‘Everybody was at their worst’: Lindsey Buckingham on the difficult birth of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Big Love’

That Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love” has survived into another century’s playlists is its own kind of miracle, as far removed as author Lindsey Buckingham is from this late-1980s hit.

He is, of course, back together with the band — having initially left not long after the tumultuous sessions for 1987′s Tango in the Night, which produced this Top 5 U.S. smash. But, more importantly, he couldn’t have a different emotional life these days.

He says “Big Love” has become ironic, because “there’s a line in there about ‘looking out for love,’ and it wasn’t about looking for love, it was about guarding against love,” Buckingham tells A&E. “I had seen a lot of people that I knew who were spouses and parents and they were not there for their families during that time. I didn’t want to be one of those people.”

Buckingham has since gotten married, and now has three children — something he says puts “the subject matter of ‘Big Love’ firmly in the past.”

Fleetwood Mac continues as a four-piece band these days, featuring Buckingham, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks — and they, too, are seemingly happier than ever. Rewind to a little more than 25 years ago, and that certainly wasn’t the case.

“That was in my estimation when everybody in the band was personally at their worst,” Buckingham says. “If you take the whole subculture that existed in the 1970s, and what it led to — and how it degraded — by the time we did Tango in the Night, everybody was leading their lives in a way that they would not be too proud of today. It was difficult for everybody.”

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Lindsey Buckingham’s departure from Fleetwood Mac, just after the completion of ‘Tango in the Night,’ led to one of his best-ever solo efforts — ‘Out of the Cradle.’ Two cuts from that 1992 album find a home on Nick DeRiso’s exploration of five key deep cuts from Buckingham’s time apart from Fleetwood Mac …

“DON’T LOOK DOWN,” (OUT OF THE CRADLE, 1992): The opening of ‘Don’t Look Down’ provides a terrific early example of Buckingham’s modern electro-acoustic style, which recalls classical nylon-string guitar. He then launches into a brilliantly layered pop confection that sounds very much like the music he made on what was then assumed to be his final Mac album, ‘Tango in the Night.’

“GIFT OF SCREWS,” (GIFT OF SCREWS, 2008): A classic Buckingham howler supposedly inspired by an Emily Dickinson poem, ‘Gift of Screws’ was originally recorded for Fleetwood Mac’s 2003 album ‘Say You Will,’ but it didn’t show up until five years later on Buckingham’s solo LP of the same name. Mick Fleetwood and John McVie provide a stomping cadence, but, in a thrilling moment, the song nearly comes unhinged with Buckingham’s eruptive guitar solo.

“STARS ARE CRAZY,” (SEEDS OF SOW, 2011): The largely acoustic Seeds We Sow, Buckingham’s first self-released album following a lengthy stint with Warner Bros. Records, is dominated by concurrent introspection, with ‘Stars Are Crazy’ a highlight. When Buckingham launches into the darkly emotional chorus (“Sometimes we analyze, almost apologize … wondering if the stars are crazy”), he perfectly captures the spiraling emptiness of a lost love.

“SOMEONE’S GOTTA CHANGE YOUR MIND,” (UNDER THE SKIN, 2006): Buckingham’s fabled attention to craft is shown in high relief on this towering song of sadness. David Campbell’s swirling orchestration gives “Someone’s Gonna Change” a sense of panoramic emotion. And that’s Mick Fleetwood sitting in on drums once again.

“SOUL DRIFTER,” (OUT OF THE CRADLE, 1992): A pretty little pop pastry on the surface, this wanderer’s tale is every bit as revelatory as any of Buckingham’s more recent and far more denuded solo efforts. It’s no surprise that Buckingham is such a restless artist. But he’s never expressed those gypsy desires so eloquently, and certainly never in such an infectious setting.

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