(Neal Preston)

Tangoing without Lindsey Buckingham

The liner of the latest album reads like a precocious kid’s school project. Produced by Lindsey Buckingham; arranged by Lindsey Buckingham; additional engineering by Lindsey Buckingham; cover concept by Lindsey Buckingham; half of the music and lyrics by Lindsey Buckingham.

So Fleetwood Mac gets ready to head out on tour to promote the album, Tango In the Night, and who decides not to go?

Right – Lindsey Buckingham.

After 12 years with the band, he has quit and gone back to work on a solo album.

“It had been building up,” says Mick Fleetwood, co-founder of the 20-year-old group. “He was making it clear that this was the last Fleetwood Mac album he would do. Finally, going on the road became the catalyst for leaving. He basically doesn’t enjoy the road.

“But if you’re a rock band, that’s what you do.”

If you’re this particular rock band, you’re like a ticket agent at an airport – you get used to arrivals and departures.

So Billy Burnette and Rick Vito replace Lindsey Buckingham, who replaced Bob Welch, who replaced Jeremy Spencer 16 years ago. Peter Green, Daniel Kirwan and Robert Weston have all come and gone. Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks, now the heart of the Fleetwood Mac sound, were additions along the way. John McVie and Fleetwood are the only remaining members of the original band, which had its beginning in 1967.

“I prefer to see Lindsey happy out of the band rather than unhappy in it,” says Fleetwood, speaking by telephone from Los Angeles before a rehearsal session. “We’re fairly familiar with change, and it’s all been healthy, I think.”

He downplays the problem of touring with a new album that bears so many fingerprints of an ex-member. “We’ll only do about three songs off this album,” Fleetwood says. “One thing we’re not short of is material to draw on.” True. Their charted hits range from “Over My Head” in 1975 to “You Make Loving Fun” in 1977 to “Sara” in 1979 to “Seven Wonders” and “Little Lies” from Tango In the Night, and Fleetwood Mac is not averse to playing them.

“When I go to a concert, I like to hear the band do things I’m familiar with,” Fleetwood says. “When I browse around in a record shop, I tend to buy `greatest hits’ albums.

“The reason the audience is there is because they know you. We did a concert once with only new material, and we died.

“Besides, it would be unfair to the new members to say, `Here are 10 Lindsey Buckingham numbers. Learn them.’ That wouldn’t be very classy.”

When Buckingham decided to call it quits, deciding on his replacements was “painless,” according to Fleetwood. “In the Fleetwood Mac tradition, we kept going,” he says. “Billy Burnette is an extremely close friend who has played in my band, The Zoo, for the past four or five years. He had gotten to know everyone in Fleetwood Mac as a friend.

“I had known Rick Vito for several years, too, and had seen him perform. Also, he had been a huge Fleetwood Mac fan for years.”

If replacing Buckingham was a smooth, quick move, getting the album made in the first place was not.

“Logistically, it wasn’t easy,” Fleetwood says. “Lindsey had started working on the solo album he’s working on now, and the others were out doing other things. We had some meetings, with everyone hemming and hawing, and finally started talking about getting into the studio.

“Then Christine got a gig doing a movie sound track. She asked us to work with her on that, one thing led to another, and four of us found ourselves in a studio.”

That put them on course to make Tango In the Night, which was a relief to Fleetwood. “I was certainly keen to do it,” he says. “If we didn’t, there was a chance we never would do another album, and there would be no more Fleetwood Mac. I want the band to be a going concern.”

Buckingham was quoted by Rolling Stone magazine last spring as saying that this could be the last “Mac” album. Fleetwood says that isn’t so. “There’s no chance that this is the last album,” he says, and promised that the next one wouldn’t take four years to come together, as this one did.

He contends that the departure of Buckingham won’t seriously hamper the group’s song output. “There are no worries at all in that area,” he says. Neither of the latest hits is a Buckingham song, by the way. Nicks and Sandy Stewart wrote “Seven Wonders” and Christine McVie collaborated with Eddy Quintela on “Little Lies.”

Buckingham’s absence in the studio is likely to be felt. “Lindsey was definitely an instrumental part of the recording,” Fleetwood says. “It just will be different.”

The sound of the band could change subtly. “I hope so, in some respects,” says Fleetwood – but the Fleetwood Mac-ness seems to survive each goodbye.

“Christine and Stevie are inherently the basis of Fleetwood Mac music,” says Fleetwood, 45. “And with me on drums and John on bass as the rhythm section, that somehow ties it all together. When you hear us, you know it’s Fleetwood Mac.”

Jim Pollock / USA TODAY via Gannett News Service / October 2, 1987

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