Split in Fleetwood Mac fuels talk of abuse

Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham (left) once dated fellow member Stevie Nicks (above right, with singer Christine McVie).
Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham (above) once dated fellow member Stevie Nicks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST
Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham (left) once dated fellow member Stevie Nicks (above right, with singer Christine McVie).
Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham once dated fellow member Stevie Nicks (right, with singer Christine McVie).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

NEW YORK • For the record, depending on who you talk to, Lindsey Buckingham is either a visionary musician or just a plain destructive force.

The debate broke out last week after news came that the guitarist and iconic rock band Fleetwood Mac were parting ways.

Many stories about Buckingham, 68, come from former lovers.

He and fellow bandmate Stevie Nicks, 69, might be the most famous star-crossed lovers since Romeo and Juliet, only their story ends with them playing in the same rock band and singing songs about each other.

The dissolution of their years-long relationship added creative fuel to the writing and recording of 1977's Rumours, Fleetwood Mac's most successful album.

But tension existed between the two long before the break-up. The young lovers released a single, eponymous album as Buckingham Nicks two years before joining Fleetwood Mac in 1975. The couple appear nude on the album cover, something Nicks reportedly was highly uncomfortable with.

The studio said it wanted a sexy cover so Nicks "with her last hundred dollars bought a loose, filmy white blouse that exposed a little skin, figuring that would do it", according to her biography, Gold Dust Woman (2017), by Stephen Davis.

It was not sexual enough for the photographer who asked her to bare her breasts for the camera.

Nicks protested, saying her family would not approve of the image.

The photographer pushed and Buckingham eventually snapped, according to the book. "Don't be paranoid," he yelled. "This is art."

Eventually, feeling "trapped" and "under pressure", Nicks removed her shirt and bra for the shoot.

She felt "mortified" by the cover, particularly when it hit shelves in 1973 and earned the disapproval of her father. She almost quit music at the age of 25.

"From the beginning, Lindsey was very controlling and possessive," Nicks said in the biography.

Things did not improve after their break-up. Buckingham wrote Go Your Own Way in 1976 about her even though Nicks had to help perform the song.

The lyrics are full of vitriol, from the bluntly cruel ("Loving you isn't the right thing to do") to the character-questioning ("Packing up, shacking up's all you wanna do").

Nicks was, of course, insulted. "I very much resented him telling the world that 'packing up, shacking up' with different men was all I wanted to do," she told Rolling Stone.

"He knew it wasn't true. It was just an angry thing he said. Every time those words would come out onstage, I wanted to go over and kill him. He knew it, so he really pushed my buttons through that."

During a 1980 tour, Buckingham allegedly mocked Nicks onstage, tried to trip her and, at one point, attempted to kick her.

Fleetwood Mac singer Christine McVie was furious. She found him after the show and hit him.

"I think he's the only person I ever slapped," she told Rolling Stone.

"I just didn't think it was the way to treat a paying audience. I mean, aside from making a mockery of Stevie like that. Really unprofessional. Yes, she cried. She cried a lot."

He later threw "a Les Paul (guitar) at Nicks' head during the show", McVie and Nicks told the magazine.

Much darker and more concerning are the stories Buckingham's next serious girlfriend, Carol Ann Harris, shared in her tell-all memoir, Storms: My Life With Lindsey Buckingham And Fleetwood Mac.

In one, the guitarist, needing to urinate while being driven to a hotel, unzipped his trousers and relieved himself - into his boot.

In another, Harris hung out with the band's crew members only to discover that a jealous Buckingham had ordered them not to talk to her.

"And, in their eyes, I saw a sense of fear I recognised - fear of Lindsey's anger. Nobody wanted to be the target of Lindsey's fury - and this I understood."

Throughout the book, Buckingham is depicted verbally and physically abusing Harris.

In one instance, she wrote, he "raised his arm and hit me hard enough to knock me off the staircase into the wall".

In another, he grabbed a fistful of her hair, got in a car and drove down a driveway, dragging her across the pavement.

Eventually, Harris claimed, a doctor told her she had to leave Buckingham for her own safety.

But criticism has also been levied not just against him, but all the members of the band too.

Grammy-winning producer Ken Caillat, who worked on Rumours, once said in an interview that after the record was released, he and the crew felt like "survivors of the Titanic".

"You feel like you're family and you're not a family. Fleetwood Mac were not generous 'parents'.

"They're pretty selfish. So many people that were part of the family have since been discarded," he added, noting: "They're all so self-centred and egotistical that they don't think about anyone."

Buckingham's departure from the band could be for a number of reasons - but it would not surprise anyone if that pressure cooker finally exploded. Again.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2018, with the headline 'Split in Fleetwood Mac fuels talk of abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe