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San Jose Mercury News (06/25/2004), Captain of the Fleetwoods < Fleetwood Mac < Main Page

San Jose Mercury News (06/25/2004), Captain of the Fleetwoods

San Jose Mercury News, June 25, 2004

Captain of the Fleetwoods
Buckingham Justifies Faith in Rock'n'Roll Icons
by Brad Kava

If Fleetwood Mac were starting out today, it might not get a chance to make more than one album, says guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who will perform in the band's shows Saturday in Concord and Tuesday at HP Pavilion.

"I feel sorry for bands starting out today. I wish them a lot of luck,'' says Buckingham from a tour stop in New York. He says few of the new groups have strong advocates at record labels who will give them opportunity to grow and develop.

"Fleetwood Mac is a prime example of how important a record company executive can be,'' he continues, noting that it's best to have executives on the other side of the desk who are artists themselves. "We had Mo Ostin'' -- Warner Bros. Records chief from the 1970s to the 1990s -- "who obviously sensed, intuited through all the turmoil and changes, that there was something there to hang onto'' in Fleetwood Mac."

Buckingham is one of the most interesting and pleasant interviewees in the annals of rock, sort of the American David Bowie.

He has fought in the trenches and lived a Rolling Stone/People magazine life. He is witty and intelligent. Some 35 years of performing have deepened his perspective on the music business. But unlike so many who get caught up in the dramas, he channels his strongest passions into writing and playing music.

You can hear that passion in the twists and turns he puts into every vocal and Silly Putty guitar solo that keep Fleetwood Mac in the arena league long after many of its contemporaries have gone to the county-fair circuit.

When you look at the history of this band, named for drummer Mick Fleetwood and bass player John McVie, it becomes clear that the group has defied the practices of today's music execs, who pay more attention to the bottom line and to justifying their actions in shareholder reports than to their ears and artistic instincts.

Fleetwood Mac started as a blues band in 1967, having spun off from the Bluesbreakers, John Mayall's performing school of the blues, which also helped groom Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Jimmy Page. Led by guitarist and songwriter Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac played a psychedelic brand of blues, including "Black Magic Woman'' (which later became a huge hit for Santana).

Several incarnations

After the 1970 departure of Green, who was suffering from drug abuse and emotional problems, Fleetwood Mac handed the reins, at various times, to Danny Kirwin, Bob Welch and Christine Perfect (who later married McVie). The sound softened; the albums bore little resemblance to the band's earlier style but, remarkably, still contained hits.

While auditioning some engineers in 1975, Fleetwood and McVie signed up Buckingham and Stevie Nicks after hearing their duo debut album. The couple had gotten together in San Jose. They honed their chops as an opening act for almost every rocker passing through town.

Buckingham's pop song craft and Nicks' husky, sexy voice took Fleetwood Mac to another level, producing two of the biggest hits of the '70s -- "Fleetwood Mac'' (1975) and "Rumours'' (1977).

After that, the band was rife with turmoil, surviving the split of two marriages, a heap of drug abuse and, most recently, the departure of Christine McVie. The core quartet still delivers shows that capture moments of magic from the past 30 years, with Buckingham's hard-driving, over-the-top guitar toughening up the rockers and Nicks out front on the ballads.

One of the questions Buckingham, 53, now faces, in the midst of a tour that has continued 18 months (a year longer than he figured), is whether he can finally finish the solo album he started nine years ago.

His biggest changes over that period have been getting married and becoming a father to three children, ranging in age from 8 weeks to 6 years. Can the man whose best works seemed to be wrung from inner struggle and pain ("I'm So Afraid,'' "Go Insane,'' "Trouble,'' "Tusk'', "Go Your Own Way'') create good music when he's happy?

"After I didn't write for two or three years, I did wonder about that,'' says the South Bay native. "I used to be a proponent of the adage that children are death to the artist. But in the last six or eight months, suddenly out of the blue a whole bunch of material has passed through me. It's very reassuring, and I think I'm somehow getting in touch with getting the message and lyric to work in a way that I haven't been able to do before.''

Which is great for the many fans who consider Buckingham to be a musical descendant of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson in his prime.

`Happy songs'

"They are happy songs,'' says Buckingham of his latest works. "I'm not talking 'Sugar, Sugar.' They have slightly more overview of the good and the bad and how they relate.''

Those who have heard the recent Fleetwood Mac shows say Buckingham is performing with a youthful fire.

"It's kind of funny. There's a whole new audience out there,'' Buckingham notes. "We're playing in front of 13- and 14-year-old girls, and I'm like a 54-year-old freak.''

But, he adds, "I'm at the top of my game. All those years we were successful, but it wasn't that much fun. It was more negative than positive. Now it's all come back around. I feel like I have so much more to add to this band.''

Date: 2004-06-25         Number of views: 1845

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