Lindsey talks at USC (29th April 2015)
Subject: Lindsey Buckingham
When was it released? 29th April, 2015
Transcript based on audio taped by audience member; prior to video being released.
Thank you so much for being here.
It’s a pleasure.
I know you’ve been out on the road and, uh, to have you here all the way from Brentwood?
All the way from the west side, yeah. The traffic was a bitch.
It’s probably easier getting here from elsewhere. But this is a home game for you. So excited for you to be here. Now we’re catching you on about a month break between the long stretches on the tour. How many shows have you performed this time around?
Well, we got done with the American part of the tour, um, about two weeks ago. A little less than two weeks ago. I think it was eighty two shows. Um, and what happened was it kind of, uh, we ended up doing multiples. We couldn’t get away from The Forum for once but other cities as well, that there seemed to be a market for us that we did not necessarily expect and it’s just a good time for the band.
So you finished eighty two shows, you’re home for a month, and then you leave for your next leg which I think is Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Tell me what shows you’ve got planned.
[low voice] I don’t know. It could go on forever.
It does amaze me. The schedule is ridiculous, that you play this many shows and, uh, I know you’re not home very often but I did want to at least thank your wife Kristen and your children Will, Leelee and Stella for allowing us to share your time tonight on one of your home nights.
Well, that really is the hardest part. You know, the repetition of doing the shows can get a little surreal after awhile, the downtime can get a little challenging, um, you know, Stevie really needs a lot of days off for her voice but, uh, the hardest part is being away from the family, for sure. So thank you, guys, for not only, you know, sanctioning (?) this event but for some of you even being here. I mean, my god, they’ve seen me enough, I think, onstage.
It’s great, it’s great to have your family here as well. For those of you who haven’t seen this particular concert ‘On With The Show’, what makes this Fleetwood Mac tour different than previous tours you’ve had recently?
Uh, well the obvious thing is the return of Christine McVie. She had taken about a fifteen year break and really, at that time, she was living in L.A. and burned a lot of bridges. You know, she ended her relationship, she sold her house, I think she even sold her publishing. That’s a big no-no. But, uh, she moved back to England, she got a house in the country and had a complete, you know, wiping of the slate of her previous life. And I think after a while she started to, it took something that radical to make her appreciate certain things she’d missed and so she came back last year and we welcomed her with open arms and it’s been really kind of profound on a couple of levels. And I think the two things that are so timely right now is the fact that she’s here and she completes that fivesome, is a very circular time for the band and very karmic time, if you will, and that if you look at this like perhaps the beginning of a last act, um, then, you know, it’s very appropriate for her to be here for that. And I then I think you have to also look at the range of audiences. You’ve got, I don’t like to do the math because if you think about people who might’ve been in their forties when that first album came out, well, you know what I’m saying… But we’ve got those people, and we’ve got, you know, everything down to teenagers for whom our body of work seems to be making sense and, you know, I think it’s really the equation takes the element of time to be able to take stock of whether you’ve done your job properly or whether what you have done has legs. And so that’s the other timing this, is that with Christine’s return and the completion of that, uh, you know, line-up again is that we’re playing to, uh, many generations of people and they all seem to be enjoying it the same. It’s just, it’s a great time for us.
And you can tell it is passed down, my students, some of whom didn’t know as much about the band, but they all said ‘my parents listen and can I bring my parents to tonight?’
‘My great-grandmother listened to them!’ Boy.
We’re not there yet. It’s just ‘my parents’ so a lot of parents came out and came with their students. So for newcomers to the series, we’ll talk with Lindsey for sixty minutes up here. You know, given the equipment, maybe he’ll toss in a song or two. And then we’ll end up with a few - oh yeah - then we’ll open it up to a few student questions and then we’ll wrap up. We did start late and so we’re going to go over a bit late but it’s the end of the semester and this is our celebration so hang out, you’ll want to stay til the end. So let’s just dive in and talk about your life a little bit. Uh, where did you grow up and how big a family?
Oh, uh, I had two older brothers. Um, and I grew up in Atherton, which is *audience member cheers* Wow. You don’t hear that very often. You can say Palo Alto is the general area. And obviously that whole area has been impacted greatly by Silicon Valley. When I was very little it was all strawberry fields out there and orchards but, uh, yeah, I mean, it was a great place to grow up. Stanford University nearby, I think, informed the whole area with a kind of intellectual rigour that, uh, gave us an excuse to perhaps look down on Los Angeles slightly in a display of snobbism, which was not well-founded, as I found out later. Um, but, you know, the great thing about having two older brothers, aside from them both being great role-models, great comrade-in-arms, was that my oldest brother Jeff was old enough to, uh, have the lightbulb go off when Elvis Presley showed up on the scene and started bringing home all the early rock ’n’ roll, and that’s really what got me started playing guitar. Without Jeff probably I wouldn’t be here so (?) *quiet voice* damn you, Jeff.
So at what age did you start playing and what were some of the early influences that you wanted to emulate?
Well, I mean, you know, all of that early stuff was seminal for me. Um, Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and, um, you know, The Everly Brothers, um, and it was all - as far as guitar players go, probably Scotty Moore, who was Elvis’s guitar player, who used a pick but also used his fingers; kind of got me into that. And I think I gravitated towards players who tried to work the guitar into the fabric of the song, in service of the song. And that was really my orientation early on, was, I taught myself to play from listening to records and having a chord book. And it was really all song orientated from the very beginning. It was about learning chords and learning songs and singing. Um, and so then when the initial wave of rock ’n’ roll kind of fell off before The Beatles, there was a folk movement that hit rather large and of course, the fingerpicking, the Travis pick is sort of the base of what I do on guitar. Um, and I don’t use a pick very much; I don’t use one at all onstage right now. And, um, it really, but again the key is that, that it was all based in the sensibility of songs.
And it eventually - so self-taught?
No lessons. To this day, never had a lesson. Don’t read music. Sort of what you might call a refined primitive.
And because your described your playing style so articulately, you could almost imagine it but I wondered if you’d maybe, perhaps, you could demonstrate your fingerpicking style on maybe a selection of Never Going Back Again.
Are you all sensing that there might’ve been a little bit of talk about this before?
Slightly. Yeah, well, this is a sort of an offshoot of a track - The one thing we didn’t really do was, uh, rehearse the music. So. Alright. What was it you wanted me to do?
Never Going Back Again. Just a perfect - As much as you feel comfortable with.
[plays Never Going Back Again]
Thank you for that. I don’t think I was prepared for that. That was so -
So far, so good.
Oh. (?) so thank you for that.
Somebody guilted me into playing the whole song! Yeah, no, no, it was actually good to do.
That was fantastic.
I’m here; I might as well, you know.
Love that attitude. We'll keep asking.So let’s talk early career before we jump to Fleetwood Mac, let’s talk Buckingham Nicks. *audience cheers* When did you meet Stevie Nicks and tell us about the music of Buckingham Nicks. You guys opened for some really big ones.
Well, I met Stevie in Atherton. She transferred into my high school. I was a junior, she was a senior. And, um, we sort of were aware of each other vaguely but aware of each other’s musicality but only in passing and then she graduated and went to junior college. And I finished high school. And then at the end of my senior year I finally, for the first time, got in a band and over that summer, we talked about finding a singer and someone suggested Stevie. So next, the following fall I ended up at the same college so one of us asked her to join this band we were in and she did. We were not romantically involved at that time, none of the time we were in that band, which was called Fritz. Uh, we played around the Bay Area from San Francisco down to San Jose, uh, for a period of about four years. And, um, then at some point when we tried to get a record deal down in Los Angeles and did not succeed, Stevie and I were sort of singled out as perhaps being, you know, more interesting or having more potential. And at that point we thought about perhaps, you know - ‘Cause neither one of us had really tapped into our own musicality. There was someone else who had written the songs in Fritz and I’d played bass. I hadn’t even played guitar, didn’t really play lead guitar at that time, and hadn’t started to write songs yet. But we had this goal now because we knew there was some interest in L.A. and that sort of drew us together romantically together as well and so we (?) up in the Bay Area for a period of about a year and tried to come up with some material. And did. And eventually landed a record deal on Polydor. And that was the Buckingham - that became the Buckingham Nicks album.
And how old were you guys, about, at the time?
Yeah, at the time.
Ooh, you know, it’s - at the point I’m at now, it almost seems like a kid.
Twenty, twenty-two? I mean, their age. I’m just trying to put -
Well, I was twenty - When Buckingham Nicks came out, I was probably twenty-three. She was twenty-four.
And so at the same time, Fleetwood Mac had success in the UK, Europe, but lost its third guitar player and was fighting for its survival, I think. Mick Fleetwood comes to the States to find a new guitarist and basically keep the band alive. Tell us how you met Mick Fleetwood and the condition you required in order to join his band.
*laughs* Right. It was a very chance meeting as a lot of interesting things are. And, uh, Stevie and I had sort of had our arc of what was going to happen with Buckingham Nicks album, which wasn’t a lot commercially. And so we, um, happened to be at the legendary Sound City studio up out in the Valley, which does not exist anymore. Dave Grohl did a wonderful documentary on it. Um, and, uh, we were in the back studio, the small one, working on some new ideas cos they gave us free time all the time. And I just wandered into Studio A to see what Keith Olsen, who had, you know, been the engineer on Buckingham Nicks and who had really shepherded us through our early days in Los Angeles, what was he was doing in Studio A. As I walk in, I hear Frozen Love, which is a song from Buckingham Nicks, blasting over the speakers, and I walk in and there’s this giant skinny guy just grooving to the song and I’m going ‘what is going on here?’ Didn’t know who it was. Um, so the song ended, I was introduced to Mick Fleetwood. Turned out he was just looking for a studio to record an up and coming Fleetwood Mac album with, at that time, Bob Welch. Um, we parted company. Uh, Bob Welch, I guess, within a matter of weeks decided to leave the band and I get this call from Mick Fleetwood saying “Hi, remember me? Mick Fleetwood?” “Yeah, I do.” “How would you like to join Fleetwood Mac? We’re looking for a guitarist.” And took a beat and I said “Well, you know, I’d have to talk it over with someone but I think basically, you know, if you’re going to take me, you have to take my girlfriend too.” And he said “I’ll get back to you on that.” I guess he asked Christine McVie and she was okay and, uh, we talked about it and there were perhaps some pros and cons. Because there were things to give up that were more purely what we were doing and what our musical intentions were. Um, but there was also an opportunity there. It was not defined. It was, we just knew that (?) and said “Yeah, let’s give it a shot.” You know, it pre-empted any further Buckingham Nicks, you know, progress but that was the trade-off with Mick.
And, uh, not a bad deal for Fleetwood Mac, the +1 throw-in of Stevie Nicks.
Yeah, that turned out okay too.
So they - So one of the most interesting aspects of Fleetwood Mac to me is the group dynamic. Mick, John and Christine have a history, they go back. They invite you and Stevie into, sort of, their band. How long before it felt like a unit as opposed to separate factions? Was it instantaneous or was it sort of -
Well, you know, it’s interesting. We went into rehearsals before we recorded that first album, and we, uh, it became very clear to me, a couple of things. One was that these three people desperately needed a musical leader and probably hadn’t had a very strong one in a good long time. And I knew I could do that job, pushy guy that I am. Um, but I also felt that there was this intangible synergy that we had. You know, because on paper you look at these five people - You look at Stevie and me and it didn’t look like on paper, at least, a group of people that belonged in the same band together. But somehow it became very apparent right away as we started to interact musically in rehearsal that there was this synergy that added up to something greater than the sum of the parts. Uh, it was not something that you could even analyze very well. It was a chemistry. It was a, it was something transcendent. So I think that buoyed the whole idea of optimism and possibility for us very early on, before we even set foot in the studio.
So you say you joined the band in 1975 and you recorded and released the album Fleetwood Mac - also known as the White Album - and one of the most - and the album didn’t hit right away. So that this album contained three Top 20 singles - Over My Head, Say You Love Me and Rhiannon, which was a Buckingham Nicks tune, wasn’t it? That you brought to that? But the album didn’t hit right away. It took a lot of promotion. Um, what are sort of, you know, as you said, a great band makes each individual bandmember better. Um, how did your songwriting adjust from being you and Stevie, Buckingham Nicks, to now being part of a larger group? Did it adjust or did you just bring your -
Well, I don’t think my songwriting really adjusted per se. It was more the approach to music-making, you know. If you look at the Buckingham Nicks album, it really is very strongly informed by orchestral guitar playing, acoustic especially. Um, and that was something that was important to me, and it was something that needed to be pared back in the context of Fleetwood Mac. They had a pre-existing sound because John had a bass sound, Christine had a very full keyboard sound, and Mick’s drums were quite fat as well. And, uh, so the space that was available for me to do what I would’ve done and the amount of ground I would’ve covered on a single guitar part became, for the most part, irrelevant in that context. That was a big pill for me to swallow. A somewhat bitter pill but, you know, these are the choices you make and you have to sort of look at it as just one of the compromises that needs to made if you’re going to call yourself a bandmember. So I did that. Um, I had to even, uh, change the kind of guitar I was using because the guitar did not fit in with the pre-existing sound. So there were things I’d’ve wanted to do with the guitar that needed to be adjusted and I don’t want to say compromised but, uh, you know, altered to fit. And there was a certain amount of perhaps, that was given up in that process.
So this album, as I said, it launched three singles in the Top 20. It ultimately sold more than five million copies but, most importantly, it launches Fleetwood Mac as stars in pop music and sets the stage for your next album, which is Rumours n 1977. So Rumours is released and pretty quickly becomes a massive success, a juggernaut, both commercially and critically. It contained four Top 10 songs - Go Your Own Way, Dreams, Don’t Stop and You Make Lovin’ Fun. It was Number One for 31 straight weeks. Just crazy. It wins Album of the Year at the Grammys. So, you’re 28, you’re the leader of the biggest band in the world at that point. Are you prepared for what that brings? And give us a glimpse into what life was like inside the band at that time.
Well, you know, you’ve got to look at what Rumours was, what drove the music, what drove the subject matter, what drove as us individuals to, um, you know, complete that particular project, to, if you will, to follow our destiny. Um, you had two couples who were breaking up or had already broken up. John and Christine McVie had already broken up when we began recording Rumours. Stevie and I were in the process of breaking up. Um, and probably you can say that the success that we had achieved up to that point was very much the catalyst for those break-ups. So here we are in the studio. We’re up in Sausalito. Now normally when, if we just wanna isolate, say, Stevie and myself. Normally, when you are, ahhhh, in a break-up, you create distance. You create time to, um, somehow achieve closure. Uh, and, of course, we didn’t have the luxury to do that. We had to kind of live in sort of collective states of denial, if you will. We had to kind of say: “Well, this set of emotional challenges and perhaps painful subjects and feelings that exist in this room; we’ve got to kind of seal them off in one corner of the room so we can get on with what needs to be done.” You know, there were choices that had to be made. I didn’t always feel, in that context as producer of that album, I wanted to, I didn’t come in every day wanting to do the best possible thing for Stevie but the professional thing to do was to rise above that. So I think for the most part we did. I feel that I did. I think we all did as individuals in a situation which was less than ideal but in terms of what our personal lives were at that time. And I think what you have to say about Rumours is that there’s a point at which the appeal of it and, to some degree, the success of it, was really about that as much as it was about the music. Certainly, the music was formed by the strength and perhaps the heroism, if you want to think about it that way, that allowed us to fulfil that destiny under somewhat trying personal situations. Um, but there was also the appeal of this sort of musical soap opera that really was about our personal lives. They were kind of laid bared for everyone to see and people were not only listening to the music, they were investing in us as people because they knew that the songs were dialogues, true dialogues from one member to the other. From three different writers back and forth. And so that created an empathy, I think, with the listener and it made such an authentic thing for everyone to latch onto and so many levels for people to invest in. So again, I think at some point it detached from the music purely and became about all these other things as well.
Well, you think about that. You advise people “Don’t go into business with family and close friends or, you know, girlfriends or boyfriends”. That wasn’t a choice for you. You already had a band which was wildly successful. But think about this. Not only do you work with the person almost every moment of your professional career in studio recordings and touring, but that person is standing ten feet away from you writing songs about you and you about her that not only do you sing and harmonise on, you provide the guitar part for. So a lot has been written about your relationship with Stevie and the songs that you wrote and she wrote to you. You wrote ‘Go Your Own Way’, she writes ‘Dreams’ and ‘Silver Springs’. Um, can we - I said the lyrics from Dreams, the first verse of Dreams. Can you put that up there? Well, okay, we’ll listen to it. We don’t have to listen to it cos we’re a little short on time but she brings this into the studio. She writes this and brings this in. How do you receive that? Reading about that, I mean, you write about loneliness, she writes about loneliness. It’s from twenty-something year olds. It just seems a lot of pain and anguish. How do you receive that and what’s it like in the studio when Stevie brings that in and sings it? Does the rest of the band just look at the ground and avoid eye-contact?
Well, no, I think that we recognized the uniqueness of this position we found ourselves in. First of all, how many bands have two couples to begin with, four out of five people? And so, you know, I think we somehow were able to be philosophical about it. Um, you know, you, again, you don’t dwell on any of that too much. I thought, I think subject matter wise, we dwelled on what might have been points-of-view dialogues back and forth much less than the audience did. I think we were more concerned with the structure and, you know, just the whole construction of what needed to be done on a day to day basis. But like doing a film, you know, you may not necessarily be aware of the dialogue per se at any given moment. There are so many other things to be worried about.
So reading reviews at the time of Rumours, one commented “What distinguishes Rumours, what makes it art, is the contradiction between its cheerful surface and its anguished heart. Here’s a radio friendly record about anger, incrimination and loss.” I think what you’re saying is that is what makes Rumours so superb. The larger question is does great art take great pain?
Oh, well, it certainly, it de- I think what you could say about that is, cos, you know, if the follow the adage ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, um, I think you have to assume that at the very least, having painful experiences will broaden your emotional landscape and allow you to create more, uh, authentic art or art of more depth. Um, I don’t think you necessarily have to suffer in order to make effective art. No, I wouldn’t say that. I think, you know, you need to experience some of those things and certainly as we, uh, continued through the next few years, we probably shared things together as a band that, you know, we never shared with anybody else.
As you said, I don’t know if there’s a band with more internal relationships, the heartache, the dramas, (?) talked backstage. If it ever gets made, it’s going to be a great movie. Speaking of loving relationships, you wrote a beautiful song twenty years ago, sorry, twenty years after Rumours in 1997. It wasn’t released as a single but it really is one of those songs that stands the test of time. I don’t think you play it acoustically very often, um, and…
You sensing the set-up again? You wouldn’t be talking about ‘Bleed To Love Her’, would you? I do, we did play that song for quite awhile in Fleetwood Mac and I almost invariably play it in solo shows. Um, but, yes, it has been sort of laying a bit dormant for awhile.
You think about it, you know, there’s just not many bands or songwriters that are still writing great songs. Not good songs, not their old songs, but great songs, twenty or thirty years after they recorded the zenith of their career. And you and Fleetwood Mac still write great songs. So if you would treat us to a little bit of ‘Bleed To Love Her’.
Now I have to give you a slight disclaimer because, uh, David here, some of these things that we’re going to be doing got sprung on me at the last minute so… But I can see a method to his *laughs* you know, he figured that if he told me everything he was thinking of, I wouldn’t have showed up. Something like that. So, we’ll see. I don’t know if we can get through this whole thing but, uh, because I haven’t actually played this in quite in some time. Oh, he’s gonna leave! Oh. Okay. Okay. Wish me luck.
[plays Bleed to Love Her]
I will never interrupt you while you’re playing. That is, I don’t know how we got so lucky. I really don’t. This is just a great way to end the year so thank you.
So let’s shift to 1979 where -
Not for us. For you. Uh, the follow-up to Rumours. So Rumours is a huge world-wide success. You’ve got clout, you’ve got cache, you’ve got power with the record companies. You set up making a very different recording and an album. It cost a million dollars to make which I think, at the time, was the most expensive record of all time. It took thirteen months to record. The New York Times, not only the New York Times said recently, quote, that “Tusk was a deliberate act of crazy defiance”, close quote.
That is true.
So the public and the record company, you know, they wanted Rumours 2. But Tusk was a very different album and while it didn’t sell like Rumours - and nothing could, nothing could - you as the director took the blame. How did you deal with the public’s perception for the Tusk album and what did you learn about yourself during that time?
Well, I mean, first of all, you, I did, uh, bear the responsibility or take the blame from the band in a certain context. Because what happened was that, um, we have to kind of backtrack to the thought process behind it. Uh, Rumours had, again, I talked about it detaching from the music and becoming a little bit more about the musical soap opera, which was true. Also, though, perhaps even more significantly on a level which could be, you could feel a bit ambivalent about, was that, um, at some point Rumours detached - the success of Rumours stopped being about the music and began being about the success. So the phenomenon became about the phenomenon at some point. And this is kind of a dangerous Michael Jackson territory that you find yourself in, where, um, there is a kind of an edict, I think, that runs through business in general and certainly did through the record business at that time, which is something like this: If it works, run it into the ground. And then, eventually, move on. And that’s probably not a bad thing to follow from a business standpoint only but if you’re aspiring to be an artist, as I was, even more so in the face of what Rumours - there was an upside from Rumours in terms of what it allowed us to do, in terms of what it brought in financially, in terms of the doors it opened, but there was also a downside in terms of an external world which was now trying to, uh, put a set of labels on us and get us to basically adhere to those labels. For business reasons only. Um, and, you know, yes, you can make a case for saying perhaps we could’ve brought it along more gradually but, but in the context of, uh, what Rumours had been and, you know, behind the scenes, I had been working on some new ways of approaching recording that I thought were very interesting and were yielding some far different results, far more to the left, to be sure. Now, again, to get back to the blame which is what I started off responding to, the band was initially a bit, um, skeptical of the change-up but as that year went along, they became quite enchanted with what was happening and were quite drawn in. Now, this is the important thing. They only revised that opinion of things when, as you said, it didn’t sell 60 million albums. So, and it was a double album. And as you also very aptly pointed out, nothing, you know, Rumours was a moment in time, nothing would’ve sold 60 million albums again. It, so you know, you can try but happens with artists, I think, sometimes are people who start off doing things for the right reasons, is that you slowly start to paint yourself into a corner by doing what people outside of the creative world are asking you to do. And I think that’s antithetical to being an artist. So, um, I, I, yes, I’ll take the blame or the credit, depending on your point of view, I guess. And, uh, again, uh, I would’ve loved to have been a fly on the wall when Warner Bros first put Tusk on in their boardroom on the first day and listened to this thing and went ‘Oh’. You know. Because clearly it was not what they wanted and to some degree, it was not what - well, I shouldn’t say it wasn’t what the audience wanted, but it was not what everyone expected. And that’s part of the beauty of it. And that was indeed a somewhat deliberate thing. Um, so I think what you have to say about Tusk is that it was my favorite album of all these albums because of the reason it was done, and it started me down the path of that I still try to aspire to, which is to be an artist and not just a craftsman who’s doing business.
Well, for most people here it’s our favorite album as well. So take us back to the recording of the greatest song of all time. Where did the beat come from and who said ‘we need a marching band’?
Well, you probably have to credit Mick with both of those things. I mean, I had the song and Mick is, you know, he’s like an animal in the jungle sometimes and that’s what we love about him. If I’m a refined primitive, unrefined primitive. In more ways than one. And, uh, and yet a sublime figure and a sublime feeler and a poetic soul, to be sure. And so, um, I think the way we got that beat was he wanted to play something that had kind of a jungle roll to it, but he wanted it to be ultra-hypnotic. So back in the day before you could, you know, loop things digitally, you had to do it in some sort of analogue fashion. And the way we did that was to take two inch tape which, uh, was what 24 track was on back then, and make a piece of tape which probably ran the length of this stage and, you know, and edited it into itself, and then found some way to sort of spool from one end of the room and ran it through the machine so it would just play endlessly, over and over again, and that was the drums for Tusk. And the marching band idea, again, was Mick’s. We pretty much cut the whole track and Mick said, you know, this would be great with some, I think he was thinking John Philip Sousa or something because it did have time to it, even though it was a jungle thing as well. And, um, uh, how (?) got into the picture, I’m not sure, but I’m guessing Mick once again. Um, and as we all know that was just a very simple marriage of two different worlds, you know. Putting that over what we had, again, probably didn’t make a lot of sense on paper but it worked. It was great.
And can you, one of the first music videos was Tusk and, uh, it showed the audience the band recording it. Do you have a short memory that you could share with us? They rented Dodgers Stadium.
We gotta blame Mick for that one too. Because Mike liked to think big, you know. So I mean, it was a beautiful place to do the filming. Perhaps, uh, were one to speak to Mick’s accountant, there might’ve been a suggested alternative. Maybe more cost-efficient. Or maybe we got the thing for free. I don’t really know.
Hey, stop. Can you re-start that when I ask you to? Thanks. And go back. And ready to go? So, I wasn’t there. It was before my time. No, I’m kidding. I wasn’t there but -
Yeah, you weren’t born yet.
I keep telling myself that. Um, I wasn’t there but we searched and found some of the archives. So my favorite moment from the Tusk video, or from the Tusk day at Dodgers Stadium, is the reason why I will always like Stevie Nicks. Can you play this clip and make sure it’s loud enough for people to hear? “Who are we to deserve the USC Band to play for us?” Um, one of the greatest quotes of all time. And so that, the New York Times article I’m talking about was actually a recent article that did say the genius of Tusk and reflected on that and that, aside from the pre-conceived expectations, in itself it’s a great album, great double album. And Tusk set the record for, the unofficial record for, the highest number of musicians to ever perform on a single record.
I didn’t know that.
And it earned the USC Marching Band the distinction of the only collegiate marching band to have a platinum record. So Tusk has, and it went to sell more than a million copies and a bunch of records for USC and distinctions, and so Tusk is played at every USC football game, concert and athletic event since 1980. You have given us a piece of music history. Thank you. 1987, after Rumours, you went your own way.
That’s true. We did a couple more albums but, you know, what you have to understand is that, um, after Tusk, what went down was this kind of rule from the band that was like ‘well, we’re not gonna follow that process that we were doing on Tusk anymore’. So as a producer or even just as, you know, it was a difficult thing to sort of arbitrarily backtrack and try to sort of, you know, uh, throw yourself back into a place that you had been, that you weren’t in anymore. And that began - Probably had had everyone in the band wanting to continue down the road that expressed more the left side of the palette as Tusk had done, there would’ve been no need for me to do solo work. You know, because in a weird way, Tusk was the very same process and represented the same set of aspirations as the solo work does. And, you know, the solo work is more esoteric, is more tapping into the left side of my palette and consequently it’s inherently going to reach a fewer number of people, and that’s just, you know, it’s nice to have both obviously. One would not exist without the other but, so that became kind of a difficult thing for me in the studio. So we did Mirage and we did Tango in the Night, and by the time we got done with Tango in the Night, really, um, it was just people were just, you know, whatever we thought we had to be in order to be rock ’n’ roll in the Seventies, you know, had sort of hit critical mass, shall we say. So it became very difficult to get things done. It was a pretty chaotic environment to exist in and that’s really why I took off. You know, I produced the Tango in the Night album. We did it at my house. I was quite proud of the result but it was a very difficult album to get through and, um, knowing that the road tends to be like times five of what the studio is, I just thought it was time for me to take a little breather and that’s what I did.
And so in 1987 you left the band - and by the way, Fleetwood Mac continued. Fleetwood Mac had different iterations and different members. And Fleetwood Mac, when it continued, had to hire three guitarists at the same time just to play the parts that Lindsey played by yourself. Put up the graph-
Thank you for pointing that out too.
If you look, here is the membership timeline of Fleetwood Mac. So the five members from Rumours are circled but you can see the comings and goings of the band, and it hasn’t been consistent. In 1992, it’s like a musical Rubicks Cube up there. And you can see where the albums were and you see the broken lines where a bunch of people left and took time off. But in 1992, Bill Clinton is running for President and he uses ‘Don’t Stop’ as his campaign theme song and when he wins the Presidency, he requested that the band performed at his Inauguration. You guys get together for pretty much that only concert. It’s not until 1997 when the five members that we’re talking about now reunited for a tour and recorded a live album, The Dance, which spawned, what, three hits - Landslide was released as a single, The Chain, and Silver Springs. So eighteen years later you’re still going strong with Fleetwood Mac. What drives and inspires you now? What has changed in your life that makes you a better artist?
Well, you know, again, I think having the kind of success that we had on a commercial level and seeing what it was and what it was not really has helped me to, to aspire to continue to grow on my own terms. So that’s the base of everything, you know. And at this point in one’s life when, you know, the pre-conceptions people may or may not have, most people have about you, don’t necessarily fit with the content. You know, if someone were to really pay attention to what you’’ve done, it doesn’t fit with the pre-conceptions, and as you move to a certain point in your life, it becomes less relevant what kind of business you’re doing. It’s really just the process of creating and making something worthwhile. If 1,000 people hear it, well, that’s fine, you know, as opposed to 15,000 people or whatever you’re playing to with Fleetwood Mac. That becomes a non-criteria for me, you know. So there’s that which, and I’ve sort of come to call Fleetwood Mac the Big Machine and call the other thing the Small Machine, and those two work in tandem. I think the Small Machine is where I get to grow as an artist and can then bring that vitality into the larger situation, which is why you see me jumping around onstage in a very age inappropriate way.
What astounded me, as I mentioned, is to keep writing great songs, a lot of the bands from the Seventies and Eighties are pretty much nostalgia. They play their hits, which we all want to hear, but they’re not producing new stuff. In terms of just pure fitness and energy, they play two and a half hours, maybe a little bit longer; he doesn’t leave the stage once. Everybody else takes a little bit of a break; you do not leave. So not only do you, I mean, athletically, you’re fit. I met you afterwards and you weren’t even out of breath.
Well, see, everyone else has to take pee breaks. You may not know this, this is why The Eagles have an intermission. Now I've worked that through, I have a catheter. No, no, no, no.
Right, this is going to be our last topic and then my students can ask some questions. But I want to spend a couple of minutes talking about the power of music and why do we crave and enjoy music so much on our primal level. It’s the only art form that immediately changes your mood. It’s, you know, we mere mortals want to feel what it’s like to feel that. Someone who hasn’t played an instrument, played with a band, who will never get that high. Um, and I don’t know if you can convey that in words and I’d like to try, like what it is about music, everything else in life, I think, you can trace to like our most primitive needs to survive, to reproduce, have a family, and sort of continue society. Every culture, no matter how primitive, there’s music. What is it that in us that makes us want to not just play it - I get that - but for us to listen to it? What is it about music?
I mean, it’s such a profound question and it’s one of those things that, by being someone who is as close as I am to the process, and to the creation and the dissemination of music, it doesn’t make me more qualified necessarily to have an insightful answer to that. And I’m not sure that I know. Um, other than, you know, if music has certain qualities, it posses beauty, um, in a way which is perhaps the presentation of that, that other art forms have as well, but I think music presents it in the most visceral way. That’s the only thing I can think of.
The beauty of it is that, uh, you don’t have to explain it because you feel it and you get to live it, live that life. And so if you could allow us to experience you - This is not what you think!
Oh, yes, it is.
But we all want to know what it feels like and how it feels when your music courses through your body, moved and hypnotized and you see it when great artists play, you see it when, you know, Hendrix is playing Purple Haze, you see it when it takes over Stevie Wonder on Superstition, and watching you in concert playing Big Love, you see it transform you. Can you (?) take us to that place you know.
I can. If you really want me to do Big Love, I can. That’s one I can do sitting down, almost. *fiddles with guitar* This is one of the ones he sprung one me so… Let’s see how it sounds on this guitar. You know, this song does represent - I think one of the things you try to do as an artist is keep refining and looking for your center. Now this song began as an ensemble piece. It was the first single from album, Tango in the Night. But it was the whole band. But it became sort of a template for many songs I’ve tried to do that are really getting back to kind of what I was referring to before, one of the guitars doing, one guitar doing the work of all the track. And that’s the sort of road I’ve taken so I guess this song is really about transition. (?)
[plays Big Love]
I have nothing to say. Thank you for that. (?) Questions for Lindsey. Okay, start us off.
Hi, thank you for coming. This is a great show. I had a question. So, mainstream music has obviously changed a lot since when you started. And you have artists like Drake or Taylor Swift seem to be really identifying with our generation and do you think artists are going like - I can’t really imagine myself (?) and seeing Taylor Swift sitting up in that chair and interviewing them. Do you think someone like, do you think artists today are (?) same type of connection to their fans as long as you’ve been able to do it?
Um, you know, I, it depends on who you cite, you know. I actually like Taylor Swift. Not so much, I liked her last album a little more but I admire what she’s been able to do on some levels. But I mean, there are - One of the great things now, even though the bottle of the larger record companies has broken, and things, the marketing part of things, the decision making, the nurturing that used to companies from the bottom up, everything’s from the top down now from the boardroom, you know. People don’t take the risks, people on labels don’t have the autonomy, but what you’ve got is probably half the people you hear on like Alt. Nation or like some satellite stations who are making their albums on their laptop in their bedroom, and that’s great. Because, you know, then you get something like Sylvan Esso or I mean, there’s a ton of really good people out there, you know. I don’t think music is necessarily getting less vital. I think it’s a little harder to kind of chart how it interfaces with the sociology of things. You know, when I was a kid and Elvis Presley broke through to a middle-class white audience, it was a sociological phenomenon that lasted The Beatles, even lasted a little bit through Fleetwood Mac, even though we were basically doing an imitation of something that had already been done back then, perhaps. But, so, you know, I think there’s a lot of beauty out there and finding is a little bit, the discipline to do that is a little bit different now, I guess. Does that make sense?
Yes, thank you.
Lindsey, thank you so much for being here. I was sweating (?) that last song. You really had me going. Um, one thing I just want to ask you when it comes to, uh, the writing process, what inspires you for songs and is it lyrics first, do you craft the melody around something you’ve written, or is it always you’ll write the music and lyrics follow afterwards?
Well, it’s different. Stevie writes, um, she types her lyrics out and puts them in a drawer and maybe she’ll write a melody later on or maybe she’ll give it to someone else to write a melody so for her it’s the lyric. There’s a lot of strength in that on a certain rhythmic level, you know. Uh, I’m the opposite. I come up with *semi-singing* If I showed you the number of voice memos I have on my phone, rough ideas yet to be explored. Um, so I start with a melody. Now when I work on songs now, it’s kind of like painting because I’ll go down to my studio and I’ll have a rough idea of something and I’ll start to put things down on tape and, um, the song - It’s like painting with a canvas. You try instruments and the thing takes on a life on its own and pulls you off into different directions you may not have expected to go. It’s a very meditative one-on-one thing you have, and so, you know, everyone’s different. That’s just the way I do it. Um, I don’t even consider myself to be a skilled writer in the sense of Burt Bacharach or someone is a great writer of songs. You know, I’m sort of a, I don’t know -
You’re great, you’re great.
Thank you so much for coming. He took my question so I have a different question to ask. But, um, I’m just curious how it was infusing so much of your emotion from your emotional break-up with Stevie into Go Your Own Way, and what that process was like.
Say that again.
Just how it was infusing so much raw emotion into your song-writing, being able to correctly portray those emotions.
Well, you know, again, when you, we were living through that, you know. So putting the emotion into the song was probably just a form of therapy, and I wasn’t, again, as in touch with how much those songs at the time were dialogues back and forth. I think we thought of them as slightly more generic lyrics, you know. Um, that was part of the denial.
I’m also a songwriter and your band has had a huge influence on my own writing and I brought my album with me just to show you how you’re an influence your songs and your music still have -
I know, that’s really your parents’ album.
-show you. Oh my gosh. Thank you. Thank you so, so much.
Thank you so much for that very generous performance. Um, I just had a question. When you’re feeling off center, what do you do to kind of get back to yourself?
Um, well, I think that, unlike the old days - you know, it’s interesting. I saw a lot of people back in the good old days - we’ll call it that - who were trying to maintain relationships, several who were trying to be good spouses and good parents, and were leading lives that were counter-intuitive to that set of goals, shall we say. And so a lot of people kind of screwed up things that they had going. Um, I held off, um, and was very, very lucky to meet my wife at a point when all that other garbage was out of the way and so I think when I’m looking for more of a center, I just, I look to my wife and my children.
This is a real treat. This is pretty incredible. So thanks for doing it. I have a question and it relates to an experience I had recently. I went to, uh, a festival recently and saw a set done by Jack White and he had a beautiful quote that he ended his set with; he reinforced the fact that music is sacred, that music is sacred, that music is sacred.
You went to Coachella.
You knew it. My question is: for you, have you experienced a moment of just sheer beauty either in performance, writing where that did happen? And beyond that, perhaps a little generally, um, do you hope to leave a legacy - obviously you have - but did you ever intend to? And if you leave one, what are you most proud of?
Well, you know, the funny thing is that I was never really very goal-driven. Um, when Stevie and I decided to move to L.A., it was her idea. I would’ve just stayed up in Northern California probably. I was never that ambitious. Um, I was, I was focused on the craft that I was interested in but I wasn’t necessarily tying it to success of any kind other than my own definition of success. So I think you have to look at everything as if you’ve been able to get from Point A to Point B to Point C all the way down as long as I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing, then even halfway remember who you are and halfway care about what I think is important to care about as a musician or as an artist, um, and halfway remember why you got into it in the first place, that’s success. And that would make me happy if I get to the end and I feel I’ve accomplished that.
So I wanna kind of want to write this Fleetwood Mac movie so, uh, my question for you is during, when you were making your first album, John and Christine were dating, you and Stevie Nicks were dating. How awkward was it to have Mick Fleetwood as the fifth wheel?
To have Mick Fleetwood as what?
How awkward was it to have Mick Fleetwood as the fifth wheel?
Oh, as the fifth wheel. Well, yeah, I mean, it wasn’t awkward for me. I think maybe it was awkward for him. Um, you know, he had his own, uh, challenges with his wife too. Even though she wasn’t in the band. But yeah, that’s a good point. There is sort of this symmetry of these two couples and there was this guy. But also he was also, at this time especially, sort of the Big Daddy. He was the guy who was, um, seemed to have (?). It was his intuition that led him to ask, well, me to join Fleetwood Mac and ultimately both of us, you know. And he’s a very intuitive guy and, um, so, you know, I think he always kinda stood apart in that way, looking at everybody, hopefully looking after everybody a little bit, or at least trying to. Even when he didn’t, you know, he always, his heart, he has the biggest heart.
So you mentioned earlier how you aspired, obviously succeeded in being an artist, not a craftsman involved in business. I’m just wondering how did you build the courage to resist, you know, what everybody was telling you on the outside? You know, everybody who wasn’t involved in the creative process. How did you get past what they said and truly become your own self as an artist?
That’s a very good question. I must’ve had a lot of issues. No, I mean, I think in my own strange way that I did have something to prove, you know. Um, by that time, you know. I was looking for my place still and I think, to some degree, Mick had his place. Um, Stevie had kind of, you know, found her kind of witchy image which for a lot of people was very easy for people to gravitate towards that and to understand that, and I just, I think part of it was just feeling that there was a need to keep my head above water. You know, there was, part of it was just a survival thing and the other part of it was just the ideas, I think.
Hi. My name’s Taylor. I’m a singer/guitarist and a friend of Paul Fishkin’s, and, uh, I just wanted to mention before I asked my question that I portray you in a Fleetwood Mac tribute show that’s quite popular, not only for musical accuracy but the characterisations and mannerisms and personality.
Well, you are wearing my shirt.
But uh, I just want to say that, um, absorbing your body of work has added so much depth to my own vocabulary as an artist and it’s been so challenging and rewarding. I want to thank you for that. And, uh, my question is: so much has been said over the years about your arranging and producing in regards to bolstering Stevie’s songs, but less has been revealed about your working relationship with Christine and, uh, especially with her back again now but also before. Can you take us through your process of getting a Christine demo and what, how you’d go to town sort of arranging her music in particular?
Well, I mean, I don’t think the two applications are that dissimilar. There were maybe things that Stevie needed that Christine didn’t need, and vice versa. Um, it’s hard for me to really quantify that or say I did this specifically for one versus the other. But I think there’s the instinctual kind of imagination to take something, it’s much easier to do it for other people than yourself because you’ve got the objectivity, you know, that you don’t have for your own stuff. So I think probably that’s, you know, I’m better at that than I am at writing for myself. Um, and it’s just, you know, these things come to you and, then again, I was talking earlier about when we first started rehearsing. Before we cut the very first album. It was obvious to me that, I mean, I was already doing it for Stevie but it was obvious to me that Christine, as a writer, needed pretty much that same thing and that was a defining moment for being able to sort of realize that that was going to be an important contribution that I was able to give the band.
Was it easier for Christine to welcome that because you didn’t have romantic baggage?
Um, not back in the day. If you cut to the present, yes. You know, in fact, Christine came over and we started working on some new material and she had some rough ideas and I gave her some tracks that I had that were just, didn’t have melody, she wrote over those. And it was just, it was actually better than ever, sort of, you know. I mean, that thing, it does help that somebody wants you to do it and trusts you to do it. For sure.
You’ve been so generous with your time. I know we started a little late. Thank you so much for being generous. Thank you so much for the music, thanks for the advice. I know my class could sit here and ask many, many more questions. We got - One more, one more question. One more question. We could have one more person up here to give us a question from the audience. Just one more. Get out of here.
Is this on? My name’s Eddie. (?)
Eddie. How are you? Looking good.
You’re scaring me.
My question to you is: can you and I play Tusk?
Well, are you ready? Should I start? I guess I should, right. Okay.
[plays Tusk with USC Marching Band]
[plays Go Your Own Way with USC Marching Band]