Buckingham, who had spoken for months about leaving the band, originally came on board in 1975 with singer Stevie Nicks in a lineup change that precipitated the group’s move to pop preeminence. Buckingham was the primary alchemist behind many of Mac’s seductive pop records, including this year’s LP Tango in the Night, which he coproduced.
During Buckingham’s years with Fleetwood Mac, the group steered a turbulent course that encompassed both the heady triumph of Rumours, which sold 16 million copies, and the comparative commercial failures of Tusk and Mirage.
Buckingham didn’t cite any specific factor or incident in discussing his decision to leave the group; instead, he says, it was always his intention to pursue his solo career after wrapping production on the group’s album.
“Back in 1985, I was working on my third solo album when the band came to me and asked me to produce the next Fleetwood Mac project,” he says. “At that point I put aside my solo work – which was half finished – and committed myself for the next seventeen months to producing Tango in the Night. It was always our understanding that upon completion I would return to my solo work in progress.”
While Buckingham is sequestered at the Slope, his twenty-four-track home recording studio, his former band mates are rehearsing less than ten miles away with new Mac guitarists Billy Burnette and Rick Vito.
Burnette, the son of the 1950s rockabilly legend Dorsey Burnette, has recorded seven solo albums, played with Fleetwood’s splinter band the Zoo, co-written “So Excited” with Christine McVie for her 1984 solo album and jammed with her and Nicks on more than one occasion. Guitarist Vito, who most recently played with Bob Seger on his album Like a Rock and on tour, has also gigged in bands fronted by Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and early Mac mentor John Mayall.
Despite the departure of Buckingham, the members of the new Fleetwood Mac are optimistic about their ten-week tour of more than forty-five dates. But there are still some regrets over the split.
“This is the end of a very important era for us,” says Christine McVie. “I’m obviously saddened by the fact that Lindsey can’t work with us anymore, but people change directions and don’t always grow together after twelve years.”
Drummer and group cofounder Mick Fleetwood says that after months of Buckingham’s waffling on the post-Tango future of Mac – and after reading several “disconcerting” articles in which Buckingham sounded the band’s death knell – he confronted Lindsey on “what seemed to be an inevitable outcome.”
During the past summer, says Fleetwood, Buckingham apparently decided he would join the group on the road for a short time, with the understanding that it would be his final concert tour. By that point, the wheels were turning in the band’s touring machine.
When Buckingham opted not to go on the road, it appeared that the off-again, on-again tour was off. Just when it seemed the group might never get out on the road, Fleetwood suggested that guitarists Burnette and Vito be brought in. Suddenly, the tour was on again.
“It really did happen in the flash of a minute,” Nicks says with a laugh. “We went from not going on the road to actually booking gigs in about a week.”
As with Buckingham and Nicks twelve years ago, neither Burnette nor Vito were required to officially audition for the band.
The two-hour hour show will include material from Fleetwood Mac’s entire career – from 1969’s “Oh Well” up to the Tango single “Seven Wonders.” The band will continue to perform songs on which Buckingham sang lead.
This story is from the September 24th, 1987 issue of Rolling Stone.