The trials and tribulations of Fleetwood Mac are almost as legendary as the band’s musical output. The pitfalls of love in a rock and roll band always managed to find their way to the surface. But there’s one man in the band who has caught, perhaps rightly, more flack than others, guitarist and singer Lindsey Buckingham.
He has struggled with his legitimacy within the group and has often been the centre of troubles between the members. Yet Buckingham also contributed one song that would become one of the band’s greatest hits; ‘Go Your Own Way’.
Here, we’re taking a look at Lindsey Buckingham’s incredibly searing vocal on the 1977 Rumours song through a wonderful isolated track. With it, you can not only hear his talented singing voice more clearly but get an up-close and personal look at the anguish in the song. It works as a perfect distillation of his deteriorating relationship with bandmate Stevie Nicks.
Written and performed by Buckingham, the singer and guitarist who had started life off in the band alongside his musical partner Stevie Nicks, was lamenting the crossroads he and Nicks now faced as they—and, in fact, every member of the band—experienced the ending of their relationship in the most public of forums
At the time, Fleetwood Mac wasn’t a particularly happy place to be. John and Christie McVie had divorced, Mick Fleetwood had split with his partner and now Buckingham and Nicks were only talking to each other through yelling matches—things had got unbearable. Mick Fleetwood said of the house in which they were recording Rumours, “[It had a] distinctly bad vibe to it, as if it were haunted, which did nothing to help matters…”.
As any good artist does, Buckingham decided to channel his sadness, his anger and his frustration with the ending of his and Nicks’ relationship into his art and wrote one of his most potent tracks. That song would see Buckingham ask his ex-partner to leave him alone, to go her own way, and to allow him to do the same—and, of course, to help sing it too.
“I was completely devastated when she took off,” Buckingham noted about the girl he’d known and been partnered with since he was 16. “And yet I had to make hits for her. I had to do a lot of things for her that I really didn’t want to do. And yet I did them. So on one level, I was a complete professional in rising above that, but there was a lot of pent-up frustration and anger towards Stevie in me for many years.”
Although the song’s sentiment on the face of it is fairly benevolent as Buckingham suggests, there is a hot and angry subtext that runs throughout the song, and most pertinently, in Buckingham’s vocal. Nicks, no matter how tense, was always attentive during the performance of the song on stage. However, that didn’t mean that Nicks took the song all in her stride.
As well as having to hear the song while performing, adding backing vocals when needed, Stevie Nicks always took exception with one line in particular. In fact, it upset her so much she asked Buckingham to remove it from the recording: “I very much resented him telling the world that ‘packing up, shacking up’ with different men was all I wanted to do,” she told Rolling Stone.
The ethereal star continued: “He knew it wasn’t true. It was just an angry thing that he said. Every time those words would come onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him. He knew it, so he really pushed my buttons through that. It was like, ‘I’ll make you suffer for leaving me.’ And I did.”
Buckingham decided to keep the song as is and ignored Nicks’ request. Whether it was down to artistic intent or petulance, the end result was born out of their failing relationship and Buckingham’s anger towards it. It’s a unique triumph.
That is what you hear in this song. You hear a frustrated, hurt and ultimately scorned artist sing their heart out. Buckingham may not have always been famed for his singing ability but in the isolated vocal, it’s clear to hear that he was wonderfully gifted. On the record, he gives his all to the song if no longer to Stevie Nicks.
An impassioned performance that strains the very fabric of his emotions leaves us, as the audience, enraptured by the power of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ like you’ve never heard it before.