Fleetwood Mac has fired Lindsey Buckingham.
This is totally unexpected but also totally not a surprise. If there’s one constant theme (besides music) that has defined Fleetwood Mac for its 40-year run, it’s constant emotional conflict. It was baked into the band’s DNA. Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were a couple when they joined the already-successful English blues band, Fleetwood Mac. They then began the long, laborious process of breaking up and sleeping with other people. This emotional torment was hell on the band, but brilliant for the music. The album Rumors, which was written at the height of the interpersonal conflict, still reigns close-to-supreme on many “Best Ever” album lists.
Rumors found four creative geniuses fighting for control over the music and their relationships. McVie wrote “You Make Loving Fun” about her new lover, while her husband John McVie played bass on the song. Mick Fleetwood has a short-lived affair with Nicks. Buckingham fumed. The music soared, making Fleetwood Mac the biggest band of the 1970’s.
The band continued its hit-making after Rumors. Through it all, Buckingham has often had creative differences with his mates. The clashed over the double-album Tusk, the brainchild of Buckingham. Although reaction to the album was mixed at the time, it’s now regarded as a masterpiece in its own right.
The Mac continued to chart hits into the 1980’s, but after awhile more than one band member needed time away. Christine McVie semi-retired to the English countryside. Stevie Nicks had a wildly successful solo career, and moved to the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. In 1987, Buckingham quit right before they went on tour, and the band replaced him with two also-rans, who actually stuck around for the release of two albums.
The group came back together in an unexpected way, when two baby boomers won the presidency in 1992, using Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” as an anthem.
The band quickly came back together, played the inauguration, released a live performance, The Dance, that was a worldwide hit. They went on tours – sometimes as a full band, sometimes with McVie taking a break.
In 2017, McVie and Buckingham released a collaborative album and toured in support.
Then came the announcement that in 2018, Fleetwood Mac would stage one last great, worldwide tour. The band appeared together in January at the MusiCares Person of the Year at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Buckingham admitted the band is all about the struggle. “It was much of the attraction and much of the fuel for our material,” he explained. “Not very far below that level of dysfunction is what really exists and what we are feeling even more now in our career, which is love. This has always been a group of chemistry.”
Although the farewell tour was announced, months went by without concrete details. And now this. We don’t know what lies behind the decision. However, for decades Buckingham has serviced as Fleetwood Mac’s official musical director. It remains to be seen whether the latest breakup will end in another makeup. For now, Buckingham is being placed by Mike Campbell, from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Neil Finn from Crowded House. Finn is the most gifted songwriter of his generation, and his addition to the band could produce some amazing moments.
Still it is notable that once again, Buckingham can’t be replaced by just one man. It’s a testament to his crazy genius. As Rob Sheffield noted at Rolling Stone, if any other band fired their creative director right before their last tour, they would be accused of pulling a stunt for publicity. But with Fleetwood Mac, the dysfunction has always been real. Perhaps that’s why people love them