Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What Makes Me Think He's the One?: In Praise of Lindsey Buckingham

It hit me on Sunday evening, right at the moment that my friend introduced me to Lindsey Buckingham. Not "What an odd name for a fish!" (Nemo and The Incredible Mr. Limpet aside, I've never really understood the practice of naming fish.) Sure, that thought did cross my mind, but it was totally upstaged by another one: Is there a more underrated rock & roll multi-hyphenate than the singer-songwriter/producer/guitarist of Fleetwood Mac for whom my friend's fish is named?

When people think of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks is generally the first bandmate who comes to mind, but Buckingham was just as much of an FM (as in Fleetwood Mac and FM radio) MVP in the '70s and '80s. More than any other member, his creative stamp dominated the group's '77 best-seller Rumours, as well as FM's three follow-ups (the 1979 masterpiece Tusk, 1982's Mirage and 1987's Tango in the Night). When he began a decade-long hiatus from the band in the late '80s, FM had to hire two new members to replace him, and his absence was all over the band's Buckingham-free 1990 album Behind the Mask.

Contemporary monsters of pop-rock never list him first when they rattle off the names of their greatest influences, but for decades now, the relatively unsung hero has been inspiring scores of younger acts (largely through his extensive contributions to Tusk, the weirdest follow-up to the biggest album ever ever, for which he received a bold-print "Special thanks from the band to Lindsey Buckingham" credit): R.E.M., the Smashing Pumpkins, Weezer, the Jayhawks, Matthew Sweet and fun., among so many others. More recently, This Is 40 director Judd Apatow used three of his songs on the soundtrack of the recently released film, which was scored by Jon Brion, Fiona Apple's sometime producer who, along with Apple herself, probably owes a major artistic debt to Buckingham.

On the best of Buckingham, he masters the art of melody laced with madness (or of finding the tension inside the sweetness, as Terence Trent D'Arby would say). Often favorably compared to the Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson for his melodic gifts, he can both unsettle and soothe, sometimes within the same verse. This may not be the stuff that solo pop hits are made of (on his own, Buckingham has had only two Top 40 singles, including the 1981 Top 10 "Trouble"), but it's rock for the ages.

I've already written the praises of "Tusk," the Buckingham-penned first single from the Fleetwood Mac album of the same name (read all about it here), and "Holiday Road," his solo single from the 1983 film National Lampoon's Vacation (check it out once and twice), but here are 10 more reasons why Buckingham deserves to be a fish's namesake and so much more.

"Never Going Back Again" (Fleetwood Mac, from Rumours, 1977)

"Second Hand News" (from Rumours)

"Walk a Thin Line" (Fleetwood Mac, from Tusk, 1979)

"That's All for Everyone" (from Tusk)

"Trouble" (from Law and Order, 1981)

"Empire State" (Fleetwood Mac, from Mirage, 1982)

"Can't Go Back" (from Mirage)

"Slow Dancing" (from Go Insane, 1984)

"Big Love" (Fleetwood Mac, from Tango in the Night, 1987)

"Walls (Circus)" (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers featuring Lindsey Buckingham, from Songs and Music from "She's the One," 1996)

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