Lindsey Buckingham – Go Insane
The Reynolds Girls got it totally wrong didn’t they? Fleetwood Mac are in fact amazing and I’ll have words with anyone who says otherwise. Everything that has happened in pop, these guys did it first – and most of the time better than anyone else.
The maelstrom of their personal lives (almost everyone was banging each other in the band at one point) only seemed to focus their incredible energy – as did their industrial level drug use, which they’ve hardly been quiet about. Amazingly, through it all, they crafted an absolutely peerless catalogue of music.
Their three singer-songwriters – Stevie Nicks (general public perception: billowy chiffon, velvet fringing, a bit witchy); Christine McVie, (middle England posh, probably loves a good gossip, fag in mouth); and Lindsey Buckingham – (Eraserhead hair, million dollar pout, a bit mad) – alongside the formidable rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, released some immense and varied singles.
This classic lineup crafted four albums between 1976 – 1987 (up until their reformation this year). They have soundtracked many a life, but in the UK the two American band members have never received the same level of success or recognition as they have in the States. Buckingham and Nicks were very much a duo within the band, their lives inexorably linked and most of their songs directed at each other. The UK equivalent was Dollar, who, as much as I love them, probably didn’t deserve the same number of top 10s – five apiece – as this Fleetwood Mac line up.
Which brings me onto the singer-songwriter who produced and arranged all those Fleetwood Mac hits – it was the very same man, Lindsey Buckingham. Lindsey is an astonishing guitarist, arguably one of the greatest of his generation, but he is also one of rock’s great mad geniuses. Always the most experimental of the the three, his own Mac classics include Go Your Own Way, Tusk, Oh Diane and Big Love (the latter three all top 10 hits in the UK). But once you realise the sound of Rhiannon, Gypsy, Don’t Stop, Little Lies and Everywhere were down to him, the breadth of his talent becomes clear.
Now, the 1980s saw Stevie Nicks emerge as a major recording star in her own right, but Lindsey was also releasing albums, and these were a far more interesting proposition – completely solo projects (like Prince, he arranged, composed and performed everything by himself) which allowed him to explore musical forms outside of the Fleetwood Mac style but also test run ideas for the next band release.
Go Insane, the title track from his 1984 album, is a synth-rock-pop gem. Its production is very much of its time – heavy on synthesiser and studio effects (ergo, I love it – it’s the sound I grew up with), but the song is still rooted in that rich Fleetwood Mac style of harmonising, mixed in with the more traditional rock-pop-dance music sound that dominated the airwaves of the 1980s. It’s incredibly melodic, taut and on the edge, but if you listen carefully there’s paranoia lurking underneath. It sounds like a better version of a lot of the stuff on the radio at the time and by all rights it should have been huge.
It also sounds very similar to something from Tango in the Night (which was played everywhere in the UK throughout 1987). This isn’t surprising of course – Lindsey produced the album (alongside Richard Dashut) and contributed more than half of its songs. Go Insane is very much a proto-Tango In The Night track, and, like its musical sibling Big Love, it is perfectly commercial whilst also being wildly inventive. In short, the best kind of pop.
In the US, Go Insane was a moderate hit, reaching no.23 on the Billboard Hot 100 (and this is when getting to no.23 meant you shifted a lot of units). However, it failed to achieve any success in the UK. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We are rubbish at buying great singles.
Thankfully, Go Insane isn’t completely forgotten, Lindsey still performs it to this day, acoustic and stripped back, both at his own gigs and during his solo segments at Mac concerts. He knows it’s a great song, even if we didn’t.
Who could sing this today and have a hit? Brandon Flowers or Lady Gaga could do this, right?! In fact, let’s have it as a duet. We need a good pop duet – it’s been ages.