I'm not trying to compete with Kris Kross now, just like I didn't try to compete with Christopher Cross in the old days."
Lindsey Buckingham – the pop genius and sonic architect behind Fleetwood Mac's string of platinum successes in the Seventies and Eighties – is sitting under a velvet Elvis portrait in his home studio in the lovely hills of Bel Air, California. Buckingham has spent a substantial portion of the last four years in this room. Now, however, he's finally on the verge of sharing with the public some of the music that he and Richard Dashut, his coproducer and writing partner, have been creating here, and he's considering the question of how popular his eccentric brand of melodic pop will be these days.
"I guess it's obvious that making this album hasn't been an especially speedy process," says the master of the understatement. "But I had to let a lot of emotional dust settle. People might think I've been off on some island getting my ya-yas out. The truth is, I've basically been here twelve hours a day. I've been goofing off only in the most productive sense."
Asked if he's grown sick of the windowless room, Buckingham pauses as if he hasn't considered the issue before. "Well, I'm not really sick of it," he says finally. "But I haven't come inside here for a while, and I'm not sure why. A couple of weeks ago, I opened the door and just looked in. And I couldn't relate to having spent the amount of time I did in here. This room became more my reality than the rest of the house. At times the whole thing seems like a weird dream to me."
Buckingham pauses again and looks around the room. "You know," he adds, "actually, I guess I am pretty damn sick of this place."
Happily, all of Buckingham's work has paid off. Out of the Cradle – his first release since he decided to go his own way and leave the Big Mac shortly after the release of 1987's album Tango in the Night – is a wildly impressive coming-out party for the forty-two-year-old Buckingham. A veritable one-man show, the album is an artfully crafted song cycle whose romantic lushness is effectively balanced by a healthy dose of ripping guitar. More ambitious than the two solo albums he squeezed in between Mac projects – 1981's Law and Order and 1984's Go Insane – Out of the Cradle represents Buckingham's finest work since 1979's Tusk, the album that established a creative high-water mark for his former group. That album – the controversial follow-up to 1977's Rumours, one of the best-selling records of all time – was also, according to Buckingham, the beginning of the end for him and Fleetwood Mac.
Buckingham and his then creative and romantic partner, Stevie Nicks, joined Fleetwood Mac in late 1974. At the time, Buckingham was already a "complete studio rat." He first caught the bug when he set up a recording room at his father's coffee plant, in Daly City, California, after dropping out of college in the early Seventies. Around the same time, he and Nicks started playing together with a Bay Area group called Fritz. They moved to Los Angeles in 1973, recording an album as Buckingham-Nicks the next year. "Our record company had no idea what to do with us," says Buckingham. "They said something about wanting us to be the new Jim Stafford, and they wanted us to play steakhouses." Opportunity knocked when Mick Fleetwood went to check out an L.A. studio and producer Keith Olsen played a track from the record he'd done with Buckingham-Nicks as a demonstration. Impressed, Fleetwood asked the pair to join his band a week later. It would prove to be a savvy decision. The reconstituted Mac – with Buckingham and Nicks joining bassist John McVie; his then wife, keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie; and Fleetwood – debuted with 1975's Fleetwood Mac, a multiplatinum smash that sold nearly 6 million copies worldwide, followed by the classic Rumours two years later.
Yet Buckingham says it was never an easy fit – though at first the tensions within the band fueled the music. "Fleetwood Mac was one big lesson in adaptation for me," says Buckingham. "There were five very different personalities, and I suppose that made it great for a while. Obviously, having two couples – and soon enough, ex-couples – added a lot more tension and some great subject matter to the mix. But the problems really kicked in when you started adding five managers and five lawyers to the equation. Once Stevie was singled out and selected as the star of the band, the machinery of the rock business clicked in, and things really got stupid. By the time of Tango, you could hardly fit all these people in one room for a band meeting. It was a heartbreaking thing to watch, until it became almost comical."
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