Saturday, February 22, 2014

Buckingham ~ McVie ~ Nicks

Just as I was hitting my teen years, Fleetwood Mac in its Buckingham-Nicks incarnation hit it big and so I will always feel a certain connection with them. And the group featured two women songwriters, which was still rare in the 1970s.

I wouldn't call myself a huge Fleetwood head, but I do consider their first four albums to be masterpieces, and Lindsey Buckingham, Christina McVie and Steve Nicks to be masters of pop song writing.

Unlike the Beatles, with two great songwriters and Harrison a distant third (except for the occasional It's All Too Much) the Mac had three equally talented writers.

McVie is technically the leading writer, if you base your assessment on their Greatest Hits album.

  1. "Rhiannon" (Stevie Nicks) – 4:11
  2. "Don't Stop" (Christine McVie) – 3:12
  3. "Go Your Own Way" (Lindsey Buckingham) – 3:38
  4. "Hold Me" (McVie, Robbie Patton) – 3:45
  5. "Everywhere" (McVie) – 3:42
  6. "Gypsy" (Nicks) – 4:24
  7. "You Make Loving Fun" (McVie) – 3:31
  8. "As Long as You Follow" (McVie, Eddy Quintela) – 4:10
  9. "Dreams" (Nicks) – 4:14
  10. "Say You Love Me" (McVie) – 4:10
  11. "Tusk" (Buckingham) – 3:30
  12. "Little Lies" (McVie, Quintela) – 3:38
  13. "Sara" (Nicks) – 6:22
  14. "Big Love" (Buckingham) – 3:38
  15. "Over My Head" (McVie) – 3:34
  16. "No Questions Asked" (Nicks, Kelly Johnston) – 4:40

The tally is McVie with 8 hits, Nicks with 5 and Buckingham with 3. However, three of McVie's hits are co-written, including my favorite McVie song "Hold Me" and Nicks co-wrote "No Questions Asked." 

Except for The Chain, written by all the Macs, the three Mac composers rarely collaborated. Most surprising, Buckingham/Nicks share only one co-writing credit that I've found, and that was on their self-titled album released before they joined Fleetwood Mac. McVie and Buckingham collaborated a few times, most notably for World Turning, one of their better songs, although not one of their biggest hits.

Stevie Nicks
Nicks is a pretty woman and she writes pretty songs - and of a consistently high quality even when they aren't big hits. At worst, she overplays the whole witchy-woman thing, must egregiously on Gypsy. So it's hard to pick my favorite Nicks song. Of course there's Rhiannon, which was their first monster hit but I've heard it so many times over the years it hardly registers any more. 

I find her Sara to be most irresistible though - especially when it kicks it with drums and piano on the transition from the intro to the main tune. It also highlights Nick's charming female empowerment inclinations, her tendency to celebrate womanliness and female friendships. The song is allegedly about a friend of Nicks': "Sara, you're the poet in my heart."

Christine McVie 
McVie is the most formally trained musician of the three composers and her tunes are very piano-centric which I love. Her songs are more straight-up traditionalist pop tunes, pretty much exclusively about romantic relationships. When she's good she's great, but she can write fairly uninspired stuff, like "Sugar Daddy." And my favorite tune by her is co-written. But still, what she lacks in originality and consistency she makes up for in pop-essence purity. Listen to the piano opening of Hold Me and you'll see. And the vocal harmonies are to die for.

Lindsey Buckingham
Buckingham has crafted some solid tunes, from Go Your Own Way, to Monday Morning, to I'm So Afraid, but as the most experimental songwriter of the trio can come up with some pretty iffy songs. But that experimentalism paid off, big time, with Tusk, a tune I have adored since the first time I heard and and which is without a doubt my favorite Fleetwood Mac song. One Tusk is worth five or six Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow's in my opinion. And the appearance of the USC Marching Band on the track adds to the fun.