While everyone can hum along to the familiar favorites (“Go Your Own Way,” “Holiday Road,” “Trouble”), the singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer has a tremendous back catalog that deserves to be explored.
For the below list of Underrated Lindsey Buckingham: Most Overlooked Song From Each LP, we include both solo work and songs he’s done with Fleetwood Mac.
From: Buckingham Nicks (1973)
The debut of rock’s most tumultuous couple, Buckingham Nicks has long remained a cult classic among Fleetwood Mac fans, but it’s never been remastered or rereleased — all that survives are some rare copies and lots of bootlegs. The album has all the elements of early ‘70s So-Cal hit records: clean harmonies, lyrics of heartbreak and wandering eyes, two attractive people on the album cover. While it wasn’t a big commercial success, there are a few treasures hidden in the track listing, most notably “Stephanie.” The instrumental song showcases Buckingham’s orchestral mind and near-virtuosic guitar playing. With quick finger-picked arpeggios and glissandos that stretch the length of the neck, the song lays down the foundation for his entire career.
“I’m So Afraid”
From: Fleetwood Mac (1975)
For the unveiling of Fleetwood Mac’s new era, Buckingham quickly defined his band role with glistening harmonies, punchy melodies and, most importantly, guitar solos. Closing out the album, he contributed the cathartic rocker “I’m So Afraid,” offering straightforward lyrics, a weepy, Pink Floyd-styled guitar solo and a vocal performance that ranges from low growls to loud screams.
“Never Going Back Again”
From: Rumours (1977)
There isn’t a song on Rumours that could classify as “underrated” — the album is truly all killer, no filler. But slightly overshadowed by “Go Your Own Way” and his links on “The Chain” is the euphoric “Never Going Back Again.” With jaunty finger-style guitar and contemplative lyrics, Buckingham makes heartbreak sound fun.
“What Makes You Think You’re the One”
From: Tusk (1979)
Not wanting to get stuck in the Rumours mold, Buckingham explored punk and new wave influences for his experimental production on Tusk. Like many of the album’s songs, “What Makes You Think You’re the One” was written out of bitterness. Cutting lines like “Everything you do has been done / And it won’t last forever” make the lyrics of “Go Your Own Way” sound like pleasantries. By recording Mick Fleetwood’s drums through a boombox, this percussion-driven song has the gritty spontaneity of a modern indie hit.
From: Law and Order (1981)
“Bwana,” the opening track from Buckingham’s debut solo album, features a rocked-up take on ‘50s doo-wop (like much of the album), a little bit of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and production magic that turns his voice into a kazoo. In 1981, he told BAM magazine, “What I did there was sing into a mike and then run the vocal through a cassette player in such a way that it would totally distort so it would sound like it was somewhere between a sax, a kazoo and a guitar.” While the song sounds quite slapstick, Buckingham sprinkles in a few philosophical gems: “We all have our demons / And sometimes they escape.”
“Can’t Go Back”
From: Mirage (1982)
After Buckingham’s experimentation on Tusk, Mirage was intended to be Fleetwood Mac’s return to a more traditional pop-rock format. In an attempt to appeal to radio stations, the album gave way to several singles, including the often-forgotten “Can’t Go Back.” The track opens with the sound of a ticking music box and is driven by Mick Fleetwood’s drumming. It also includes one of Buckingham’s most nimble vocal performances on the album. The instrumental version of the song, “Suma’s Walk” (included on 2016’s expanded Mirage reissue), is the track that plays behind Stevie Nicks in a video that features a spontaneous version of “Wild Heart” from 1981. While they’re two very different approaches to the song, it shows the genius behind Buckingham’s malleable production style.
From: Go Insane (1984)
“D.W. Suite” is an exquisite piece of art-pop that shows what Buckingham can achieve when he traps himself in his studio with a Fairlight synthesizer. Written for Dennis Wilson (who died during the Go Insane sessions), the song is organized as a three-part classical suite. In each movement (“The Wish,” “The Prayer” and “The Reflection”), Buckingham samples obscure pieces of music from the public domain – he even incorporates the Beach Boys being announced to a screaming audience. Although it’s an obscure track in his discography, it shows Buckingham’s uncanny ability to think outside the confines of standard pop.
“Tango in the Night”
From: Tango in the Night (1987)
In a rather “form follows function” way, the title track of Tango in the Night is just as dysfunctional as the album’s recording process — and that’s what makes it work. Jumping between whispered tones and explosive guitar solos, past and present tenses, loneliness and the sudden lack of, the song is a masterpiece of bewilderment, lyrically and sonically.
“Street of Dreams”
From: Out of the Cradle (1992)
Out of the Cradle features many career-defining Buckingham moments, including “Countdown” and “Soul Drifter,” but hidden among those obvious highlights is the moody “Street of Dreams.” This slow-building ballad was recorded in the “rain room” of Lindsey’s house. According to a 1984 Rolling Stone profile, “The room has a glass ceiling. Flip a switch and a gentle shower of water begins pitter-pattering against the roof – as if it were raining.” Using the room as an instrument to create the eerie ambience of the track, Buckingham sings about the loneliness of success and remembers the death of his father.
“Bleed to Love Her”
From: Say You Will (2003)
If there’s been one constant throughout Buckingham’s career, it’s that he can write the best unrequited love songs. Shifting between passionate yells and soft whispers, he portrays the highs and lows of loving a person on “Bleed to Love Her.” Reusing elements of his earlier song “You Do or You Don’t,” from Out of the Cradle, for the middle eight, he shows his affinity for constant reinvention — even of his own music.
“Cast Away Dreams”
From: Under the Skin (2006)
Backed by only a steady rhythm guitar, Buckingham lets his melancholy words shine here: “Lay down my visionary eyes / Dancin’ on my cast away dreams.” The tune, written while on tour with Fleetwood Mac, conveys the sense that he wants to keep progressing creatively — not to rest on his laurels as the Mac’s guitar god. Accentuating his vocals with a slightly delayed reverb, Buckingham creates the otherworldly harmonies he has become synonymous with.
“Gift of Screws”
From: Gift of Screws (2008)
It takes a special talent to make Emily Dickinson sound rock ‘n’ roll, but Buckingham achieves it painlessly on “Gift of Screws.” The chorus, completely lifted from the 19th-century poet (“Essential oils are wrung / The attar from the rose / is not expressed by suns alone / it is the gift of screws”) fundamentally sums up his songwriting process — beauty is borne out of pain. Featuring Mick Fleetwood on drums and John McVie on bass, “Gift of Screws” feels like a more rock-centric take on Tusk‘s sonic aesthetic.
“That’s the Way Love Goes”
From: Seeds We Sow (2011)
Like flipping a switch, Buckingham whimsically transitions between baroque and pop-rock on “That’s the Way Love Goes.” Forever experimenting with unusual sounds, each verse is underpinned by a refined harpsichord tone, while the chorus breaks into a series of lead guitar jams — an exaggerated portrayal of an already dramatic romance.
“It Takes Time”
From: Extended Play (2013)
Released only as a digital download, Extended Play is the closest thing we have to a modern-day Buckingham Nicks. The EP includes only four songs — three from the former, one from the latter. The apologetic “It Takes Time” is a rare occasion of just Buckingham and the piano, and it’s one of the most striking songs in his catalog. Deeply introspective and uncharacteristically bare-bones, the song has the air of a basement tape that was never meant for an audience but rather as a letter to someone from Buckingham’s past.
“Sleeping Around the Corner”
From: Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie (2017)
To open the unexpected collaboration album with Christine McVie, Buckingham contributed a self-produced pop triumph, “Sleeping Around the Corner.” Including Buckingham-isms like “Oh, sweet darlin’, I’m your little red rover,” his lyrics here are simplistic, but his vocal performance and melodic dexterity create an earworm that’s hard to shake.
From: Lindsey Buckingham (2021)
On his self-titled 2021 solo album, Buckingham continued experimenting to craft catchy pop songs. “Swan Song” features Spanish-styled guitar and looping drum tracks that sound unlike anything he’d done in recent years. With lyrics that contemplate his 2018 split from Fleetwood Mac, he expresses his obvious dissatisfaction with the whole situation: “Is it right to keep me waiting? / Is it right to make me hold out so long?” It may be a track about his swan song, but Buckingham sounds like he’s still teeming with musical ambition.
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