When Lindsey Buckingham released his self-titled record in September, the media frequently lauded “Swan Song,” the fourth track, as a standout tune. What’s more, Buckingham himself told Newsweek that it’s one of his two favorite songs on the new record.
But when Blinker the Star founder/frontman/songwriter and record producer Jordon Zadorozny (whose credits include producing Chris Cornell and a songwriting credit on Hole’s Celebrity Skin), first heard “Swan Song,” he felt like he was starring in an episode of The Twilight Zone. “My thought was, ‘How do I know this song, and why do I suspect that I have sung it before?’” says Zadorozny over the phone from his home in Pembroke, Ontario, Canada.
Zadorozny was driving around running errands on a Saturday afternoon when he began streaming Buckingham’s latest record in his car. Upon hearing “Swan Song,” his brain leapt into overdrive trying to solve the mystery of how he knew the tune when, suddenly, a flash of realization hit. “Swan Song”’s chorus, but for slight lyrical tweaks and dropped one key, was the same chorus as “Mind’s Eye,” a song Zadorozny co-wrote with Medicine founder and songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer Brad Laner, over 20 years ago.
“Mind’s Eye” chorus:
It isn’t right to keep me waiting
Do you have to hold out on me so long now?
Is it right to keep me waiting?
In the shadow of my mind’s eye
“Swan Song” chorus:
But is it right to keep me waiting?
Is it right to make me hold out so long?
Yeah, is it right to keep me waiting
In the shadow of our swan song
“It was a strange feeling of déjà vu, but a déjà vu where your hero is singing your song,” says Zadorozny.
Zadorozny hadn’t even thought about “Mind’s Eye” since it was written over two decades ago — when his connection to Buckingham began. In 2000, when Zadorozny was signed to DreamWorks, Lenny Waronker, the record label’s president, asked Zadorozny whom he’d like to produce his next record. Having always idolized Buckingham, it was a no-brainer. “It’s something I used to think about as a high school kid going to bed at night,” says Zadorozny. “It was pure fantasy. ‘Out of all my heroes, who could I work with?’ And then it was, ‘Wow, this is actually happening.’”
With Buckingham’s busy schedule, he didn’t have time to produce a full record. But after listening to a CD of Zadorozny’s demos, he agreed to produce two songs which he reimagined and demoed. “I freaked out,” says Zadorozny. “It sounded like Tusk-era Lindsey playing my songs, and I was completely blown away.”
Buckingham and Zadorozny then went to record at The Village Studios (where Tusk was recorded), and Zadorozny recruited Laner to play bass (the pair initially bonded over their mutual adoration of Tusk).
At the end of the studio sessions, Laner handed Buckingham a CD of songs he’d co-written with Zadorozny, hoping the then-Fleetwood Mac guitarist would cover one of them. “It was obnoxious of me to give that to him,” says Laner over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. “But there was no way in hell I was not going to hand Lindsey Buckingham a CD.”
Out of all the CD’s songs, “Mind’s Eye” was particularly meaningful to Laner, who wrote the lyrics about his ailing father. “The lyrics about waiting are about my father who was dying,” he says. “The song came out of a period of a lot of waiting and waiting for results…grim stuff. That’s where my head was at the time.” Laner’s father died a couple of months after the recording sessions.
Meanwhile, the pair had long since forgotten about the exchange, and Zadorozny hadn’t been in contact with Buckingham since 2002, when Buckingham contributed guitar and vocals to two Blinker the Star songs.
In fact, recording Fleetwood Mac cover songs marked the closest the pair had come to Buckingham in approximately 20 years. Medicine tackled Fleetwood Mac’s “Sentimental Lady” on their last LP, 2019’s Scarred For Life, and Zadorozny started recording Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies” for Arista, a covers album he released in July, but wound up leaving the song off the record.
So when Zadorozny called Laner in September to tell him about “Swan Song,” he was incredulous. “I said, ‘Oh shit, that CD I handed him worked out,’” says Laner.
Given their past experience with Buckingham’s creative process, the pair figured he made a demo of their song years ago, rediscovered it recently, and forgot that he didn’t actually write it. “He’s got years of integrity and no reason to be stealing songs from anyone, especially us,” says Zadorozny.
Sure enough, when Zadorozny and Laner reached out to Buckingham’s management and sent their demo of “Mind’s Eye” along with a photo of Zadorozny, Laner and Buckingham, they found out that’s exactly what happened after Buckingham’s management checked in with him while he was touring in support of his new record.
“He’d taken our song, made a demo himself of it, put it away for a rainy day and, as it turns out, 16 or 17 years later found that demo and thought, ‘This is a cool thing I did back in 2000,'” says Zadorozny.
Once Buckingham returned from his tour, legal paperwork was amicably drawn up, stipulating a flat monetary sum for Laner and Zadorozny, a portion of the publishing, and co-writing credits for “Swan Song,” deemed a “derived composition” of “Mind’s Eye.” Additionally, digital artwork will be updated as well as artwork in future physical hard copies.
In this era of ubiquitous music copyright lawsuits, Zadorozny and Laner are not only pleased the situation didn’t become litigious, but are still pinching themselves that this happened in the first place. “It’s magnificent,” says Laner. “He made it his own, and that’s a thrill. I have zero complaints about that.”
“There’s almost no one else whose album I’d rather have my music on,” says Zadorozny. “I’m grateful to Lindsey for rediscovering this piece of music and I love what he did with it.”
When contacted by SPIN, Buckingham’s management sent the following statement:
“Following the recent release of Lindsey’s self titled album, it was brought to his attention that significant elements of the song ‘Swan Song’, had come from a song that had been shared with him more than 20 years ago while he was working in a Los Angeles studio, producing some music for Brad Laner and Jordon Zadorozny. When this unintentional and inadvertent usage was raised to Lindsey, he quickly realised his mistake and a friendly resolution was made by all parties.”