Lindsey Buckingham wants a girlfriend. The handsome, intelligent and reclusive musical mastermind behind Fleetwood Mac is living by himself these days. A solitary man. And he doesn’t dig it. He’s a millionaire at thirty-four, a rock star and, actually, quite a charming fellow. But: ”My personal life is fairly barren,” he says, sitting in his $2 million home, which is hidden near the end of a dead-end street, far above Los Angeles in exclusive Bel Air.
Buckingham would seem to have it all. Nice house, nice car, nice pool. Nice twenty-four-track recording studio right across the hall from his bedroom. Yet, since the painful break-up of a relationship that had lasted six years, his life has become, well, not so meaningful. He’d like nothing better than for a ”wonderful, sensitive, soul-mate girl” to knock on his door.
He glances around his expensively furnished living room, complete with a six-foot-high statue of King Tut and several small glass pyramids. ”A house full of new furniture doesn’t mean a whole lot,” he says in his slightly high-pitched voice. ”It doesn’t mean shit. It just means you have a nice place to watch TV. But so what?”
He stares at a color TV a few feet away, where Frank Sinatra is crooning his way through a new video, ”L.A. Is My Lady.” ”Yes, it’s lonely,” continues Buckingham, munching on some potato chips. ”I feel pretty isolated at the moment. I’m sort of like a guy on the top of a hill in a little castle of his own. I hope that won’t last forever.”
The hot Southern California sun streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows that make up at least one wall of nearly every room in the house. It’s bright, airy, spacious. Palm trees outside; bamboo plants inside. It’s as if the house itself were attempting to pull its owner out of the emotional slump of a failed love affair.
The phone rings. Buckingham chats about how his new album, Go Insane, is doing, then says to the caller, ”You’ve got a nice girlfriend, I’ve got a nice pool table.” He laughs dryly. ”It’s gotten hard to be shallow. Hard to just bring a girl in. How did we used to do that?”
When he wants to, Buckingham can look just like a genuine L.A. rock star. Not affected, but slightly larger than life. Nouveau riche. A bit arrogant. Very cool. This is just how he looks today, strolling into his classy living room. His curly brown hair is stylishly cut à la Eraserhead, and his expressive blue-gray eyes are hidden behind large tortoise-shell shades.
He’s the kind of millionaire who wears the same black shirt, blue denims and scruffy gray cowboy boots for days on end, and who mixes those jeans with an expensive black-and-white-striped sport coat. He has few friends but greets the ones he has with a casual ”Hey, dude.” A down-home kind of rock star. A guy who hangs framed stills from Elvis’ Jailhouse Rock in his bathroom, stocks his Seeburg 200 Select-O-Matic jukebox with records like the Marcels’ ”Blue Moon” and Frank Sinatra’s ”I’ve Got You under My Skin” and the Beach Boys’ ”I Get Around,” and leaves a platinum album celebrating the multimillion sales of Rumours shunted aside in the corner of a room, as if it didn’t mean a thing.
The Lindsey Buckingham the world never sees is the one who spends much of his time by himself in his home recording studio. ”He’s a studio rat,” says his manager, Michael Brokaw. On a typical afternoon, sounds waft down a long hallway from the direction of the studio — strange, syncopated sounds. A plucked violin string. Electronic drums. A funky synthesizer. Spacey, high-pitched chipmunk vocals. Very rhythmic, very oddball. Very Lindsey Buckingham. ”I love to be in the studio,” says the shy rock star, surrounded by instruments and electronic equipment. ”That’s what I like to do best.”
He takes his musicmaking very seriously. It was his obsessive desire to do something new that led him to pull away from the formula Fleetwood Mac had developed on the albums Fleetwood Mac and Rumours. His offbeat work on Tusk, the band’s next album, confounded many of the 15 million people who had purchased Rumours. On Mirage, the group’s latest LP, they returned to the less adventurous sound that had characterized their earlier success. One senses that Buckingham derived a perverse satisfaction from the failure of the album to match the sales of Rumours.
Here in the studio, away from the realities of day-to-day life, Buckingham seems confident, at ease. This is where he has been creating a sonic world all his own. Inspired in part by the unconventional late-Sixties work of Beach Boy Brian Wilson and the spirit of the Seventies punk movement, but playing by his own rules, Buckingham has been stretching the traditional idea of a pop song, turning strange sounds into hooks, slowing down or speeding up his voice to create intricate, otherworldly harmonies, experimenting with a drum machine and a Fairlight computer, attempting to find new sounds, create a truly new song. ”I’m trying to break down preconceptions about what pop music is,” says Buckingham, who played nearly every instrument and sang all the vocals on Go Insane. ”I’m struggling to be original.”
Out of the studio, it’s another story. Fleetwood Mac may have sold millions and millions of records, and Buckingham may be a rock star, but behind the shades he’s plainly insecure. ”That’s something that’s always been there,” says his forty-one-year-old brother, Jeff Buckingham, an insurance broker. ”Just a little self-doubt.”