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Lindsey Buckingham is the creative force behind Fleetwood Mac, a group that remains a big concert draw and a steady seller when it comes to albums new and old. Indeed, Rumours, released in 1977, is among the most popular long-players ever released, with worldwide sales in excess of thirty million copies. So it's something of a shock to hear Buckingham admit that the CEO of his longtime label all but rejected one of his recent solo albums, 2006's Under the Skin.
"When I gave it to Warner Bros., Tom Whalley said, 'We'll put it out, but don't expect us to do very much,'" Buckingham recalls. "And they didn't."
Whalley was probably happier when Buckingham handed him 2008's Gift of Screws. Unlike Skin, a largely acoustic (and defiantly un-commercial) album, Screws contains several catchy, melodic pop nuggets — such as "Right Place to Fade" — that should strike a chord with the Fleetwood faithful. Still, he can't resist giving even his most straightforward compositions a twist, with often eccentric results — and the first-rate title track is so chaotic that it will likely cause Stevie Nicks aficionados to race in the opposite direction.
Buckingham didn't pick the path less taken by accident. "You come off the kind of commercial success that Rumours had, and you see that there are limitations to that as well as freedoms," he points out. "You may get the freedom of having credibility and having a certain freedom to make choices you want to make. But what are those choices? Are you going to make Rumours II? Are you going to follow through with the formula that was successful before? And if you do that, is that the wrong reason to do something if you find something else more interesting? A long time ago, I drew that line in the sand for myself, and I still think that way."
Of course, his continued participation in Fleetwood Mac provides him with quite a comfy safety net; he's committed to participating in the group's forthcoming album, which may become the next supergroup release to be sold exclusively at Walmart. But if he has to rein himself in when fashioning a new Mac attack, the recordings issued under his own name provide him with an artistic, as opposed to monetary, payoff — and he continues to take advantage of it even when it makes some listeners, and CEOs, nervous.
"If I have a choice," he says, "I would rather push the envelope and go too far, and either make the mistake of doing that or at least know that I've gone there and then pull back a little bit, than not go far enough."
Visit http://blogs.westword.com/backbeat/ for more of our interview with Lindsey Buckingham.