Lindsey Buckingham is finally opening up about his contentious firing from Fleetwood Mac in 2018, revealing the behind-the-scenes drama that he claims led to his getting booted from the band. And in classic Mac fashion, his comments have elicited a fiery response from his former bandmate and one-time paramour, Stevie Nicks.
Buckingham told Rolling Stone that the battle began when he finished his seventh solo album, the self-titled Lindsey Buckingham, almost four years ago and asked his former longtime bandmates if they’d agree to delay their upcoming tour to give him time to promote the 10-song collection.
Even though Fleetwood Mac’s 2018 tour dates were already on the books and most of the group — drummer Mick Fleetwood, keyboardist-singer Christine McVie and bassist John McVie — were reportedly flexible, lead singer Stevie Nicks would not agree, even after Buckingham suggested he could book gigs for Mac’s off nights to fill in their three-show-a-week schedule.
Months of what he said were unanswered emails and calls to the other members led up to the testy evening in January 2018 when the band accepted their MusiCares Person of the Year award. Buckingham — who joined the band in 1975 along with Nicks — complained when he felt the Nicks-written song “Rhiannon” that played them on had “undermined” the impact of their entrance, and then Nicks was reportedly angered by what she felt was Buckingham’s smirking mockery of her long speech on behalf of the band.
It was less than a week later that Buckingham, 71, was booted from the group. He sued the band for what he estimated to be $12 million to $14 million in lost wages from the tour — a suit that has since been settled — and told the magazine that stories about his smirking causing the rift were “bulls—,” and that it was the new album that really caused the split.
“I think she wanted to shape the band in her own image, a more mellow thing, and if you look at the last tour, I think that’s true,” Buckingham said of his former life and music partner Nicks. The band carried on with Crowded House’s Neil Finn and Tom Petty guitarist Mike Campbell filling out the lineup for a tour Buckingham said he didn’t see, but based on the set list he called “somewhat generic and perhaps bordering on being a cover band.”
He’s since been back in touch with Fleetwood Mac, who has hinted he might welcome him back if Nicks allows it, but Buckingham lays the blame squarely at Nicks’ feet in terms that seem like a death blow to any thoughts of yet another reunion. “I think others in the band just felt that they were not empowered enough, individually, for whatever their own reasons, to stand up for what was right,” he said. “And so, it became a little bit like Trump and the Republicans.”
Nicks, of course, had a response to Buckingham’s claims, telling RS in a statement: “It’s unfortunate that Lindsey has chosen to tell a revisionist history of what transpired in 2018 with Fleetwood Mac. His version of events is factually inaccurate, and while I’ve never spoken publicly on the matter, preferring to not air dirty laundry, certainly it feels the time has come to shine a light on the truth.” She added that following an “exceedingly difficult time” with Buckingham at the MusiCares event, she decided that she was no longer willing to work with him.
“I could publicly reflect on the many reasons why, and perhaps I will do that someday in a memoir, but suffice it to say we could start in 1968 and work up to 2018 with a litany of very precise reasons why I will not work with him,” she said. “To be exceedingly clear, I did not have him fired, I did not ask for him to be fired, I did not demand he be fired. Frankly, I fired myself. I proactively removed myself from the band and a situation I considered to be toxic to my well-being. I was done. If the band went on without me, so be it. I have championed independence my whole life, and I believe every human being should have the absolute freedom to set their boundaries of what they can and cannot work with. And after many lengthy group discussions, Fleetwood Mac, a band whose legacy is rooted in evolution and change, found a new path forward with two hugely talented new members.”
In addition to the rift with the band, Buckingham personally has had a rough couple of years. The guitarist-singer suffered a heart attack in February 2019 that required triple-bypass surgery as well as the insertion of a breathing tube that temporarily damaged his vocal cords. There was also a divorce filing from his wife of 21 years this June.
With his solo album slated to drop on Sept. 17 and a just-launched solo tour, Buckingham took a few parting shots at Fleetwood and Christine McVie — telling The Los Angeles Times that the drummer has “never quite gotten to the point where he’s financially stable all the time,” and that McVie apologized for not standing up in a letter, but said “I just bought a house.”
He also didn’t pull any punches when it came to his former solo manager and the band’s longtime manager Irving Azoff, who he claimed to the paper, “threw me under the bus … Irving doesn’t need the money, but he’s still driven by the money.”
Azoff responded in kind, telling the Times in a statement, “I have historically declined comment on artists, but in the case of Lindsey Buckingham, I will make an exception. In speaking with Stevie, her account of events are factual and truthful. While I understand it’s challenging for Lindsey to accept his own role in these matters and far easier to blame a manager, the fact remains that his actions alone are responsible for what transpired.”
Azoff added that, if anything, he’s guilty of “holding things together longer than I should have.” After the band emerged with the new lineup in 2018, Azoff said his continued work with the group was predicated on him being aligned with Nicks “in thought and purpose” from their earliest days together. “While financial gain was not a motivator for me,” Azoff said in reply to Buckingham’s claims, “it was a delightful bonus that the band scored their highest grossing tour ever without Lindsey.”