Subscribe

(Credit: Polydor)

Music

The songs Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham wrote about each other

@TomTaylorFO

Lindsey Buckingham once said of the making of the Fleetwood Mac masterpiece Rumours, “whatever was going in the band, specifically between the two couples, very much informed the material, and I think that was a very great appeal of the album. If you look at the success that the album enjoyed, I think it goes a little bit beyond the music itself. I think a resonance kicks in that has to do with the interaction of the people, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts and I think a tangible element of that is the fact you had these dialogues shooting back and forth between members of the band about things that were happening to all of us while we were recording these songs.”

At the time, Fleetwood Mac found themselves in the unique position whereby their chief songwriters each had a muse, tormentor and collaborator all rolled into one within the same studio. Far from precluding productivity, this mixed-up milieu of emotional mayhem spawned some of the greatest pop-rock songs that the world has ever heard; not just in spite of it, but almost because of the alchemical energy bottled up in the studio that crackles and the soaring record. 

There is no doubt that the band were docked in a truly tempestuous bay when they holed up in a Sausalito studio and it was a time of turmoil that went way beyond the soap opera fodder that can often be viewed as. However, from that hellfire came some gilded pieces of pop perfection that proves a shortcut to creative prosperity is a very messy break-up. As the musical equivalent an on-off sitcom couple, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks embody this more than most. Below we’ve collated some of the best sonic drunken texts that they have sent each other.

The songs that Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham wrote about each other:

‘Dreams’

Let us first start with ‘Dreams’ which happens to be the perfect tableau for Fleetwood Mac’s existence. Picture if you will, the moment the three-part vocals had to be recorded: in a silent, darkened, studio room stood Stevie, Christine and Lindsey huddled inches apart around the same microphone and pouring their heartaches into it, no doubt in that very moment the heartache was being added to – frankly, it’s hard to imagine a performance under any more emotional duress. 

How Fleetwood Mac and Francis Ford Coppola made masterpieces from disaster

Read More

And yet, it is that very vulnerability combined with the cathartic so-screw-it liberation of great rock music that lends ‘Dreams’ its vibrant and emotive immediacy. Buckingham and Nicks were, after all, a rock ‘n’ roll, so perhaps separate rules apply. 

‘Dreams’ is perhaps too catchy and too sing-along to be considered the peak of heart-breaking music; in fact, it is even played at weddings by less lyrically scrupulous DJ’s. However, the story behind it is one that doesn’t get much more tragic this side of Orpheus. 

Written by Nicks (on Sly Stones piano) on a particularly bleak and lonely sounding evening, she knew she had written a gem. She was also aware that the barebones song she had written could only be transfigured from a humble heartbroken offering by the same man she painstakingly wrote it about. 

Likewise, Buckingham could be under no illusions that the song itself was about him. The result encapsulates everything that was happening — all the wrung-out heartache, the comic silver-lining of tragedy – and in its own mad way, it is a total expression of love.

‘Landslide’

Although ostensibly about a father and daughter, Nicks has often said in interviews that this song has overtones of her feelings toward Buckingham. Nicks had penned this track pre-Fleetwood Mac, a time when the couple had each other and very little else. Buckingham took a payday touring with Don Everly and prior to departing he dropped Nicks off to spend three months on her own in the “snow-covered hills” of Aspen.

The resulting piece of music is a thing of introspective beauty that captures something deeply spiritual. The star tackles independence and the isolated feeling of those early mid-twenty years, with profound poetry and a poignant melody to boot. 

“Well, I’ve been afraid of changing ’cause I’ve built my life around you / But time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I’m getting older too,” is a simply gorgeous lyric, the sort you could drop a stone in and never hear it hit the bottom.

‘Silver Springs’

One lesser-known anthem that Nicks wrote about Buckingham is the touching lament of a fading dream that is ‘Silver Springs’. The Rumours period proved to be so much of a purple patch for songs about love and hate that some tracks were forced off the album by logistics alone. 

Back in the day, a standard album was limited to around 45 minutes of audio. That was simply all you could fit on a standard 12 inches worth of vinyl, thus unless the record label was willing to foot the sizable bill of a double-LP, thus ‘Silver Springs’ tragically ended up on the cutting room floor. As the album’s co-producer Richard Dashut once said, “The best song that never made it to a record album.”

The song itself is yet another silver lining to the sad Nick / Buckingham break-up. “I’ll follow you down till the sound of my voice will haunt you,” Nicks emotively purrs and 2009, she told Rolling Stone: “It was me realising that Lindsey was going to haunt me for the rest of my life, and he has.”

‘Go Your Own Way’

If Buckingham was a bit more willing to excuse the French, this track might well have been called “f–k right off”. It is a full hammer-blow of heartfelt fury, and it has only one target, the target being the woman who lends fantastic backing vocals to the bullet with her name on it.  

“Packing up/Shacking up is all you want to do” is the line that sliced Nicks the cleanest with its tinge of domesticity, but let’s face it, hardly any of the couplets are glowing. The song itself lives and breathes and the firecracker rage behind it. Somehow the craft of the band gilded this ‘fist-shaped hole in the wall’ of a song into a piece of playlist gold.  

As Nicks would later reflect: “It was certainly a message within a song. And not a very nice one at that.” She did a cracking job on backing vocals, nevertheless, and boy oh boy is there fortitude in that!

‘What Makes You Think You’re the One?’

It’s fair to say that this song is yelled by Buckingham more so than conventionally sung, which lends a particularly caustic edge to the line, “What makes you think I’m the one who will love you forever? Everything you do has been done and it won’t last forever.” The answer to Buckingham’s rhetorical title, however, is that quite clearly the fact that you keep pouring out servings of sonic soul sign with a ‘x’ kiss or an ‘x’ marks the spot is a hint. 

This scathing rocker is a fairly blunt way to tell your ex, who is usually standing within ten metres of you at all times, that she’s about as indispensable to you as a sneeze. With a fiery lyric and a soaring riff, he makes it pretty clear that he won’t be a shoulder to cry on, namely because he couldn’t give a shit anymore, which is betrayed as a paradox by his raging delivery.

‘Angel’

The lingering love between Buckingham and Nicks exists only in fiction; even the poor beleaguered fellows from Father’s for Justice who climb parliament in their pants have acquiesced to a state of settled bitterness. The tricky thing for Nicks was that she knew her and Buckingham had a creative spark that could take her songs to the next level, and that often induced a spark of a different kind.

‘Angel’ seems to encapsulate that and plays on the fact that the creative kismet and the flame they still shelter for each other, were one and the same. On this tender ditty, the weary run of Rumours seems to have slowed and allowed for a more cognizant lookback, which shows that they’re not always tooth and nail; there is a fair dose of introspection there too. For all the furore they often had in the present, the pair are forever tethered to a sanguine past. 

The sweet song is summed up in a verse that tells the story of working with an old flame, that secretly still burns, “I still look up when you walk in the room / I’ve the same wide eyes, now they tell the story / I try not to reach out / when you turn ’round and you say hello / And we both pretend, no great pretender.”

‘Say Goodbye’

‘Say Goodbye’ appeared on the 2003 record Say You Will, the final piece in the band’s discography to date. Usually, these car-crash cash-ins are a waste of everybody’s time, but with Fleetwood Mac, there’s simply too much talent and adeptness at handling tricky situations that triumph ensued, particularly with this Buckingham guitar masterpiece. 

It is a track that Buckingham was hoping to complete a long time before it was ever put to an album, and in that time, it matured, mellowed and became more measured. In fact, it would seem that he been musing over for decades filled with not only highs and lows, but rock bottoms and stratospheres. 

By this stage, he was married and had three kids and it was finally time to croon out the adage ‘we can still be friends’ but this time with sincerity. The twisted backstory to this song imbues it a bittersweet gut-punch of emotion. Contrary to how that may sound, the song steps over the tired idea of love coming with an expiration date and simply transfigures the final throes of an affair with a sense of circumstantial reality. In short, ‘it didn’t work out’ doesn’t sound like such a sad sentence after all, lamentable, yes, but what it implies is anything but.

‘Long Distance Winner’

In the unfurling turmoil of their entwined lives, it seems befitting to end at the start with the 1973 Buckingham Nicks track ‘Long Distance Winner’. Depicted on the cover is a couple of unfathomable hippy attraction like Cleopatra and Alexandra the Great had been reanimated, absconded to California and developed sea-spray and incense addictions.

But this handsome couples wayfaring love affair often soared at heights a little close to the sun, to continue the historical analogy. As Nicks sweetly dotes in the song: I bring the water down to you, but you’re too hot to touch.” It is a line that is actually a million miles away from some proto-version of ‘Sex on Fire’ and resides a little closer to a layman’s cry of “can you just settle down for a moment.” 

Considering that she was soon to pen ‘Landslide’ after Buckingham sailed off on the road, it is clear to see where this concern came from. Nicks, however, was also a trailblazer and therein lies the crux of classic tunes that the pairs tempestuous love has spurted out, of which there are no doubt many more than this list could ever hope to house.