Musically, however, things just got better and better for Buckingham until the release of Tusk, an under-appreciated pop epic that met with a mixed response commercially, selling only 2 million copies. "It was a bizarre left turn," Buckingham says. "But I knew if we made Rumours II that we'd have to make Rumours III and Rumours IV. We'd sold 14 million copies of Rumours [21 million worldwide], so we were in that mega-Michael Jackson area, and that's a dangerous place to be. There was a big backlash. It wasn't like the people around me at the time were saying, 'Hey, Lindsey, let's keep going in that interesting direction where we sell a lot less records than we used to.' I really had the wind taken out of my sails, and I felt set adrift for a while."
In 1982 the band returned to the top of the charts with the more user-friendly Mirage, but for Buckingham the thrill was gone. "It became more and more this big machine that had to have hits to keep working," he says. "There was no room to grow. After Tusk, it was basically all disappointment for me. It became a soap opera."
Partly in an attempt to give Fleetwood Mac a more fitting swan song, Buckingham and Dashut returned to help whip Tango in the Night into shape. In the end, that record became the group's biggest album since Rumours, with sales of 8 million. Still, the experience was hardly an easy one. "It was a mess," he says. "Whatever was going on in people's personal lives, I can't really say. I was never the one up all night creating shenanigans and high jinks anyway – I was the one who went up to my room to work on songs. But for whatever reasons, there was no camaraderie left. Just getting people in the same room to create more semblance of a group became a huge hassle. Especially with Stevie, who was probably around for something like ten days for that whole record."
Buckingham's split with the band came when he decided he couldn't tour to support the album. "They'd smoothed things over and coerced me, and I'd kind of agreed to go," he says. "Then I realized I just couldn't do it. I called another meeting, and they were shocked and hurt. I knew they wouldn't leave it at that, so basically you could say I was let go."
The group added two new members, Billy Burnette and Rick Vito, in an attempt to fill the void left by Buckingham's departure. Diplomatically, Buckingham says only that Behind the Mask – the 1990 record the group made without him – was "not an album I can say I took to heart." Buckingham did, however, take to heart some of the slights meted out by Fleetwood in his 1990 tell-all tome, Fleetwood. "I didn't read the whole book," Buckingham says, "but I did skim it, and there were a lot of . . . untruths, shall we say. Mick was basically trying to underplay my contribution, but the thing that really upset me is the incident he describes of the night I left the band. He had this thing in there about me slapping Stevie. I mean, she probably deserved to be slapped. But it never happened that way. I don't know what Mick was talking about."
"Wrong," one of the tracks on Out of the Cradle, was inspired in part by Buckingham's reaction to Fleetwood. The rest of the album reflects Buckingham's experiences with the group in a much more vague and positive manner. "There's no sense in my hiding from the association," he says. "I feel like fifteen years with Fleetwood Mac was like working on my thesis, doing research for some kind of paper. And I wanted to make an album that sort of put it all in a real healthy perspective with maybe a little more maturity in there somewhere. Because even though I feel younger than I did ten years ago, the fact is, I'm not eighteen and there's no point in pretending I am."
Buckingham decided to bury the hatchet with his former band mates and made a cameo appearance onstage at the end of Fleetwood Mac's last concert in 1990. More recently, he agreed to work with the group on some new tracks for an upcoming box set, if time permits. "Going up onstage with them one more time wasn't any sort of nail in the coffin for me emotionally," he says, "because I already felt pretty detached. Still, the minute I saw Mick, the chemistry was still there, and that was pretty much the case with everyone. It was a gas." As for the new songs, Buckingham says: "There's no reason for me not to do it. I'd have to feel a lot of animosity toward those people not to work with them, and I don't feel that way.
"I left Fleetwood Mac to make myself happy," says Buckingham, "and fortunately it worked. That's why I spent all this time in the garage – trying to make something that made me happy." And though Buckingham says that "so much in my life is work right now," he admits to having left the studio occasionally to spend time with longtime girlfriend Cheri Caspari, whom he met while making Go Insane.
Still, Buckingham says, he's more than willing to leave his home long enough to support Out of the Cradle by hitting the road. "It'll be great to get out of the studio, get some air and play with some other musicians," he says. "In the Fleetwood Mac days we got used to the private jets and everything when we toured, but this time I'll take the public bus if I have to."
At the same time, Buckingham wouldn't mind selling some records, too. "My other solo records were made quickly as sidebars to a more mainstream situation," he says. "That's not the case anymore, so there's no point in my being esoteric just for the sake of it now. I'm certainly not interested in making a cheap-shot sellout. This is no longer the sideshow, this is the main event, and I hope there are hits on there somewhere."
Lenny Waronker, president of Warner Bros. Records, Buckingham's label, believes there's no shortage of hits. "It's the height of great songwriting and record-making," he says, "and I think the power and quality of the music will bring people in."
Buckingham named the album Out of the Cradle after the Walt Whitman poem "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking." "The phrase just had a certain resonance," Buckingham says. "Some people thought there was an unnecessary reference in the title to my leaving Fleetwood Mac, and I suppose you could make an argument for that. You could also argue that there's something ironic and weird about a guy over forty thinking of himself as leaving any sort of cradle. But that's the way it feels. And it feels very good."
This story is from the June 25th, 1992 issue of Rolling Stone.
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