By Howard Cohen
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Decades since Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks turned their rocky romance into the aural soap opera classic, Rumours, the Fleetwood Mac pair still find new ways to get on each others’ nerves.
Case exhibit: the recording of Say You Will, in stores Tuesday and the duo’s first album of original material with the band in 16 years.
”We had a few little bumps near the end of the project when she came in off the road after her tour,” Buckingham says. “We had made quite a start on her stuff and I think she was glad to have the collective arms around her because her tour was quite a burden on her. But, in some ways, she was looking at me, [thinking], `What’s he going to do to my songs?’ ”
Nicks, a rock star in her own right, hadn’t had to answer to her old boyfriend in quite some time. But, among other roles, Buckingham produced the edgy Say You Will and it originated from his aborted solo album.
”There was plenty of drama, plenty of arguments, things we really had to hash out,” Nicks says. “But that’s what makes a great record. If everything went blissfully smooth it would be a blissfully boring record.”
Song sequencing and selection were the primary issues.
”In the beginning it was a double record with 23 songs,” Nicks says. “But in January we decided to make it a single record. With the way the country is going and the economy, maybe we don’t want to put out a double record right now.”
Say You Will, like the risky 1979 Tusk, reveals the differences in approach taken by these songwriters.
Buckingham, 55, aims not only to push the envelope, but to light it afire with scorching guitar leads and quirky arrangements that, on songs like Murrow Turning Over in His Grave and Come, border on industrial metal. Nicks, 54, prefers a more conventional pop-rock style.
Say You Will represents the first time since 1970 that Fleetwood Mac has recorded an album without vocalist-keyboardist Christine McVie, 59, who opted out of the band following the 1997 reunion tour and live CD, The Dance. Her backing vocals remain on two tracks Buckingham reworked from his solo project.
Minus McVie’s buoyant love songs, Say You Will ends up a heavier, fresher, guitar-oriented opus — an antidote to the comparatively tepid pop of ’80s albums Mirage and Tango in the Night, records that led to Buckingham’s departure.
”I had left the band in order to keep growing and to make sure that I allowed myself to remain in a creatively nurturing environment which Fleetwood Mac had become the antithesis of in 1987,” he says. “When we went into this project I was able to take on more responsibilities.”
Now the primary voices, Buckingham and Nicks were also able to return to the confessional hallmarks of Rumours.
But yesterday’s gone. Buckingham is now married to photographer Kristen Messner and the couple have a son and daughter. ”I have nothing but good memories of growing up in an upper middle class family in northern California. I always thought I would have kids,” he says. “I never found the right person but I wasn’t the right person at the time, either. I happened to meet someone that I get along with very well.”
Nicks, still single, contributed to the new CD Smile at You, reputedly from an old ’70s demo. Guess the target. What you did not need was a woman / Who was stronger / You needed someone to depend on you / I could not be her.
Such politics-of-the-heart tunes also rub against topical songs with a broader world view. Buckingham offers a caustic media commentary, Murrow. Nicks delivers her melancholic poem, Illume (9-11).
In hindsight, then, Say You Will is the balanced album that probably would have been a better followup to Rumours than the eccentric Tusk. It’s also, with the possible exception of Rumours, the first studio work to approximate this band’s energy on stage. (The tour hits the Office Depot Center June 7.)
”That’s no accident,” Buckingham says. “Approaching things without Christine gave us some opportunities to play differently. With everyone having that much more room to maneuver as a musician it allowed it to be more masculine.”
The timing for a new CD couldn’t be better. The Dixie Chicks’ recent cover of Nicks’ 1975 composition Landslide became a big crossover hit.
‘They took Landslide to a whole other genre of people — a k a much younger people! They opened up dialogues from kids: `Hey, I love this Landslide song, so let’s go see what else Fleetwood Mac wrote.’ For that, we are forever in debt,” says Nicks.
So spirits are high. ”We get along very well now,” Nicks says. “I think all of us are realizing how lucky we are. . . . Who wouldn’t want to be in Fleetwood Mac? That’s what I keep telling myself any time I have a problem.”
Then she laughs. The recording hassles all but forgotten. Until it’s time to write for the next CD.