Just three years ago, when Fleetwood Mac was awash in good vibes after the return of Christine McVie, MOJO Magazine asked Mick Fleetwood if it was the classic lineup or nothing. The drummer, who has anchored the British band with bassist John McVie since 1967, responded: “This is it, to me. Emotionally, if you think of the enormity of what has happened, the surprise of what has happened, the doors that have opened to be walked through…if you were writing a book, you’d go, ‘Isn’t it a shame I can’t end it like this?’ We’ve had the chance to end it like that and I wouldn’t dream of it any other way.”
Dreams never last. It was only a matter of time before Fleetwood’s rosy summary of the future of rock’s most mercurial band shattered, and April 9, 2018 brought the news. Lindsey Buckingham–the guitarist/singer/producer/songwriter who sat at the foundation of Fleetwood Mac since 1975–would not joining the band on its farewell tour later this year. Shortly after the story broke in Variety, it was reported by Rolling Stone that Buckingham was fired over disagreements concerning this tour.
Details remain sketchy but as its surprise reveal fades, Buckingham’s departure seems like the inevitable end to his time in Fleetwood Mac. After all, the group had eight guitarists before he joined and, with this year’s addition of Crowded House’s Neil Finn and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, there have been six other members that have played with the group once Lindsey left them high and dry. Buckingham may have played a pivotal part of Fleetwood Mac’s story but it was only a part–one that was fraught with so much creative tension, it’s a wonder either of his tenures lasted as long as they did. Here we’ve created a brief history of Buckingham’s time with the band.
1973: As Fleetwood Mac release Mystery To Me, their fifth album to feature Christine McVie and guitarist Bob Welch, Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks debut with Buckingham Nicks, a sweet, hazy collection of folky Southern Californian soft-rock produced by Ken Olsen. Buckingham Nicks sinks without a trace, leaving the duo nearly destitute and looking for a break.
1974: Fleetwood Mac begins the year battling a former manager who launched a competing band with by the same name, alongside members of a group called Legs, and ends it with Bob Welch quitting the band on the eve of recording an album. Desperate to replace his guitarist, Mick Fleetwood remembers Ken Olsen playing him “Frozen Love,” a song from Buckingham Nicks, earlier that year, so he offers Buckingham the gig without an audition. Lindsey insists that his partner Stevie join as well–a magnanimous gesture, to be sure, but also the first sign he’ll put his own creative interests first.
1975: Despite the reservations of John McVie–“we’re a blues band, this is really far away from the blues,” Olsen recounted–Fleetwood Mac decided to follow the direction of Buckingham and Nicks and refashion themselves on their eponymous 1975 album.
1976: As Fleetwood Mac climbs the charts in the early months of 1976, Rolling Stone reveals in an April 22, 1976 news item that Buckingham and Nicks are the second couple in Fleetwood Mac to be hitting “choppy waters.” This marks the first airing of the interpersonal strife within the band and it’s a double reveal, divulging the divorce of the McVies as well. With all their dirty laundry going public, the group embarks on the stress-filled recording of a new album, which they would call Rumours after all the gossip in the press.
1977: Released in February, Rumours elevates the band to superstardom. The album stays at the top of the Billboard charts for 33 weeks, generating the Top 10 hits “Go Your Own Way,” “Dreams,” “Don’t Stop,” and “You Make Loving Fun.”
1978: Riding high on Rumours, Buckingham and Nicks experience a detente in their personal relationship as they co-produce Walter Egan’s Fundamental Roll, which features the yacht rock standard “Magnet and Steel.” (Nicks would also sing harmonies on “Gold,” a hit Buckingham produced for John Stewart in 1979).
1979: Heading into the studio to record the sequel to Rumours, Lindsey Buckingham was insisting that the Mac make an album that turned their 1977 blockbuster on its head. Christine McVie would tell Creem, “I think if we hadn’t done that album, then Lindsey might’ve left,” but that doesn’t mean the sessions were easy. Nicks recounted in the liner notes to the 2015 reissue of Tusk–the resulting double-LP released at the end of 1979–that Buckingham was so adamant to do something the opposite of previous record “that I think he scared us.”
1980: Despite two Top 10 hits in “Tusk” and “Sara,” Tusk didn’t replicate the success of Rumours, and tensions began to bubble over onto the stage. During the final gig for the supporting tour for Tusk, Buckingham announced “This is our last concert….for a long time,” sparking chatter that the band was about to split.
1981: Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood all release solo albums, with Lindsey’s restless Law And Order and its accompanying Top 10 hit “Trouble” overshadowed by Stevie’s Bella Donna, which produced three hits in “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” “Leather and Lace” and “Edge of Seventeen.”
1982: Fleetwood Mac decides to reunite for a new album but, according to Buckingham, they tell the guitarist “we’re not going do that process anymore”–so he swallows his pride and the group makes the cozy, lovely Mirage.
1983: While Mirage floats down the charts, Lindsey Buckingham contributes the nervy “I Want You Back” to I’m Not Me, an album by Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo. (A move that suggests everything is operating smoothly behind the scenes.) Meanwhile, Nicks’s solo career flourishes with The Wild Heart and its hit “Stand Back”.
1984-1986: Upon the 1984 release of his solo set Go Insane, Lindsey Buckingham told Rolling Stone “I’m trying to break down preconceptions of what pop music is” and, like most pioneers, he didn’t see much commercial success for his endeavors. This was the beginning of a rough patch for the Fleetwood Mac universe. Ten years on from their pop reinvention, the group were scattered and working on solo projects. Buckingham in particular was dedicated to his studio work, but he slowly came back aboard. After aborted sessions with Nile Rogers, Buckingham and his co-producer Richard Dashut agreed to helm the new record, which was largely made while Nicks was on a solo tour.
1987: Tango In The Night is released in April of 1987 but, by August, the band splinters over the fact that Buckingham didn’t want to tour the record. He split and is replaced by Billy Burnett—who had previously played with Zoo–and Rick Vito. The new set of performers immediately head out on tour
1990: Fleetwood Mac take a stab at recording a new album with Burnett and Vito but Behind the Mask underperforms, going Gold in the US on sheer name recognition. Meanwhile, Buckingham toils away on his third solo album.
1991-1995: In 1992, Buckingham finally releases Out of the Cradle, but it went no further than a disappointing 128 on Billboard’s charts. His former bandmates aren’t faring much better. Nicks leaves Fleetwood Mac in 1993, and the group soldiers through with Bekka Bramlett and Dave Mason. This lineup produces Time, a 1995 set that is their first album since 1968 to not chart in the US, and Mick Fleetwood announces the group was breaking up.
1996-1998: The classic ’70s lineup of Fleetwood Mac begins to mend bridges in 1996, with Fleetwood coming in to drum on a Buckingham solo project that would quickly feature John McVie. Elsewhere, Nicks reaches out to Buckingham to produce and sing on her contribution to the Twister soundtrack. By 1997, the Buckingham project morphs into new studio sessions that supplement the live reunion album The Dance, which kicks off a tour that stretches into 1998. Upon its conclusion, Christine McVie leaves the group.
1999-2008: Right after Christine’s departure, Fleetwood Mac stays quiet. They resurface in 2003 with Say You Will, an album consisting entirely of originals written separately by Nicks and Buckingham. Christine McVie does appear on the album, but these are tracks that were originally planned for a Lindsey solo album from the ’90s. Following its release, the band pursue solo projects, with Buckingham swiftly releasing Under The Skin in 2006 and Gift Of Screws in 2008.
2009-2013: Without Christine, the remaining core four reunite for a tour called Unleashed in 2009, but once again both Nicks and Buckingham choose to concentrate on solo albums, not new Fleetwood Mac recordings. This makes the 2013 appearance a surprise: the four-track Extended Play–the first Mac music in a decade–snuck out without fanfare (or much of a title) but it as the first indication the group is attempting to do something more than play the old tunes. (This wouldn’t last long.)
2014-2015: Christine McVie rejoins the band for a reunion tour dubbed On With The Show. There are rumblings that new recordings would accompany the tour, but Nicks never signs on for a new album, so the band spends two years touring the world.
2016-2017: With Stevie Nicks reluctant to record a new album, Buckingham and Christine McVie decide to finish their own material–including a song called “On With The Show,” which was intended to be the anthem for the mid-2010s tour–much of which is recorded with the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie. The resulting Buckingham McVie appears in June 2017, followed by a tour from the duo. Everything seems fine within the Fleetwood Mac camp as they approach a farewell tour.
Which brings us to now: The plans for the 2018 tour swiftly collapsed after the group accepted the award for MusicCares Person of the Year in January. Not long afterward, something went wrong within the group. The first indication of something possibly being wrong is when Billy Burnette tweeted that “Lindsey Buckingham is out but I’m not in” on April 4–he swiftly deleted the Tweet, but the story was out in the world. Not a week later, Buckingham’s departure was announced simultaneously with the hire of Crowded House’s Neil Finn and Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers–two heavy-hitters that are guaranteed to help ease the pain of Lindsey’s dismissal.
Whether the Finn and Campbell-infused edition of Fleetwood Mac flourishes or fails, one thing can be certain: it’s almost truer to the band for them to open up a messy new chapter. A tidy ending isn’t one suited for a story as operatic as Fleetwood Mac.