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The Ledge (07/29/1998), (Exclusive essay by John B) < Lindsey Buckingham < Main Page

The Ledge (07/29/1998), (Exclusive essay by John B)

"Steal Your Heart Away," looking ahead, and looking inward: confessions of a groupie

Posted by John B. on July 29, 1998 at 13:16:12:

Continuing on...

With my recent infusion of great Lindsey tunes from Drew, I had the occasion recently to listen to Go Insane (Dance version; have it on video, but it's not on the CD, as you know), Bleed to Love Her, My Little Demon, and Steal Your Heart Away (another new one for me) in succession with nobody home (the rarest of rare occasions), the volume on LOUD, sitting back in a chair with my eyes closed and my ears wide open.

It goes without saying that while Lindsening, you realize that aside from his writing and playing and arranging and producing, it's his singing that adds a certain hypnotic quality to his music. He doesn't sing anything as if he's taking it for granted; that's probably because, unlike many other professional singers, the songs are really HIS. He knows the stories behind the songs, he's invested a lot of effort to make them perfect--he takes complete ownership. He knows what he was feeling when he wrote the lyric or the piece of music, and it probably helps him emote. Boy oh boy, does he emote.

But no matter what the body of work is, one of the questions lurking in the back of every fan's/critic's/artist's mind is this: as good as the last one was, will the next one be better? Will the artist summon the energy and initiative to maintain or improve? Will anyone enjoy the next work as much as the last? Does the artist still have that creative spark?

Will A Gift of Screws be worth the seven-year wait?

Who knows. (The title was certainly worth the wait.) But after listening to this four-song set of sorts, you can't help being encouraged. For it indicates not only where he's at musically, but also how seriously he takes his craft, how reflective he is and, frankly, how smart.

Lindsening to Steal Your Heart Away is what drove me to write this essay, but I'll start with Go Insane, the Dance version.

Part of the whole Lindsey mystique is his quest for perfection. And so I think he deserves a loud and long round of applause for what he did with Go Insane, Big Love and, to a lesser extent, I'm So Afraid. His vocal and arrangement on the new Go Insane are a vast improvement on the old.

Go Insane now has the tone of a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, supporting the lyric in a way that the original did not. Now when he says "I lost my power in this world," it is not only the statement of a person who feels like he's sinking psychologically--a great lyric--but the tone and measured delivery as well; at one point his voice jumps on "this," adding an extra measure of insanity. And the fact that he is now accompanied by only his guitar adds so much to the feeling of isolation, the loneliness that often begets overthinking and paranoia, which leads to insanity. Of course, toward the end of the song, he really does go insane, as his strumming becomes more furious and his singing louder and more desperate.

A brilliant remake of a song, and a strong indication that his quest for musical excellence will leave no stone unturned, yielding big benefits for his rabid fans. Ditto Big Love, which he transformed from a glitzy pop tune (although I liked it) into the much more emotional, overwrought--guttural, almost--eulogy for his relationship-gone-wrong.

The difference on I'm So Afraid is that he has lowered the vocal and distorted the guitar, so that it sounds like the gritty, searing confessional that it should be. I think the studio version was too light; he sounds more frightened on the studio version, more in pain on the new version. I prefer pain to fear, but that's the sadomasochistic me, I guess.


I've written enough about Bleed To Love Her and My Little Demon that I'd be torturing myself and anybody who's reading this if I repeated any of it. Suffice it to say that I was overwhelmed when I first heard Bleed, and I'm still overwhelmed. That ending gets me every time. My Little Demon is not only a fabulous little rocker, but it shows that the ol' boy still has some of that raucous energy left.

I've saved Steal Your Heart Away for last, because I'm completely in love with this song. It hooked me instantly, and gave me great hope that I will, indeed, gorge myself on his next album. I loved the intro to the song immediately--it's got a country flavor--but then, showing his continued maturity, brilliance, whatever, he wisely throws in some bongos underneath to add texture and tense counterpoint to the melodic guitar. It's a great and surprising stroke, and it works perfectly.

Then, I admit, I have to get the oxygen, as he starts singing "All alone, we go" in that Lindsey tone that I find so intoxicating. It's the perfect pitch for his voice, and when he takes on that Texas twang, we're off into Lindseyland.

I love it when he says "All alone, we suffer," and he softens the "suffer" part. I picture him closing his eyes to sing this word. Again, when he sings "It's the same old thing (or thang; I think he was born in Texas)/In the same old way," the lyrics aren't exceptional, but the delivery is. I could listen to this guy sing forever.

Then he changes the sound of the vocal when he gets to the chorus, almost like he's singing through a pipe ("The light was creepin'/Down, down down/While we were sleepin'/Suddenly we hit the ground"), which keeps the song fresh and interesting. The guitar solo is gorgeous too--an acoustic beauty that shifts unexpectedly halfway through.

Can't say enough about the background vocals, yet again. When he sings "Steal your heart away," he's got this great chorus (himself, I'm sure) backing him up. Great.

By the time he says "So come on, let's go/Let's ruuuuun away," I don't even care what the hell he's singing about. I just know this song has attached itself to my emotional catalog of reasons why I can't seem to get enough of this guy. I love the song more every time I play it.

And so finally, I must address the embarrassing question, to myself, of how I've become a Lindsey groupie. I'm a boy, after all, and I'm grown up, so I'm not supposed to get TOO wrapped up in the sound of a singer's voice and his musical stylings. Society tells me this, anyway.

So I'll include part of what I wrote to somebody today:

I AM a groupie, no doubt. I don't think it's a bad thing (and neither did the recipient of my e-mail), but it's a strange thing. In my case, it is perhaps symptomatic of the creative void in my life (I write for a living, but I hate everything I write; the stuff I love to write is stuff I don't have the time or energy to polish and sell), so the creative me perhaps feels empty, searching for something of value.

Something about Lindsey's musical integrity and guitar playing and experimentation and, yes, even the tonal quality of his voice has struck an odd, heretofore unstruck chord in my soul somewhere. At the ripe young age of 36, I admit that I feel a bit foolish, but I cannot help what I feel. I've found the whole Fleetwood Mac story, and his involvement therein, compelling beyond my normal disaffection for all things pop-cultural (or, for that matter, for all things--period). So instead of resisting it, I'm going with it and enjoying the ride. It's like my little addiction, guilty pleasure--call it what you like.

The truth is, I've developed no real affection for much of anything in this world, aside from my wife and kids. I have no real hobbies, I hate politicians and the business elite because I see right through them (the emperor has no clothes 99% of the time, but we have to play along as if he does; thus, for example, we have to listen to Bill Clinton lie to us about his affairs--although, I think for the sake of his wife's already-wounded dignity and his innocent daughter, it's naive to think that he has any other choice--and we have to listen to prosecutor Ken Starr insist untruthfully that there's nothing political about his investigation, even though he's linked in about 1000 ways to Bill Clinton's worst enemies; I'm babbling, but those are this hour's pet annoyances), the oppression and bigotry that are rampant throughout this world and throughout history have left me hopeless for this whole planet, and I look at everything with a cynicism that often annoys my wife and those around me.

Enter, unexpectedly, Lindsey Buckingham. His approach to his music and musical life (i.e., not only what he does, but how he chooses to package it), and his talent, have opened some wide pocket of great joy and discovery that I don't want to close. I really don't.

My wife and I often joke about wanting to be babies again, wanting to be held and loved unconditionally while having someone else take care of our needs entirely; not having to DO anything, really, but explore our senses. People reach that point sometimes, or often, depending on their level of stress at any moment. My enjoyment of Lindsey Buckingham's artistry is probably rooted in my sometimes-need to just let something grab hold of me and envelop my senses and take me on a journey; I need to love something unconditionally and fully, even at my age. There are no consequences, caveats, or pressures. It's like a drug without the side effects: my escape until the next dilemma--related to work, home, marriage, children, society--hits and I'm hurled back to reality. I must admit that writing about my adoration of his talents has only served to increase my fulfillment, as it's helped me realize just why I'm so taken with his music, philosophy, integrity and energy.

As I said to my correspondent today, confession is, indeed, good for the soul. People pay large sums of money to tell others their feelings. Lindsey does it in his music. To a certain extent, I'm doing it here.

When this next album comes out, I can only hope it provides the avenues for discovery and discussion that Out of the Cradle, Law and Order and Go Insane have done. It's gonna be a great time on this board, I'm sure.

See ya soon.

Date: 1998-07-29         Number of views: 1614

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