Thirty-one years after he joined a foundering band of British blues rockers and transformed it into one of the biggest hit-making machines of all time, Lindsey Buckingham is still going his own way.
This fall finds Fleetwood Mac's on-again-off-again lead guitarist and producer back on the road, touring behind his first new solo album in 14 years.
Minimalist and almost entirely acoustic, "Under the Skin," is a radical departure from nearly everything Buckingham has done. At the same time, it maintains his reputation for creating lushly beautiful instrumental arrangements, not to mention taking control of projects from start to finish, something that hasn't always endeared him to the other members of Fleetwood Mac.
Soft-spoken and self-deprecating, Buckingham says his decision to produce this album himself and handle almost all of the instrumentation (Fleetwood Mac namesakes Mick Fleetwood and John McVie perform on two tracks) really had more to do with the sound he was going for than any desire for total control.
"I kept thinking of `Blue,' early Joni Mitchell, where there was nothing going on, there was just a voice and a guitar and it was very pure," he says of Mitchell's heralded 1971 album.
"I didn't want to do that, I wanted to screw it up somehow with some production," he adds, leaning back in his chair and laughing heartily. "But I wanted the instrumentation on which that production was going to live to be very simple and very minimal and basically be guitar. And you know I'm the guitar player."
Indeed, he was the guitar player who transformed Fleetwood Mac when he joined the group in 1975, along with then-girlfriend and vocal partner Stevie Nicks. Founded in London eight years earlier, the band had grown out of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers to become one of Britain's most popular groups before almost self destructing amid drugs, alcohol and mental illness.
Drummer Fleetwood, bass player McVie and his wife, keyboardist Christine McVie, had moved to the United States in search of a new guitar player when Fleetwood ran across Buckingham in a recording studio.
Self-taught and schooled on music ranging from old Elvis records to folkie banjo pickers, he had only recently moved to Los Angeles with Nicks, where the two had recorded one album. Out of circulation for years, "Buckingham Nicks" is now a prized collector's item as much for its cover, on which the two appear shirtless, as for the music inside.
Ironically, Buckingham says "Under the Skin" may be the closest he has ever gotten back to that stripped-down style of playing.
It comes after a lifetime of changes that have seen him travel full circle, from upper-middle-class kid and youngest of three siblings growing up in the suburban San Francisco Bay area to rock 'n' roll hell-raiser to upper-middle-class family man living in L.A. with a wife and three young children.
"God, you get to be a parent and you realize what you put your own parents through," he says, laughing again and shaking his head, reports AP.
Describing home life these days, he says, "I don't eat much. I don't drink. I don't do drugs anymore. It's kind of boring."
Dressed in old blue jeans and a well-worn leather jacket over a white, v-necked shirt, the 57-year-old musician is still trim and looks very much like he did when he joined Fleetwood Mac, although his hair, thick and curly as ever, is much shorter and grayer these days.