB: Not clearly. I just remember my mom trying to get me to take piano lessons for about six months. And it was a drag. I hated it. And the guitar had so much more potential. I think I started out with a little toy plastic guitar. And then the next Christmas they got me a little three-quarter size acoustic, which I had until I was about 12. Then I got a little Martin.
LD: Musically, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys had an influence on you. Someone once asked you the one song would you liked to have written. And you just said - Gold Only Knows. Most people would have to think a while before answering.
LB: That's a masterpiece. I would love to have written any of his songs. But that's gotta be the apex. I mean, the chords - Jesus! I have no idea where the chords are. Actually, I could figure them out, but I couldn't play them for you right now. Incredible.
LD: You've met him, right?
LB: Several times. Recently, I was watching him on TV on Portrait of a Legend. Have you ever seen that - with James Darren? They had all these great clips, striped shirts and everything. It was great.
LD: How do you think he got so crazy?
LB: Well, I have my own ideas. I'm sure that there was a time when I thought I had it all figured out. And then when I met him I realized his predicament was much more complex than I could ever imagine.
LD: You don't seem crazy to me, but some writer said you had this crazy looking fixed stare at the audience. Kind of like the way Brian Wilson does.
LB: Oh, on stage? Sure. Stage is a different thing.
LD: Is it a conscious effort?
LB: No, no. I'm a very reserved person, and not too outgoing. But in the same way that the album is kind of crazy - the other side comes out on stage. You know, you put a little something on the eyebrows, and it just comes out.... all that manic energy. So, people probably think I'm a maniac, judging from what I do on stage sometimes. But it's just the opposite. I think you'll find a lot of people like that. I was real surprised when I met Elton John. He was just a little mouse! And he gets up on stage and starts standing on the piano and jumping around. He's getting all that alter-ego out on stage.
LD: The Beach Boys had success at a young age. It happened a little older for you.
LB: When I joined the Mac, I guess I was 25. I've been in the background pretty much the whole time. There's a certain section of people that are into what I'm doing since Tusk, which was a complete diversion. I've always been involved in the actual production. That's my main contribution. It hasn't been as a songwriter or singer or even guitarist, but as someone who can take the band into the studio and give them a direction, which they didn't have. They hadn't had it since Peter Green left, as far as I was concerned. And that's what I do.
LD: I loved your song, Go Your Own Way, and I think your guitar playing is unique.
LB (laughs): Maybe you're more intelligent than the average person.
LD: You're one of the main writers.
LB: Stevie had an incredible audience for her album when it came out. It came into the charts at number 12, or something like that. People don't understand what I'm about as much. She's got a very definite image. A lot of people are into that. I think what I have to offer is certainly less commercial. It's gonna be less accessible to the same number of people. Not as many people will want to take the time to really get inside what I'm doing. Although, once they do, I think there's a lot more there. The experimental thing is just something I have to do.
LD: I'm just trying to understand the feeling of what it was like with all that overnight success.
LB: Well, it relates to what I was saying - the kind of success I'm looking for is an inner success. If you aim for something and approach a certain quality of work, and succeed at doing it, whether it be - Rumours.... I mean, it sold so many copies, a reported 16 million. It was a good album, but it wasn't that good an album. It wasn't like it was the best album ever made because it sold the most copies, by a long shot.
LD: I think you're saying that the feeling of success is an ongoing thing. Why do you think Rumours was so popular? Do you think it was because people could identify with the story?
LB: It had a story, but musically in terms of the quality of the writing that was on it, it wasn't like a Beatles album or even like a Beach Boys album. It just had a number of things about it that were accessible to a large number of people. It was a musical soap opera.
LD: When you wrote it, did you write it consciously like that?
LB: No, but we were going through those things at the time, so it just happened to work out that way.
LD: Like Go Your Own Way? You and Stevie [Nicks] were breaking-up. You were going your own way.
LB: We certainly were. So the success bothered me. It didn't bother me that I was making some money off it, but it bothered me that I felt that I wasn't really approaching a level of what I consider to be interesting musically. It wasn't meeting with what I felt was an inner success. So Law and Order, or even some of the stuff on Tusk, is more of what I consider interesting.
LD: Do you think you're the answer to T-Rex and David Bowie?
LB: I hate to make comparisons. I can't be objective about that. I just know what I am trying to do.
LD: You've gotten a lot of attention since Tusk. It's like Lindsey Buckingham pre-Tusk and Lindsey Buckingham afterwards. It used to be you could walk down the street without anyone knowing it was you. Is that changing?
LB: No. I still have coplete anonymity. It's great.
LD: Tell me a little bit about your growing up. You were born in California....
LB: Well, my mom grew up around San Jose, and she was a debutante-type. Her grandparents were a real big family in San Jose, wealthy. Her great grandfather was like the first doctor in Santa Clara county, came across in a covered wagon, the whole bit. My dad grew up on a farm, and it was very odd. I mean, they weren't suited for each other in that way, very dissimilar backgrounds. But people didn't think about it. When it was time to get married, you just got married. It's not like that today. My dad went to work for my mother's grandfather, who had started a coffee company in San Francisco. It was, at that time, comparable to Folgers. In the Thirties, the coffee company was doing real well, but eventually it was squeezed out. And my dad had to go to work at a job that he probably didn't really enjoy that much.
LD: How old were you when he died?
LD: Then he didn't get to see all your success?
LB: No. He got to see the Buckingham-Nicks thing. That was about it.
LD: Does that bother you?
LB: Yeah. I miss him. We were brought up very formally, not a lot of open display of affection. And we were just sort of breaking through that.
LD: Somebody asked you if it was difficult working with an ex-girlfriend in the band and you said it was more difficult when you were together. True?
LB: I think it was more competitive when we were together.
1982-02-04 Number of views: