“Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer today may curse tomorrow and only one thing endures – character.” Harry Truman
The legendary rock band Fleetwood Mac is an awful lot like a sports team. Through the years, its name has never changed even though its roster often has. Keeping track of its members is nearly impossible unless you are an “old school” rock enthusiast.
Many consider the band’s true — or at least most important — lineup to consist of Lindsey Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, Christine and John McVie, and, of course, Mick Fleetwood. But that wasn’t always the case. When the band formed in 1967, Nicks, Buckingham and Christine McVie were not part of the band.
Since then, the band has gone through several iterations. It has broken up. It has gotten back together. Christine McVie has quit the band. Christine McVie has rejoined the band. So has Nicks. So has Buckingham. In 1974, there was even another band named Fleetwood Mac after the band’s manager Clifford Davis claimed he owned rights to the name and assembled a second Fleetwood Mac composed of musicians who never had anything to do with Fleetwood Mac.
Monday brought yet another roster change. Buckingham, the band’s guitarist and principal songwriter, is out of the band — again. He originally joined in 1975 and left in 1987, only to rejoin in 1997.
Buckingham’s departure may not have been amicable this time. Both Rolling Stone and Variety reported that Buckingham was fired due to a disagreement about the band’s coming tour. (The Washington Post has reached out to the band’s management company, Sure tone Entertainment, for comment.) The band released a statement that Buckingham wouldn’t be appearing during that tour. In his place will be both Mike Campbell, the former lead guitarist for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and Neil Finn, the front man for Australian rock band Crowded House.
“Fleetwood Mac has always been about an amazing collection of songs that are performed with a unique blend of talents,” drummer Mick Fleetwood said in a statement. “We jammed with Mike and Neil and the chemistry really worked and let the band realize that this is the right combination to go forward with in Fleetwood Mac style. The band wishes Lindsey all the best.”
Buckingham’s departure was originally announced in a now-deleted tweet by guitarist Billy Burnette, who replaced Buckingham in 1987 and left when the band went on a two-year hiatus in 1995. “Breaking news: Lindsey Buckingham is out but I’m not in,” the tweet read.
That tension might exist within the band isn’t surprising. It has long been a hallmark of the group, much of it stemming from the band’s various romantic entanglements. Consider what famously led to its 1977 record “Rumours,” one of the top 10 best-selling albums of all time:
- Nicks and Buckingham ended a long romantic relationship.
- Married members Christine and John McVie were in the midst of a divorce.
- The married Mick Fleetwood began having an affair with Nicks.
- Meanwhile, they were all recording an album full of relationship songs. As the rumors (pun intended) go, everyone in the band is singing about everyone else in the band.
“We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became,” Fleetwood wrote in his memoir. “It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt.”
Even so, all that drama is partially what led Buckingham to leave the band the first time. “I needed to get some separation from Stevie especially, because I don’t think I’d ever quite gotten closure on our relationship,” he said at the time. “I needed to get on with the next phase of my creative growth and my emotional growth. 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.”
Which is to say that while Monday’s news is par for the course, one thing is certain: Fleetwood Mac won’t sound the same. But then again, it never does. Plus, if history is any indicator, Buckingham won’t be gone for long.