40. Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way

If there's ever been a compelling reason for a band not to have members of both sexes, it's Fleetwood Mac.  The emotional baggage carried around by the band rivals the belly of a 747.  Female lead singer (and tamborine maestro) Stevie Nicks and male lead singer and guitarist Lindsay Buckingham were in a relationship when they entered the band together in 1975.  The relationship dissolved the following year as did the eight year marriage of bassist John McVie and other female keyboardist/lead singer Christine McVie.  So eighty percent of the band was going through some major emotional turmoil as the band entered the studio to record the follow-up to their breakthrough self-titled 1975 album.

Even though he was one of the band's newcomers, Lindsay took charge in the direction of the album and the songs that were to be on it.  One of those songs was the Buckingham penned "Go Your Own Way."  It's a song whose lyrics deal with his breakup with Stevie Nicks and paint Lindsay as the victim in the relationship.  So I guess it's one way to stick it to an ex-girlfriend.  Here's Lindsay's formula:

1.  Write a song about the breakup, making you look better than her
2.  Have that ex-girlfriend sing backing vocals on the song while you're criticizing her in the verses.
3.  Record it for an album that would go on to sell 40,000,000 records worldwide
4.  Release it as a single that hits #10 in the Billboard Hot 100
5.  Have it become one of your band's trademark songs that she'll have to sing live at every concert your band ever plays.  Every single one.

So ladies, hell may hath no fury like a woman scorned, but I wouldn't recommend messing around with Lindsay Buckingham.  Payback, indeed.  Here are some of his lyrics:

If I could
Maybe I'd give you my world
How can I
When you won't take it from me

You can go your own way
Go your own way
You an call it
Another lonely day

Don't get me wrong - this is a great pop song off of one of the best albums of all time.  I just find the soap opera going on behind the scenes fascinating.

But enough of the soap opera, let me laud praises on the musical accomplishments of "Go Your Own Way."  Starting off with a electric guitar strum followed by a chorus of acoustic guitar layers, the song keeps adding to the musical complexity throughout the song and then breaking down the arrangement only to build it back up again.  As strong a pop song as it is, "Go Your Own Way" has much more to listen to beyond just the great hook of the melody.

Mick Fleetwood's drums drive the song steadily, but he also adds some complexity and fun to the rhythm with all sorts of interesting fills throughout.  He jumps all over his drum kit, playing in a seemingly haphazard manner, but it all works in the context of the song.  I've always thought that Lindsay Buckingham was an underrated guitarist (check out him playing all the parts to "Big Love" in some of their live shows) and he plays both the acoustic and electric guitars in "Go Your Own Way" with soulful precision.  He even lays down a great guitar solo near the end.  John McVie's bass is kind of low in the mix, but if you listen for it, you can hear him doing some great things on the low end.  And in lots of bands, if you have a keyboardist, either they're front and center in the arrangement or they're taking a coffee break.  But with Fleetwood Mac, Christine McVie adds welcome layers to almost every Fleetwood Mac song, even when her keyboards aren't central to the arrangement, as they are here.  Her organ in the choruses helps give them a church choir feel. 

And then there are the harmonies.  Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie all have distinctive sounding voices that could cause trouble to arrangements.  But the way the band writes the harmonies and then has each member sing them, it works on every level.  The richness of McVie's voice works really well with Buckingham's, while Nicks' throaty alto augments any song she adds it to.

As with so many songs on my list, I didn't know the backstory behind this song until I started doing research for this entry.  For me, it was just a great pop song that had a great melody and fantastic playing to go with it.  But now knowing the "behind the music" aspect to it, there's that extra level of intrigue and coolness that I can now appreciate.  That's what I love about music - the more you listen, the more you pick up, and if you do a little digging, you can find more and more things to appreciate in any given song. 

(Fun Fact #523:  I thought juggling two lead singers would be a headache, but with Fleetwood Mac, they have three bona fide lead singers.  From the album Rumours alone, there were four songs that were Top 10 hits.  "Go Your Own Way" had Lindsay on vocals; "Dreams" was Stevie's song; "You Make Loving Fun" was Christine's; and both Lindsay and Christine shared lead vocals on "Don't Stop."  So even though they couldn't keep their romantic relationships together, the band did an incredible job of keeping the dispensation of lead vocals very democratic.)
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