Lindsey Buckingham and Fleetwood Mac: Their Highs and Lows

Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, 2014
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Noam Galai/Getty Images

The release of Fleetwood Mac's new super deluxe edition of their 1980 Live album means a chance to hear the band as they played in the '70s and '80s - and it's a chance to remember their...shall we say...complicated history with Lindsey Buckingham, a singer, songwriter and guitarist who helped guide the group to some of their biggest commercial successes.

Read More: Never Break the Chain: Fleetwood Mac's 'Live' Getting a Deluxe Reissue

As you listen to the new box set, we invite you to take a journey back through time, with every sweet and sour moment Buckingham's had inside the group and out.

1973: Lindsey Buckingham and his girlfriend Stevie Nicks, having recently departed the psychedelic rock band Fritz, release an album on their own. It's a critical and commercial failure, but it remains highly sought after by collectors. In 1974, Fleetwood Mac drummer/co-founder Mick Fleetwood hears a song off the album and is dazzled by Lindsey's playing.

1975: After Bob Welch departs Fleetwood Mac, Mick contacts Lindsey almost immediately to offer him the open spot. The guitarist refuses to join without Stevie, and so both are hired without an audition, building a new line-up alongside founding bassist John McVie and his wife, vocalist/keyboardist Christine. Their self-titled debut tops the charts in the U.S. and features hits like "Rhiannon" and "Say You Love Me."

1977: To say things got a little uncomfortable within Fleetwood Mac would be an understatement: Buckingham and Nicks stopped dating, and the McVies divorced. (Nicks briefly later started seeing Fleetwood, who was married.) In spite of this unbelievable personal pressure, the resultant album Rumours became not only the group's most successful, but one of the most popular of all time. Buckingham's songwriting helped considerably, thanks to tracks like the smash "Go Your Own Way," "Second Hand News" and "Never Going Back Again."

Read More: April 1977: Fleetwood Mac's 'Rumours' Album Hits No. 1

1979: The Mac follow Rumours with Tusk, an ambitious and expensive album largely overseen by Buckingham. Lindsey's perfectionism and quirks during recording remain the stuff of rock legend, like when he tapped out rhythms on a tissue box for Fleetwood to play along to, or cut off most of his hair during the recording.

Read More: October 1979: Fleetwood Mac Release 'Tusk'

1981: Buckingham's first solo album, Law and Order, continues the quirky studio vibes of Tusk and features a Top 10 hit, "Trouble."

1983: A year after Fleetwood Mac's next success, Mirage, nearly everyone in the band is flourishing as a solo artist. Buckingham's latest work on his own includes the moderately successful Go Insane and "Holiday Road," an addictively catchy single from the soundtrack to National Lampoon's Vacation.

Read More: August 1982: Fleetwood Mac Begin Five-Week Run at #1 with "Mirage"

1987: After reconvening for another album, the blockbuster Tango in the Night, Buckingham surprises everyone by splitting from Fleetwood Mac before they tour in support of the record. "I needed to get on with the next phase of my creative growth and my emotional growth," he later said. "When you break up with someone and then for the next 10 years you have to be around them and do for them and watch them move away from you, it's not easy." Two singer/guitarists, Billy Burnette and Rick Vito, replace him.

1993: The ice thaws between Buckingham and the band long enough for a reunion to celebrate Bill Clinton's inauguration as president. ("Don't Stop" was his campaign song.) "This is pretty much a one-off thing, as far as I'm concerned," Buckingham later said. "In fact, if we had been asked to do much more than the one song, I don't know if I would've been able to do that."

WATCH: Fleetwood Mac Reunites for 1993 Inauguration

1997: But time heals all wounds: the line-up comes back together for a bestselling live special, The Dance. While McVie retires from touring the following year, Lindsey sticks around, recording a new album with them (2003's Say You Will) and splitting time between solo and Mac tours.

2014: Nature is healing: Christine McVie rejoins Fleetwood Mac, bringing the classic five-piece back to stadiums around the world. Over time, with Nicks apparently unwilling to contribute any studio material to the group, Lindsey and Christine begin writing together, releasing an album as a duo in 2017.

2018: Fleetwood Mac are named the MusiCares People of the Year, but Buckingham's carousing during Nicks' speech is seen by the singer as a sign of disrespect. Following an impasse about tour plans, Nicks offers the rest of the band an ultimatum: Buckingham goes, or she does. Lindsey is ousted, replaced again by two players (Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and Neil Finn of Crowded House).

2021: While Buckingham remains unfortunately, literally quiet after open-heart surgery in 2019 that somehow damaged his vocal cords, Fleetwood told Rolling Stone he'd reconnected with his former guitarist after the death of an original Fleetwood Mac member, Peter Green. The drummer expressed hope for a tour with the classic members of the band as well as Campbell and Finn; at the very least, he declared, “I know for a fact that I intend to make music and play again with Lindsey. I would love that. It doesn’t have to be in Fleetwood Mac."

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Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
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