Lindsey Buckingham shatters silence over Fleetwood Mac ousting
‘There were factions within the band that had lost their perspective…’
Thirty-seven days after a tweet by late ’80s Fleetwood Mac guitarist Billy Burnette ironically divulged that the guy he replaced in the rock quintet, Lindsey Buckingham, had been unceremoniously fired at the insistence of Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood, the idiosyncratic Rumours mastermind broke his silence over the shocking revelation.
Not seen publicly since January 2018 when Fleetwood Mac was bestowed MusiCares Person of the Year by the Recording Academy, Buckingham was videoed on May 11 in between songs at a campaign fundraiser supporting Mike Levin, an environmental attorney and Democratic candidate who ultimately won election to the U.S. House to represent the 49th Congressional District of California.
“It’s been an interesting time on a lot of levels,” said Buckingham from the Los Feliz, California, backyard of fellow Levin donor Erica Rothschild. “For me, personally, probably some of you know that for the last three months I have sadly taken leave of my band of 43 years, Fleetwood Mac. This was not something that was really my doing or my choice” [following 1987’s Tango in the Night, Buckingham left Fleetwood Mac voluntarily and did not return full-time until 1997’s live comeback document The Dance].
“I think what you would say is that there were factions within the band that had lost their perspective [a female fan shouts, ‘F — k Stevie Nicks!,’ prompting Buckingham to raise his hand]. Well, it doesn’t really matter. The point is that they’d lost their perspective. What that did was to harm — and this is the only thing I’m really sad about, the rest of it becomes an opportunity — it harmed the 43-year legacy that we had worked so hard to build [another admirer chimes in, ‘That you built, Lindsey’]. That legacy was really about rising above difficulties in order to fulfill one’s higher truth and one’s higher destiny.”
Adroitly drawing a parallel as to why the blue state constituents were in attendance, Buckingham continued, “Now, we also are at a point with our country in Washington where there’s been a loss of perspective. Mr. Dean [John W. Dean, President Richard Nixon’s White House Counsel and Watergate star witness who spoke earlier at the fundraiser] saw it first-hand 45 years ago. I think the difference was that perhaps there were more separations of powers. There was more potential for checks and balances in that loss of perspective. The loss of perspective we see now is indeed threatening to harm the legacy that is the United States.
“In the context of that you’ve gotta think of what needs to be done. It is not gonna come from the top down — it is gonna come from the ground up. This is why we are here. And so, I am most honored and most pleased to have been asked in my own small way to help in that pushback which very, very much needs to happen in order to continue the legacy that we all have come to value. So, thank you for having me.”
Fleetwood Mac replaced Buckingham with two ingenious choices — Australian rock band Crowded House singer-guitarist Neil Finn and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers chief axeman Mike Campbell, whose frequent studio and stage collaborations with Nicks extend to her debut solo single “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” in 1981. The diamond-certified pop rockers began a prodigious 88-date, 13-month North American arena tour in October 2018 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which apparently precipitated the split.
On a CBS This Morning profile moderated by Anthony Mason, the jilted “Landslide” chanteuse was not sorry to part ways with her former paramour. “This team wanted to get out on the road, and one of the members didn’t want to go out on the road for a year,” said Nicks, who was the only Fleetwood Mac member not to join the sessions for 2017's acclaimed Buckingham McVie record. “We just couldn’t agree. When you’re in a band, it’s a team. I have a solo career. I love my solo career, and I’m the boss. But I’m not the boss in this band.”
Fleetwood, the groove-laden drummer and co-founder, seconded the most recognizable group member and only one capable of packing arenas to Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene. “Not to hedge around, but we arrived at the impasse of hitting a brick wall,” admitted Fleetwood. “This was not a happy situation for us in terms of the logistics of a functioning band. To that purpose, we made a decision that we could not go on with him. Majority rules in term of what we need to do as a band and go forward.” Singer-songwriter-keyboardist Christine McVie was at home in London and not told until after the majority vote had been cast.
A fan encounter filmed the day after the MusiCares gala and a few days before Buckingham’s sacking found the multifaceted musician explaining that he wanted to plot solo “small machine” dates in between Fleetwood Mac’s “big machine” trek. As “An Evening with Fleetwood Mac” unfolded in Tulsa, Buckingham was true to his word, supporting the three-disc Solo Anthology — The Best of Lindsey Buckingham with a 34-show, two-month tour of North American theaters.
Buckingham auspiciously sued his former bandmates just a few days into the Solo Anthology run, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and breach of oral contract, among other charges. An undisclosed settlement was reached in December, with Buckingham divulging to CBS This Morning that “I’m happy enough with it. I’m not out there trying to twist the knife at all. I’m trying to look at this with some level of compassion, some level of wisdom.” The obfuscating soap opera is nothing new to the Mac.
The Out of the Cradle mastermind laid low and counted his good fortune until an expected brush with death in February 2019. Severe chest pains led to emergency open heart surgery. Doctors unintentionally damaged Buckingham’s vocal cords by feeding a tube down his throat to prompt breathing, but an intensive year of rehabilitation, vocal specialists, and unwavering support from wife Kristen Messner had the former Fleetwood Mac maestro set to play a dozen USA dates from April to May 2020 if the COVID-19 epidemic had not interfered. They would have been Buckingham’s first concerts since briefly supplying acoustic guitar on “Landslide” at daughter LeeLee’s high school graduation a year prior. Fleetwood let slip during a follow-up conversation with Rolling Stone that he has not spoken to Buckingham since the heart attack and does not envision sharing a stage with him again.
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