There have been plenty of hit records about falling in love. And plenty about wishing you could be with someone who isn’t there any more. But hit records recorded in real time as your intimate relationship with another band member hits the rocks are a little rarer.
It’s said that every cloud has a sliver lining. If that’s true, the path “Go Your Own Way” took to the top of the charts around the world is as good an example of the phenomenon as you’ll find.
As the lead single from Fleetwood Mac’s album “Rumours”, “Go Your Own Way” also re-launched the band after a few fallow years.
“Rumours” would go on to achieve multi-platinum status around the world and sell over 40 million copies, making it one of the top selling albums of all time.
That probably wasn’t on Lindsey Buckingham’s mind when he was writing it, though. “Go Your Own Way” was a song that was as much about coming to terms with his split from Stevie Nicks as it was about putting words and notes down on a piece of paper to fulfil a recording contract.
Lindsey Buckingham wouldn’t be the first to use the songwriting process as part of their own therapy following a major life event but, alongside Adele and a small number of other luminaries, he’s been one of the few to write an international smash hit as a result of his experiences.
Given that it’s much easier to write a morose breakup song, as you’re probably feeling pretty morose while you’re writing it, one of the reasons “Go Your Own Way” was so successful is its defiant tone. That spirit of “get lost…I’ll be just fine without you”.
Yet, the tone isn’t too aggressive either, which would be as much of a turn-off as an overly-morose song would be. It actually starts in quite a reflective place…
Isn’t the right thing to do
How can I ever
Change things that I feel
If I could
Maybe I’d give you my world
How can I
When you won’t take it from me
In the interests of journalistic integrity, I should probably point out that this isn’t quite how Stevie Nicks saw things at the time.
As luck would have it…I’m sure that’s how they both came to see it many years later after the dust settled…Stevie Nicks had also written a song for “Rumours” with her take on their break-up which would itself go on to become a worldwide hit record. That song was called “Dreams”…
Now here you go again, you say
You want your freedom
Well who am I to keep you down
It’s only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness
Like a heartbeat drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost, and what you had, and what you lost
I don’t know who called this one right. Perhaps, as is often the case, the truth lies somewhere between the two.
Whether Lindsey Buckingham really was doing everything he could to give Stevie Nicks “the world”, or whether it was his own behaviour that led to the split, doesn’t matter for our purposes. Somehow, in amongst the angst, the tantrums and the allegedly epic levels of narcotic consumption, two wonderful songs were written which would propel Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” to the top of the album charts.
As well as being one of only a handful of albums to sell over 40 million copies…right up there with “Dark Side Of The Moon”, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Bat Out Of Hell”… “Rumours” garnered plenty of critical acclaim.
As the lead single, “Go Your Own Way” blazed the trail.
In the years since its release in late 1976, “Go Your Own Way” has made it into Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time list and was voted as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock And Roll.
“Go Your Own Way” brought the band back into the limelight again after the turmoil of Peter Green’s descent into a drug-dependency in the early 1970s forced them in a different direction.
Part of the impact of “Go Your Own Way” was Mick Fleetwood’s strangely off-beat drumming…owing something to Ringo Starr’s iconic drums on “Ticket To Ride” perhaps…one of those things that in theory shouldn’t work at all, but in practice turned out to be one of the most enduring elements of the song in people’s memories.
Beyond his songwriting, Lindsey Buckingham also brought a great guitar solo to “Go Your Own Way”. Back in the Peter Green days, guitar solos were a big part of the Fleetwood Mac sound on songs like “Oh Well” (here if you need a reminder… https://youtu.be/O8RhZDGLEXM ).
I don’t think Lindsey Buckingham would claim to be one of those “legendary axe-men” like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, or even Peter Green. But he was a great songwriter and undoubtedly excellent guitarist.
It’s a personal view, but I think the guitar solo on “Go Your Own Way” is enhanced by Lindsey Buckingham’s unusual playing style. Unlike most rock guitarists he doesn’t use a plectrum. Instead he picks the strings with his fingers like a bass player or folk guitarist would do.
To my ear, that gives a slightly softer tone, but it also means when he plays his solo on “Go Your Own Way”, Lindsey Buckingham is literally shredding his fingers on the strings and bringing some of the pain and frustration he must have felt about his split with Stevie Nicks to the song.
He’s got skin in the game…no pun intended…just watch his right hand furiously pluck and strum the guitar strings in the video below. For Lindsey Buckingham this isn’t just another song…this one’s personal.
In the end, he produced a true sliver lining from the cloud of his break-up with Stevie Nicks. He’d worked things out in his mind. He realised it was time for her to go…
Given all that, it’s perhaps ironic that the final image on the video is a flourish from Stevie Nicks on the tambourine.
She’s on record as disagreeing strongly with how “Go Your Own Way” portrayed her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham, writing “Dreams” to set the record straight from her perspective.
Maybe…even on his own song…Stevie Nicks had the last word after all…
Here’s Fleetwood Mac with the song that launched them into rock music superstardom… it’s “Go Your Own Way” …
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading about another of my favourite songs. I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to spend a few moments in the company of a song that I love.
The video is below, but if you prefer to listen to your music on Spotify, you can find this track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/07GvNcU1WdyZJq3XxP0kZa