I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Lindsey Buckingham. I’m not saying I listen to Fleetwood Mac often, or ever really (the old stuff is boring and bluesy in the worst way, and the later stuff is slick and processed and full of Stevie Nicks’s pinched, talent-show toddler, goat-bleat voice).
But I sometimes feel like Buckingham was a good musician in a bad band, a potential force for rock in American music that fell in with the wrong crowd. He brought an understanding of “hookiness” to the band, taking what could have been a rambling Troubadour-playing hippie ensemble and turning them into a hit machine. He had a sometimes interesting rockabilly/doo-wop style of singing (remember “Holiday Road?”), and he alone in the band was inspired by punk and new wave. Plus, watching the evolution of his haircut from muppet to mutant was even more fun than reading about Stevie’s buttock-injected coke habit.
In Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 album, Tusk, he added some New Wave embellishments. But in his early eighties solo stuff, he got really Oingo Boingoed out, though perhaps he was more interested in the surface imagery of New Wave than in its core strengths. His addiction to million-dollar recordings meant he would never replicate the rawness or immediacy of the new kids, but he could use the synthesizers, the strange percussion effects, the nods to Modernist art, the suits, and yes, the New Wave ‘do. It was the perfect blend for the emergence of MTV, too: here was an established artist who could appeal to long-time rock fans skeptical of the new channel, who had enough record money backing him to afford semi-decent production on his videos, yet who would sound somewhat contemporary to kids looking for eighties thrills.
And so we got things like this, the song and video for Buckingham’s “Go Insane.” This was actually my first introduction to Buckingham. As a young child, I was hooked to MTV, which played far more Phil Collins, Starship, and Steve Perry than it ever played Flock of Seagulls at the time. So of course they played “Go Insane” around the clock. Not only did the video kind of scare me, but I remember the word “insane” suddenly became a huge older-sister telephone conversation buzzword (in fact, I think it’s the first time I’d ever heard this synonym for “crazy” or “bananas”). Note the references to Magritte, Dali, and Lewis Carroll in this thing, and imagine how much this must have warped my eight-year-old brain: